“It’s all about your list”.
Words on the lips of every actual and would-be marketer these days.
You’re constantly being told to build your list. And it’s great advice, which you should definitely take, but then what? What comes next?
How do you make money once you’ve got all those email addresses?
The simple answer is this: with Drip Marketing
By combining landing pages, great content, and automated email sequences, companies of all sizes can put their lead generation and sales processes on autopilot.
In this guide you’ll learn how a SaaS company increased revenue by 30%, how a blogger made over $200,000 in two weeks, and how other companies are making millions in monthly revenue - all automatically - simply by implementing a well-oiled drip marketing system.More importantly, you’ll learn how easy it is to create your own drip marketing system.
In no time at all, you’ll be increasing your conversions, reducing your cost of customer acquisition and increasing your profit - you’ll have said goodbye forever to mediocre marketing efforts.
It’s easier than you think.I know this might all sound a bit over the top, but trust me, it’s not. Drip marketing is a truly powerful tool.And this is the only guide you’ll ever need on the topic.From simple autoresponder sequences that you can implement right away, to amazingly complex behavior-based strategies, you’ll get an in-depth walkthrough of some of the world’s best lead-generation engines.
What is drip marketing?
At it’s simplest, drip marketing is automated marketing.The goal of a drip marketing strategy is to capture leads, and then nurture these leads through a series of specific events. Eventually selling these leads your products or services without lifting a finger.
A successful strategy will automatically lead prospects through the problem you’re solving, your solution, and each of the buying stages, employing persuasion and automatic triggers to generate sales.
Check out the chart below for a good overview of the flow it takes to successfully nurture a lead.
Drip marketing reduces cost per customer acquisition by an average of 33%.What’s more, leads that go through a drip marketing funnel will spend 47% more, as found by a Forrester Research report.
The “events” that make up a drip marketing strategy are mostly emails (which is good, because the average ROI of email marketing is 3800%), but if you want to take things further, you could also include:
- Landing pages
- Display ads (mostly through retargeting)
- Blog posts
- SMS messages
- Phone calls
- Direct mail pieces
- Bonus materials
The above, mixed and matched and synchronized can form a robust drip marketing campaign. The events can be triggered by user behavior, the passing of a certain period of time, purchases, and many other things that you’ll learn later in this guide.
Smart companies love drip marketing. Using specialized software, these strategies can all be automated, virtually replacing the need to sell 1-to-1.And even if you do still need to sell manually, you’ll be ahead of where you are now. Businesses that switch to drip marketing to nurture leads, have found a 451% increase in qualified leads.
In other words, a lead-nurturing drip marketing strategy can cut down on all the time you currently lose when talking to unqualified prospects.
“Drip emails increased our revenues by several hundred thousands of dollars” - Ruben Gamez, CEO of Bidsketch
So why is it called a “drip” campaign?Simple: a drip marketing campaign is delivered, piece by piece over a certain period of time. In metaphorical terms, think of each piece of a drip campaign as a droplet of water that, over time, nurtures a crop from seed to maturity.The seed is a new lead, and the mature crop is a prospect that’s ready to buy.
A drip campaign can include anywhere from two to hundreds of different emails. And fortunately for people’s inboxes, not all emails are sent to everyone: personalization and segmentation are key to the success of most drip marketing systems.
Segmentation, personalization and relevancy: Why drip marketing works so well
Drip campaigns can start out very simple. But as your company grows, adding segments to keep content personalized and relevant for your prospects will always lead to better results.According to Mailchimp, segmented email campaigns get 57.69% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns - that’s saying a lot.And as you can see in the graph below, a higher click-through rate is only one of the many benefits of segmentation...
When you think about it, these results are not too surprising.
Imagine you’re selling two different courses on personal finances: one aimed towards business owners, and the other for stay-at-home moms. It wouldn’t make sense to send an email about the course for business owners to the stay-at-home moms, would it?
Conversions would be very low, as you would be selling the wrong product to the wrong audience. Stay-at-home moms would probably be annoyed by an email about something that doesn’t concern them. Unsubscribes would go through the roof.
The solution here is to leverage segmentation by having two separate series of drip emails, one for each product, targeted to its specific audience. You want to segment your list such that you’re only sending content that is personal and relatable to each email recipient.
The example above is very basic, but as you read through this guide, you’ll see some massively complex examples of customer segmentation.
Getting started with drip marketing: simple autoresponders
Drip marketing can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.Systems with hundreds of email variations and triggers do exist, but they’re not always necessary - especially if your company makes less than $500k a year in revenue, or if your website has low traffic (of course there are always exceptions).
Basic autoresponders are simple: someone gives you their email address (most often in exchange for a free download - like a checklist, ebook or some other bonus material), and then you can automatically send them emails for a specific period of time.
These emails are usually designed to build that person’s trust in you or your company, provide more information on the topic they signed up for, and (ultimately) promote your products or services.
While advanced drip campaigns often tailor the emails a person receives based on their online behaviors, basic autoresponders will send the same sequence of emails to everyone who signs up.
For example, a while ago I created the following, simple autoresponder email series in Aweber for a real estate agent:
As you can see, the simple sequence consists of 5 emails, sent over the course of a few days:
- The first email is a welcome email, providing the information the subscriber requested.
- The second is aimed at creating trust and “humanizing” the relationship between the agent and the subscriber.
- The third follows what was said in the past email but goes on to establish further credibility for the Realtor.
- The fourth sends the subscriber a link to schedule a call with the real estate agent. This is where a serious lead would convert, becoming a warm prospect for the real estate agent to work with.
- Finally, the 5th email - sent much later - is intended to keep the Realtor top-of-mind for his subscribers.
- After the 5th email, subscribers are sent the Realtor’s monthly newsletter.
In this case, the client had 2 series for simple segmentation.
The first (above) was sent to people who requested information about selling their homes. A second series was sent to people interested in buying a property.
If you run a small business, are liking what you’re reading so far, but want to go further and do what all the big names are doing, with advanced segmentation and behavioral triggers, I will suggest slowing down - at least for the moment.
As humans we always tend toward wanting the best and fanciest things, so I understand your desire; however, complex systems are not always needed and will likely just diminish your ROI...
This is because of the “law of diminishing returns” - where small improvements will lead to big returns, but only up to a certain point. Past this point, further improvements will just reduce your margins and return on investment.
