How many times does a prospect need to see your message before taking action? As you might guess, the claims are all over the map:
- Rule of Seven says … you guessed it.
- Similarly, there’s the Law of 29.
- An Atlas study says 9 times.
- MarketingSherpa says 5.
- A blog I recently came across played it safe with “3 to 30” impressions.
- My friend – a professor of evolutionary genetics – says it takes an average of 23 “initiations of a thought” to instigate changes in neuronal pathways. (Take your time.)
Whether it’s 3 or 30 … or more, the conclusion is the same: it takes a certain number of exposures to be remembered.
For business, being remembered is the first step to being top-of-mind. And being top-of-mind is prime position for keeping the pipeline filled and the revenue stream flowing.
A Jug Fills Drop By Drop
Drip marketing is a proven technique for tapping into the water table of human consciousness, establishing memorable brand awareness by methodically, deliberately, and consistently delivering marketing messages over a fixed amount of time.
It’s been around for generations, using the best relationship-building tactics of the era: door-to-door sales, direct marketing, telemarketing, email and social campaigns, location-based marketing, and whatever new methods pop up tomorrow.
Like an auto-drip coffee maker or irrigation hose, drip marketing delivers tiny, measured doses of “good stuff”, ultimately enhancing, supporting, and strengthening the target … be it a pot of joe, a garden, or a prospect.
Isn’t that essentially what “lead nurturing” is?
Yes. And no. And maybe. Sometimes.
Opinions about that range from “meh” to “not even close” to “yes, indeedy”.
But this post isn’t about whether – and to what degree – there’s a distinction. It’s about the power of drip marketing and, in particular, automated drip marketing. (A rose by any other name …)
So let’s do it.
Why Drip? Three Benefits.
Drip marketing offers distinct and measurable value to businesses of all sizes, with these three at the top of the list:
Optimizes the sales funnel. The following euphemism has been beaten to dust, but in this case it’s also a truism: “Deliver the right information to the right person at the right time.”
Getting people through the sales funnel requires momentum that is generally powered by content. And the content must be valuable to recipients, else their next step might be out the door and into the open arms of your competitor.
Drip marketing is an ideal purpose for your content marketing engine because it allows you to deliver relevant, timely information to your target audience based on where they are in the decision-making process and what they’re interested in.
For example, for top-of-funnel prospects who download a white paper, a triggered message could be sent inviting them to view an on-demand webinar on that topic. For bottom-of-funnel folks who abandon a shopping cart, a series of triggered messages could be deployed to re-engage them and encourage them to complete their purchase.
Given that at least 50% of leads are qualified but not yet ready to buy (Gleanster Research), drip marketing is an effective and versatile tool for moving prospects the full 100 yards – or the last 10.
Saves you money. Because drip marketing is a technique that’s rolled out over time, the costs can be spread out over months or full quarters, rather than hitting your budget all at once.
Better yet, when drip marketing is automated the costs can be further reduced because good automation platforms (1) remove the need for IT support and (2) allow sales and marketing teams to “set it and forget it”, freeing up expensive resource time.
Is easy to automate. Drip campaigns are tailor-made for marketing automation. In fact, NOT automating your drip campaigns is not recommended; it would take a dedicated team of full-time staff to manually manage a successful drip marketing campaign, and the results would be less optimal and (much) more expensive than using an automated platform.
Marketing automation is about working smarter not harder. Meaning you can design complex decision-tree based campaigns up front, then simply take your hands off the wheel and let them cruise along on their own. By keeping the funnel filled and engagement strong, automated drip campaigns free up your resources to focus on closing more deals.
Five Components for Drip Success
So how to drip? The strategy can be different for each company depending on industry, goals, budgets, products, size of market, and a host of other things. But there are five drip marketing components that hold true for most businesses.
Planning. The devil’s in the details, and the more complex your campaigns are, the more devils you’ll have running around. So plan well and thoroughly up front to ensure your target audience is never exposed to any havoc. Here are the key things to cover:
- Define clear campaign goals. This may sound obvious but, surprisingly, it’s not done as often as it should be. Thus, it bears mentioning that before you embark on your drip campaign (or any campaign), understand why you’re doing it and what results you need and/or want to see. For example, are you educating? Selling? Rewarding? What’s the timeframe? What are the measures of success?
- Target your campaigns. Tailor your campaigns to specific audience segments based on criteria such as personas, pain points, behaviors, geographies, and where they are in the sales funnel. The more you meet your audiences’ interests, needs and expectations, the more successful your campaigns will be.
- Be customer-centric. Avoid the temptation to use “company-speak” and/or to push a particular agenda onto your audience. Instead, design your campaign – including content, messages, and offers – with your audience’s interests and needs in mind. Success strongly hinges on resonating with your targets’ incentives, rather than with senior management’s.
Timing. It might not be “everything”, but it’s pretty close. By definition, drip marketing is based on the deliberate, metronomic deployment of defined messages to defined audiences based on defined criteria. Thus, the cadence and frequency of those messages is critical.
Also critical is understanding what is optimal for each segment – more than likely, some segments will respond better to fast drips, and others to slower drips. A good rule of thumb is to begin with weekly or bi-weekly drips, then tune the dials over time as you gain insight. If you have an extremely long sales cycle, you’ll want longer intervals between drips.
Testing. And testing again. And then re-testing. There is no longer an acceptable excuse for not being diligent with testing. With so many technologies and capabilities and platforms and interoperability issues – and the number will only increase – too much can go wrong and too much is at stake. So knuckle down and test your campaigns. Thoroughly. Because if you don’t, there are umpteen other companies that will. And many are your competitors.
Patience. It’s not only a virtue, it’s a necessity for drip marketing, which is slow by design. Going back to the earlier analogies, by gradually infusing your coffee with water, the flavor is enhanced. When water is slowly and steadily distributed on your garden, the plants flourish, neither drowning nor drying out.
The same is true with drip marketing. Meaning you won’t see results immediately, nor will you know how effective it is until several months have passed. Be prepared for a longer haul than might be preferred. The payoff is worth it, with higher closing rates and bigger deals the norm.
Powerful automation platform. As mentioned above, drip marketing is best served by automation, which can deliver a birthday box of multi-channel capabilities that support drip campaign success. Here’s a sampling:
- Robust list segmentation
- Progressive lead scoring
- Hot-prospect alerts
- Targeted, dynamic email messages and offers
- One-click landing page and form design
- Integration with sales and marketing tools, such as CRM, analytics programs, and pay-per-click ads “Set it and forget it” campaign scheduling
- Website visitor tracking
- Web event management
- Social marketing
- Mobile marketing
- Full campaign tracking and analytics
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
The deliberate and focused nature of drip marketing lends itself to multiple uses, such as re-engagement, time-limited promotions, new client onboarding or training, and (yes) lead nurturing.
Drip marketing – particularly when automated – is not only an effective strategy for establishing trusted customer relationships and getting prospects to the finish line, it’s also ideal for aligning the disparate focuses of sales and marketing teams. At the end of the day, it’s a technique that can measurably optimize your business processes, maximize your resources and, most important, improve your bottom line.