Drip marketing refers to the stream of marketing communications a company sends to its list of prospects and customers to stimulate future sales. In the case of B2B technology companies, it usually takes the form of email communications through a marketing automation platform.
Many B2B tech companies face long sales cycles, which is why drip marketing campaigns are integral to lead generation. The longer the sales cycle, the greater the chance the prospect will either change his mind or opt for a competitor’s offering.
Setting up an effective drip marketing campaign is easier said than done. While there are far more tools than ever to help the B2B marketer get started, it still requires a great deal of knowledge, discipline and dedication to be successful.
Here are some key things to keep in mind as you look to set up a drip marketing campaign for your own tech company
Marketing automation technology
Today B2B marketers have a profusion of choices when it comes to what email marketing technology to use. But with profusion also comes confusion. What amount of marketing technology do you need really need? Will you actually use the most of the features that make some marketing automation platforms so pricey?
If you use Salesforce and want seamless integration between your email campaigns and sales team workflow, then your options are limited to more robust marketing automation solutions, all of which will cost in excess of $10,000 for an annual subscription. HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo and Eloqua are examples of marketing automation software that can work well for SMBs. Smaller SMBs may find that MailChimp can do the trick with its Salesforce integration. MailChimp’s incredible ease-of-use and flexibility make up for its lack of robust features. Seasoned marketers with a need for more sophisticated marketing activities, however, will no doubt prefer a more muscular solution.
Automate as much as possible
Just because you purchase a marketing automation solution doesn’t mean everything is automated. The truth is, only a fraction of a typical drip marketing campaign is capable of being automated. Creative processes can not be automated (yet), so the processes you will be automating will be limited to both the repetitive processes (if X then Y) and classification processes (label this prospect as belonging to buyer persona category X if he meets criteria Y and Z). Which still leaves a lot that can be automated, to be sure. Automating in an efficient manner all the processes that can be automated is a necessary condition for every company that is looking to scale quickly.
In what follows we mention just two examples of automation that add substantial value. There are plenty of others of course.
- You can set up an auto-responder to any contact form a prospect may fill out. From white papers to newsletters, you can easily create an email that acknowledges the action and thanks the prospect. While you’re at it, go ahead and add a lead capture solution to your home page and blog so that any visitor you have is invited to leave behind a name and email to receive your awesome content!
- For any B2B companies offering packaged SaaS solutions or products, you can also set up an autoresponder to send out a coupon within a prescribed period of time, say the day after a form fill. It may just trigger a sale or an engagement deeper in your sales funnel.
Establish different content buckets
If you are a B2B technology company with lower frequency, higher-dollar transactions, then chances are the buyer journey of a typical prospect will include multiple buyer personas. An effective drip marketing strategy will encompass most, if not all, of the possible buyer personas you will encounter during the sales process. That means you will have to tailor your email content, which itself is derived from your content marketing strategy, to suit the informational needs of people at different levels within a prospect organization.
Take, for example, the case of a cyber-security company offering a SaaS solution for SMBs. It’s entirely possible that the person who discovers the SaaS company’s offering is an IT professional charged with maintaining an organization’s IT security. Perhaps what caused the IT professional to find the SaaS company is frustration — or fear — over the organization’s current level of security over a specific element of the company, say database permissions and change audits.
Once the IT professional discovers the SaaS company and signs up for the newsletter, it’s entirely possible he forwards some information over to his boss, who then begins to engage with the SaaS company’s website. Now, there are two buyer personas in play for the SaaS company’s drip marketing campaign, each one with slightly different needs.
Say a VP or CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) eventually enters the equation because she has the final say over the adoption — and purchase — of a new cyber-security solution. It’s possible that she, too, will leave behind her email. Mind you, she probably spends far less time on a given vendor website ‘kicking the tires’ and assessing the product offering. Still, she may need additional information to convince her of the business case behind the purchase. For instance, she may want to see testimonials, case studies and any details proving something along the lines of an ROI or NPV (Net Present Value) for the product offering.
We provided a grid below that illustrates at what point in the sales funnel each of the three buyer personas would most likely be contacted as part of an ongoing drip marketing campaign. After all, drip marketing can and should support a B2B tech organization’s sales team in terms of lead conversion but also helping close the deal.
