You’re eager to share exciting information with your leads. You’re proud of your company’s top products and services — and you hope to convey this passion in your marketing emails (e-blasts, email blasts). But, you want to automate those marketing emails if you can, to save yourself time. Now, the remaining question: How can you accomplish this without overwhelming recipients? 

The ideal solution is drip emails, which naturally pace your online interactions. Instead of bombarding your leads with emails, you’ll send digestible nuggets at a rate they can handle. 

The result? Better engagement and, ultimately, more conversions. These outcomes are more likely when you tailor your campaign to align closely with your brand and audience. 

To help you accomplish precisely that, we’ve developed a detailed guide to all things drip marketing. Keep reading to learn the answers to essential questions, such as:

  • What is an email drip campaign?
  • How do drip email campaigns impact small businesses?
  • How can you get started with drip marketing?

What is an email drip campaign?

Email drip campaigns consist of a limited and automated series of messages sent to recipients over a predetermined period. These emails are triggered by specific user actions — or lack thereof. 

From welcome emails to happy birthday messages, drip messages help you build stronger relationships with leads or customers. Based on extensive customer data and action-oriented triggers, these marketing emails are personalized, targeted, and automated. 

Turo email example
Simple and effective drip emails (such as this welcome email from Turo) establish or nurture relationships with leads. Image Source: Turo

What makes a good email drip campaign?

Email drip campaigns can take many forms, so no one approach will guarantee success for every initiative. Still, the most effective campaigns tend to share a few essential qualities:

  • Targeted. Messages should be developed based on specific recipient types’ pain points, mindset, and communication preferences.
  • Succinct. Don’t overload customers with information; keep every message as brief as possible. Remember, recipients will stop opening your emails if they anticipate huge blocks of text. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to relay important information through several email interactions.
  • Timely. Email timing is arguably as crucial with drip campaigns as the content itself. Automation should begin as soon as the trigger is reached, with emails following quickly enough to continue piquing the recipient’s interest. 
  • Brand-relevant. No matter the purpose of your emails or how often they’re sent, these messages need to feel true to your brand. Every detail matters, including the layout, imagery, subject lines, and — of course — the text. 

How many emails should be in a drip campaign?

No one email schedule is ideal for every drip campaign, but it’s common to send between four and 10 messages in total. The preferred quantity will largely depend on your industry and the products or services provided. Customer or client expectations for email interactions also matter.

When targeting business-to-business (B2B) companies, limiting drip campaigns to just four or five emails is typical. These recipients tend to be more resistant to frequent interactions and are more apt to unsubscribe if they hear from you more than once or twice a month. However, with businesses-to-consumer (B2C) campaigns, recipients may be more open to frequent contact. 

The number of emails may also depend on the extent to which leads are already qualified. Those who have expressed a clear interest in your offerings may need less convincing. For example, abandoned cart campaigns may require just a few short messages, while lead nurturing initiatives may include up to 10 separate emails.

Spacing is just as important as the total number of emails, although these two parameters will ultimately influence one another. Depending on the needs and preferences of the client or customer, drip emails can be sent anywhere from a few days to several weeks apart. Aim for a balance that keeps your business top of mind without overflowing your recipients’ inboxes.

The benefits of using an email drip campaign for small businesses

Few email strategies are as impactful as drip marketing. Many small businesses already know the benefits of using email drip campaigns to some extent. In a competitive market where the return on investment (ROI) is crucial, drip marketing helps small businesses do more with less.

Customer engagement

Drip emails are all about building relationships and getting customers actively engaged. Establishing this level of loyalty takes time — and time is precisely where drip campaigns shine. 

Just as a new friendship grows stronger every time two acquaintances meet, the business-customer relationship gets solid footing as customers continue to receive messages they find interesting and helpful. 

Increased engagement also comes through segmentation, which is built into the fabric of drip marketing campaigns. By segmenting recipients from the get-go — and adjusting the content and language accordingly — these initiatives ensure that each message feels personally compelling. 

Brand recall

Remaining top-of-mind is a universal goal for businesses of all sizes and industries. Even if leads don’t immediately follow through with purchases, they’re more likely to give you a chance in the future if your message is memorable.

