Drip marketing is a way engaging people before they buy. You capture people’s email address and then reach out on a regular basis with something of value. Most people don’t buy or sign up the first time they visit a site, it takes multiple visits, which is why drip marketing is so important. Most companies don’t do a great job of it. They might send a lot of email (e.g. e-commerce sites often send daily emails with new products I should buy), but they don’t really engage me or walk me through a path to purchase that makes sense. They’re spamming. Email is a powerful tool (possibly the most powerful tool for engaging users and turning inactive users into active ones or browsers into purchasers), and the best companies get this.
Drip marketing focuses on how to get people to a conversion.
But what happens after someone buys? Or, what happens after someone signs up to try your product?
By now you should appreciate the importance of onboarding users. And if your onboarding isn’t working, go fix it. Most startups don’t do a great job of this, but it’s essential. But beyond onboarding, you should think of engagement–long-term engagement–as a process.
For example, let’s say you have a user-generated content site that only wins big if you can convince a lot of people to submit a lot of content. It’s a fairly big ask, even for the small percentage of crazy people that are obsessed with the subject matter. You could push users to submit content right away, making the big ask, but you’ll likely confuse or scare them. They’re not ready to commit the first time they come across your site (even if they were referred positively by someone else); they need to be wooed first.
Instead, you should engage these users in a lighter way before making the big ask. They need a light touch way of interacting and creating value (for you and themselves) before they decide to invest more time. Maybe you ask them to “like” or vote on some of the content that exists on the site first, before asking them to create content of their own. Clicking a single button is pretty easy for a user, and it’s something they already know how to do (from other sites / apps).
Provide opportunities for early users to engage in common ways, so there’s no learning curve and they get an immediate reward.
Changing people’s behavior is very hard, so don’t ask them to right away. Don’t push them through some new content creation process (or something else) off the bat, engage them lightly with something they know how to do instantly.
Look at all the “features” on your site or in your product and figure out how one leads to the next.
First, you want people to “like” or vote on something, then you’d like them to come back again and do the same (possibly because you’ve sent them an email on items they might also like to vote on), and then you’d like them to leave a review (which is a slightly bigger ask), and then you’d like them to create new content on the site (the big ask). One of the biggest questions for a lot of products is when to ask users to sign up? That has to fit somewhere in the flow, but is it the first thing you ask people to do, or the third?
Each step along the way has to create value for you and for the user.
That’s the key to “gently” pushing a user through a path (or funnel) that you’d like them to go through, which you believe is necessary for succeeding. If you don’t have a clear path and you make the wrong asks at the wrong time, users will churn out.
What do you want a “good user” to do?
You need to define a good user, over time, and then focus your feature development, marketing, etc. on bringing users through the path to becoming good. You can’t get married on the first date.
Product managers and developers can learn a lot from successful drip marketing, because essentially you should be doing the same thing, in part via communication channels (like email) but also through how your product works, what you focus on in the UI, how you bubble up features and how you guide users.
Photo from Daniel McDermott on Flickr.