Using e-mail drip

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Jeanne Jennings thinks a lot of e-mail drip campaigns are doomed before they start.

Jennings is an e-mail marketing consultant based in Washington, D.C., who spends a lot of time talking about, and implementing, e-mail drip campaigns, and she has a word of advice for any company considering using one: “The devil is in the details.”

Drip campaigns, which send, or “drip,” a set of prewritten messages to customers or prospects over time, can be powerful lead-nurturing tools, especially for companies with complex products and long lead times, but in Jennings’s experience, success is often baked into the program before it starts.

“It always goes back to the ‘message map,’ ” she said. “The two questions I usually hear about drip campaigns are, ‘How many efforts should there be?’ and ‘How far apart should they be?’ But it goes back to the message map.”

Jennings uses message mapping to outline the goals of and guide the messages in a drip campaign before the actual work begins. Usually, she said, after a company sits down for a few hours and puts together a basic list of its goals coupled with its key messages, the actual e-mails almost write themselves.

Laura Klein, senior VP-corporate services at eDiets Enterprises, has firsthand experience with setting up targeted e-mail campaigns. EDiets Enterprises sells white-label health and wellness sites to insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and large employers that are interested in creating wellness programs.

“To me, drip marketing is a reminder and a call to action,” Klein said. “I want people to remember us and know our capabilities so, when they’re ready, they’ll call.”

One useful aspect of drip campaigns is that they are characterized as “set it and forget it.” Once a campaign is active and the opt-in mechanism is live, it doesn’t require any additional effort. All that’s left is to track its effectiveness.

But Jennings holds drip campaigns to a higher standard than some standard e-mail campaigns, which are traditionally measured by such metrics as open rates and click-throughs. A drip campaign is usually a tightly focused marketing tool with one concrete goal: Sell the product.

“Opens and click-throughs are nice, but they don’t pay the bills,” she said. “We should view drip campaigns as marketing campaigns.”

This might mean a bigger budget than initially expected. E-mail enjoys a reputation as being very effective and inexpensive, which is true; but a drip campaign operates at a higher level than the company newsletter might.

Successful campaigns are themed, with original and high-quality content. Drip e-mails can include demonstration videos to showcase products, as well as various content formats.

“Good e-mail’s not cheap,” Jennings said. “That’s one of the things people don’t realize. It’s less expensive than direct mail because you don’t have to print and mail it, but you still need great copy and good design. It can be a lot of money up front to set it up. But it’s evergreen, so it’s set it and forget it.”

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