Do you know the Direct Marketing Association says a prospect needs to see/hear your message three times to recognize you and a minimum of nine times to make a purchase from you? Do you also know an estimated 70 percent to 90 percent of leads generated by marketing never receive follow-up from sales, according to MarketingSherpa?
It's no surprise, then, that companies are continuing to understand and embrace the importance of drip marketing. Because all leads are not ready to close right away and many require further nurturing, drip campaigns allow you to consistently "touch" leads with relevant information—based on time intervals, actions taken by those prospects on your website, or other parameters—ultimately freeing up valuable marketing and sales resources without neglecting your prospects. However, while the benefits of increased lead conversion rates—shorter and more effective sales cycles, and better qualified leads—are simple to understand, implementing a drip campaign isn't always as easy.
If you are looking to implement drip marketing campaigns, consider the following best practices in three key areas: paid search, user registration and email marketing.
Essential No. 1: Paid Search
After working in the online marketing space for more than 10 years, I realize the value of an effective online marketing campaign. Starting in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising opened my eyes to the focused and cost-effective nature of paid search. Successful PPC campaigns will generate useful traffic that converts. To be successful means focusing on keyword evaluation, landing pages, quality score and PPC management tools.
Keyword Evaluation: Keyword evaluation is about identifying the words and terms that your target customers are searching on most often and helps determine the potential revenue and consumer traffic available in your product's paid search market space. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box when considering how a customer would use your product, because customers are certainly going to be thinking about their needs. For example, when I worked with mortgages, I was looking for potential home equity line of credit (HELOC) consumers. Advertising under keywords like Home Depot, Lowe's and Menard's provided significant traffic and converted visitors quite well. Of course, this was only because the landing page/microsite was developed to reflect the user's needs.
Landing Page, Landing Page, Landing Page: I cannot over-emphasize the importance of the content and structure of landing pages. If you want users to convert, you have to make sure they stay on the landing page (this also provides the added benefit of raising your quality score). If your keyword is targeted at customers who are looking to purchase antivirus software, don't distract them with any other information. I have clicked on hundreds of PPC ads (specifically in the software space) where the ad redirects the consumer to the software vendor's home page. A home page certainly has comprehensive information about a business, but it may be overwhelming and frustrating to a consumer who was looking for specific information. Your PPC landing pages need to be focused on converting visitors. Focus the message and don't offer opportunities for wandering.
Quality Score: Quality score is truly the love/hate relationship of paid search. Sometimes I reminisce about the old days, when you could simply outbid competitors to see in what position a PPC ad converted best. Unfortunately, the result of this model was click fraud. So search engines introduced "quality score" to prevent click fraud and make sure their searchers only saw the most relevant ads for their search terms.
Quality score has many determining factors, all of which are weighted differently, but include:
- Length of time the advertising account has been open
- Amount spent on advertising
- Landing page relevance
- PPC bids
- Clickthrough rate (CTR)
These are just a few of the known pieces of how the quality score spider/algorithm evaluates paid search campaigns, but a desire to improve quality score is one reason to invest in a PPC management tool.
PPC Management Tools: There are a variety of PPC management tools available to online vendors: third-party marketing agencies, PPC add-on tools (e.g., Omniture, Atlas One, Kenshoo) and in-house PPC management. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage to using a third-party marketing agency is the agency does most of the work for you. The downside is if a vendor chooses to leave the agency's program, their Google and Microsoft accounts are rarely returned. As a result, the vendor loses all of the keyword history and quality score data associated with the accounts. Ultimately, the vendor may be forced to recreate the ad campaigns without knowing exactly what keywords were used and how the marketing agency's PPC algorithm was applied.
The response to this disadvantage is investing in an in-house PPC manager so there is no worry about losing valuable campaigns. However, the problem with keeping a PPC manager in-house is the amount of optimization required for effective PPC campaigns. It can be too much for one person and additional PPC tools may be required.
