Keeping Print Relevant: What Is 'Drip' Marketing?

The gurus tell us to move “up the value chain” by: selling more cross media, listening to and solving customers’ marketing problems, and innovating.


There is a lot that goes into changing operational expertise from manufacturing high-quality printed material to high-quality, data-driven print and even more that goes into changing your company culture from a manufacturing to a solutions-oriented firm. If the shift went smoothly, you are in the minority. If, like most of us, it almost broke the company making the change, you can appreciate this: It is changing again. If you can churn out pURLs like you used to churn out two-color jobs on an AB Dick with a T-head, and if whipping up an SMS campaign is as easy as mixing metallic gold with a good knife and a reliable scale, congratulations, because you are at the head of the class! So, being the precocious nerd you are, I would like to introduce you to something new: Drip Campaigns.

An analogy: If pURLS are the USA, then Drip campaigns are the Allied forces. Drip campaigns are the combination of individual tactics (USA) which are combined with other tactics to make a single initiative (Allied forces), resulting in better ROI (win marketing wars). I hope you appreciate the levity of my analogy.

More formally, Drip Marketing is a communication strategy that sends a pre-written set of messages (“drips”) to customers or prospects over time. These messages often take the form of highly targeted print and email, although other forms of media such as social media (e.g.: tweets) and SMS (text) mobile phone messages are used in more complex systems. Drip Marketing is unique from other database marketing in two ways: 1) the timing of the messages follows a pre-determined course, and 2) the messages are dripped in a series applicable to a specific behavior or status of the recipient.

Have you noticed that it is taking longer to sell a prospect? Have you noticed that your prospects and even existing customers are demanding more information, often the same information that is already on your collateral such as print and website? Customers are researching and re-researching everything, and even more elusively, they are looking to peers (via social media) to influence and validate their spend.

Take a look at these eyebrow-raising stats:

SiriusDecisions reports that during the last five years, the average sales cycle has become 22% longer, typically with three more decision makers participating in the buying process. This highlights the need for (and challenge with) communicating with many people in an organization and maintaining these relationships over time.

A Forrester Research report highlights that companies that use Drip strategies well will generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost.

These trends are accelerating and only with highly automated tools such as Drip can we keep up with the rapidly changing customer status as well as deploy highly personalized content (print and mail) in order to effectively influence that customer.

I recently sold a Drip campaign to a global medical company. Our stated goals were to: 1) reduce customer acquisition costs of $100 per conversion by at least 25 percent, and 2) accelerate the rate of customer acquisition by 30 percent. Granted, we did have a lot of latitude to “solve” the challenge due to previous successes with the client, it was still a very tall task.


Given the size of the database and very aggressive sales goals, we knew that lead nurturing, brand influence strategy, and promotion driven campaigns would not achieve the desired result in the timeframe. Our recommendation was our proprietary Drip platform, which includes analytics, killer creative and copy, personalized print, personalized email, and SMS. Our client is very excited about the results to date. I will be posting a white paper on our company website for download or you can follow a few of my tweets about this and other projects @sudhir_ravi


So, what does this mean to your marketing services company? Two things: 1) It offers a new strategy/toolset for your clients, and 2) it gets you a seat at the table. The primary reason why marketing services companies do not get to participate in high value (read: high profit) opportunities is that they are not asked to participate or recommend how best to reach marketing goals. I call this “not having a seat at the table” and this must change for our industry to prosper. Equipment investment alone, such as digital presses, will not do it. Software which facilitates individual marketing tactics such as PURLs and SMS will not do it.


Drip marketing, however, drives more personalized communication at a higher velocity and at much higher profit per communication. It is a key strategy to getting a seat at the table.


Until then, keep printing, my friends. PN