Any marketer who isn’t leveraging drip campaigns is missing out on one of the biggest set-it-and-forget-it opportunities in email.

According to Epsilon’s 3Q 2016 Email Trends and Benchmark Report, triggered emails, such as drip campaigns, typically achieve an average 56 percent lift in open rates and 145 percent lift in click-through rates over business-as-usual messaging.

So, what is a drip campaign?

If you’re not familiar with the term, a drip campaign is a series of emails triggered by an action or non-action taken by the recipient. For example, a drip campaign can be a “welcome” series of emails to a new subscriber, or a multi-message reactivation campaign aimed at inactive recipients.

In any good drip campaign, each message will stand on its own but the sum of the messages will be greater than the individual parts. As with any email campaign, there will be a big picture goal, but each email may have its own goal that moves readers toward the larger action that the sender is looking for.

The possibilities for drip campaigns are practically endless. I have been in client meetings where once the drip campaign ideas started flying, the conference room whiteboard was quickly filled with them.

And then everybody was like: “Oh my, how are we going to make all this happen?”

The good news is that drip campaigns can and should be prioritized and executed in bite-sized chunks – some refer to this as ‘agile’ development. To figure out which campaigns or piece of a campaign to execute first, you just have to know how to analyze each campaign idea and then rank them.

When assessing which drip campaigns to implement first, it is important to consider four things in relation to one another: audience size, historic success, revenue potential and cost.

Say we’re in the marketing department of a company that offers free trials and aims to convert the free-trial folks into paying subscribers.

Say also we’re considering creating 2 different drip campaigns:

  • a drip campaign to get people to opt into our free trial, and
  • a drip campaign aimed at converting the free-trial subscribers into paying members

From an audience-size perspective, the start-a-free-trial campaign wins hands down. The universe of free trial prospects is much larger than the universe of people who are already participating in free trials.

From a historical-success perspective, it’s a wash. The company has successfully used email to both drive people to participate in free trials and to get free trial participants to convert to paid customers. So they have email creative from both that can be used as a starting point for a drip campaign.

From the cost perspective, it’s also a wash. Neither will cost more than the other to produce.

Where this particular comparison matters most, though, is revenue potential.

The revenue potential for a conversion-from-free-trial-to-paid campaign is vastly higher and certainly more immediate than a drip campaign aiming to get people to sign up for free trials.

So the conversion campaign wins. And what is more, once the revenue starts rolling in from the conversion campaign, the results can be used as ammunition to advocate for other drip campaigns, possibly even the free-trial drip campaign. And the increased income can help cover the cost of the next drip campaign.

Some drip campaigns have high revenue potential but are so costly to implement, it may take years to recoup the investment.

For example, a drip campaign triggered and customized based on people’s browser behavior will likely require information and digital assets to be pulled from a CRM or other system which captures and retains data from the Website browse experience.  If this system is not integrated with the email send solution then implementing such a campaign would either involve a manual transfer of information and assets or an expensive integration project.

Should you eliminate such a campaign from your to-do list? No. But it likely makes it a lower priority than other, easier-to-implement, less costly campaigns that don’t require new integrations.

The point is: Don’t think of developing drip campaigns chronologically from start-to-finish with the customer journey. Don’t think of them in terms of what you would consider bright and shiny. Think in terms of potential return on your investment and prioritize accordingly.

The process will involve assumptions and judgment calls.

But once you start assessing drip campaigns in terms of cost, revenue, audience and historical success, the ones that should be implemented first will naturally bubble up to the top.

Try our approach and let us know how it goes. Need more help? This is the kind of work we do with our clients all the time – call me (202.365.0423) and let’s see if we can help your company benefit from the ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ nature of a solid, profitable drip email campaign.