April 20, 2011
How To

How-To Increase Relevance: Integrating drip marketing into an email campaign

SUMMARY: Relevance equals response. But the B2B pipeline is very complex, and it is quite difficult to tap into the motivations of your current leads and future prospects. Drip marketing is one way to make this connection -- scheduled touch points with prospects to enhance both lead generation and lead nurturing.

Drip marketing can be defined in many ways, and here is a detailed look at how one marketer used drip marketing to increase the relevance of his lead nurturing efforts.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter

Every experienced B2B marketer knows that relevance is a powerful tool in inspiring action and response from today’s consumer. At the same time, developing relevant campaigns can be a challenge. The 2011 MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Handbook offers many tactics to help achieve relevance.

In today’s article, we’ll focus on a tactic that can help you master one key step from the Handbook -- "Step #5. Perfect your timing. Timing is another factor of relevance in a lead nurturing campaign. You want to deliver relevant content to your prospects when they need it most. You have already addressed delivering relevant content to different stages of the buying cycle, now it’s time to determine relevant timing and frequency of your messages."

One way to do that is with drip marketing -- a strategy that involves sending automatic marketing messages to a list through email or other methods. The messages are "dripped" in a series applicable to a specific behavior or status of the recipient. .

Quantapoint, is a provider of 3D laser scanning technology for architectural, nuclear and offshore industries, and James McGill, Vice President, Marketing and Business Operations, defined its drip campaign as a series of emails around a specific topic that are sent regardless of customer action.

He said, "I consider drip marketing to be any set series of emails that are sent regardless of recipient actions. For example, product tips and tricks. These are useful for sending out information."

Drip marketing efforts is one part of an overall email strategy, and is the first touch potential customers receive from Quantapoint.

This case study looks at the different parts of Quantapoint's total email efforts and some of the tactics used to execute the strategy.

Phase #1 -- Define the email send triggers

The overall drip marketing campaign has been broken down into three categories, three relevant reasons why members of Quantapoint’s opt-in list might start receiving emails nurtured.

To even become a part of the program, McGill explained, prospects had previously provided an email address, and added Quantapoint found requesting less information in exchange for a campaign registration resulted in more sign-ups.

Category #1. News-triggered campaigns

At Quantapoint, these sends will typically be based on new product releases and will consist of a series of seven emails covering a new functionality or a relevant application of the product. These mails are sent about once a week and are sent to a segmented list of current subscribers based on the information contained the mail. (See creative sample, "1. Drip campaign email") The exception is general news or newsletter content that will go out to the entire database.

Category #2. Visitor action-triggered campaigns

These email sends are based on lead scoring from demographic data -- actions taken on the website coupled with the company title of the visitor -- so at this point Quantapoint is engaging with customers who might be comparing different solutions. These leads are still receiving drip marketing, but it's now more sophisticated in that some manner of lead scoring is in place, and the content the prospect receives is much more targeted to further increase relevance.

Category #3. Prospect action-triggered campaigns

These emails are based on lead activity. Website visitors become prospects by taking actions that show interest and increase their lead score. Depending on website activity such as page visits, or clickthrough on earlier emails, these touches relate to the interest shown by the prospect.

At this stage Quantapoint will begin A/B testing of its outreach to determine what works best.

McGill said prospects will take actions on the website that might influence the email send. If the prospect shows interest in a topic they might receive a series of email from the drip campaign, but prospect actions can change what they are sent.

He continued, "For example, if they click in the first email and they visited the website and visited a number of pages, the follow-up email they get may be different (than the standard drip campaign). We can follow with an email based on the interest they have shown."

Phase #2 -- Coordinate and learn from complementary tactics

Each email campaign will involve tactics related to the content found on the clickthrough landing pages and microsites for each mailing, and scoring the visits from those clickthroughs is important to determine where each lead is in the buying process. Ongoing testing and optimization of the campaign is another tactic that creates an atmosphere of continued improvement.

Tactic #1. Landing pages and microsites

Specific landing pages and microsites are an important part of Quantapoint's drip marketing effort. The microsite is built out to coincide with the drip campaign.

McGill explained the content for the microsite is placed on the site to coincide with the drip marketing campaign. That is, each piece of content related to the drip send is not actually live on the microsite until the drip email send goes out.

This experiment came from previous experience where all the microsite content was available from the first drip send and resulted in a first visit from prospects that took in all the material and did not produce clickthrough from the rest of the campaign.

Typically drip marketing is used for lead nurturing and the idea is to provide continuing touches and information for prospects. Timing new content to the actual campaign send dates is an effective way to encourage repeated website visits.

The idea is if all the information is on the site for the first visit, most prospects won't return. But if they need to return to get that next piece of content, they will do so.

McGill mentioned that there is another benefit in terms of resources and execution for his team. Instead of having to develop the entire content for the microsite, it's now created in batches.

He said, "We don't have to develop all the content up front on the microsite itself. We can just develop the first few areas and then we can develop it in parallel to doing the email."

Tactic #2. Scoring the sends

An important part of the overall email effort is scoring the website visits coming from the sends. Scoring is automated, and website visitors who have previously registered for content are included in the system. The visitor's score determines what aspect of Quantapoint's email campaign they receive, ranging from drip marketing to mail targeted to prospects.

Quantapoint breaks down their visitors into two demographic categories. Vice president, manager or director level gets scored at plus ten, engineer or design gets plus five. These point levels are based on decision-making ability.

Other actions get scored as well:

o A Web page visit adds one point

o Ten pages in one day indicates serious interest and receives a kicker of five additional points

o Downloading a PDF, viewing a video or Flash upload also creates a kicker of more scoring points

- There are also negative elements to the scoring system

o Visiting the careers page results in negative points

o Visiting the contact page without filling out any forms also results in negative points

o A contact who doesn't visit the website for a period of thirty days loses points in the email program

McGill describes the scoring system, "It's not just always inflationary. It is deflationary as well."

Tactic #3. Testing the sends

Quantapoint ran a series of A/B tests on its email sends and found subject lines did not have a large difference in open rates for its audience.

The text in the body of the email did show some results:

o Bulleted text led to around a 25% reduction in clickthroughs

o A "soft" open line, for example, "I'm not sure if it makes sense for this email to be sent to you, but if you take a moment to read... ," also led to about 15% fewer clickthroughs (see creative samples below)

o Graphic sidebar buttons in the email had no impact on clicks

An important aspect of Quantapoint's email campaign is regularly testing and challenging its efforts through A/B testing, and experiments like adding new content to the microsites to correspond to each drip marketing send.

McGill explained, "I want to make sure I am always challenging my own assumptions and trying different things and learning on every campaign."

Here are the numbers for Quantapoint's email efforts:

o Total deliverability on all campaigns is 96%

o Targeted campaigns get 98% to 99% deliverability, and broad-based newsletter sends typically don't meet 96% deliverability

o Open rate is around 21% on all campaigns. Nurturing email campaigns have a higher average open rate, and newsletter send have a lower average

o Similar to open rate, clickthrough ranges from 6 to 8% for nurturing campaigns, it's at, or below, 1% for newsletter efforts

Useful links related to this article

1. Drip campaign email
2. "Soft open" email



Email Marketing: Drip Campaigns Drive Revenue

Marketing Optimization: How to create a test that gets results you can use

Members Library -- Behavior-based Email Send Times Lift Opens, CTRs and Referrals: Test and Results

Optimization Summit 2011

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