In very concrete terms: A bottle of wine that costs $30 will usually be much better than a $5 bottle. But between $30 and $50, the improvement, taste-wise, will be much less noticeable, unless you’re a sommelier.
In the drip marketing world, this means that going from not having autoresponders at all, to having a basic sequence - similar to the one above - will greatly impact your small business.But unless you’ve got many hundreds or thousands of active engaged subscribers on your email list, the more advanced stuff that I’ll get into below isn’t necessary yet.For small companies, the benefits of sticking to a simple sequence are solid:
- You don’t need advanced tools - Mailchimp, Aweber, and the like are all you require.
- Configuration is cheap - because you don’t need advanced tools.
- Set-up is quick and easy - you create the few emails you want your subscribers to receive, add them to your email marketing platform, and you’re done. No need to add code to your site to track events, or to create multiple variations of the same emails for advanced personalization.
- There are no headaches - basic autoresponders, with one or two simple series of emails, are easy to understand. With complex drip marketing systems, if you don’t map out and document your sequences, you can easily get lost in your configuration. This could mean mistakenly sending someone the same emails twice, or losing subscribers “through the cracks”.
I strongly recommend that you start with a simple autoresponder series. Test things out, see what works and what doesn’t. By analyzing your results and fine-tuning your series you will be able to see incremental improvements, leading to better results every day.
It’s awesome to see money being generated automatically by a drip marketing system, but remember that setting one up is not as easy as writing a few emails and sending them one after another.Your emails need to be written in specific ways in order to accomplish your goals for your audience. You have to send the right content at the right time, in a specific order, and so on.
If you focus on getting a simple series to generate results, then you can gradually optimize your system using increasingly advanced methodologies.
Upping your drip email marketing game: Behavior-Based Drip Emails
Behavior-based drip campaigns are similar in concept to simple autoresponders: their goal is to gain your subscribers’ trust and provide value that will, at the end of the day, convert them into customers.As with simple campaigns, they achieve this through a series of emails with a possible mix of other channels.
The difference between simple and behavior-based email autoresponders is vast.
Segmenting by behavior is a whole other game: planning, creating and executing behavior-based drip campaigns can be strategically complex. It involves the type of strategy that requires extensive planning, advanced software, and technical skills.While a simple autoresponder engine could be launched in a day, you should expect a complex drip engine to take much longer, and be considerably more expensive to set up.
“If it’s so complicated, why should I bother getting such an engine for my company?”
Because as your company grows, adds products or services, and attracts a more diverse audience, behavior-based drip marketing is the best way to scale your business to a whole new level - on autopilot.
Sure, it’s advanced, it’s expensive, and it takes time - but this is where the magic happens.
Ramit Sethi, the founder and face of I Will Teach You To Be Rich - a “blog” with over 100,000+ email subscribers generating millions in monthly revenue - said 90% of his revenue comes from email.
Some of his products, sold through his emails, convert at 68%... but it’s no surprise. Through his automated email series, subscribers are segmented at a very deep level, and are qualified or unqualified for certain products.
If you subscribe to his general newsletter today, it’s highly likely that down the road you will start to receive emails promoting only the product you’re the most likely to buy.This is the genius of behavior-based email strategies.Ramit’s drip marketing campaigns are extensive. They are definitely the top-of-the-line examples for online courses and info-products. The strategy took years to develop, and I’m sure it’s always being improved. But it works like a charm.
I’ll go into more details about his series and some of the strategies he’s using, in a case study later in the post.
Behavioral drip campaigns work for almost any type of company...
What if you’re not selling online courses? What if you’re an e-commerce store? A SaaS company? Or maybe an agency? Are behavior-based campaigns worth it?
My short answer: absolutely.
For example, if you’re an agency and you’ve got an email list, you’re probably using it to teach something to your subscribers or to showcase your work in hopes of staying top-of-mind.
But here’s the problem: If you have one list with a bunch of email addresses, there’s no way for you to know who in that list is a potential future customer. There’s no way to know who in that list to sell to, nor what to sell to whom!
Which is a big problem.
When everything is painted with the same brush, you need to remain very general in your communications - something that rarely leads to impressive results.Now I know setting up behavior-based drip emails can be intimidating. Just remember that you don’t need to start with the most sophisticated set-up the world has ever seen in order to create a successful drip marketing campaign for your company.
A few easy ways to get started with behavioral drip campaigns
Segment with your welcome emailInstead of going into complex triggers and segments, you can start by asking people, after they sign up, what topic they’re interested in the most.
Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income asks his subscribers to click on what describes them best. From the beginning, he’s able to categorize his subscribers into 3 different lists:
- People who don’t have an online business
- People who have an online business, but are just getting started
- People who have a growing online business
He’s even completely honest in his email, saying that based on what you click, the content you get will differ in order for you to receive emails that are relevant to you.
Although Pat’s not heavily selling courses or products through Smart Passive Income, he’s now very well set up to promote specific products and materials to the segment of his audience that’s the most likely to buy.
Segment with your signup form
Alternatively, you could ask people to click on their favorite topic, or on what best represents them, when they first opt into your list.Yes, this adds a field to your signup form, but, despite what you may have heard, that doesn’t mean it will automatically decrease your form’s conversion rate - it’s definitely something worth testing.
In this form, taken from one of Marketo’s landing pages, you’ll notice they ask for your job function.
This is done for a good reason.
Based on your job function, Marketo will send you information about the features and benefits of their software that are the most likely to be valuable to you.
Marketo segments with only one question, but some companies - especially enterprise-level software companies - ask more questions, such as, how many employees your company has, your approximate yearly revenue, and so on.
This is all information that can be used to personalize emails, it’s not always just to make sales reps happy!
A word of caution: Being a conversion optimizer, I have to warn you to not be too eager when adding additional fields to your forms.
Typically, the fewer fields you have, the better your form will convert.A good rule of thumb is to only include the fields you truly need. Especially when dealing with brand new leads. Don’t bother with information that you just think you’ll be able to use later.A quick alternative would be to ask the additional questions, after people sign up with their email address. Although that could lead to a lower response rate...
Combining methods for greater segmentation
I hinted at it above: too many fields on your signup form will kill your conversions.
