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Engage Members with the Perfect Automated Drip Campaign

Associations, Communications Strategy // Drip, drip, drip…this would be annoying if it was a faucet, but when it comes to email marketing, it's a smart strategy.

Beth Arritt
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For all the modern technology we have, all the targeted messages people get electronically every day, print billboards along the side of the road still work. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t still see them all over the place.

Why do they work? Because most people repeat the same driving pattern every day, at least every workday. That means they’re seeing that same billboard again and again. So when the need comes up for that type of product or service, what brand is at the tip of the driver’s tongue? The company on the billboard they encounter every day.

Let’s say you hired a skywriter. Sure, it would be cool and unusual and really get people’s attention. Once. Will those people remember what the skywriter was advertising? Probably not. But the billboard they see to and from work daily? That’s far more likely to be remembered.

Let’s apply the billboard analogy to your email communication strategy. For your emails, just like for billboards, consistency and repetition are the key. This is where automated drip campaigns come in. With a drip campaign, you can create a series of well-placed, relevant digital billboards delivering and continuing to deliver variations on the message that your association is valuable and offers tons for your members to get involved in.

Drip Campaigns Help You Achieve a Delicate Balance with Your Emails

You don’t want to cross the line from consistent to annoying, but as long as your consistent messaging is not off-putting and your content is something your members are genuinely interested in, you’re in good shape. And since you’re using your data to target members with relevant content (right?), the odds of them being genuinely interested are pretty high.

It’s a delicate balance. Spam them with stuff they aren’t interested in, and you’ll see plenty of unsubscribes. But leave them with only the occasional email or newsletter, and you can also see a steady decline in membership from just not providing enough value.

Automated drip campaigns help you achieve that balance. These campaigns help you control the number of emails members receive, and ensure they get the right message at just the right time, because you’re reacting to actions they’ve taken.

Ready to plan out your automated drip campaign?

Automating Targeted, Relevant Contact with Members

Think about how you react to the emails or messages you get. If it’s something you get constantly, but it’s never relevant and you never open it, you get annoyed (and likely unsubscribe). Right? But if it’s something you like getting, if it’s content you can use, you don’t mind. You might even look forward to the emails.

So we’ve determined that your goal is for members to get just the right message at just the right time. But you have to start somewhere.

Where you start depends on your goal. Is it retention? Is it member prospecting? Is it event promotion? Non-dues revenue? It’s not one size fits all, but everything starts with a first step. That’s why we have an ever-expanding group of Starter Kits to help you take those first steps to set up automated drip campaigns.

The kits are only the beginning, and timing, cadence, messaging will all vary from association to association. As your campaign matures, you will be able to look at the data and find ways to tweak all those things for better performance.

The “How”: Technology

In terms of the technology, the best-case scenario is always going to be a marketing automation platform that integrates with your database. The more your systems speak to each other, the more information you’ll be able to feed into your artificial intelligence (AI) to power really useful drip automation. The more you can put all the information in one place for the AI to access and act on, the better your campaigns will work.

The “How”: Timing

Your existing data will help you determine messaging and cadence. Is your target audience visiting your website every week? Once a month? Are they visiting at all? Google Analytics will show you some of that overall data, but if you want to put actual member information to web visits, you need to have a marketing automation tool that offers web tracking service for known users.

When you have known users in your marketing automation platform, you have more data to work from, because you can also look at everything in your database about those users.

How often do they engage with your association? That can tell you a lot in terms of deciding what cadence to start out with. Using that information as a guide, pick a schedule, try it out, and see if it results in increased or decreased engagement. Give it a few months to build more data, then make changes from there with your new information.

The “How”: Setting up Triggers

Triggers are what help you send the right message to the right person at the right time.

Triggers will be based on your goals. Say your goals for an event are to bring back people who hadn’t gone in three or more years. Another goal might be to bring in more industry people. You could do a drip campaign based on website visits. You would set it up that if someone visited three or more pages or went to the registration page, that’s a trigger. Those people would go into the automated campaign from the website. Once they’re in there, you check to see if they’re an industry person and if so, they go into a different drip email campaign with specific strategic messaging and delivery.

Think of it as someone coming to various forks in the road where they could go down any one of three or four paths. What you’re doing is establishing the triggers that tell your automated system which path to take them down.

Of course, part of drip campaign effectiveness is offering your audience an exit. One thing I always recommend in a campaign, especially a drip campaign, is that you include a mute campaign.

To understand mute campaigns, let’s go back to our drip campaign example. Your communications might have a link that says something to the effect of “Can’t come or not interested this year? Click to mute these emails.” That will take them to a landing page, and you use those submissions to create an interest segment that will no longer get emails about annual events. Letting them eliminate what they don’t want helps keep them from unsubscribing to everything.

The Conversion: Finding Perfect CTAs for Your Automated Campaigns

You almost always want more than one call-to-action (CTA) in emails, but you don’t want to go overboard either. If the same person gets a series of emails and the only option is “register now,” the emails become easy for members to glaze over. But if there are fourteen different ones, it may be difficult for members to make a choice.

Think of every link in an email as a CTA. How many links you need will vary. For example, in an event promotion campaign, one email might offer several links for different aspects of the event, as well as a register button. Another email might offer two buttons – one for registration and one for the agenda. You might have standard “quick links” in the email template that go to different pieces of conference information.

Whatever your links are, the end game is to offer an option other than just “commit to this now.” If they’re not ready to buy and that’s the only option you offer, they will just close the email and do nothing. By offering them ways to get more information before purchasing, you don’t lose them, and you get important data on their interests by seeing what they clicked.

In a more advanced automated drip campaign, you’d interact with them in the next email based on what link they clicked. One of my favorite examples a friend of mine uses is to think of a drip campaign as if you’re a salesperson in a clothing store. If you see someone looking at a sweater, you might ask them if they have any questions. If you see the person return to the sweater more than once, you might say, “You know, this sweater is on sale. And we have matching fuzzy socks.”

Your approach as a salesperson is based on observing body language and actions. Your marketing automation software and you are working together to do the same thing, it’s just reading digital body language and actions instead.

Ready to learn more? Check out the Advanced Starter Kits we built in our marketing automation software to see how you could start building your own campaigns for your association.

Beth Arritt

Association Strategist

Beth’s marketing experience encompasses more than twenty-five years of marketing strategy and member/customer engagement in various industries, including puzzles and games, training, education and aviation.

In addition to marketing, Beth has worked in event management and web development, wearing a variety of hats in different positions. She has also been an adjunct professor of marketing at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia.

Beth received a Bachelor of Science degree in Merchandising from James Madison University, a Certificate in Event Management from The George Washington University, and a Masters of Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Phoenix. She has earned numerous awards for her marketing, including two Top Digital Marketer of the Year awards.

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