There was once a man named John who decided to get married. He found the address of a woman he had never met and showed up on her doorstep.

With his fingers crossed, he knocked on the door hesitantly. She opened the door and saw a nervous stranger. In a quivering voice, Bob introduced himself and proposed to her for marriage in the same breath.

Bewildered, she looked him over, gasped, and unsurprisingly, said, “No” before closing the door.

Bob’s story shows a key principle of email drip campaigns: A conversion, like a relationship, isn’t built in one interaction. It takes several.

In this article, you will learn about lead nurturing best practices, how to set up email drip campaigns, measure the results, and optimize your campaigns.

What Is an Email Drip Campaign?

Illustration of faucet and droplet

An email drip campaign is a process in which marketers launch a series of automatically delivered emails to fresh or cold leads to achieve a specific goal (we listed a few below). Drip marketing is also often referred to as lead nurturing, automated email marketing, or autoresponder marketing. Note that you might need different drip campaigns for different stages of the sales cycle.

Email drip campaign examples:

  • Cold email campaigns
  • Welcome emails to new subscribers
  • Onboarding emails to new customers
  • Ecommerce re-engagement through abandoned cart emails
  • Cross-sell or upsell sequence targeting paying customers
  • Engagement emails to trial users
  • Product/service recommendation to new users

Suppose you’re running a cold email campaign to generate leads for your marketing agency. In a conventional email campaign, you set up an email template, feed the lead list, and let the campaign run.

On the other hand, when you nurture leads through drip emails, you segment leads before starting a campaign. For example, dentists and auto dealers might have different goals. And you shouldn’t approach CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and restaurant owners the same way.

While traditional email campaigns follow a linear path, drip campaigns allow more options for customization. Has the lead clicked your link? Did they download the case study? For each action, you can design a different follow-up sequence.

4 Reasons Why Automated Lead Nurturing Works

Email drip campaign: Finger pointing at automation options

Traditional email marketing can be a two-edged sword because one-time promotional-type emails can hurt a company’s image. Leads find it hard to trust you if your only interaction is sales-driven. Often, this approach causes recipients to unsubscribe from your emails. By using lead nurturing in your email campaign, you can produce a tightly woven email series consisting of highly relevant content.

A Marketing Sherpa case study showed that using automated lead nurturing through drip emails increased conversion by 32.6% as compared to general email newsletters. Several similar studies show how drip email campaigns lead to lower costs, higher engagement, and more sales opportunities. Here are a few key benefits of this campaign tool:

  1. Automation: After you start your drip campaign, your email sequence is automatically delivered on schedule as leads are added to an email list. This automated lead qualification system sorts and forwards qualified leads to sales associates. By incorporating lead nurturing into a sales campaign, you can automate several steps and reduce the overall time required to qualify leads.
  2. Quick and immediate response: New subscribers are most interested in your products and services when they first sign up. Research has indicated that email response drops substantially over time. With automation, you can effectively leverage this known dynamic by nurturing leads fast.
  3. Easier troubleshooting: An automated lead nurturing system provides you with a quantitative approach to your email marketing strategy, enabling you to measure a ton of KPIs (we’ll talk about this in a bit). This means if your campaign doesn’t perform as it should, it’s easier to find the bottleneck and rectify it.
  4. Segmentation and customization: Most email automation tools allow you to segment data based on past user actions, pain points, and the position of your target audience in your sales funnel. Through segmenting, you can customize follow-up emails tailored to a specific target group.

5 Steps To Set up an Effective Email Drip Campaign

Woman launching email drip campaign

Drip marketing campaigns call for delivering an email sequence that offers a soft-sell approach and is informative and content-based.

1. Know Your Objective

Once you define your objective and identify your ideal customer, you can determine whether their specific actions make them a promising lead.

Broadly, you can subcategorize the leads based on:

  • Their actions on your website or how they engage with your emails
  • Their demographics (location, industry vertical, gender, spending patterns, etc.)

For example, if a lead downloads specific information related to your product or service, then they should be qualified accordingly. Similarly, you can come up with separate campaign ideas for leads in different niches.

Another key element of effective lead nurturing is developing a picture of exactly the audience you want your campaign to target. By identifying characteristics of your leads like their job, hobbies, and responsibilities, you are better able to create more targeted content to nurture leads.