If you’re at the stage where you need deeper segmentation for drip campaigns, try combining the two methods we just looked at.Ask one question on your signup form, and then follow up with another in your welcome email, like Pat Flynn did.Here’s what this could look like for a SaaS company:
It’s simple to implement, uses minimal resources and allows you to immediately start serving much more personalized content to your audience.
Here are some slightly more advanced techniques for greater personalization and segmentation
Segmenting based on how people sign up
This one isn’t always more complicated than the methods I explained above. But, depending on how you’re collecting signups, you can get into more advanced territory.
Here’s how it works:
If you sell office and home furniture, don’t send the same emails to all of your buyers. Segment your list into two different buckets: office furniture buyers, and home furniture buyers.
The idea behind this segmentation technique is rather simple, but, in this case, the execution can be complicated.You likely won’t be able to achieve that level of purchase-behavior segmentation, if you’re using a standard email marketing software, without custom development.
However, if you don’t mind adding more software to your email marketing arsenal, Rare.io is an excellent tool for automatically sending your customers personalized content and product recommendations based on purchase behavior.
For SaaS, info-products and service companies:
If you’re running a blog or have multiple signup forms on your website, one option is to segment based on the signup form used.It won’t work well if all of your newsletter forms say the same thing (“Sign up here” or something similarly generic).But if each form has its own offers and topics, then you can definitely segment using this information.
For example, people who sign up to download an advanced Google Analytics checklist could be tagged in your email marketing software as both “interested in Google Analytics”, and “advanced” in the topic.
People who sign up to learn how conversion optimization can help their business grow could be tagged as both “interested in conversion optimization”, and “new” to the topic.(Because people who already know a lot about conversion optimization wouldn’t sign up to learn how it can help their business - they already know, right?!)
Notice that in this example you can segment your list based on both interests and level of expertise.
Using “Faux Surveys” to determine who goes in which segment
I mentioned one way that Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income segments his list: asking subscribers, in his welcome email, to click on the category that represents them best.
Normally, this tactic is called the Faux Survey. You give your audience a question, and ask them to click on an answer. The only difference, in this case, is that Pat doesn’t disguise it as a survey.
The reason I’m talking about this again is that there are sneakier ways to use this segmenting tactic (for good, of course!), which can lead to higher click-through-rates.
Instead of telling your subscribers that they’re being asked questions for segmentation purposes, you can make your questions look like they’re part of a real survey.
Once people answer they are not only tagged for segmentation, but shown the results, or right answer, to the question you asked them.
You can even use the result page to promote a related offer, or to ask additional questions that will help you segment further.
For example, a post by Digital Marketer shows a sample email from Survival Life:
If you got this email, you might not think it was being used for segmentation.
It’s related to the site’s main topic (survival), it’s engaging, and if having your gun confiscated is a concern for you, you’ll want to know the answer - so you’ll click.
But behind the scenes, as you probably guessed, this email is much more than just a random survey…
Each answer represents a data point for Survival Life. Once you click, they not only show you a targeted landing page, but also tag you for future purposes.
With images of radio buttons and very “survey-like” questions, designed to pique the reader’s curiosity, it’s sneaky and effective.
What’s more, people love this kind of email!According to Digital Marketer, faux survey emails get the highest click-through rates, so don’t be afraid to use this tactic in your email marketing strategy.
Segmenting through link clicks
Yes, technically-speaking, faux surveys segment your subscribers using clicked links, but surveys can’t be used too often, and they don’t apply to all cases.
If you need another method to segment your email subscribers, tracking which category of links someone clicks on the most often is a slightly more complex, but equally effective method.
How it works: Imagine you’re doing email marketing for a software company - a CRM, in this case.Leads sign up to your newsletter through the signup form in your blog’s sidebar, giving you one big, un-segmented list of people enjoying your content.
You want to eventually get the people on this list to sign up for a trial, but, knowing it’s complex software, you don’t want to sell all of the CRM’s features to everyone.You know some companies will care more about some features than others.
Let’s say your CRM has 3 main features, each of which appeals to a different type of customer:
Feature 1: Robust security - it’s the most secure CRM platform on the market
Feature 2: Easy to use - a modern interface that has no learning curve
Feature 3: Integrated project management features - no need for additional software
Robust security (feature 1) could be a feature that attracts high-secrecy organizations, like government agencies.
Ease of use (feature 2) could be attractive to companies who tried the legacy CRMs but found them to be too complicated to use.
And the project management component (feature 3) could be a great selling point for companies not yet using dedicated project management software, or those who’d like everything integrated into one central platform.
In order to determine what matters most to each of your subscribers, you email them content (such as blog posts) that relates to each of the different features, in a random order.
Then - since the links in your emails are all related to either the security, ease of use or project management features of the CRM - you can see who is most interested in each feature, based on which link category they clicked on the most.
For example: Subscriber #1 might have received 12 emails in total, over 4 weeks. He opened all of them, and clicked on 6 links, broken down as follows: 2 links related to security, 1 link related to project management features, and 3 links related to the interface and ease of use of the platform.
Based on this information, you can determine that he’s probably interested in the simplicity of the CRM the most, then the security of the platform, and project management the least.In order to increase the likelihood that Subscriber #1 signs up for the trial, it’d be a good idea to start sending this person more content related to his first topic of interest - ease of use.
Push this idea further, and you can even serve personalized landing pages based on the order of your subscriber’s interests.
To continue with the example above, this would mean information about the ease of use of the CRM would occupy most of the landing page’s real estate. You’d have a little content about its security, and maybe just mention the project management features.
Note that, although doable, this is an extremely complex process. The costs in both time and money will outweigh possible gains for most companies.
You also need to know that segmenting your list using link clicks will not always work perfectly.Some people won’t click on enough links to determine their segment, or you won’t be able to send your emails frequently enough to segment quickly.It will often be close, and left up to you to determine how many link clicks of a particular category “tags” a subscriber as interested in a particular topic.
Segmenting through website activity
Many of the more sophisticated email marketing programs now allow you to insert a snippet of code on your site. This allows you to track which pages your subscribers are visiting, as well as what actions they’re taking.You can use this for many things, such as retargeting people, through email, who have shown interest in a particular product - possibly watching a product video, adding an item to a cart or spending X amount of time on a product’s page.
You can also segment using web activity in a way that is very similar to the way you can segment through link clicks, as I explained above.
