You’ve probably read a lot of case studies about people increasing subscribers and sign ups using email marketing. If you’ve tried to copy their tactics and failed, don’t feel dispirited. In most cases that success you read about in a 1,000-word blog post didn’t happen overnight.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Most marketers put years of work into learning the trade. That’s because there’s a lot to learn. But, the basics of email marketing are remarkably simple.
Today I’m going to run you through some of the most important things I’ve learned about increasing your subscribers with an email drip campaign and how to generate sales using email sequences.
Here’s a quick overview of what I’ll be covering in this article:
- Why run email drip campaigns
- How to create a drip email campaign
- How many emails should be in an email drip campaign
- 5 email drip campaign examples
I suggest you bookmark this guide. You’ll want to refer to these email sequences in the last section on a regular basis.
What is an email drip campaign?
An email drip campaign, sometimes called an autoresponder cycle, is a sequence of emails that are sent to a potential subscriber over a period of days. These email sequences are automated ‘set and forget’ campaigns. Common examples of automated email drip campaigns include the welcome email sequence and the cart abandonment sequence. Here are over 30 other ways you can use email automation.
An email drip campaign can be as complex or as simple as you want to make it. A classic email welcome campaign, for example, would have three emails. These emails are sent one after the other on consecutive days.
It would look a bit like this.
Email drip campaigns can be a lot more complicated. They often include action-based tracking – so you send people different messages depending on what they do. For example, someone who doesn’t open an email might be sent a different series of messages to a person who did.
Below is a template example of an email campaign for a webinar on GetResponse.
You can see there are a lot more stages to this sequence.
Marketers use email drip campaigns because multiple messages are more effective at generating a result than sending a single email. A good example of this is a cart abandonment email. A study found that people who send three cart abandonment emails generate 69% more orders than those who don’t.
That’s a lot of extra sales…
It’s not just the frequency of the messages that gets such results, though. A good email drip campaign is effective because the person creating the campaign thought through all of the reasons why a person should click on a link. They then dealt with those issues one at a time through the campaign.
Continuing with the cart abandonment example, below is a small brain map that covers the different reasons someone might not make a purchase.
The idea is to identify the most important issues in this list, and then deal with them in your campaign. The more pain points you deal with, the more people you’ll engage.
The copy you use in these messages needs to be focused on one topic. Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking the more emails you send, the better the result. People don’t want to be spammed as the email marketing benchmarks from GetResponse highlights.
You need to find a balance between the number of emails you send, the value of those emails, and the outcome you want. The number one mistake people managing an email list make is sending pointless emails.
Don’t be one of those people.
How do I create a drip email campaign?
Now that you know what an email drip
campaign is, let’s look at how you can create one yourself.
You’ll need to:
- prepare copy and images that will
go into your messages
- decide how often and at what
intervals you’ll want to send them
Note that your subscribers may be
joining your list on any day at any time. If you’re using email drip campaigns,
you can be sure that every person will receive the same email sequence, no
matter when they join your list.
While that’s usually a good thing,
you’ll want to be careful if your email drip campaign is tied to a specific
Now, how do you create an email drip campaign?
This video will show you how to do just that in your GetResponse account.
How many emails should be in an email drip campaign?
An important question you may ask
yourself is, how many emails should I put in my drip email campaign?
The answer isn’t all that simple, but
it’s not too complicated either. It all depends on your goal or the type of
campaign you want to run.
If you’re developing a course on a complex
topic, you may want to divide your content across a higher number of messages.
Additionally, you’ll also want to make sure there are gaps of a few days between
each of your emails. This way, your content will be more easily digestible, and
your audience will continue to engage with your brand for longer.
Your approach will most likely be
different than this if your primary objective is to convert new leads into
sales. In that case, you’ll probably have more emails at the beginning of your cycle,
with a shorter interval between them.
Let’s look at what the data tells us:
The table above comes from the email marketing benchmarks report I mentioned earlier.
The table shows you:
- What percentage of drip
campaigns consist of X number of emails
- The average engagement metrics
observed for those email campaigns
As you can see, 36.31% of all drip email
campaigns have only one message. That could either mean these are welcome
messages, a thank-you email, or some other quick automated response.
Furthermore, 30.53% of an email series consists of two to five messages, and 20.04%
have six to ten emails, while the remaining 13.12% have even more
What’s noticeable is that the average
engagement metrics, like open rates and click-through rates, slowly decline as
the sequences become longer. However, they’re still about two-to-three times
higher than what you’d observe for single message promotional campaigns.
