You’ve invested thousands of dollars (or hours) into:
- PPC advertising
- Content marketing
- Raffles and giveaways
- Lead magnets
- Sophisticated landing page design and opt-in forms
And you’ve done it! You have sustainable traffic and signups to your email audience.
Okay cool. You’re growing your leads.
But are you making sales?
That’s where authentic drip marketing campaigns come into play.
The operant word here is “authentic.”
Meaning — don’t copy Ramit Sethi’s 100-point email sales funnel thinking you’ll get the same results.
Sure, you can study email sequences to get inspiration — there’ll be plenty of that in this post.
But you need to build a holistic marketing funnel automation that’s unique to your brand. And more importantly, it speaks to the soul of your prospective customer or client.
That’s how you’ll get more sales.
This guide will provide an overview of lead engagement, how to use drip email campaigns for lead nurturing, a 3-phase framework to build your authentic funnel before wrapping up with best practices to explode your conversions.
What is lead engagement?
Lead engagement, also known as lead nurturing, is the process of building trust with a prospective customer or client through value-added communication to make a sale eventually.
You’ve heard the clichés before:
- People need to know, like, and trust you before making a purchase.
- Prospects need 6-8 touch-points before they take up your offer.
- 50% of your market isn’t ready to buy.
All of this screams, “build genuine relationships with your prospects.”
Historically, companies have established trust with customers using various forms of communication, whether through direct mail, phone calls, text messages, radio, TV ads, PPC, and face to face.
Think about the last time you had an excellent experience in retail.
The shop assistant was likely knowledgeable, friendly, helpful, and empathetic to your needs. It’s probable this person was following a sales process set by the company but added their personal touch to make the connection authentic.
Even this is an example of lead nurturing.
Now imagine taking the skills from this amazingly helpful assistant and replicating that experience to produce infinite conversions.
That’s email marketing.
If done correctly, a drip marketing campaign becomes a scalable version of a high-performing sales team.
Next up, we’ll look at the overarching strategy of lead nurturing through email automation.
How to use automated drip marketing campaigns to increase lead engagement
Most marketers think email marketing automation merely sends a welcome email, a monthly newsletter, or an abandoned cart message. While these campaigns form part of your strategy, it’s much more than that.
An effective email drip campaign is about sending personalized, timely, value-driven messages to your subscribers — at an appropriate frequency.
However, it’s not as simple as applying a pre-made email sequence template to your contacts.
Every business is different, and that’s why it pays to develop marketing automation tailored to your industry and customer base.
That means crafting your email sequences one message at a time.
We’ve developed a 3-phase email drip campaign system loosely adapted from Ryan Deiss’ invisible selling machine framework to make this easier for you.
- Phase 1 – indoctrinate and personalize
- Phase 2 – Engage and convert
- Phase 3 – Re-engage and clean
The system is a foundation for you to design highly personalized campaigns that your prospective buyers respond to repeatedly.
Let’s look at each stage in more detail.
Phase 1 – indoctrinate and personalize
Apple, the 2 trillion dollar tech giant, is known for making high-end products.
But did you know that Apple is also one of the most productive retail stores in history? At one point, Apple stores were generating $4,798.82 in sales per square foot.
These results don’t happen by themselves, and Apple has crafted an incredible retail experience that email marketers can learn from.
When you walk into an Apple store, you’re greeted by a team member asking you what brings you in to find the best support for your requirements.
- If you want to browse, you’re left alone.
- Want to buy an iPhone? You’ll be connected with an iPhone specialist.
- Need to fix your Mac? Then you can make an appointment with a technician.
The role of this first point of contact is to indoctrinate you into the Apple experience and customize the service. Think of this person as a human switchboard.
But a little more personal than asking, “how may I direct your call?”
As a customer, you feel welcomed and acknowledged. But you also have peace of mind knowing you’re on the correct path for precisely what you need.
You feel like you’re in good hands and the “know, like, trust” factor is rapidly building.
Now let’s apply the same example to your marketing automation strategy.
When a prospect joins your email list, you need to indoctrinate them and personalize the experience.
- Identify where leads are coming from
- Craft a warm welcome
- Determine what your audience wants
- Set expectations
Let’s drill down.
Identify where your leads are coming from
Depending on how many offerings you have, it’s likely you have multiple ways for a new contact to sign up to your email list.
So the first step of your subscriber indoctrination is to figure out how your prospect has joined your database, whether it’s through a:
- Content upgrade
- Newsletter form
- Custom landing page from a podcast interview
Take eCommerce platform Shopify, for example.
On the homepage, the signup source is a free trial.
On the blog feed, there’s a sign-up form for tips and education.