If a subscriber reads articles on your blog, related to a particular topic, you can automatically “tag” them in your email marketing software as being interested in that topic.
Then, you’ll be able to send this person a series of emails with related content and products.
There is almost no limit to the ways you can segment using website activity.
By defining custom events and using your email marketing software’s API and webhooks, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Of course, some of the things you may want to achieve by tracking website activity require more technical development than, say, tracking link clicks within emails.
But you will also see results much faster, since tracking people’s interaction with your website doesn’t involve them having to open and click on the links of multiple emails.
Overall, site tracking is easily one of the most effective techniques to employ, as patterns are more quickly and certainly identifiable.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of ways to segment...
So far I’ve talked about segmenting by topic, shopping behavior and previous purchases, job title, type of company, interests and expertise.
But to give you a better idea of what types of segments can be implemented, here are a few others that are frequently used by companies of all sizes:
Geography: If you’ve got retail stores or presence in multiple cities/regions/countries, segmenting your customer base by geography can be very important.It allows you to promote content in the local currency and language, or to attain location relevance. Sophisticated companies might even segment by the income bracket of each zip code.
Engagement: I know a few companies and bloggers that have two to three main segments, defined primarily by frequency of communication.
Highly engaged people open all of your emails, they click on your links and visit your website frequently. They should be on a list that receives more emails, much more frequently. The chance that one of these people would unsubscribe is low, since they continually consume your content.
In a second list, are regular subscribers - those who you’ll be more careful with; less frequent and less aggressive.
People in this list might eventually move to the “highly engaged” segment, if their behavior changes. And the opposite can also happen, if someone in the “highly engaged” segment stops interacting with your emails for too long.
If you’re segmenting by engagement, you might also choose to create a list/segment for low-engagement subscribers. Not for the people who are completely inactive, but for those who interact with your content on a lower than average basis.
People in this segment are often sent completely different emails, with the sole purpose of re-engagement, in order to move as many people to the regular segment as possible.
Age & gender: My advice is that you don’t segment by age or gender, if you’re a blogger or software company - it’s useless, trust me.
However, if you’re an ecommerce store with different collections of products, aimed at specific genders, it’s very important to segment along those lines. Sending an email to men about promotions on your skirts and high-heels probably won’t make you a lot of money...
Mix and matching methods for advanced marketers
The methods explained above are some of the most used segmentation practices. However, as your own drip email marketing system evolves, you will notice patterns and opportunities to increase personalization and improve your segmentation.
As you can see from the illustration above, a drip marketing system can have many rules, methods, and “triggers” that can change which emails a subscriber will receive.
At some point, after locking down a solid drip marketing strategy, you might have enough people on your list to dive into some advanced personalization and segmentation.
And that’s where things get really complicated. With possibly hundreds of triggers, IF statements, tags and email variations... you will basically end up with algorithms.
For example, if you segment by engagement level, and then factor in faux surveys, link clicks and website activity, you can start to combine actions across multiple methods.You will be able to determine the best engagement paths and segments to use for different products, shape your ideal customer profile, and perhaps even start to accurately forecast the success of new products, through accumulated data and predictable behavior within certain segments.
Finally, don’t segment for the sake of segmenting
Alright, you’ve now heard a lot about different types of segments and how various segmentation methods work. And, of course, the more complicated your system, the sexier it looks - at least from an outside perspective.
But I do need to warn you: the more segments you create, the more work you’ll make for yourself, so don’t rush it!
Remember, segmenting for the sake of segmenting is useless; you should keep the number of segments you have proportionate to the size of your email list, and always scale slowly.
It’s better to perfect what you already have than to add to an imperfect system.Creating additional segments too early is not just useless, it can overload a delicate system.
Since the purpose of segmentation is to deliver highly relevant content to your customers/leads, you will have to create new emails for every segment you create. This can add up to time and money you just don’t have yet.
With the complexity of a growing drip marketing engine comes the need for additional, highly specialized tools.Even Infusionsoft - known for being immensely powerful - can’t always keep up with email lists of a few hundred thousand people requiring high-level personalization.
There’s no “one-strategy-fits-all” solution.
Experiment, refine and complexify as needed. Follow the Build, Measure, Learn process.
Here’s how 4 companies are currently using drip marketing to generate sales almost automatically
You’ve learned many of the pieces that form a drip email marketing campaign, but how does that apply to the real world? How are companies using those methods? How do they integrate with their regular emails?
I’m glad you asked!
Because now I’m going to show you some real examples of drip email marketing strategies which are being used by a few well-known companies.
Note: I’m not an insider in any of these companies, so I don’t know how their whole email marketing system is architectured. Also, in most cases, the emails that I see are only the ones sent to the segment that my address is attached to.
So, based on public knowledge, my understanding of the possibilities of email marketing automation, and what I’ve received from each company, here’s an overview of how these 4 companies are able to increase their revenues through email.
Time for you to learn from them!
Case Study #1: Retargeting and permission-based personalization that gets people buying clothes - a few strategies from Mr Porter
I’m pretty sure all big-name e-commerce brands do email marketing, but let’s be honest, some do it better than others.
I had to include a drip marketing campaign from an e-commerce company, because their techniques and methods are often quite different from those of software companies, service companies and bloggers with info-products.
Surprisingly, picking which store to use was no easy task: I wanted to feature a company other than Amazon, and I also wanted to be an existing subscriber (so I’d be able to search for their past emails).
I finally picked Mr Porter, a luxury men’s online retailer from the Net-A-Porter/Yoox group.
Let’s go over 4 important emails/tactics they employ as part of their email marketing strategy.
1. Emails sent based on browsing behavior
I live in Canada, where winters are really cold. In October, I was browsing Mr Porter’s site for winter jackets and spent a significant amount of time looking at Moncler coats.
Having a smart system in place, Mr Porter automatically detected the brands and types of items I was browsing, and not too long afterward I received an email from them promoting what? You guessed it: Moncler jackets.
Maybe you’ve heard of retargeting through ads? That’s where you visit a certain website or look at certain products online, and then start getting targeted by ads both on Facebook and all over the web, advertising the content you’ve previously interacted with.It’s a common and effective practice, that’s been in use for a relatively long time.
Technically, being a remarketing technique, this type of email is called a category (or browse) abandonment email.
Most e-commerce stores employ shopping cart abandonment emails, but this less-used tactic is triggered earlier in the funnel than its popular cousin, as shown in the illustration above.
