set up an email drip campaign for small business

The early days of running a small business are typically the hardest. Getting your name out there so you can start earning your first customers is a big hurdle when starting from scratch. And all the work you do to raise awareness of your business goes to waste if the people who hear about you once promptly forget.

One of the most important things you can do for your new business right now is to start building an email list.

An email list is one of the most powerful marketing tools a small business can have. Email marketing is nearly 40 times more effective than social media channels at turning leads into customers and delivers a much higher ROI than many other marketing tactics.

Someone that takes the step of subscribing to your email list is showing an active interest in your business — that’s meaningful.

But for email marketing to really pay off, once you’ve gotten someone to sign up, you have to work to keep them. Setting up an email drip campaign is a good strategy to do that.

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What Is an Email Drip Campaign?

An email drip campaign is a series of automated emails sent at set intervals after they’re triggered by a specific action. Most frequently, that action is someone signing up for an email list.

But you can also set up drip campaigns triggered by someone downloading a piece of content, signing up for a free trial, or making a purchase — to name a few examples.


Why Your Small Business Should Use Email Drip Campaigns

You’re busy running a new small business. To add a new marketing tactic to your to-do list, you need to be sure it’s worth your time. There are three main reasons for a small business to consider using email drip campaigns.  


1. They’re easy.

Any good email marketing software makes it easy to set up a drip campaign. Because the emails are automated, once you write and design the emails in your drip campaign once, your software takes care of sending them out to your subscribers at the right time moving forward.  


2. They build a relationship with your customers.

When you’re browsing your inbox and trying to decide which emails are worth opening, what’s the main deciding factor? For a lot of people — 64%, to be precise — it’s recognizing who the sender is.

For many consumers, all the work marketers put into crafting the perfect email subject line ultimately matters less than whether or not they remember who you are when your email lands in their inbox.

Setting up a drip campaign for your new subscribers ensures that they hear from you a number of times within the first few weeks after they sign up.  Instead of being a business whose website they landed on once and then forgot about, you become a business they’ve interacted with enough to now see as familiar. That makes a big difference in how they’ll view all the future emails you send.  


3. They’re effective.

Drip campaigns get results. Various studies have found that open rates for drip campaigns are 80% higher than single send emails and they generate 50% more sales-ready leads.

Drip campaigns nurture your leads. They’re your opportunity take someone from a mild interest in your business to a strong understanding of what you do and why it matters.


How to Create Successful Drip Campaigns

Before you start setting up email drip campaigns for your business, take a little time to learn some basic best practices.


1. Clarify your goals.

Every email drip campaign should have both an overarching goal, as well as specific goals for every email included. Before you start on your emails, sit down and figure out what you want your drip campaign to achieve. Then figure out what you want each email to achieve on the path to that overall goal.

Your overall goal in a drip campaign will often be to get your subscribers to make a purchase, but you don’t want every email to make a hard sell. You wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who asked for a favor every single time you saw them, so don’t be that guy in your  emails.

Some good (non-purchase) goals to have for specific emails in your drip campaign include:

  •      Education (less about driving action than building a relationship)
  •      A click through to a piece of content
  •      A download of a piece of content
  •      Getting a response with feedback

Choose a mix of goals to focus on for your individual emails that all support your overall goal of gaining new customers.


2. Make sure your emails provide unique value.

Your email subscribers are extremely valuable. Your emails should reflect that.

Don’t just send them the same content and offers that every visitor to your website gets, find ways to provide them with unique value. That could mean creating exclusive content for your drip campaigns that only subscribers get or providing a special discount code or a free gift with purchase for subscribers only.

Think of ways you can use your drip campaign to give your subscribers the VIP treatment.


3. Segment your lists.

Getting a new email subscriber is a big deal. The last thing you want is to lose them soon after they’ve signed up. If a visitor to your website signs up for your emails because of an interest in content about dogs and your first few emails are all about cats, then they’re not getting what they expected and are more likely to unsubscribe.

why people unsubscribe to business email marketing

Receiving irrelevant content is the third biggest reason for unsubscribes. But if you own a pet supplies store that sells items for both cats and dogs, what can you do?

Email marketing software like Constant Contact makes it possible to create a number of different email lists so you can better target your emails to the people interested in them. You can either let people select which topics they’re interested in when they sign up, or make sure they’re put on the right list based on how they signed up. For example, the person who signed up by downloading a guide on dog training would go on your Dog People email list, rather than the Cat People one.

Make sure the drip campaign you create is relevant for the specific list people join. And just as importantly, make sure that the way you describe and promote your email list to future subscribers accurately communicates what they’ll get. When your subscribers know what they’re signing up for, they’ll be happier with what they get out of it.


4. Use a consistent design.

The emails in your drip campaign are all part of a series. You can signal their connection to each other visually by making sure they all have a consistent design. Make sure the style of your emails fits in with the style of your website. Include your logo and go with a similar color scheme.

Many people are visual learners and will more easily be able to associate your different emails with each other and your overall brand if they’re all linked with a familiar style.  In most email marketing software programs, you can create templates you can use when creating each email to keep them within the same general style and structure.


5. Include CTAs.

We already covered the importance of making sure every email you write has a clear goal. Anytime the goal of your email is for the recipient to take an action, explicitly ask them to take that action.

In each email, include a CTA to help your subscribers know the next step you’d like them to take. Even if the goal of a particular email is to raise brand awareness, you can add in a CTA like “Contact us if you have any questions” to provide an option that encourages further engagement. But make sure each email is focused on only one CTA — you don’t want to confuse your list or muddy your focus.


6. Make sure your emails look good on mobile.

People frequently use smartphones to check their email. About half of all email opens now occur on mobile devices. For the emails in your drip campaign to achieve their goal, they need to work at least as well on mobile devices as they do on desktop.

mobile vs desktop email open rates

Design your drip campaign with mobile in mind. Test out the emails on your own mobile devices to make sure they look good and the links are easy to click on. If you have employees or friends that own different types of mobile devices than you, ask them to check how it looks on theirs as well.

Your emails need to provide a good experience on mobile or you’re alienating a lot of your audience and could lose subscribers over it.


7. Pay attention to your analytics.

Because it’s automated, a drip campaign is in theory something you can create once and then leave on autopilot. But if you care about the results you get, you need to commit to tracking the analytics that show how people interact with your drip campaign so you can make it better over time.

Your email marketing software will provide analytics on the number of opens, clicks, and unsubscribes you get with each email.

Analyze what’s working and where there’s room for improvement. Test out different approaches in your drip emails. Try out different CTAs, wording, and images. Or see if shaking up the order you send them out in makes a difference. The more data you gain, the stronger you’ll be able to make your drip campaign.


Engage Your Small Business Customers with Email Drip Campaigns

When your small business is new, getting those first followers and customers is hard. An email drip campaign will help you develop a relationship with the leads you gain in your early marketing efforts, so you can begin converting them into your first customers.

For more tips on email marketing for your small business, check out these email marketing best practices.

Are you a HostGator customer? Learn how you can save on email marketing from Constant Contact!

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.