Jump into an article on writing product descriptions, and you’ll find a content upgrade as another sign-up source.
The subscriber journey for Shopifys’ free trial, content upgrade, or blog newsletter is vastly different. And the sign-up source will determine how you welcome your prospects into your email drip sequence.
If you’re wondering how to create unique email campaigns for different sign-up sources, Encharge supports 30+ lead gen tools and forms (including a Zapier integration), making it easy to connect any lead source with your email sequences.
Give a warm welcome
The second step of indoctrination is to provide a friendly and personalized greeting to your new leads. Also known as the welcome sequence.
Your welcome series is your chance to make a positive first impression with your prospects. Here are some suggestions:
- Address your contacts by their first name. You can include their name in your subject line and/or in your body text. If you collect subscribers’ names in your opt-in form, you can dynamically add names in Encharge.
- Remind leads what they signed up to. This validates that they’re in the right place.
- Add your brands’ personality to your welcome. For example, if your company is fun and likes using emojis and memes, add them to your email.
Take the principles of a wonderful in-person experience and translate it into email communication.
Imagine meeting each of your prospects for the first time. What would you say, and how would you act to make a connection?
You’d try to use their name in conversation, reassure them that they’re in the right place, and show your personality. Start there.
Determine what your audience wants
You need to understand what your leads want so you can provide immense value in your drip email campaign.
Fortunately, digital tools give marketers data to predict what users want. You can use your opt-in forms to understand and segment your audience based on what details they submit.
For example, to download HubSpot’s free blog post templates, subscribers need to provide:
- First and last name
- Company name
- Website URL
- Phone number
- How many employees
By collecting data on how many employees a prospect has, HubSpot can tailor its drip campaign based on the company’s size.
Additionally, you can ask potential leads what they want in your welcome email, much like how an Apple shop assistant would ask you what type of support you need.
Marketing thought leader Pat Flynn, from Smart Passive Income, regularly asks his subscribers what business category they fit into. By asking this question, Pat sends relevant emails for the best engagement.
Encharge can segment subscribers by attributes, tags, actions they have performed or haven’t performed, their email activity, and the pages they have opened.
For instance, you can connect directly with your Typeform account, map the form/survey answers to fields in Encharge, and then build personalized journeys based on their responses.
In this example, we have two different paths based on the value of the “Number of subscribers” field. If a person indicates they have more than 1,000 subscribers, we tag them as high-value lead and email them to book a demo.
You can use this technique to personalize whole email sequences and drip campaigns based on things like:
- The biggest problem of your audience.
- Their industry.
- Their interests.
- Their language.
- Value to your business.
Be sure to leverage this data to learn about the needs and wants of your leads to improve your sales cycles.
One of the quickest ways to build trust is to set and meet expectations consistently.
The same concept applies to your email indoctrination.
Provide clarity to your leads by telling them:
- What you’ll be sending, e.g., a workshop, guide, access, content on a particular topic, etc.
- How often you’ll be popping into their inbox. Daily, weekly, monthly?
- How long you’ll be in contact with them. For instance, will you start touching base a couple of times per week before settling into a monthly newsletter? Or is this a 30-day campaign?
- Option to opt-out at any time. This reassures your prospects that they’re in complete control of their experience with your brand.
By setting these expectations, you show your audience that you’re a considerate brand that can be trusted. More on this later.
Phase 2 – Engage and convert
After you’ve captured a lead and indoctrinated them into your email campaign, it’s time to deepen the relationship and make a sale.
There are unlimited ways you can build your email sequences. It can be overwhelming to think about:
- What makes for an engaging campaign?
- How often should I email my list?
- How long should my drip campaign run for?
- What’s the right balance between adding value and asking for the sale?
And these variables change all the time depending on your offering, your customer persona, how much upfront value you can add, and so forth.
But remember. Sales is sales — and the principles of establishing trust with people and converting are universally the same.
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling door-to-door on social media or through email marketing.
Give more than you ask, and you’ll increase conversions.
Use these case studies as inspiration when developing your phase 2 automations.
Asana Premium – free trial upsell email sequence
Asana is a web and mobile app that helps teams organize and manage their tasks.
Asana offers a free trial of their premium membership to customers with full access to all the features in the plan.
Average length of emails
Each email has between 50-300 words. Asana uses titles within the body of the email and custom illustrations, graphics, and branding, which creates a professional experience.
Asana sends 18-20 emails in the 30-day trial. There’s a range because Asana sends you emails triggered by the actions you take in their software.
For example, if you add a team to your account, you’ll get an email sharing tips and tricks for managing your team.
Outside of the sales email sequence, Asana sends daily and weekly task summaries. However, you can turn them off in your settings.