2. Shopping cart abandonment emails
Well known and often used among e-commerce stores of all sizes, the shopping cart abandonment email is indeed the category abandonment email’s big cousin.
This email is triggered once someone adds items to his or her cart, or proceeds to the checkout, but doesn’t actually complete the purchase.
For this example, I went onto the Mr. Porter site, added an item to my shopping cart and then left the site without buying. Approximately 24 hours later, what showed up in my inbox was exactly what I expected:
An email asking me to complete my order - of course!
Shopping cart abandonment emails are not only a great way to recover buckets of potentially lost orders, they’re a real must for any type of e-commerce store.
On average, online shopping carts are abandoned 69% of the time. So having a way to win back a portion of these orders is always extremely profitable.
The good news? Shopping cart abandonment emails are usually very easy to set up.
Shopify store owners even have a built-in feature, allowing them to send these emails directly from their admin dashboard.
3. Personalized digests
I talked about it earlier in this post, and I’ll say it again: personalization matters.
Mr Porter knows this. Although what they’re selling appeals to a specific niche (versus retailers like Target that sell almost everything), Mr Porter doesn’t promote anything to you.
The first email they sent me was a category abandonment email, likely based on how much time I’ve spent in different categories.
This type of email is personalized in two ways: they analyze my browsing and shopping behavior to detect what type of products I like, and they ask me to update my favorite brands in my account.
With this data, instead of trying to sell me the same products I’ve seen, they generate a personalized digest of new arrivals once a week:
Case Study #2: Drip marketing strategies Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich uses to make millions of dollars selling multiple digital products on autopilot
Ramit Sethi has hands down one of the best drip series I've seen. Being much more advanced than most campaigns, it's pretty cool to understand what goes on under the hood of his behavior-based drip emails.
Here are a few things he does:
Through I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Ramit sells a handful of online courses under his name. For Ramit, step number 1 is to collect people's emails. Once they’re in the bucket, the real show starts.
Let's say you're a budding entrepreneur with no problem managing your finances.
Well, Ramit sells courses on how to start a side income or launch a business, but he also sells courses on how to manage and automate your finances. Not needing the latter, you wouldn't want to receive his emails on personal finances, right?
In order to prevent you from receiving these emails, and to make sure you're only getting the ones about starting a business, his email automation system is able to automatically detect your interests.
For example, let's say you sign up to download one of his free ebooks about starting a business. Automatically, the system will categorize you into a specific business category (that's what we call segmentation).But it can go much further than that.
Let's say after you sign up you start browsing his blog and read a number of articles on a specific topic about starting a business. His email system can detect that and start sending you emails that are even more tailored to you.Through the emails you receive - based on the emails you click, the ones you open, the ones you reply to - his drip email system can keep moving you between segments and increase the personalization of the emails you receive.
Now let's say he starts to send you a launch sequence for one of his products. Over a few days, he'll send specific emails that are made to build your trust.
This is marketing psychology in action.
Some of his emails are written specifically to answer the concerns of certain personality types. Then at some point down the sequence he won't be afraid to sell.Near the end of the sequence, he often sends 2 emails/day.The image below, from CopyGrad, shows the different parts of Ramit’s launch sequences.
Finally, let's say you click on one of his links during the launch, leading you to his product page.
What do you think happens if you start signing up or engaging with that page but don't purchase the course?
Well, a few hours later you’ll receive an email encouraging you to proceed; saying something like: “I noticed you started signing up but stopped. Is there anything I can do to help?”
By employing all of the above, Ramit makes millions per year - on autopilot.
Case Study #3: How blogger Bryan Harris made $220,750 selling his first course through drip emails
The first time Bryan Harris launched his new signature course, he made $220,750 in sales.
He didn’t use any type of retargeting techniques or complicated behavioral triggers, just a long series of emails.
Bryan Harris is now one of the best known authority figures on the topic of building an email list.
His signature product, and online course - called Get 10,000 Subscribers - teaches entrepreneurs step-by-step methodologies to get website visitors to subscribe to, you guessed it, their email lists.
It’s a premium course, and Bryan knew he couldn’t just send one email to his subscribers and expect to make a couple hundred thousands of dollars in sales.
Not everyone on his list is aware of the importance of an email list, and neither is everyone ready to buy - especially a course with a big ticket price.
So what did he do? He warmed up subscribers in advance with a series of drip emails!
Now, a launch for such a product can’t be accomplished in one email. Nor should you think of launching it with “just a few”.
You need emails that explain the problem (the one your course or product will be solving), others that amplifies it, followed by a few that show how to solve the problem - all before you even mention your product.
It was only after his email subscribers were fully aware they had a problem that needed solving, that Bryan started hinting at his course and asking for the sale.
From the beginning of his drip email sequence all the way to the end, the last email about the course, he sent over 20 emails!
As he described in a post about how he launched the course, his launch email sequence looked like this:
Looking at this sequence, we can identify that his emails had a few objectives:
Before the launch, and in the pre-launch series:
- Build a relationship and trust with his subscribers in order to increase engagement and facilitate selling
- Clearly explain and emphasize that launching a company or product without an email list is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. (Bryan created these emails based on the Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS) formula.)
- Provide value through simple teachings and quick wins, which serve as teasers for his upcoming course (without mentioning it)
In the launch series:
- Emails 1-4 presented the course, while creating a sense of urgency designed to get people to buy. Since the course was closing two weeks later, Bryan introduced a 15% discount available for 24hrs. This created a deadline, urging subscribers to make a decision to buy the course ASAP.
- Emails 5-8 in the launch sequence were designed to increase his subscribers’ confidence in his expertise. They also introduced a second deadline in the middle of his launch.
Most launches do not have a deadline in the middle of the launch. And as a result people don’t buy.I wanted to avoid this mistake.My hypothesis was that if I offered a good legit deadline in the middle of the launch, my sales graph could look something like this:
- Bryan Harris
- Emails 9-12 presented many list-building case studies, proving to his subscribers that what he’s teaching actually works. These emails contained not just stats, but stories of people and companies who achieved great success using his strategies. Readers could relate, and imagine what they could possibly achieve by buying Bryan’s course.
- Emails 11, 12 and 13 - all sent at different times in the same day - were also used to remind people that the course was closing. And that once the course closed, no one would be able to purchase it for a while. Urgency, once again, in action!