Although the unsubscribe and spam
complaint rate don’t seem to rise or be affected by the email drip campaign
All that considered, as long as you’re
satisfied with the revenue you make from every additional message and the revenue
outweighs the costs (e.g., list churn, spam complaints), you’re good to go.
Naturally, the longer your cycle gets
the more difficult it’ll be for you to manage it and make sure all the content
inside the messages is up-to-date.
Want to go even deeper? Here are
several steps that will help you decide how many emails you should put
into your email drip campaigns:
- Divide your content into
small and digestible chunks. Put each topic into a
separate email and launch your drip campaign.
- Analyze the results. See if your audience is showing the right level of engagement
throughout the entire cycle.
- Gather feedback. Ask your recipients if they’re happy with the schedule you
proposed, or if they’d rather receive your emails more or less frequently.
- Analyze the feedback and
launch an A/B test. Make sure that 50% of your
traffic goes through the first variant, and the other one goes through the
- Stick with the winning
email drip campaign.
Pro tip: There’s also another option, but it’ll only work if you set up your
email sequences using GetResponse marketing automation.
Instead of adding fixed intervals
between your emails, you can give your recipients power to access a message
To do that, you need to add a new link
in your emails (e.g., “Send me the next lesson”), and two elements to your
marketing automation workflow, such as “If linked clicked > Send an email.”
Here’s what the setup would look like
5 email drip campaign examples
I’ve covered some of the basics behind what makes a good email drip campaign. Now I’d like to get practical by breaking down common email sequences you can use for your business.
Here’s a quick overview of the different email drip campaigns I’ll cover:
- Welcome sequence
- Birthday sales sequence
- Promotion sequence
- Upsell sequence
- Cart abandonment sequence
Let’s take a look at each of these sequences in turn. I’ll cover how you should use each sequence, and what makes them effective.
1. The email welcome sequence
The first email most of your audience will receive is your welcome email. As I mentioned earlier, I recommend sending three emails over a couple of days. This email welcome sequence aims to introduce your website’s visitors to your company. Your emails will cover the who, what, where, when, and how of your company history.
Below is an overview of the email sequence that I use for my wife’s travel company.
The purpose of the first email in that sequence is to set expectations. Generally, you want to do the following:
- Introduce yourself, and/or the company that you are representing.
- Share something interesting or unexpected about yourself / your company.
- Set expectations about what you will be delivering.
- Get them to follow you on a social media channel or whitelist your email address.
- Deliver the content upgrade that you promised them.
This first email is a bit like a first date. Create a good impression, deliver on your promise, make a joke, then leave…
A day after this you can send a second email.
Your second email might contain a link to your best blog post, a video, or something else that they’d find useful. It’d be best if this content was exclusive or ‘hard to find’ on your site.
On the third or fourth day send your final message. This email will generally provide them with a bit of content they’d find useful on your site. It could even be a freebie.
Try to make sure that each time you send them is an email you provide a link to a different resource. So, for example, the first message might have a link to a PDF. The second email could have a link to your website, and the third a link to a video.
Sending your audience to different places helps to create a sense of the unexpected. People get bored receiving the same thing week in week out.
2. The birthday sequence
The birthday email drip campaign is a great way to connect with your audience and generate some extra revenue. Plus, you get to send people birthday wishes, which is a nice thing.
To run a birthday campaign, you’ll have to collect a person’s date of birth.
You can do this on your opt-in form. However, this will be a point of friction for people signing up to your list. If you take this route, I recommend that you don’t make collecting this information obligatory. People who don’t want to give you their date of birth will just input fake details.
The other way to collect a person’s date of birth is when they are already on your list. You can see that the jeans company Lee uses this approach, though their copy could be improved.
I recommend this option.
The advantage of this approach is you have already formed a relationship with your readers by the time you ask for this information. More importantly, people have to opt-in to the process. This means the data is more likely to be accurate.
So that’s collecting the date of birth covered…
A birthday email campaign is short and sweet. Send the first email on the person’s birthday around noon. This message can be a best wishes card, with a discount coupon.
At the same time the next day you can send a follow-up email informing the person you’ll be closing the discount offer in seven hours. This is a good way of taking into account that many people have better things to do on their birthday than shopping online. It also creates a bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
3. The special offer promo
Think about the last time you made a big purchase. What made you get your credit card out? Was it a logical decision, or a spur of the moment impulse?
Maybe it was a bit of both.
It’s a widely recognized fact that emotion and logic play a big part in buying behavior. You can see this when you analyze the reasons behind why you made that purchase. This is very different from how you rationalize the things you buy…
The copy you use for your email drip campaign needs to account for these different factors.
Just like I outlined before, you need to analyze the different reasons people might purchase the product you are offering. These will be rational and emotional reasons.