The grid illustrates the when, who and what of a drip marketing campaign. BOFU emails more often than not tend to be one-on-one emails originating from sales engineers directed at decision makers, which in the case above might logically be the IT Manager/Director.
As mentioned above, drip marketing can and should support the sales process. It can even be a primary driver of a purchase decision, as in the case of a coupon offering that is acted upon. Coupons may not be appropriate for some B2B companies, particularly service-based ones. But a coupon (or limited-time promotion) can and often is a trigger for a deeper conversation and as such is a great format to include in a drip marketing campaign.
Newsletters are a particularly popular drip marketing format, if only because they provide a perceived benefit in the eyes of recipients. Newsletters allow you to provide educational content in the form of tips, show off your technical knowledge and share helpful industry news. Newsletters are also a marketing analyst’s dream come true. Inside one email you can measure click-throughs to determine what topics are of most interest to your contact list. How long do they stay on your site, and where do they browse once they are on your site? Is video effective at driving future actions like demo requests? All of this and more can be measured, tracked and optimized over time with a standard drip marketing campaign.
Another type of mailing is the alert or flash. If your company is a reseller of security apps to financial service companies and there is a trending threat such as a wave of ransomware or a newly-discovered security product weakness, then you may decide to send out alerts to your customers and prospects to prove your company’s value, not to mention trigger inbound sales inquiries.
A/B testing should underpin your drip marketing campaigns. A marketing automation tool or even an email client along the lines of Constant Contact or Emma can easily set up A/B testing scenarios where you can test the effectiveness of email titles and call-to-actions.
Some marketing automation apps like Pardot will even provide an extra layer of A/B testing by running the test on an initial batch of emails to determine which subject gets the most opens. The winner is then used for the remaining batch of emails.
Speaking of email subject lines
If you are ready to test the effectiveness of your email subject lines to see which ones perform well, then you should also know which kinds of subject lines that tend to outperform others. Titles that address pain points, greed, and vanity always get our interest. As do ones that pique our curiosity, make us think we’re missing out on a deal, and appeal to our sense of humor.
Titles that tend to perform well? Ones that begin with “How” and “The,” as well as ones that begin with “5,” “10,” and “3.” Consider these examples:
“How to increase your inventory turns by 10x in just 100 days”
“The biggest IT security risk nobody is talking about”
“5 influencers you should follow now”
“3 ways to speed up your software sprints”
“10 ways to close more sales from trade shows”
The length of the subject lines should be shorter rather than longer. Fewer than five words is ideal although there are undoubtedly plenty of subject lines with more that performed well. Just keep in mind that:
- People tend to scan email titles and
- Many email clients have limited space for titles.
The faster you set the hook with a reader, the better your chance you will see a click-through and future conversion.
Establish an editorial calendar
An editorial calendar will keep your drip marketing campaign on schedule. It also helps you plan your content around any upcoming marketing initiatives including new product or service launches, trade shows, sales promotions, thought leadership campaigns, etc.
Be sure to link your editorial calendar to your blogging and social media calendar to ensure your other marketing channels are in sync. This is where more robust marketing automation software can really pay off. Apps like Hubspot allow you to set up multi-channel campaigns to automate the posting and seeding of drip marketing content.
The best tools on the planet won’t do you much good unless you have assigned ownership of the drip marketing campaign to a person with the proper skills. In most SMB tech companies, that means finding an experienced marketer with a grasp of B2B lexicon and a proven ability to write great copy on deadline. If your company has a marketing team, then it’s entirely possible several marketing professionals will share responsibility of various functions.
The marketer you hire should also be fluent in the basics of marketing automation. As mentioned above, running an effective drip marketing campaign requires some form of marketing automation. How elaborate the app is will depend upon your budget and need for additional features.
Graphic design skills are also extremely helpful, although not always necessary. Familiarity with easy-to-use design apps like Canva can actually allow novices to add design elements to stock art (check out this helpful tutorial on Canva from ThemeIsle.)
Video is format that is growing in popularity among B2B tech brands. The SEO value of placing video on YouTube combined with the ability to drive click-throughs and increase time-on-site argue for its use. While finding a single marketer who can write amazing copy while at the same time create graphics and shoot video is a pretty tall order, it’s something you should be willing to invest in to make your drip marketing produce amazing results.
In short, the greater the variety you can add to your drip marketing, the better the chance you will get more engagement from your audience.