You might think it’s a bad thing to be put on “blast,” or to be called a “drip” (that’s how kids these days talk, right?), but when it comes to email marketing, these terms have a very different meaning.
Today, a huge amount of outbound marketing comes in the form of email marketing—especially for smaller companies with limited budgets for print/media campaigns. The two most popular types of email marketing are:
- “Blast” emails
- “Drip” emails, also called “drip marketing”
Each of these serves a different purpose for different kinds of campaigns, or phases within a campaign.
Here, we’ll lay out the key differences between blast emails and drip marketing with actionable advice for how to use each when marketing your small or midsize business (SMB).
Here’s what we’ll cover:
What Is Email Marketing?
Marketing via email is a modern iteration of traditional outbound marketing. As its name suggests, email marketing consists of marketing messages sent to a specific list of email addresses. These can be gathered from a number of places and stored in a company’s customer relationship management (CRM) database.
As email becomes ever more ubiquitous for both consumers and businesses, email marketing is gaining in popularity among SMBs that may not have gotten on board when large, enterprise-level businesses did initially.
Indeed, two of our recent Buyer Reports, which analyzed trends among small business buyers of both CRM and SFA software, show that buyers are looking for email marketing as a major part of their software solutions.
Top-Requested CRM Software Functionality, 2016
Top-Requested SFA Software Functionality, 2016
According to Dave Charest, the senior manager of content and social media marketing at email marketing software vendor Constant Contact, there are three crucial aspects of email marketing that differentiate it from the advertising techniques of traditional outbound marketing:
- It relies on a cultivated list of contacts who have all opted in to receive messages from you, rather than blindly emailing a list of potentially disinterested consumers.
By keeping these specific characteristics in mind, you can fine tune your email marketing efforts to best fit the needs of your business and the preferences of your customers. However, there are several different types of email marketing, and it’s crucial that you understand which one works best for a given campaign.
What Is an Email Blast?
Despite the misleading name, an email blast is more nuanced than simply “blasting” out information or offers to as many people on your contact list as possible. Although these emails do go out to a significant number of contacts, the goal is to reach out to a specific subsection of subscribers.
According to Mike Catania, founder and CTO of PromotionCode.org, a blast email features a singular, focused message:
“As examples, blast emails would include things like ‘New Location Opening on Third Street,’ ‘One-Day Black Friday Offers’ and ‘Introducing Our New Wearable.’ . . . They’re typically short (about three sentences) and have an immediate and explicit call to action.”
Mike Catania, Founder and CTO, PromotionCode.org
The other distinguishing factor of blast emails is that they’re individual messages that stand on their own, rather than part of a longer series of emails.
They provide new information, special offers, updates and/or announcements, often in the form of regular newsletters. The upside to these blasts is that they are short, relatively easy to plan and put out and can reach out to wide number of consumers all at once.
What Is Drip Marketing?
Drip marketing and drip emails are used over an extended period of time to personalize and nurture a customer’s experience with your company.
According to Alex Chaidaroglou, a marketer at Altosight, “Drip campaigns are usually best after someone landed on your blog or landing page, through ads or other traffic, and downloaded a lead magnet of yours, such as an ebook or whitepaper.”
Laurence Minsky, a professor of advertising and marketing and the author of The Activation Imperative, further notes that the goal of drip emails is to drive prospects closer to transaction, with each email triggered by particular steps that a prospect takes along the sales funnel:
These drip campaigns are designed to be personalized and based on either specific interactions or specific timing. As Minsky explains, “one piece of information can be delivered on day one, the next at a predetermined time and so on.”
Each email is tailored to the individual consumer or prospect, based on the information about that contact stored in your CRM database.
However, more tailored, timed and personalized drip emails run certain risks that blast emails do not. Minsky notes that a drip campaign is “awareness-driven, and it assumes people will act once they are aware of it.”
When recipients don’t convert, even after becoming aware of all the information provided by the drip emails, the campaign has not successfully reached them. Any continuing emails after that may simply be marked as spam and create a sense of animosity toward the sender.
How Can They Work Together for Your Business?
Since both blast emails and drip marketing each have their own sets of pros and cons, the smartest way to plan your email marketing campaigns is to use both of these tools deliberately and consistently.
Bob Smith, of Chicago marketing firm RSA Group Partners, argues that, “Email blasts are good for special sales, clearouts, or announcements. Drip campaigns should be used for higher end products because you need time to build rapport and engage your list.”
Furthermore, he explains that the two can serve to support each other: “Once you finish a drip campaign you can do a blast to those who didn’t convert.”
Dave Charest breaks down this symbiotic relationship even further, and explains the key differences between the two:
|Blast Emails||Drip Emails|
|Sent to many contacts all at the same time||Sent to one contact based on a triggering activity|
|Minimally personalized||Maximally personalized|
|Used to stay at top of customers’ minds||Cultivate long-term relationships with customers|
|Learn more about customers based on the content and offers they respond to||Transform customers’ response to content and offers into ongoing sales|
Carefully planning when your customers and prospects receive email blasts and when they trigger the beginning of a drip campaign is the best way to balance these two types of email marketing.
Minsky explains for example: “One typical assumption is that an email blast would be at the top of the funnel, where one is creating awareness and starting people down the path, and then they would start receiving targeted lead nurturing drip emails along the way (based on prior responses), but a blast email might also be at the end, reminding current customers to reorder.”
How Can Software Help?
Email marketing often proves to be a more labor-intensive process than many businesses expect. Drip campaigns, in particular, are almost impossible to carry out on a large scale without some sort of automation to send out emails based on predetermined triggers.
As Catania puts it, “Unless the subscriber list has fewer than 100 emails, some level of automation is going to be necessary, if for no other reason than to preserve your sanity.”
Fortunately, marketing automation software can help you stay sane and still send out great email campaigns, in several distinct ways.
The first way marketing automation software helps with your email marketing is by providing you with a large variety of templates from which you can start crafting your emails. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you can begin with a tested design that is known to succeed.
Dave Charest explains how, once those emails are written, the software can help you to schedule them properly:
“Marketing automation software can help you schedule individual emails and a drip campaign so you can set it and forget it. It also allows you to manage your contact list, track responses and analyze results such as who opened your messages, clicked through the content and shared it.”
Dave Charest, Senior Manager, content and social media marketing, Constant Contact
The analysis that Charest mentions is also noteworthy; your marketing automation software, which will often be tied into your larger CRM system, can provide data points that will help you refine future campaigns.
Marketing automation software won’t write your email marketing campaigns for you, but it can certainly make your life easier and allow you to use both blast emails and drip marketing to their fullest extent for your business!
Here are some next steps as you figure out the best way to implement email marketing for your specific needs:
- Read user reviews of the top marketing automation software to see how that software can be of service to you.
- Check out CRM software vendors that offer marketing integration, such as Infusionsoft, ActiveCampaign and Hatchbuck.
- Email me at email@example.com for more information. I’m happy to help you figure out what your own marketing software needs might be and connect you to one of our expert software advisors for a free, no-obligation consultation!