Building Your Drip Marketing Program
This is the sixth in a series of blog posts about Lead Nurturing, the essential marketing process for turning leads into sales-ready prospects.
Drip marketing is the process of regularly contacting your leads to offer them content they’ll find useful. The term derives from “drip irrigation,” which refers to slowly dripping water on plants over time to help keep them nourished. As a marketer engaged in lead nurturing, you’ll use your drip marketing programs to nourish your prospective buyers with useful information, thereby gaining their trust and helping to advance them through your lead funnel.
This installment of ZUZA’s Lead Nurturing series gives you an overview of how to build your drip marketing programs.
First Things First
Before you can start building your drips, you should have completed these prior steps, described in part two of the Lead Nurturing series:
- Get the tools: marketing automation and CRM
- Define your lead funnel
- Define the buying process and map content to buyer roles and buying process stages
- Create your lead scoring system for determining sales readiness
With these steps completed, you’re almost ready to start building your drip. First, you’ll need to have actual content to offer.
Content: A Quick Review
To bring leads to your website, you’ve got to offer them something. That something is useful content. You can offer this content in many forms:
- Instructional white papers
- Informative articles
- Educational webinars
- Compelling videos
- Valuable eBooks
- Convincing testimonials
- Illustrative case studies
- Interesting infographics
- Solution-focused collateral
- Useful blog posts
- Newsworthy newsletters
- Enticing special offers and promotions
As we’ve said before in this blog, creating good content takes time and talent. For your drip marketing to work, you simply must devote qualified resources and time to creating a cache of content that will be attractive to your leads. As we described in our Content Mapping blog post, you’ll want to create content that appeals to different buyer types, at the various stages of their buying process.
The task of creating content may seem daunting at first. The best thing is to just start doing it. Use internal resources and/or allocate some budget to outsourced talent (writers, designers and videographers) to help you create a library of content. Here at ZUZA Marketing Asset Management, we’ve invested more than year of time and a dedicated internal resource to creating collateral, white papers, testimonial videos, and this marketer’s blog. We’ve gradually grown our library of content, and we’ll keep adding to it over time. (Shameless plug: you can view our content on our Downloads page, Success Stories page, and the ZUZA Marketer’s Blog.
For some really great inspiration, take a look at Marketo and HubSpot. These are two of the leading marketing automation companies, so delivering content is a natural part of what they do for a living. And it shows. They’ve created a treasure trove of truly great content to offer to their leads. This content is designed to help people, not to sell. These companies understand that the sale will come later; at this stage, it’s all about relationship building – with great content. For more inspiration and advice on generating great content, visit the Content Marketing Institute online.
Sources of Leads for Your Drip Programs
Your leads will come from a variety of sources. Let’s divide them into two major groups: organic and lists.
Leads from organic sources came of their own free will to your website because you’ve got something that interests them. Organic sources include:
- Trade shows
- Online search
- Social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook)
Organic leads are attractive to us as marketers because they’re already interested in our content. We don’t have to knock on their doors first. They’re coming to us.
Leads gained from lists are simply names and contact information you’ve purchased; people with whom you have no prior relationship. You are initiating direct contact with them without their prior invitation. They may or may not know who your organization is and didn’t ask to receive a communication from you. List sources range from bulk email lists to lists you can build yourself by using a business lead database tool like Hoovers, Data.com or ZoomInfo.
Almost all marketing experts will advise you not to initiate campaigns to lists, and with very good reason. The people you contact may resent you for sending what they consider to be spam. Worse, if you don’t follow strict anti-spam rules or if enough people on your list report you as spam, you may be blacklisted, meaning, emails from your company can no longer be sent because your domain has been marked as a spammer. This risk cannot be overstated.
While there are examples of companies that conduct email campaigns with leads from purchased lists that seem to avoid dire consequences and may actually get a decent return, these are likely the exception, and not the rule. For every such story, there are many more of companies that got a terrible return and/or got blacklisted, making it impossible to send emails from their domains. So if you choose to follow this route, proceed with extreme caution and with a full understanding of the possible consequences.
Regardless of whether leads come from lists or from organic sources, the most important thing is to make sure you treat your leads with the utmost respect. Send them emails offering content that is truly relevant and attractive to them. Demonstrate that you respect their time and their inbox by making it very easy for them to decline receiving future emails from you. Follow all CAN-SPAM Act legal requirements. In other words, don’t be a spammer. Learn how to avoid being a spammer here.
Planning your Drips
Now it’s time to lay out the logic – your drip workflows. You’ll literally create a workflow diagram that charts every activity and decision point in your drip programs.