Once you’ve decided what the most important factors are, you need to deal with them one at a time.
What I’ll share with you below is the email marketing sequence I use for promotions. It’s based around common drivers for making a purchase. I call this email marketing sequence Winners Miss Out.
Each email in the sequence covers a different sales angle:
- Desire: the first email is focused on the outcomes that a person would get from purchasing the product you’re offering. There’s a focus on emotional factors
- Logic: the second email looks at the rational reasons for purchasing the product. This follows an FAQ format
- FOMO: the final email is about creating that FOMO feeling. This is a standard way to close a promotion for a time-sensitive offer
Below is an example of such a campaign.
You can see that each of the three emails in that sequence build on each other by focusing on different factors that might influence your audience into purchasing a product.
To increase sales, you can combine your email promotion with Facebook retargeting. Obviously, you can’t run a promotion using this exact sequence each time. You’ll want to mix things up.
Test things like running a giveaway a few hours before a promotion to get your offer started. Alternatively, you might choose to run a competition and run the promo after you’ve given away a prize. There are plenty of great online platforms you can use to do this.
4. The upsell email sequence
A natural outcome of an email promotion is an upsell.
Buying things makes you feel good. There’s a release of endorphins in there somewhere.
The other thing about buying something is that you often realize there are other things you ‘need’ to buy. Sports are a good example of this. If you buy a new surfboard, you might think you need to buy some wax for your board.
This desire to purchase additional products is part of a buying cycle. During this cycle, you are more open to the idea of purchasing additional products. It’s the reason you see people who have gone shopping carrying three or four bags of stuff.
You should be incorporating this need for additional products into your sales cycle.
There are two ways that you can manage an upsell.
One way to provide an upsell is on-site at the point of purchase. You can either provide an upsell before or immediately after they’ve made a purchase.
The other way to run an upsell is through an email sequence.
You should run your upsell sequence within a maximum of a fortnight of a person purchasing a product on your site. The email sequence you use for an upsell would be similar to the one you’d use for a promotion. However, it’s important to recognize that the person you are emailing has recently purchased something from you.
Doing this is easy. For example, you might say:
Summer is coming 🙂
We just wanted to let you know your surfboard was dispatched yesterday. As an existing customer, you’re now eligible for a limited time discount on all our summer beachwear…
You can see where this email is heading.
The email sequence you use doesn’t need to be as long as the initial promotion. I suggest sending two emails – one email to let them know there are deals available, and the second to say the offer is coming to a close.
A good example of a person who does this effectively is Bertrand, the founder of Youzign. He has a number of complementary graphics design software platforms. This creates opportunities for upselling customers in the same way that an ecommerce store might do.
It’s possible to get really high conversion rates with the right offer.
Some of our best upsells converted 60% of customers. Without an upsell, this would all be lost, which is substantial revenue for any business. Of course, you don’t want to overdo it and negatively impact the customer experience. They should always be at the heart of your sales process.
Don’t let profit define your strategy. As he mentioned, it’s important to get that balance between the customer experience, and the sales process.
5. The cart abandonment sequence
The shopping cart is widely recognized as a major leak in your sales funnel. Around 75% of customers abandon an online purchase.
Cart abandonment emails help turn some of those lost leads into buyers. Below is a basic outline of a good cart abandonment series used by Jack Paxton. He is one of the founders of Vyper, a growth hacking platform, and works as a consultant for companies like AppSumo, and BPN Nutrition.
Suggested Abandon Cart Email Sequence:
- 6 Hours after abandoning cart:
This is a friendly reminder using scarcity, mention that you have limited stock, or this item sells out regularly.
- 24 Hours Later:
Run a time-sensitive special offer for the customer that lasts for 48 hours. This can be free shipping.
- 72 Hours Later:
Last chance offer. This email has the greatest discount. It can be a dollar or percentage discount. You can make this a unique expiring offer to add scarcity.
Here’s what this sequence looks like in practice.
Usually, the first email in the sequence will help recover about 25% of lost sales who signed up to the cart abandonment sequence. The second and third emails will help you generate additional sales. You can increase revenue returns by running abandoned cart ads on networks like Facebook, Instagram & Google.
Email sequences and drip campaigns should form a core part of your online marketing strategy. In this article, I’ve shown you some of the most common campaigns used by marketers. If you’re struggling to monetize your list or engage your readers, then hopefully these campaigns will form a framework that you can reference in the future.
With a few edits, you should be able to incorporate these campaigns into your email marketing strategy. Of course, it’s going to take a few days to do this, so make sure to bookmark this page as you’ll want to refer to it later. If you have questions about anything I’ve covered in the article, let me know in the comments below!