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Drip Campaign vs. Waterboarding

April 9, 2019 - Marketing - , ,
By: Yolanda Fintschenko

You may have read information advising a drip campaign primarily focused at automated email campaigns originating from marketing automation software companies.  The premise of a drip marketing campaign, analogous to drip irrigation, is to deliver a small, steady stream of marketing materials in a pre-determined pattern to the right people at the right stage in the buying cycle. This strategy assumes that email targeting increases click through rates. Repeated, targeted contact with relevant content increases brand awareness and click through rates as much as 119%.

If you are advanced in this (and have the right software), you may have graduated to a nurturing campaign where the information is delivered based on customer behavior.  If you are fully initiated in the ways of holistic marketing, you also employ digital channels for your drip campaign, not just email, and include social media channels.  Benefits of a digital drip campaign include increasing your share of voice on social media and other digital outlets, as well as SEO.

So when do you cross the line from drip to waterboarding?

Share of voice or share of noise?

Drip campaigns can follow a fine line between timely information and making your customer feel like they are drowning.  Over-marketing risks alienating you customer.  Even worse, you could find too much marketing materials lobbed at your customers creates share of noise instead of share of voice. 

While the automated marketing platforms will have you believe that it’s all about volume, timing, the real answer is more nuanced.

As with all marketing campaigns, setting goals for each element of your drip campaign is important. This allows you to define and measure success, and pull the plug if you see evidence the campaign is crossing the line to noise.

Crafting a research-based persona of you campaign audience is critical. It ensures a targeted campaign, which is a key assumption in drip marketing.  An added benefit — use your persona research to predict customer behavior patterns and preferences to set your campaign pattern most effectively.

Perception is reality

Deliver value to your customers with every drip of marketing, or they will turn off the faucet. What defines high value? The value is in the eye of your audience (that’s why researching your audience pays off).

High quality, high value content is defined by the relevance of the content to your audience, the quality of the research behind it, the quality of the writing, the timing of release, and the channels of release.

Be sensitive to channel. Twitter tolerates multiple tweets a day (as long as the content is good). One post a day is fine for Facebook. Too many emails a week will earn an “unsubscribed.” 

Use Customer Behavior as a Metric and a Goal

Measuring responses to the content you are putting out in each channel will indicate if you are hitting the limit. Observing less click throughs, likes, or seeing a spike in unsubscribes lets you know to suspend your campaign. Analyze which of the above elements are breaking down, retool, and relaunch.

In Summary

The quality of the content heavily influence if customers think it is too much or just right. Poor quality is always too much, good quality still may not be just right.  Part of what defines quality to your audience is that you wrote for them — so a well-researched persona will help deliver high value content.    Channel choice defines frequency and timing, so each channel will have its own rules delineating drip from drown.

If you aren’t meeting your campaign goal, then your drip campaign may have morphed to waterboarding. Analyzing your data and testing your hypothesis with A/B testing can rescue both you and your customer from campaign torture.


Yolanda is a scientist, writer, marketer, coach and avid runner who lives and works in Livermore, CA.  She founded Common SciSense, a marketing company for technical products, and co-founded founderTRACTION, lean marketing services for startups. 

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