During the post-launch Series, the objectives were:
- To get sales from people who did not know the course was closing, or who forgot to proceed with the purchase, by extending the closing time. (It’s hard to imagine anyone missing it, with all these emails, but some could have been on vacation, had too much to do or simply didn’t have the time to open and fully read his emails.)
- To get people to quickly change their minds and decide to buy the course in order to prevent the feeling of having missed out on something valuable to them or their business. Although not mentioned by Bryan, this powerful strategy certainly comes into play. When urgency is combined with the loss-aversion psychological principle (people would rather see gains than losses), certain people will get non-purchase remorse. It is generally stronger in the short-term.
The post-launch series generated Bryan an additional $48,000 in sales. Not an amount to be ignored…Some key takeaways:
- No corners were cut. Instead of being shy on the amount of emails to send to his subscribers, Bryan sent the amount he felt he needed to address all known objections, to establish trust and credibility, to create urgency, and to persuade people to get the course. He sent over 20 emails in total.
- Bryan used the Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS) formula to prepare subscribers for the eventual course launch.
- He introduced an additional deadline by offering bonuses during the middle of the launch in order to keep the pace of purchases from the initial days throughout the launch.
- Extending the launch beyond when it was supposed to close made him an extra $48k in revenue.
Case Study #4 - How SaaS company Bidsketch increased revenues by over 30% by not letting website visitors learn more about the software’s features, or sign up for a trial
The websites of most Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies are similar. They list features and pricing plans, and allow you to sign up for a free trial.However, Ruben, the founder of a web app called Bidsketch - used by freelancers, consultants, and agencies to create professional looking proposals - decided to do something completely different...
Instead of having a navigation bar and letting people browse their site or sign up for a free trial, Bidsketch leaves you with one option: enter your email address to receive a sample proposal.
This might seem counter-intuitive.
What if people just want to try the software? What if people already know they want to sign up? That’s just a landing page! How can this work?
Well, prepare to be surprised.
Bidsketch tried the standard SaaS website format - with the product features, explainer video and pricing table - you know, the format adopted by almost everyone...the one we’re all used to seeing.The result? They increased their conversions by 500 to 600%!
But they decided not to keep it.
Why did Bidsketch go back to their simple website format, featuring only an email signup form to request a free sample?
Because, although they were getting significantly more signups, they noticed (over a two month period) that their churn rate was significantly higher.
People weren’t upgrading to the paid version after the trial either, and they were losing at least a third of their new paying customers.
With so much money leaking, Bidsketch had to do a lot of digging.
Eventually, they found out that the people who signed up but didn’t upgrade to a paid subscription, as well as the people who were cancelling their accounts, hadn’t gone through the drip email campaign.
Turns out, people who were introduced to Bidsketch through the drip emails were much more engaged, and much more likely to convert too.
Bidsketch’s strategy of getting people to request a sample, as the incentive to get them into the drip email funnel, reduced trials and increased paid signups by 5x! Success that can’t be ignored.
What did Bidsketch do? Let’s dive deeper into Bidsketch’s drip marketing strategyWhen a prospect requests the free proposal sample, things don’t stop there. If they did, there would be no way this strategy could be so successful.
The sample is used as an incentive, also known as a “lead magnet”, to get people inside the drip campaign.
Drip marketing works well because it gets people to make micro-commitments, such as requesting a free sample.
Once someone makes their first micro-commitment, they’re much more likely to make the next, bigger commitment - this is why upsells work so well.Bidsketch leverages this concept throughout their whole campaign - a series of emails sent every 3 days during a 30 day period.
As you can see above, their first email already hints at the advantages of using their software, and gives the opportunity to sign up for a trial, for those already ready to take action.
But not everyone’s at that point; therefore, it’s important to nurture subscribers for a little longer.
In the next emails, they don’t want people to start disliking them because they’re always pitching - so they don’t.Instead, they send out a few emails that are educational and provide tons of value.For example, the 2nd email teaches their target customer a 5-minute marketing tactic to land more projects at a higher fee:
The email is 675 words long… but it’s engaging, easy to read (notice the short paragraphs) and it teaches something people want to learn.The emails are always related to Bidsketch, but in a very non-pushy way. When it “pitches” the software, it ties it in with the content, like it does here, at the bottom of the same email:
Not only has this drip marketing campaign been the best way for Bidsketch to scale, but many of their subscribers love the emails so much they reply and ask for advice.Some people ask questions about the software, and others even reply just to express how much they’ve learned and found value in the emails!
With so many high-quality leads, Bidsketch made hundreds of thousands more in sales, and increased their revenue by 30%.
Now that you’re convinced you need a drip marketing strategy, here’s how to create your own:
Define your objectives and measure success with a measurement plan
Before starting to work on any strategy - whether it’s for website conversion optimization, a simple autoresponder sequence, or a complete done-for-you drip marketing system - there’s one thing I do without exception:
I create a measurement plan (below). And that’s where you have to start, too.
Don’t worry, a measurement plan doesn’t have to be a super big document - I know that’s what it sounds like.
The reality is you can make one in less than an hour, with just a few simple steps.A while ago, I wrote a post on creating an analytics measurement plan, and this is fairly similar.
In short, a measurement plan is a simple document where you list your goals, timelines, key metrics and KPIs, and determine how you will measure your work’s success.
Before you start planning your drip marketing system, determine the following:
- What you want to achieve with your drip marketing strategy.
- Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). (The 2 - 3 metrics that you need to track in order to measure the success of your campaign: Number of leads? Number of purchases? Average order value? Signups?)
- Your targets - how many leads/purchases/sign ups/etc you need in order to consider the system a success. (The easiest way to figure this out is to calculate the cost of building your ideal system, and then determine where your metrics need to be in order to achieve a target ROI after a determined period of time.)
Write each of your answers down and commit to them. It will help you stay on track and keep you focused on the results.
When building drip funnels and systems, depending on the complexity of your system, it can be easy to lose track of your key objectives.
Know your KPIs and targets? It’s time to start planning!
As you have seen, drip marketing strategies can be anywhere from very straightforward to extremely complex.
Your system needs to be scalable, to evolve with ease as your company grows and more subscribers get added into your funnel.
This is why it’s so important to meticulously plan the whole framework in advance.
