Last Updated: November 17, 2020

A study conducted by IBM shows that sending regular, personalized mailings to prospective and current customers will average a 48% increase in repeat sales. Companies use this tactic known as drip marketing campaigns to cut the time it takes to close a deal by 23%, according to software company Market2Lead. These campaigns take advantage of the fact that customers are more likely to buy a product from a company they already know and trust.

Drip marketing allows companies to stay fresh in the minds of customers even when they are not in the market for the product a business is selling. By continually staying in touch with consumers, businesses hope that one day, when they’re ready, they’ll remember the product and make a purchase.

What is drip marketing?

Drip marketing is a plan for communicating information about a company through a steady stream of marketing messages, including emails, social media posts, postcards, phone calls, brochures, and printed newsletters (See also Newsletter Marketing). These tools raise brand awareness for consumers and cultivate leads for sales teams. In many cases, drip marketing uses automated services to send out these messages at certain points in time, allowing companies to send responses immediately after a consumer expresses interest in the information. Likewise, they can schedule social media posts ahead of time so their Twitter updates, for example, are published on a regular, but not too frequent, basis.

Drip marketing refers to an agricultural term. When farmers use drip irrigation, they slowly but consistently water their crops so they don’t soak up too much water, but are still satiated. Similarly, marketing professionals who use drip marketing campaigns try to give consumers information they need, on a regular basis, and are careful not to overdo it. Consumers may view too many emails from a company as spam and opt out of messages. Obviously, this is a result marketing professionals want to avoid.

Also known as “lead nurturing,” drip marketing targets both existing customers and new prospects. It is used to make people aware of new products. An apparel store will send people brochures e at the beginning of every season, for example, to show off the latest styles. Drip marketing is also employed for encouraging people to use a company’s services again. A car company, for instance, will send emails to customers after an oil change to remind them about their future maintenance needs.

In effect, like a farmer tending his crops, companies that use drip marketing are tending their customers. Without this type of marketing, companies risk letting valuable business prospects forget about their services or lose them to a competitor’s drip marketing campaign.

The Benefits of Drip Marketing

An attentive audience: In general, these campaigns are shared with people who have shown some level of interest in a company, either by registering for more information on a website or by sharing a business card with a salesperson. Unlike cold calls or random email blasts, consumers who see a drip marketing message have some familiarity with the brand.

Relationship building: Drip marketing gives companies the ability to build a relationship with large groups of consumers or prospects without much effort or expense, compared to the task of calling each individual person on a prospect list. When a company sends informative, relevant information on a consistent basis, it is cultivating the trust of customers.

Good timing: By carefully planning when to send out messages, marketing professionals who use drip marketing campaigns are more likely to be sharing relevant information. Their messages act as a reminder soon after a prospect’s visit to a store or as a prompt to visit during a big sale.

Higher likelihood of sales: Because they are targeted to a particular audience – people who have shown interest in a company – drip marketing campaigns result in a higher rate of response. In other words, each message sent is more likely to result in a sale than one sent to a larger group that included disinterested consumers.

Who implements drip marketing?

Small and large companies across all industries use drip marketing. This type of marketing is generally used by companies that sell directly to consumers, as well as those that sell products and services to other businesses.

Companies that use drip marketing want to be remembered. A clothing retailer, for example, will send a note titled “We Miss You!” to a former customer. Similarly, a well-known restaurant chain may send an estranged customer a coupon for a free dessert. Real estate brokers use drip marketing after selling a house. They will send infrequent messages to past buyers about home-buying trends in the area and little gifts, such as a magnet, calendar, or recipes, simply to remind their former clients about their services. These realtors are hoping buyers will refer them to other home buyers and consider using them again when they want to sell their home.

Indeed, companies whose products and services are bought on an infrequent basis – such as houses, insurance, and cars – have the highest need for drip marketing campaigns. (See also Marketing Car Insurance)

Marketing professionals also use these campaigns to tout an upcoming event. They will send conference attendees informative emails or literature in the mail before the event. These materials may include information about the hotel, a link to download the first chapter of a speaker’s book, or tips about the conference area’s nightlife.

Examples of businesses and organizations that use drip marketing include:

  • Retail chains
  • Car companies
  • Financial institutions
  • Real estate agencies
  • Event planners
  • Mortgage companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Life insurance agencies

Why Technology Adds to the Effectiveness of Drip Marketing

Since most drip marketing campaigns are long-term endeavors, marketing professionals need to keep tabs on how their campaigns are received. They use technology to track, for example, how many people have opened their email, which Web links are clicked within an email, and how many people have requested to be taken off the company’s mailing list. The results of these reviews can drive how the campaign moves forward; the marketing team may try another tactic or use another tone in their writing to attract customers.

Companies use lead management software to keep track of their campaigns and leads, the people who may eventually buy their product or service. According to an Aberdeen Group survey of marketing and sales professionals, companies use lead management technology to:

  • Measure accountability and measurement 59%
  • Learn about customers and prospects 50%
  • Manage multi-channel activities from one application 39%
  • Prioritize leads for the sales team 38%

How is this type of marketing plan developed?

Companies usually develop a drip marketing campaign by looking at the year ahead. They want to reach customers when they are most likely to be receptive to a message. These messages may be tied to certain product launches, holidays, or seasons. For example, a department store’s marketing department will send a reminder about its company’s products in August, when parents are thinking about buying school gear. (See also Time Marketing)

At the same time, marketing professionals don’t want to flood customers with marketing materials, so it is important to plan out a strategy for when the materials will be sent. As they look at the next 12 months or so, they decide whether weekly, biweekly, or monthly notes will be the most effective.