Therein lies the power of the email drip campaign. By parsing out information over a series of short emails, each initiative ensures that leads are consistently reminded of your brand, regardless of whether they open the emails. 

Easy to implement

At the outset, drip campaigns may seem intimidating. There’s a lot to consider: triggers, audiences, schedules, and more. However, in reality, everything you might include in a drip campaign would almost certainly be mentioned in a ‘typical’ long-form marketing email — it’s just parsed into shorter messages sent every few days.

Once you’ve determined who you want to reach and how often, the remainder of the process should be easy. Create the content in advance, set parameters for timing, and put the rest of your campaign on autopilot. While you focus on other business essentials, your marketing solution will ensure that leads receive drip emails at the most impactful points of their nurturing journey.

Saves time

Many of the benefits outlined above are possible without recurrent emails or automation. If you’re like most busy entrepreneurs, however, you don’t have time to send personalized emails to every lead or customer — especially if you need to compose and send these messages every few days. 

Email drip campaigns add automation to the mix to expedite otherwise time-consuming processes. Thanks to advanced segmentation, this automated approach need not come at the cost of personalization. Instead, you can use the time saved on personalizing every email to curate high-performing content or monitor (and adjust) current campaigns. 

Getting the most out of your email drip campaign

Small business drip campaigns take many forms and can be specific to industries, for example real estate. Their structure often depends on the events that trigger these emails, although other parameters can shape these messages too. Common types of drip campaigns include those listed below.


First impressions matter. Get customer relationships off to a great start with automated welcome emails that make them feel cared for and respected. 

The ideal welcome email will reassure customers that they made the right decision in sharing their email addresses. Furthermore, this message should provide a framework for future email communication. 

Begin by offering a brief glimpse at all your business has to offer. From there, let the power of anticipation take over. After they’ve received compelling welcome emails, leads will be far more likely to open future messages.

Date-driven messages

If customers have shared time-sensitive details, such as their date of birth, you can use this information to generate personalized emails. These date-driven messages keep your brand top-of-mind while lending your digital interactions a more personal touch.

Life Time's birthday nurture campaign example
Follow Life Time’s example and use leads’ birthdays as an opportunity for nurturing, especially after a period of inactivity. Image Source: Life Time

The most common example is birthday emails. You may want to accompany birthday emails with enticing offers recognizing the recipient’s special day. Coupons and credits are common, as are birthday freebies.

Abandoned carts

Functioning as a gentle reminder, abandoned cart emails encourage customers to take the final steps to complete purchases. Drip emails triggered by abandoned carts should gently remind customers that their purchase was not completed and remind them of the great item(s) they picked out. These emails should also streamline the checkout process, making it easy for recipients to finalize their purchases.

Lead nurturing 

While it’s common for events like birthdays or abandoned carts to trigger drip campaigns, they may also occur because you want to strengthen your relationships with prospects.

Lead nurturing emails inspire greater trust over time. They might seem like simple check-ins, but they serve a far more important purpose: They get leads comfortable with — and eventually, fond of — your brand.

How to create an effective email drip campaign

Simply committing to drip marketing is not good enough. These initiatives are only effective if they are highly strategic. You should analyze every detail to achieve maximum ROI. Follow the suggestions below to make the most of your small business email drip campaign.

Know your audience

Marketing emails should always be targeted, which is particularly important for drip campaigns. Because these ongoing emails are so concise, every word matters. This is impossible unless you know who your readers are and what drives them.

Several clues can help you discern who will receive drip campaign emails and which types of messages they’ll appreciate. The consumer may submit many of these while taking advantage of a lead magnet. Consider reading up on drip campaign examples to understand what others are doing.

Key examples include segmenting by:

  • Demographics
  • Purchase history
  • Digital activity (or inactivity)
  • Signup source

The campaign trigger is another valuable source of insight. In many cases, this specific action will tell you a lot about your target audience.

Suppose an abandoned cart triggers an email: The knowledge that your lead has already expressed genuine interest in your brand may influence the message’s tone. However, you should also be mindful of potential pain points that may have prevented this person from completing the checkout process in the first place.

