Drip Email (alone) is Not a Strategy. Personalization Matters.

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Demand and Lead Generation

Are you one of the many marketers that is leaving money on the table when it comes to your drip email or lead nurturing programs?

Too often – like the gym memberships we never use – marketers are not taking advantage of all the awesomesauce that comes with your adaptive marketing platform. Instead, they continue to send out simple “spray and pray” drip emails that are not personalized and segmented to your buyer and their needs, and therefore not relevant to them.

Kevin Krason, founder and chief visionary of Biznet Digital, recently appeared on the Rethink Marketing podcast where he talked about the importance of personalizing your lead nurture programs and taking full advantage of all that your marketing technology stack can offer.

Kevin (@KevinBiznet) founded Biznet Digital more than 24 years ago. He is also the president of the Direct Marketing Association of Detroit.

Our conversation is below.

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This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.

What is a drip email campaign?

Nathan Isaacs: What is a drip campaign?

Kevin Krason: Managing email is a daily task for just about every business professional today. And companies know this. And they use this medium consistently to reach out to prospects and customers. And if you’re simply sending pre-written emails with a regular pre-programmed cadence to your audience, then you’re using drip marketing or drip email marketing.

Drip email marketing isn’t all bad. You are staying in touch with your prospects. You are reminding them you’re there and that you have solutions for them. It can be automated as well. Unfortunately, there are limitations and there’s a better way.

Limitations with Drip Email Campaigns

Nathan: Can you talk more about what those limitations are?

Kevin: A lot of times what I notice with drip emails is that they’re not personalized very well. Or they’re written so general that they really don’t apply to me. And we know as marketers that the more targeted and the more personalized, the more likely we are to get their attention and possibly engage and convert them. These messages that aren’t personalized don’t get read with as much frequency, and after a while might not get read at all, because a lot of times they’re the same information over and over again. The recipient just quits opening them, quits responding to them. And if they’re using any kind of intelligent email filtering technology, which most are today, eventually it’s going to end up in the spam folder because they’re not reading it anymore. It just becomes useless.

Another thing I’ve noticed is these drip emails tend to be generic when it comes to the call to action. Because they’re not focusing on that particular prospect’s needs, wants, etc. And so it’s hard to send the same email to everybody and personalize that call to action. It’s just not going to convert as well. And they’re also not collecting additional data or learning from the interactions, which allows the marketer to better engage this prospect the next time around.

Nathan: This is probably a problem that happens to anybody that’s just signing up with marketing automation. They’re transitioning from just an email service, and so for whatever reason they move to marketing automation. Maybe they felt like they needed to scale up. But now they’re just still using it as a drip email campaign. Can you talk about that and just what your experiences have been?

Kevin: What I’ve noticed is that when I get calls from companies, clients, prospects that have invested in marketing automation technology, some of the better technologies like Act-On, they are often not utilizing the technology for really what it was made to do. They may have been using some earlier technology. They recognize the potential of Act-On, which is fantastic. And they start to kind of move their traditional email over. But that’s where they stop. They really just start using Act-On as a drip marketing platform, when it’s so much more than that.

And Act-On’s an investment. And if you’re not investing in it the way you should, eventually somebody’s going to say, ‘Hey, why are we investing in this technology that we’re not using?’ So, I get called in quite a bit at that point to help that company understand what the lost opportunity is, and what they could be doing.

Check out our additional related content:

How to Prioritize Your Leads

OK, simple drip emails don’t work, what should I do?

Nathan: And what is that first step? What are some of the first things that you try and get these companies to do?

Kevin: So, a drip email marketing strategy isn’t really a strategy at all. It’s more about a spray and pray. You’re putting it out there and you’re hoping they’re going to engage. A good lead generation marketing strategy is one that actually listens to the prospect and creates this personalized curated buyer’s journey in a way that it’s personalized for the recipient’s potential needs, it’s timed to align with where they are in their learning or decision-making process, and has built in escalations that can help to move that prospect further down the purchase funnel.

A campaign with intelligence learns from every prospect interaction. It’s monitoring email opens, it’s monitoring website clicks, and further personalize the journey with each new message. It could be using my favorite toy, progressive profiling. I love using that technique to get further insights from a prospect as they move down the buyer’s journey, because it allows us to better personalize with each interaction. Persona and product or service focused campaigns that lead a prospect from awareness, to interest, to engagement, scoring those activities, and collecting better information from the prospect, but also providing them with more targeted information and education, is going to make them much more engaged, and ultimately increase the conversion rate substantially.

What do you mean, I have to understand my buyer?

Nathan: There’s a lot to what you were just talking about there. And it seems like it’s getting even back to the basics of Marketing 101. You have to understand your buyer. You have to understand your buyer’s journey. But it sounds like with marketing automation, you’re able to do this. You can start lead scoring, you can start segmenting your list. Is that right?

Kevin: It really is Marketing 101. When I see a company that is not using the technology the way they could be, it almost pains me. Look, marketing is simple. It’s a process. It’s a process of identifying, and qualifying, and nurturing your prospect, by giving them that piece of information they need to take that next step forward down the buyer’s journey until they’re ready to buy. It seems pretty simple. The better you know your prospects, the better you can help them. The better you help them, the more likely they are to trust you. The more likely they are to trust you, the more likely they are to buy from you.

It is very much basic marketing. And I don’t really know exactly why organizations stop short of implementing a lot of this. I will say that I think some folks invest in automation thinking, ‘Well, I bought the automation, so I don’t have to do anything anymore.’

I think they fail to recognize you really need a strategy. And you really need to work on curating that buyer’s journey. And it’s not one and done. It’s build it, learn from it, improve it, optimize it, test it, improve it, optimize it, test it. And if you’re doing those things and you’re doing them properly, over time you’re going to build a lean, mean marketing machine that is provable, scalable, and repeatable. And that’s really what every CMO’s tasked with doing these days. They may just not recognize where they need to adjust their strategy in order to make that happen.

How do you get started on a segmented and personalized email nurture program?

Nathan: How do you get started? What are some first steps that they should be thinking about?

Kevin: The first thing I always start with is who are we marketing to. First step, and you mentioned it already, is segment the data. Take a look at what you have and clean your data. Data cleanse is the first step. One of the biggest challenges I see with all email marketing is list quality. So, step one, clean the data. If you need to learn more about your prospects, do some surveys. Send out a survey asking some questions. Provide something of value in return. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Usually if the survey is short and provides value to the participant, they’ll fill it out.

And that’s a perfect opportunity to ask simple questions like what company do you work for, how many employees do you have, what industry are you in, the types of questions that will help you better qualify your prospect and better communicate with them. What problems are you having? List the problems that you solve. And things like that.

So, list cleansing, maybe a little survey. And then make sure if you haven’t already, that you do a deep dive into your personas, and really mapping out those personas. I’m blown away when I learn that when I’m talking to companies, marketers, they don’t have any documentation about their personas. Oh yeah, ‘Well, we sell to this industry…’ But they don’t really know who the buyers are or what the buyers’ challenges are.

And I always start by creating those buckets and figuring out what the most valuable persona is. Because every marketer has to show return on investment, and they are tasked to do it as quickly as they can. So, often starting with that most valuable persona, and mapping out that particular buyer’s journey. Your drip was probably written for that audience initially anyway. So, take that drip, further personalize it for that audience, and then build some escalations inside of Act-On for example, some triggers based on what they’re engaging with and when they’re engaging it, to take them to the next level.