The rest of the planning process involves making decisions about the tone of the marketing messages, the people who will receive the messages, and how the overall campaign will be evaluated throughout the year. To develop an effective drip marketing plan, marketing professionals will:

  • Segment their list of contacts: Before marketing employees conduct a drip marketing campaign, they analyze their list of customers and break it up into groups. This way they can send one kind of message to older customers and use another messages for younger customers.
  • Provide useful and interesting information: Drip marketing campaigns usually include helpful information alongside calls to action. An email may include tips on buying a house, for example, or a price-comparison chart of popular DVD players with links that encourage consumers to visit a company’s website.
  • Design personalized messages: Customized messages tend to attract customers more effectively (a woman who is past childbearing age would not respond well to an email blast about new strollers, for example). When customers see information that is relevant to them, they are more likely to pay attention.
  • Evaluate the campaign’s progress: Marketing professionals continually keep watch on how their messages are received. Email provides an easy way to measure their effectiveness; they can see how many people clicked on certain links within the messages and how many of those clicks led to actual sales.

What types of careers work with drip marketing?

Marketing Consultants

What do they do?

What type of salary should I expect?

  • Marketing Managers
    Median pay: $112,800
    Top earners: $166,400
  • Marketing Consultants
    Median pay: $70,142
    Top earners: $99,714
  • Marketing Assistants
    Median pay: $43,517
    Top earners: $54,051

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012

Marketing consultants own a marketing agency or work for an agency that is hired by a business to carry out a drip marketing campaign. Companies will hire their services because they have experience running drip marketing campaigns. The companies may not have a robust marketing department of their own, or their marketing department lacks the expertise and resources to fully run a drip marketing campaign. These consultants know what works and what doesn’t for these types of campaigns. They likely have the technology and tools (such as email templates or sample newsletters) necessary for a drip marketing campaign at their disposal.


Education and Skills

Marketing consultants generally have a bachelor’s degree, and if they oversee their own agency, they have a master’s in business administration as well. Marketing consultants usually began their careers as an entry-level marketing assistant.

Marketing Managers

What do they do?

Marketing managers oversee a company’s entire marketing department and all of its campaigns, including those that use drip marketing. These managers may come up with the idea of sending deliberate, regular messages to customers and prospects as a way to generate leads for the sales team. Marketing managers have a direct line of contact with managers of other departments and will keep them informed about the company’s drip marketing efforts. They will also expect updates from their subordinates about the progress of a drip marketing campaign.

Education and Skills

Generally, a marketing manager will have at least a bachelor’s degree and sometimes a master’s degree in business administration. They tend to have at least five years of experience, either in sales or marketing, before earning their title, and have shown they can work with various departments to get projects completed successfully.

Marketing Assistants

What do they do?

Marketing assistants usually write the wording used in drip marketing campaigns. They will be the ones initiating a campaign with the help of the marketing manager. This work involves planning how the messages will “drip” out to their customer base and prospects. To be successful in drip marketing, these marketing professionals like to plan for the long term. Marketing assistants have to be very organized, possess a fine attention to detail, and have strong communications skills to keep drip marketing campaigns running smoothly. They are aware of current trends and technology tools in drip marketing campaigns and pay attention to what their competitors are doing.

Education and Skills

Marketing assistants generally have a bachelor’s degree in marketing. They usually have two to four years of experience in a related field, such as communications or sales.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

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Drip marketing requires superior communications skills, strong organization, and a comfort level with technology. Professionals can develop these talents in a school that offers undergraduate marketing degrees and masters of business administration with concentrations in marketing.

Marketing programs give potential marketing professionals a strong base of knowledge for carrying out drip marketing campaigns. Such campaigns will require these professionals to collect input from various constituents in a company, including top-level executives, the information technology department, the sales team, and the finance department. Marketing professionals must constantly navigate through the politics of these departments. For that reason, it is in their best interest to understand their coworkers’ point of view. Marketing schools provide that knowledge through courses on business strategy, basic corporate finance, business development, and technology.

Marketing professionals who use drip marketing don’t need to be experts in technology, but they need to know how to conduct basic tasks, and converse with the IT department for making changes. They need to be comfortable using software programs to send out emails and update Website content (See also Technical Marketing). Most likely, they will be using a customer relationship management (CRM) program to manage their list of contacts.

Since the ultimate goal of drip marketing is generating sales, potential marketing professionals also need to spend time understanding this aspect of the business. They will likely be working closely with sales teams as they develop a list of potential customers.

Marketing students also spend time studying consumer behavior. This is a key area for overseers of drip marketing campaigns because the timing of messages will be tied to how they think consumers will react. They want to reach potential buyers when they are most likely in the mood for a marketing message. If they don’t time their messages correctly, their emails will be quickly deleted or, worse, marked as spam.

Closing the Gap on Customer Prospects

Gap Inc., the company behind Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Athleta, uses drip marketing. Customers who provide their email addresses to the cashier when they make a purchase at one of the company’s stores will receive messages on a regular basis, sometimes as frequently as once a week. Potential customers who sign up with any of the brand’s websites will receive the same messages, and customers who have one of the company’s credit cards will also receive brochures and coupons in the mail.

The retail company uses drip marketing to maintain customers’ interest in their favorite brand and also to spread awareness about the other brands in its portfolio. They do this by sending people on their list invites about special events, such as a preview of a new clothing line. In addition, the company will give discounts or rewards to loyal customers who have spent a certain amount with the company throughout the year. Another way it stays on customers’ minds is through birthday coupons, sent well ahead of the recipient’s birthday. This discount gives customers a gentle push to visit a store, and it builds Gap’s relationship with its customers.

The company segments its lists of customers so that it can send targeted emails. Expectant mothers receive emails or postcards about maternity clothes, for example, and new parents receive news about upcoming sales on children’s clothes. It will also send out emails to customers based on their location, to give information about a local store opening or event.