Make a solid first impression

While every drip campaign message matters, the first email is crucial. Open rates are far higher for welcome emails, so it’s imperative to nail the tone from the get-go. Hook readers with a simple, concise message that reflects what they want and how your products or services can play into these desires. 

Honesty is also imperative from the beginning. Don’t try to disguise your effort to turn your lead into a prospect. This person is a qualified lead because they’ve demonstrated a clear desire to learn more about your offerings and, once trust is established, move forward with your business. Your acknowledgment of this reality will engender that trust while paving the path for a positive reception to future drip emails. 

Provide relevant and valuable content

A genuine understanding of your audience should help you determine which topics to address in each email. Every sentence matters, so you should feel confident that all content informs, intrigues, and excites your leads. 

If you struggle to discern what might be relevant or valuable, take a moment to consider your target customer’s perspective. What would you want to hear if you were in this person’s shoes? Which concerns would prevent you from opening future emails or completing a purchase? 

The answers to these key questions will inform which topics you cover and how you reassure customers about their decision to move forward with your business. 

Evaluate and adjust

As you map out your drip campaign strategy, keep your long-term vision at the forefront. Every message should move you towards your ultimate goal of creating engaged clients. 

Monitor open rates and other metrics to ensure you always know whether your campaign is on track. Customer feedback can also provide valuable insight. 

Be willing to change course if you realize your current approach isn’t resonating. It may take a few attempts to land on a tone or sense of timing that resonates, but you’ll know when you’ve hit marketing gold. 

How to start using drip campaigns for your small business

By now, you should know the answer to the all-important question: What is an email drip marketing campaign? Equipped with this newfound understanding, you should feel ready to implement this powerful small business marketing strategy by following several simple steps to get started.

Set a clear goal

Before you proceed with a drip campaign, determine whether this is the best marketing strategy for achieving a specific end. This is impossible to discern unless you’ve identified your goals. 

As with any marketing objective, drip campaign goals should be clear, quantifiable, and realistic. For example, perhaps you want to retarget leads who have previously expressed interest in your products or services. 

Other campaigns may aim to boost awareness of — and ultimately, sales for — upcoming products. Event-oriented drip campaigns are also common; these should strive to get as many leads registered as possible.

Set KPIs to measure your goal

How will you know if your drip campaign has succeeded? Key performance indicators (KPIs) make your goals quantifiable, thereby providing a valuable benchmark to keep you motivated — or to help you adjust your approach if your campaign falls short.

We’ve touched on a few of the most important KPIs already, but let’s revisit them in the context of drip campaign goal-setting:

  • Open rates. If you’re struggling to get leads’ attention, your chief mission should be to get recipients to open your emails. You can measure your success (or failures) using the almighty open rate, 
  • Click-through rates. You’ve convinced your leads to open your emails, but do they follow through and take action? Click-through rates verify engagement, clueing you in on whether leads are passively reading your email content or taking action to get more involved with your brand. 
  • Engagement over time. Initial open and click-through rates matter, but what if your goal rests on long-term customer engagement? If so, you’ll want to examine immediate email opens and sales, and how these KPIs evolve. 

Develop a strategic drip campaign timeline

The ideal drip campaign will consist of between four and 10 emails spaced between four and 14 days apart. The goal is to keep recipients interested without bombarding them with information. After a few days, they’ll be ready to see fresh content from a recognizable name.

Don’t fret too much about sending excessive messages; as we’ve mentioned, many leads want to receive promo emails more often. Experiment with spacing to determine whether open and click-through rates increase when emails are sent more or less frequently. 

Make a splash with your email marketing

Now that you understand a drip email campaign, it’s time to boost your email marketing results. Remember, a strategic drip campaign may mean the difference between lackluster leads and engaged customers. 

Use email marketing templates to streamline the process and make a powerful impression. You can craft a strong email campaign that revitalizes your marketing initiative with a compelling message and close adherence to drip marketing best practices.

Take your email marketing to the next level. Learn How To Make Marketing Automation and Personalization Work Together.