In 18 emails, Asana pitches their premium subscription 10 times for a 55% pitch rate.
Asana also throws in a few soft pitches. For instance, they’ll ask you to add your billing information so you can automatically roll over to the premium subscription at the end of your trial.
Asana doesn’t dynamically insert users’ names into campaigns during the free trial email sequences. Nor do they send messages from a personal company email address.
There’s not much storytelling either.
However, Asana uses sophisticated behavioral triggers to send relevant emails to users based on how they use the tool.
This high-level behavioral marketing is the equivalent of having a live sales team provide situational advice based on what features you’re using in a tool.
King Kong – free report email funnel (agency CTA)
King Kong is the fastest-growing digital marketing agency in Australia and is coming for the rest of the world.
Founded by marketing magician Sabri Subri, this email drip sequence is pretty intense — but insanely effective.
King Kong offers a free report for each of their core service offerings, including; PPC, SEO, and CRO.
Average length of emails
Word counts for emails range from a quick 50-word message to 650-word sales letters.
From our early testing, King Kong sends up to 3 emails each day for the first 3 days.
They utilize conditional logic (or, as we call them, Filter steps in Encharge) to trigger campaigns depending on what links you click on.
For instance, after clicking on a button on the opt-in thank you page, you’ll receive a follow-up email from one of the marketing managers at the agency to encourage you to finish watching the content.
In the first 6 messages in the drip campaign, King Kong’s team pitches their 30-minute discovery call twice.
That makes for a 33% pitch rate.
King Kong will always link to free training or remind you to take the free training in the remaining emails.
King Kong sales funnel is one of the most personalized email sequences you’ll experience.
They’ll use your first name in the preview text and sender name.
And again, multiple times, a follow-up email.
It doesn’t stop there.
King Kong sends their drip emails from personal company email addresses. Here’s one from the founder:
Sabri then sets the expectation of his team being in contact throughout the campaign.
And here’s a follow-up email from a Digital Strategist on the King Kong team — using his company email address.
This is an excellent example of automating the involvement of multiple team members in an email sales sequence.
Sidenote: Did you know that you can add unlimited team members to your Encharge account at no additional cost?
Enchanting Marketing – 16-part writing course with book upsells
Enchanting Marketing, created by Henneke Duistermaat, provides free and paid content to help you become a better copywriter and blogger.
Henneke offers her readers a 16-part email series with digestible tips to improve their writing.
Average length of emails
Each email is between 50-200 words. As you’d expect from a writer teaching writing, Henneke’s tips are helpful, inspiring, and enjoyable.
Emails are sent daily for the first 8 emails. Then every other day for the rest of the series.
Earlier, we talked about the importance of setting expectations in your indoctrination. Henneke does this multiple times in her drip marketing campaign.
On the 3rd day of her series, she sends an email with the subject, “What to expect from your Snackable Writing Course.”
Here’s the email:
First, Henneke tells her subscribers that they’ll receive daily tips.
Then she tells them that the email frequency will slow down after the first week and explains why.
Lastly, she drops a little Easter egg informing subscribers will receive 3 bonus guides and also tells them that they’re worth the effort reading.
Talk about excellent manners!
Then on day 8 of Henneke’s email course, she adds a reminder of the frequency change in her PS message.
In the end, Henneke sends 23 emails in 30 days.
In 23 emails, Henneke pitches her products 3 times:
- Email 2: casual mention of the book in PS
- Email 13: pitches another book
- Email 21 (after the course): pitches two books
The pitch rate is approximately 13%.
So 87% of the time, Henneke is giving dynamite content away for free to build trust with her leads.
It’s worth noting that Henneke regularly links to detailed articles from her emails in the PS field. This isn’t really pitching, but more adding value to readers who want to take a deeper dive into the topics.
It’s common practice to segment your email contacts as early as possible, either through your opt-in form or through your welcome series.
Henneke’s approach is different.
It’s only after successfully delivering her 16-part email course that she starts to segment her list.
First, she sets the expectation that they’re more writing tips to come, based on what you want to learn.
Then you’re encouraged to click on one link that best describes your writing interests.
Henneke sets your expectations again by saying you’ll have another chance to choose a different topic in a few months.
Then she wraps up with a call to action for her subscribers to reply to the email if they want to learn something that’s not one of her options.
Henneke is putting her audience in the driver’s seat — giving them complete control over their experience. This is the power of email segmentation and automation.
She’s also made herself accessible, which is another fantastic trust builder.
Automating an email journey like this in Encharge is as easy as connecting the first email to the rest of your drip campaign, based on the links people click:
Phase 3 – Re-engagement
Ideally, through phases 1 and 2, your email automation is pumping, and you’ve boosted your conversions.