For instance, let’s say for the time being that you are setting up drip programs for leads that come from organic sources.
STEP 1: Attract people to your website with offers of content.
You can do this by:
- Posting on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook about content (we’re assuming you’ve already got some followers on these sites, but even if you don’t, your posts can come up in searches)
- Placing text and banner ads using Google AdWords and the Google Display Network (e.g. PPC: “Pay Per Click”)
- Attracting visitors through online search engines which have indexed your content
- Sending emails and direct mail promotions to existing leads
STEP 2: Leads come to landing pages with forms on your website.
Leads fill out the forms with their demographic information (name, title, email, phone, company, industry, etc.) in exchange for your free content. Hitting the submit button initiates the download of a PDF, registration for a webinar, or access to other content.
STEP 3: Put leads into relevant drip programs.
Your marketing automation platform adds the new leads to specific, segmented lists based on automation rules you’ve set in advance. For instance, you could specify that if a lead’s title is “VP Marketing,” then start that lead on the “Marketing Exec” drip, which will contain content tailored to that kind of person. (This automation logic is called a “trigger.” The lead does something which then triggers another event, in this case, entering the drip.)
Another example: you could base a trigger on the type of content accessed. For instance, if a lead accesses a white paper on “Integrating This System Into Your I.T. Infrastructure” then you could put that lead in the “I.T. Drip,” featuring a time-release schedule of emails promoting informative content for I.T. directors. On the other hand, if a lead accesses a webinar entitled “Ways to streamline your customer service ticketing system,” then your system would put that person in the “Customer Service Manager Drip.” And so on.
STEP 4: Initiate the drip program.
Once the lead has been assigned to a drip program, he/she will automatically receive communications from you according to the schedule and workflow logic you’ve created in advance, managed for you by your marketing automation platform. Here’s an example of a workflow diagram for a typical drip program. All actions triggered by lead activity in your drip program are automated by your marketing automation platform.
Notice that we’re sending each email out twice. Why? Because, if they haven’t opened the first email, there’s a good chance the recipient didn’t even notice it was in his/her in box. In that case, we want to give that person another chance to see this email by sending it again.
Also notice that during the third email blast, if the lead has opened an email and/or clicked on a link in that email, one of our sales or marketing people will be notified to make a friendly call to the lead. This call wouldn’t be sales-oriented at this early stage. Instead, it would be just to follow-up and see how the recipient enjoyed the content he/she accessed. This demonstrates that you care about the person, not the sale, and will help to build the lead’s trust in your organization.
Finally notice that if the lead opts out of the email list (unsubscribes) at any time, the lead will be removed from the mailing list and will not receive any further emails from your organization. This provides the respect this lead expects and deserves, and complies with anti-spam conventions. By respecting the lead’s wishes, you’ll avoid tarnishing your brand in his/her view. (Don’t respect your lead’s wishes and you end up finding out the hard way what can happen to your brand when a lead is disrespected).
STEP 5: Track Scores
As you accumulate leads in your drip programs, they will in turn accumulate demographic and interest scores based on the lead scoring system you’ve already set up . Your leads will progress through your lead funnel, growing from purely a name to a suspect to a prospect, and, hopefully, a marketing qualified lead that can be passed on to a salesperson.
Setting Up Your Marketing Automation Platform
Your marketing automation platform is the power tool that makes drip marketing magic possible. The platform automates all touches and triggers, no matter how many leads you have in the drip program, without you having to do anything but watch the lead scores accumulate and make personalized follow-up calls, emails and postal mailings to further build a relationship with leads as they move through your funnel.
However, setting up your drip marketing workflows is not a trivial task. Let’s review the steps. You’ve got to:
- Build your segmentation lists of buyer types/roles
- Map your content
- Create your content
- Write and design emails, landing pages and online forms for all of your content
- Define your lead scoring system
- Design your drip program workflow logic, with automation rules for adding scores and performing trigger actions
Again, while this may all sound daunting initially, once you’ve gotten this all set up, you can just sit back, relax, and let your marketing automation platform do all the heavy lifting from here on out.
How you accomplish all this will depend on the marketing automation platform you’ve chosen. Platforms have varying functionality and user interfaces. Your marketing automation vendor should be able to help you enable everything we’ve talked about in our Lead Nurturing blog posts.
And, if you’re still evaluating marketing automation platforms, you can use our lead nurturing series as an evaluation checklist to make sure your platform will do everything you want it to.
We’re coming up on the final post in the Lead Nurturing series: marketing metrics and ROI where we’ll discuss how to measure the success of your lead nurturing efforts. Stay tuned.
Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.