2. Write Winning Email Copy

Curiosity, attention, and value are the three pillars of a compelling email template.

The curiosity lies in the subject line. The subject line is a decisive factor that subsequently affects the open rates. Sure, you can use a subject like “today, your death awaits” to get people curious, but does it work? Not so.

The best practice when it comes to subject lines is to use something personalized, simple, and relevant to the email. Subject lines such as “Quick question, {{prospect.first_name}}” or “Question about {{}}” are safe bets.

You should grab attention with the first few lines of your email body. Make this language brief, and make it about your prospects. For example, instead of writing a paragraph about your company, experience, and accomplishments, mention how you can help solve your prospect’s pain points.

Another way to grab your prospects’ attention is to break the pattern. Use humor, wit, one-liners, stories, or anything that makes your email stand out.

3. Offer Genuine Value

Once you have identified your target audience, you can then determine the best content to send. Create informative content that relates to your audience’s interests and pain points.

The value can come in multiple forms, such as free consulting, video downloads, white papers, and webinars. Pardot’s State of Demand Generation report found that more than three-fourths of B2B buyers prefer a variety of content in the nurturing cycle. So if you shared an informative blog post in one of your emails, you might offer a free strategic session or include a market report in the next.

You can also reassign your existing content to nurture leads. If you have previously developed content that performed well in converting customers, it will likely produce excellent results in your email drip campaign as well.

Make sure your content doesn’t promise value but instead deliver a disguised sales pitch. Even if you bait your prospects with a free offering, you most likely won’t convert them further in the sales process. When leads don’t get what they expected, they feel tricked and find it harder to trust you.

4. Don’t Rush

Many marketing surveys have shown that average B2B sales cycles are getting longer, especially for marketing, software, and SaaS companies. A soft approach to marketing is a good idea since this can mean comfortably spacing out the emails. You don’t want to scare away your prospects by constantly bombarding their inbox.

The slow-and-steady approach not only gets your company top-of-mind awareness — it also allows the selling process to take its natural course and avoids rushing customers. You can experiment with various time intervals to discover what pattern of email delivery works best for specific products or services.

5. Track and Optimize

The final element of implementing an email drip campaign is to monitor, test, and optimize your campaign. A/B test your content, subject lines, sending frequency, schedule, landing pages, CTAs, and other metrics that you think might affect the campaign’s performance.

To successfully test your campaign, select a variable and split the variations into small campaigns. Proceed with the winning version and repeat the same step for other variables. Fine-tuning and improving automated lead nurturing campaigns is key to long-term success.

How To Measure Your Email Drip Campaigns 

Woman pointing at drip campaign metrics

Not all parts of email marketing automation are automated. You can’t set your campaign on autopilot and forget about it. For optimum results, you have to monitor the results and tweak your strategy and content accordingly. By measuring the KPIs, you are better equipped to enhance your drip campaign’s performance.

  • Conversion rate: A conversion is any activity that achieves a specific goal – it might be as simple as downloading a lead magnet or opting to receive a newsletter. Or, it could be as complex as turning a prospect into a customer. Depending on how you define your goal, the conversion rate is the percentage of people hitting your target. When conversion rates rise, you may assume informative and consistent content is being delivered to your leads.
  • Click-through rate: The click-through rate for email marketing campaigns is the percentage of people who click on an active link included in an email message. The higher the rate, the more people are influenced by the email to visit your site.
  • Unsubscribe rate: When an email recipient clicks on the unsubscribe link, they have opted out of your lead nurturing program. A low unsubscribe rate is a good indicator your leads are pleased with your emails.
  • Time to acquire a customer: Email drip campaigns work in the long run. And the average time it takes for a lead to complete a sales cycle offers a valuable insight into the success of your campaigns. You can usually decrease the average time with continuous testing and optimization.

Growing Through Email Drip Campaigns

In the highly evolving and fast-changing online business strategies, automated email drip campaigns make lead nurturing more effective and seamless. The rise of automation tools such as QuickMail, Drip, and HubSpot has made the process easier through simpler workflow systems, more optimization options, and cleaner interfaces.

Whichever tool you choose, a soft-sell approach allows you to cement a long-term relationship with potential customers, boost your conversions, and save you time that you can invest in your business.