While PPC tools allow one person to perform tasks that normally require three to four people, these tools can take months to set up. Links need to be replaced and tracking scripts need to be created and placed. Once all those pieces are complete, a system may need up to 90 days to learn how to properly manage keywords, and in some cases, the tools require the manual setting of a dayparting schedule.
Now What? Once you evaluate your keywords, optimize your landing pages and have your management tools in place, you must take advantage of the traffic. Ultimately, the question is how to combine leads and sales. As an online vendor, you are paying for each click, so it is important to create as many touchpoints as possible with each potential customer.
Essential No. 2: Registering Visitors
How can online vendors take advantage of the traffic they generate from paid search campaigns? Whether you're offering a "Buy Now" button on the landing page of your advertisement or a free download of your product, you're hoping for a good percentage of clickers to convert into paying customers. But what if a lot of people are clicking on your ads and only a few are converting? In general, you should avoid paying for clicks without getting something in return. That is a negative ROI!
One strategy is combining lead generation and sales on one landing page. This practice increases the amount of consumer information you receive through your PPC campaign and also increases the number of consumer touchpoints for revenue. Just add a free download link on the PPC landing page for the consumers clicking on paid search ads and arrange the process so the consumers must provide you with information like first name, last name and email address in order to obtain the free download of the product. When collecting email addresses, you have to ensure these are valid addresses; otherwise, you will run into problems with Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
I suggest the following best practices once you have collected the consumer information:
- Send the consumer an email requiring them to opt in to an email list for future promotions before you allow them to download the free product. This is a crucial piece in drip marketing, as it allows you to follow up with consumers you already know are interested in your product. It has the added benefit of validating the email address the consumer provided on the landing page.
- Include a secondary revenue opportunity in the same email. The secondary revenue opportunity should mention that if consumers enjoyed the free product, they should upgrade to a premium paid version. These free users will now have a permanent "Buy" link sitting in their email box. If they choose to upgrade or want to pass the email along to a friend, they can do so at any time.
- Add the consumer's information to a marketing list for future communications.
By following these practices, a vendor can build an enormous email list and create a stream of consistent email revenue.
Essential No. 3: Email Marketing
After generating traffic through paid search and then collecting user information through user registration, the goal is now to convert the users into paying customers. These drip marketing tactics extend the customer relationship well beyond the initial visit from your paid advertisement.
Segmentation and Discounts: With this collected user data, you can begin segmenting users based on their behavior. Start off with an educational touchpoint. For example, why not email the users who don't purchase the product and explain to them why they should upgrade to the premium version? Understand discounts truly motivate indecisive consumers. If the registered free users are still not converting after the educational touchpoint, send out a promotional touchpoint in the form of an email that includes a percentage discount off of the premium version of your product.
Sender Reputation: A good way to kill your email marketing campaign is to have service providers flagging your emails as spam. Without a double opt-in process or a check for invalid email addresses, users will give fake email addresses. If you keep sending emails to invalid addresses, ISPs will blacklist you.
My first recommendation is to automate email sending. I once dealt with a large email registration list that was being sent out manually. Due to other activities we were tackling in the marketing department, the emails were not sent on a regular basis and the volume we were emailing was also inconsistent. These two pieces combined sent up red flags for ISPs. We decided to setup two rounds of automated emails for seven and then 20 days after the free user registers. The day seven email would use the same educational template we used previously for "Why to Upgrade." The day 20 email would be the promotional "discount" email we used previously.
This automation allowed our team to eliminate more than 20 hours per month spent on email delivery. After one month of running the automated email follow-up process, the sender reputation score was back to over 95, and we were no longer being blacklisted by ISPs. The email frequency was more consistent and the volume was lower. More importantly, emailing these registered users in a timely, automated manner increased overall sales by 10 percent. The process of email automation doubled the revenue we were able to generate through email due to the adjusted frequency and increased deliverability.
Drip marketing is a great strategy for extending customer relationships through a series of touchpoints and communications. Drive traffic through paid search, find out who your visitors are through user registration, and then engage them through educational and promotional email marketing.