5 questions before you start working on a drip marketing strategy:
- What is the number one thing you want to achieve with your company?
- In order to achieve that goal, what would a perfect drip marketing system enable you to do? For example, what are the things you are currently doing manually that you could automate with such a system?
- At a basic level, what are the steps your drip marketing system needs to take in order to achieve its overall goal? For example, if your answer to #2 is something like “get 15 serious leads per month automatically”, without the drip funnel, what would you need to make that happen? What would you have to say to people? How does the process look? How long does it usually take?
- Who’s your target audience? What are their objections, concerns, behaviors, characteristics? Are all your customers the same? Or are there certain groups of people within your audience that need to be marketed to differently? This will help you determine your segments, and which ones to prioritize or combine for the first simple version of your system.
- Imagine your company in 1 year: How will your funnel look then? Will you be selling additional products or services? If so, how could these be included in your system? Will your target audience look the same? Write down all the possibilities you can think of. Then make sure you have an idea of how to add them into your basic system. It’s ok if this is vague. The point of doing this is to determine if your current process is scalable, and if not, what you would have to change to make it so.
With these questions answered, you’ll start to get an idea of how your own drip marketing strategy will look.You’ll know your segments, and should have a good idea of the content you’ll need to make your campaign attain its goals.
Now it’s time to map your sequence visually.
Visual strategy mapping for easy fixes, collaboration, and work planning
Before you start creating the emails, ads or landing pages that will make up your campaign, it is crucial that you visually map out the flow of your strategy, in a manner similar to this flowchart :
Only having an idea of how it will look will lead to troubles later on.
Creating a visual flow of how everything’s going to work together ensures your strategy is coherent and complete.
You can do this using tools like Keynote or Powerpoint, or any other mind-mapping software. My personal preference is Draw.io, which is free, requires no software, and is super easy to use.Mapping a simple autoresponder series can often take less than half an hour.
More complex strategies can take much longer as they quickly become confusing and you might encounter roadblocks and other problems with the funnel you had in mind.
If you’re part of a team, and need to get feedback or approval, this is an extremely important step, not to be missed.
Making modifications to your system flow is virtually painless at this stage.
The map of your strategy is a visual blueprint, but document everything to ensure nothing’s being forgotten and everything's being understood.
Seeing how your emails work together, by creating a visual map of your system, is important. But each email and “trigger” has a different purpose.
The bigger your system becomes, the more confusing it is - not only to you, but also to your team and any other stakeholders or consultants that need to understand it.
The solution is quite simple: document everything.
Because creating drip systems often requires a lot of collaboration, I use Google Docs to write down the whole process.
Explain every step in detail: the segments involved, the purpose of each email or the actions at that point in the funnel, how and when specific events need to be triggered or emails need to be sent, what products or services are involved, and so on.
Your document should make it easy for anyone not currently involved with your strategy to get up to speed and understand how it works, quickly.
Now you can start creating the content that will make up your drip marketing system - emails, blog posts, documents and bonuses
In the same master document, it’s now (finally) time to create your emails!Your emails should do a few key things:
- Be persuasive
- Get people to take action (whether to buy, reply, click on a link or comment on a post)
- Provide value (don’t start with the selling!)
- Build trust and relationships with customers/subscribers
- Get people excited to open your next email
- Lead the reader toward your goal
Your emails are at least 50% of your drip marketing strategy.
You can have the most advanced and refined system the world has ever seen, but if your emails suck, and don’t accomplish all of the above, your campaign WILL fail.
You may send many different types of emails throughout your drip campaign.
This chart gives a good overview of the kinds of emails to send and things to do during each of the different stages of the buying cycle:
However, actually writing these persuasive, action-inspiring emails is a whole other story. (Hint: you’ll have to forget everything you learned in your high-school or college english classes!)
If you’re a beginner, and you want to learn how to write copy that sells, I highly recommend anything created by Joanna Wiebe, and taking what I believe to be the best email copywriting course around, Andre Chaperon's Autoresponder Madness.
I must include this caution: learning how to write in such a way is not something you can learn overnight. In fact, it might take you years of practice.
Being a conversion optimization specialist, I can identify good vs bad copy - and I consider myself to be not too bad at writing copy that sells either - but I’m no copywriter.I partner with conversion-focused copywriters who are trained to write in a way that brings in money. I have them go over every stitch of copy in the drip marketing systems I create for clients.
Emails and plan in hand, you’ll need to set up this strategy within your email marketing software
You’ve worked hard to reach this point and you’ve done the bulk of the work, congrats!
But your system won’t start generating leads automatically while it’s on paper.It’s time to pick your email marketing software - one that at least meets the needs of your current system - and then configure your strategy inside that software.Having tried a lot of the email marketing tools available, here’s a quick run-down of the ones I like:
If you’re building a simple drip email marketing strategy…
(only a couple of segments, only a few ways for people to get into your drip campaigns, less than 10k subscribers, and almost no behavioral triggers). I recommend sticking with the popular basics:
- Aweber - A tool for creating simple autoresponder sequences and managing your lists.
For more power and flexibility:
- Drip - A lightweight (but powerful) and easy-to-use platform for creating drip marketing engines. You can track behaviors, tag subscribers, create segmentation triggers, and so on. A favorite for many.
- ActiveCampaign (my personal preference) - What I and many others consider to be “Infusionsoft light”. The behavioral possibilities are near endless, when combined with integrations. Like the bigger tools, ActiveCampaign has a built-in CRM.
If you’re building a powerful, behavior-based system and have at least a few thousand people on your email list...
- Ontraport - A CRM and marketing automation tool with robust automation possibilities. It is similar to, but less expensive than, Infusionsoft.
- Infusionsoft - The king of them all. Complex, robust and often confusing - the power of Infusionsoft is almost limitless. It’s similar to Ontraport, but it integrates with more tools and, overall, has the most possibilities.
- Unbounce - The best of all, in my opinion. Powerful, easy to use and extremely customizable.
- LeadPages - The most simple, but feature-rich, landing page builder available. Ideal for quickly creating a landing page that requires minimal customization.
Beyond email: Mixing mediums for powerful drip marketing
A successful drip marketing system is much more than a series of emails…
Before any emails are sent, you need to get people on your email list. Doing that is an art in itself - one that I’ll cover in detail in a future blog post. (Stay tuned!)