But even then, you’re going to get some folks who lose interest in your brand. It may be personal. Or it may not be. But likely it’s either:
- Life happens, e.g., a global pandemic and the drop out of the loop.
- They’ve found an alternate solution to your offer.
- They didn’t understand the benefit of your product or service.
- Flat out. They forgot about you.
These are the hard truths of lead nurturing.
In any case, when your subscribers don’t open your emails, you need a plan to re-engage them.
Luckily, an effective email re-engagement sequence is simple. Give inactive subscribers a reason to re-establish a relationship with you.
Think back to breaking up with your long-time ex-boyfriend, Zac. You don’t know what happened, but over time you lost the spark.
Fast-forward two years, and you bump into him at the shopping mall. Something is different.
He seems happy, and he’s matured. He’s also become super ripped.
As you’re talking to him, your mind drifts off. You think, “what happened to us?”
For a moment, you feel regretful and cross your fingers and toes that Zac is single and is open to hanging out again.
Often when we rekindle relationships, we have a reason to light the spark again. We also tend to have short memories when we’re enamored by what’s in front of us.
Back to your re-engagement campaign…
How can you be ripped and successful, Zac to your stale contacts?
Here are some reasons to get subscribers to open your emails again:
- You’ve added new features to your product which far outweigh your competitors.
- You’ve launched products in brand new categories.
- You’re offering a ridiculous discount on your core offerings.
- You’ve collaborated with other trusted brands in an epic giveaway.
- You’ve rebranded.
- You’ve created brand new training to share.
Once you’ve got a valid reason to get folks excited about you again, treat your re-engagement sequence much like your indoctrination. Just how you’d like to start fresh with an ex 😉
Drip email campaign best practices
Below are 3 best practices to take your email drip sequences to the next level.
1. Make your email funnel iconic
You already understand the benefits of email marketing and marketing automation. But where things can get crazy explosive is when your marketing funnel takes on a life of its own. Translation: it becomes iconic.
The most effective email drip campaigns are the backbone of immense free offerings that blow your leads away with value.
Here’s how you make your email funnel iconic:
- Brand your lead magnet with a memorable title and dedicated landing page.
- Provide so much value that subscribers would refer your free offering to their friends.
- Get testimonials from leads who got results from your campaign. Add an email in your automation sequence asking for a review like you would a paid offering.
The masterminds behind online wellness membership MerryBody, Emma, and Carla Papas offer potential customers a free 5-day yoga and pilates challenge.
Reviewing their landing page, you’d think they’re selling a premium product.
The benefit is clear: daily 10-minute workouts to get you started.
They have social proof from recognized brands they’ve been featured in as well as customer testimonials.
There’s even a 1-minute video overview of the challenge.
Emma and Carla have a simple 5-day drip email series to deliver the training videos, which naturally leads to their core offering of the MerryBody membership.
2. A/B test your drip campaigns
You already have access to open rates, click-through rates, and conversion tracking through your email marketing software. And we all want to see those numbers go up.
A/B testing your subject lines, copywriting, design, CTAs, and other elements can significantly impact your conversions.
Marketing savant behind Copy Hackers, Joanna Wiebe, worked with video hosting company Wistia and tripled the conversions in their onboarding sequence.
It’s standard advice to keep your emails short and sweet.
However, through split testing, Joanna found that users responded to longer descriptive emails, removing vague claims and questions. You’d only know this if you test your email sequences.
In Encharge, you can A/B test campaigns and flows to ensure that you’re getting the best possible results from your email funnel.
3. Embrace the minimum viable funnel
At this point, you’re probably overwhelmed with 3-phase automation frameworks, iconic email funnels, and A/B testing campaigns.
Admittedly, there’s a lot to digest here. And rightfully so.
Remember. You’re trying to replicate a skilled salesforce through email marketing, and it’s no easy feat.
The good news here is that you can build your drip emails one message at a time.
If you’re familiar with the startup world, we talk about creating a minimum viable product (MVP).
Build the absolute bare bones of your product as quickly as possible and launch it. Get early users in the door to prove your concept and iterate on their feedback.
Take the same approach with your email sequence. Don’t stall on your landing page, segmentation, perfecting your subject lines, or developing a 50-step series.
Start with a 5-step series with text emails and a simple offering that you can launch this weekend. Once it’s live, you can start iterating on your funnel to improve it over time.
If, however, you’re already in the weeds with drip marketing campaigns, then go back and apply the 3-part system:
- Indoctrinate and personalize
- Engage and convert
- 8 Lead nurturing strategies that work in 2022
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