By Stephanie Stahl published March 26, 2017

Email Drip Campaigns: How to Make Them Smart and Blunder-Free

email-drip-campaignEmail drip campaigns can be powerful and effective ways to build a loyal audience and share your great content with prospects and customers. But they can also fail miserably. Common — but easily avoidable — mistakes are enough to make babies cry and ruin your sender reputation.

During CMI’s ContentTECH virtual event, Gini Dietrich, CEO at Arment Dietrich Inc. and author of Spin Sucks, and Mike Madden Sr., demand generation program manager at Marketo, offered tips and techniques to make your campaigns smart and blunder-free.

Just so we are all on the same page, a drip campaign is a progression of pre-written marketing emails sent automatically on a set schedule or based on actions a reader takes. There are more than a dozen types of drip campaigns — educational, new subscriber, competitive, abandoned shopping carts, etc.


Sometimes drip campaigns are referred to as nurture campaigns or life cycle emails. Regardless of what you call them, they are “an integral part of an effective communication strategy,” Gini says.

Email drip campaigns are an integral part of an effective communication strategy. @ginidietrich #emailmarketing Click To Tweet

To help marketers make the most of drip campaigns, Gini and Mike emphasize:

  • Why onboarding is so important
  • How a bounce-management strategy can help maintain a good sender reputation
  • What words (and colors) trigger spam filters
  • Why you should be careful about personalization

Onboarding and playing catch-up

Email newsletters are one of the best ways to communicate with your clients and build a subscriber base. But there’s a potential flaw to consider. “New subscribers only see your new emails. They don’t see anything that came before it,” Gini says.

New subscribers only see your new emails – that’s a flaw, says @ginidietrich via @editorstahl. #emailmarketing Click To Tweet

This is where a new-subscriber drip campaign comes into play. This onboarding technique could include information on key happenings in the community, helpful resources, upcoming events, and more.

“You have people who have been subscribers for a while and then you have somebody sort of coming into the middle of it — how do you catch them up? A new-subscriber campaign is a really great way to do it,” says Gini, who detailed her tried-and-true way of doing this with her Spin Sucks community during her presentation. “A great email drip campaign not only levels the playing field for all of your subscribers, but compels them to action.”

Protect your reputation

Before deploying your drip email campaigns, a bounce-management strategy can help increase your open rates and improve your overall email marketing ROI. Your sender reputation improves when you have positive engagements and healthy numbers of opens and click-throughs. What hurts your reputation, however, are recipients who mark your email as spam or blacklist you — a marketer’s nightmare.

A bounce-management strategy can increase open rates & improve #emailmarketing ROI, says @editorstahl. Click To Tweet

Marketo used a two-part strategy to help clean up its email list — and to keep it clean. As Mike explains:

  • Any email address that soft bounced a minimum of 10 times over 90 days was marked as invalid and removed from Marketo’s list. It was a one-time clean-up campaign.
  • Any email address that soft bounces a minimum of six times over 30 days is marked invalid and scrubbed automatically.

Marketo helped a high-volume email customer with a similar bounce-management strategy at the end of September 2015. Since then, deliverability rates have increased from 93% to 99%, open rates have climbed from 13.5% to 17.3%, and the customer’s sender reputation had improved significantly.

“Your sender reputation is the No. 1 reason why I think you should implement bounce-management campaigns,” Mike says. “Due to many recent filtering tactics of ISPs, one thing remains very clear: Consistently sending emails to a dirty subscriber list with questionable email addresses will have adverse effects on both inbox placement and your sender reputation.”

Your sender reputation is the No. 1 reason to implement a bounce-management strategy, says @mike_p_madden. Click To Tweet


Avoid these mistakes and improve open rates

“No matter how well you’ve thought out your campaign, there are a few … bullets that can cause a swift death to your email drip campaign,” Mike says.

Mistake 1: Using words or phrases that trigger spam filters — free, income, guarantee, increase, sales, opportunity, obligation, fast cash, don’t delete this. As Mike warns, “Using words that trigger spam filters, it’s like making babies cry. You don’t want to see a baby cry.”

Don’t use words or phrases (free, income, don’t delete this) that trigger spam filters. @mike_p_madden #email Click To Tweet

Mistake 2: Using ALL CAPS (Besides making it seem like you’re shouting, it’s a spam trigger.)

Mistake 3: Putting coded words in different colors (Red or white text is a spam trigger.)

Mistake 4: Using incorrect names or spellings, or making incorrect assumptions about age, gender, or marital status

“My husband’s name is Kelly and he gets emails to Mrs. Kelly Dietrich all the time. It drives him freaking insane,” Gini says. “One of my friends is a gamer. She blogs about it and positively seethes when she gets an email pitch that assumes she must be a guy to be writing about video games.”

Unless you are certain the information you’ve collected is accurate, be careful about using it to personalize an email. “Good personalization can help you convert. Bad personalization will actually kill your efforts,” Gini warns.

Unless you’re certain the info collected is accurate, be careful using it to personalize emails. @ginidietrich Click To Tweet

Gini and Mike offer up a lot more great advice and links to helpful templates in their ContentTECH webinar. To listen in, visit our virtual event here.

While online learning is great, in-person learning can be even better. Gini Dietrich and many others will be presenting, networking, and sharing at Content Marketing World. Register today for the September event. Use BLOG100 to save $100 off early-bird rates.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Editor’s note: Thanks to all our ContentTECH sponsors: Act-On, Highspot, ion interactive, Marketo, ON24, SnapApp, Uberflip, Vidyard and Workfront. You can access all sessions for free until May 22, 2017. 

Author: Stephanie Stahl

When UBM acquired the Content Marketing Institute in June 2016, I became the General Manager. As a long-time consumer of CMI content and a multi-year attendee of Content Marketing World, I was thrilled to welcome this amazing and talented team to the UBM family. Previously, I served as VP of Content Marketing for UBM’s technology portfolio, providing strategic guidance on content development, content optimization, audience engagement, and go-to-market platforms for our technology clients. I’ve worked for UBM for more than two decades, helping shape new multimedia content and event offerings. I also served as editor in chief of InformationWeek for many years. I live in the Washington, DC area with my husband, two teenage daughters, and many pets. You can find me on Twitter @editorstahl and LinkedIn.

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