Then, once you’re gaining your subscribers’ trust with your emails, you will probably want to sell something. Just a guess.
This means your sales emails will (hopefully!) link to a dedicated landing page, one where people can sign up for your offer, or purchase your product.
These sales landing pages are part of your drip campaign - whether you like it or not.
And if your landing pages aren’t optimized for conversions - even with the best drip email system in the world - no one will buy or register for anything!
A full drip marketing campaign has many parts, each contributing to the success of your product or service. If you want it to work well, you have to optimize the whole funnel.
Optimizing the customer entry points and purchase paths that exist outside of your emails is a good, basic first step.
But since I like to push boundaries and go further, how about optimizing the series as a whole, using Facebook ads to retarget subscribers when they’re outside your system?
A drip series includes several emails, but not everyone will open each one. Also, people are busy and might not have time to open or read all of your emails right away - even though they might be very interested in what you have to tell them.
One solution to this common problem is to provide additional touch points to keep them engaged. This helps you stay top-of-mind, outside their inbox.
Using Facebook ads as a second, targeted touch point
I have found that using Facebook’s custom audience feature to show promoted content to your subscribers is the easiest and cheapest way to add a second touch point.
A recent study done by Facebook and Salesforce showed that having a combination of both email and Facebook ad touchpoints extended email reach by 77%.
Even more impressively, that same study found that people who saw both the ads and the emails were 22% more likely to purchase than those who opened an email but didn’t see any ads.
These numbers alone should be enough to convince you to explore additional channels, and boost the effectiveness of your emails...
I’m no Facebook ad expert, but there are a few strategies I employ that I will share with you below.
But before you do any of what I recommend, create a Facebook pixel and install it in the header of all your webpages. (You can learn how with Facebook’s pixel guide.)
The Facebook pixel essentially builds you a second list of people to advertise to, based on your website visitors. However, instead of getting email addresses, it builds a database inside your Facebook ad account.You’ll never get to see who’s in that list, but you will be able to create ads that you can choose to promote only to that specific audience, or to segments of it.
A few (of the many) ways to target Facebook ads to people on your list:
There are many ways you can do this, some very simple, some much more complex - the latter requiring a more sophisticated setup than just a Facebook ads account and some email marketing software.
Targeting all website visitors:
The simplest and easiest way to retarget your email list is to create a custom audience targeting all of your website visitors, and then promote your content through this segment.It is important to note that doing this means everyone who visited your website in the past will see these ads, so it may not be the most cost-effective method, depending on your strategy.
Targeting website visitors who visited your thank you page:
If you want to keep things almost as simple, but only display ads to people on your email list, you can create a custom audience based on your website visitors, but only include the people who visited your thank you page(s).
It works, but it’s not foolproof.
(And, by the way, if you’re implementing a Facebook event, you might as well just track all signups, and omit thank you pages from your custom audience completely.)
Sync your subscribers automatically with Facebook Ads
If you’re using an email marketing platform like Infusionsoft, there are third-party plugins that allow you to automatically create and sync a Facebook custom audience with people subscribed to your email list.This is by far the easiest way to target your subscribers through Facebook ads.
A few plugins that allow you to do this:
Don’t try to sell to subscribers who you’re not yet selling to through emails
Drip marketing campaigns should be engineered to warm up leads by building trust early on, in order to get them to buy from you later with much less friction, and at a much lower cost.
If you choose to display Facebook or Adwords ads to your subscribers, remember that the same buying stages still exist outside your drip emails.Respect the decision making and buying stages:
For example: don’t try to sell your products, through ads, to a subscriber who just started your email series, and is getting warmed up to buy from you later.Instead, show people at the beginning of your series Facebook newsfeed ads, or promoted posts, that lead them to a blog post or content that is related to their most recent email.
When subscribers are at the point in your campaign where they’re getting sales emails, you should retarget them with ads that also lead to your product or service’s landing page - where they can put money in your pocket.
Refining and optimizing your drip campaigns
Once your drip marketing system is live, it’s easy (and nice) to think that you can just let it run by itself forever, never needing to touch it again… but that would be a mistake.
Just like a website, you should be constantly optimizing your campaigns to increase conversions, to improve the results of your drip marketing efforts.Make sure you integrate your drip emails into Google Analytics. This allows you to see how visitors coming from your emails convert and navigate your website.Most marketing tools - more specifically, most email marketing tools - automatically add tags to the links inside your emails. This is how you are able to see the results of your campaigns in Google Analytics.
If the software you’re using is not doing this automatically, you can use Google’s own URL builder tool.
By analyzing your drip campaigns in Google Analytics, and combining this with feedback from your subscribers, you can constantly improve your strategy.I strongly encourage you to A/B test specific elements of your drip campaigns, in order to measure the success of your improvements. This includes: landing pages, lead magnets, bonuses, signup forms and emails, at the very least.Always test first what’s the most likely to generate the biggest improvements
Customer.io's illustration of how A/B testing works[/caption]Over time, as your drip marketing strategy solidifies, becoming increasingly effective, you can create additional segments and introduce greater personalization.This will increase the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Drip marketing is - without a doubt - an extremely cost-effective strategy for increasing sales, signups or leads.
You should waste no time in implementing it within your marketing mix.
It’s great to build your list, but it’s the emails your subscribers receive that will put money in your pockets.
You simply cannot afford to overlook the “what’s next?” The steps that come after someone subscribes to your list or becomes a customer.
Drip marketing can look extremely complex, but it doesn’t need to be.
If you start slowly, with a well-executed, simple email autoresponder sequence, you will start seeing positive results in no time at all.
Many companies, from SaaS to e-commerce and internet personalities, are leveraging the power of drip marketing and email autoresponders to achieve unprecedented growth and revenues with a minimum amount of effort.
By creating a solid strategy, using the tactics and steps I outlined in this post, you can too.
More freedom, lower costs, higher ROI… Drip marketing is a powerful engine for growth, what are you waiting for?
If you implemented a drip campaign in your company, what were the results? How did it help your company grow?
If you don’t have a drip campaign yet, what type of content will you share in your future drip emails? Which techniques I explained are you going to use?
Please leave your answers in the comments for this post.
Oh, and of course, if you like what you’ve read here, others are sure to feel the same way. So share this post by tweeting it out or sharing it on Facebook. I really appreciate it.- Raphael