Drip Email Marketing: the What, Why, and How… Plus 3 Examples

Melanie Balke
May 19, 2022

What’s that sound? It’s the steady flow of well-timed and well-executed emails! There's no finer music to an email marketer’s ears, and its genre is the “drip campaign”!

A black-and-white photo of a steaming coffee machine. Overlaid text reads, “Drip Email Marketing: The What, Why, and How… Plus 3 Examples.”

Drip emails are the flows within your marketing strategy that will make your email marketing team's lives oh-so-much-easier, while they help your business enjoy optimized email marketing ROIs and more sales.

Because they’re featured so prominently in the scheme of email marketing, I decided to devote a whole blog post to a thorough discussion of all things drip marketing. That includes the automated email, drip sequences, and why it’s vital for your company to invest in drip email marketing and use drip campaigns.

So, without further ado, come along with me for an investigation of drip marketing!

I’ll start general before I go granular, so this first section is an explanation of drip email marketing as a concept. Then, I’ll get into the nitty-gritty details of the actual drip campaign.

What Is Drip Email Marketing?

What exactly is Drip Email Marketing? Let's break it down:

A black-and-white photo of an industrial coffee machine. Overlaid header text in the center reads, “What Is Drip Email Marketing?”?”

Email Marketing And Loyal Customers

As its name implies, drip email marketing is a subset of email marketing. And email marketing is the practice of keeping in touch with your customers and prospective customers via emails.

Notice I say "keeping in touch."

That's meant to have as broad a meaning as it sounds. Obviously, I’m talking about marketing in the traditional sense: promoting a product or service to a prospective customer. But the beauty of email marketing is that, for an extremely low cost, your business can build a solid relationship with your customer base.

That's where keeping in touch comes in.

The relationship that you build can consist of check-ins regarding customer satisfaction, expressions of gratitude, or relevant content. It may even be a grab-bag of all of these!

Ultimately, email marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach your target audience. With well-crafted campaigns, you can directly engage with your target audience, and that connection is one of the most useful things to have in business.

Drip Email Marketing

So what is drip email marketing all about?

Simply put, drip email marketing is sending a predetermined number of emails to your target audience on a predetermined schedule in response to their actions or status changes.

Drip email marketing offers a personalized and targeted approach for your business to stay in touch, anticipate your customer's questions or needs, follow up on customer satisfaction, and recoup revenue.

What’s With the Drip?

“Drip” refers to sending a steady stream of emails over time. Picture that pesky faucet with that maddening, regular “drip, drip, drip!”

Now, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to how many emails you should send to stay in touch on a given subject. In other words, there isn't an ideal number of drip emails.

Some companies send several emails a week, while others space their drip emails out every few weeks. One loose rule to maintain is to remain respectful of your customers’ attention. Don't blow up their inbox, you risk overdoing it.

Step Back: What Exactly Is a Drip Email Campaign?

Generally, when I refer to a Drip Email campaign, or a drip campaign, I’m referring to emails within a series of automated emails created to nurture a customer in a particular manner.

While some folks refer to each email sent as a separate campaign, for the purposes of this post, when the term drip campaign is used, it’ll refer to the series of emails that comprises an automated flow rather than a single message.

How Do Drip Email Campaigns Work?

A photo of an industrial coffee maker with overlaid header text: “How Do Drip Email Campaigns Work?”

The mechanism of the drip email campaign is simple: you write the emails once and then automate the personalization and schedule for each campaign. An example of a simple drip marketing email campaign is the ever-useful abandoned cart message.

That's right! Your drip marketing campaigns run on autopilot once you've set them up.

You can even have several drip campaigns running simultaneously. By running more than one or two drip campaigns at a time, you can easily reach a much wider target audience. Because of automation, you also get to sit back and relax while these messages are sent. After writing out the email campaign once, the template will be sent out on a regular schedule. There’s no input necessary from you!

Automated emails — such as welcome messages, happy birthday wishes, and order notifications — do all of the heavy lifting.

Bet you’re eager to start, right?


Below, we'll provide some examples of the many drip campaigns that could work for your business. Drip emails can help you guide and keep track of your customers as they move through your sales funnels.

But first, let’s hammer out when to send them.

When To Send Drip Email Campaigns

A photo of many clocks. Overlaid header text says, “When to Send Drip Email Campaigns.”

Drip campaigns are triggered by a specific action or behavior. These triggers include:

  • New users
  • Paying customers
  • Shipment status updates
  • Significant dates
  • Predetermined settings

Summarily: you can make a lot of different drip campaigns, and each email campaign that you create will be unique.

Types of Automated Drip Campaigns

I’ve named the triggers for drip campaigns, but what I haven’t taken a deeper look at is the specifics. Each trigger is different, and it’s important to know what each automation does.

A photo of stacks of sorted wood. Overlaid header text reads, “Types of Automated Drip Campaigns.”

Date-Based Drip Campaigns

Date-based automated drip emails allow you to communicate with your subscribers on days that are likely important to them, such as birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. Think of them as greeting cards — reminders to your customers that you care about them.

Here’s an example of a fantastic example of a date-based email marketing campaign:

A screenshot of an email campaign from American Apparel. The body of the email consists of an image, which is overlaid with text reading, “Happy half birthday! A fine excuse for 15% off everything!”

This message was sent by American Apparel, and it’s a great example of how targeted ads can be built around unique events. “Happy Half Birthday!” the email boldly declares.

This email drip campaign expertly uses simple graphics and bold type to engage with a customer. It’s a unique and fun — perhaps even a bit silly! — idea. This message also says two things:

  • American Eagle took the time to remember this user’s birthday
  • American Eagle took the time to calculate what this user’s half birthday is

Both of these facts leave an impression on customers, and they may even be able to draw inactive users back into the fold.

User Actions And User Behavior

Another trigger for drip email campaigns is user behaviors and actions.

These drip sequences get activated by a variety of behaviors or actions, such as:

  • A new purchase
  • A newcomer on the mailing list
  • Someone browsing your website
  • A user engaging with something on your site

Lead Nurturing Campaigns

A subset of action and behavior-based automated campaigns is the lead nurturing campaign. These campaigns are triggered by new leads and actions, such as first-time purchases, online course enrolments, or website visits

There are a variety of ways you can nurture leads. You may want to provide more information about your product, or you might engage with potential customers by sending them an “FAQ” style email.

Regardless of what you choose to do, the ultimate goal of these campaigns is to increase purchase value. If the recipient is not interested in buying anything, then the goal will be convincing them to become a paying customer.

Welcome Emails and Onboarding Emails

Welcome emails and onboarding emails comprise another type of action-based drip campaign. These emails are triggered whenever someone new signs up for an email list or purchases a product for the first time. With these emails, you’re introducing newcomers — who, might I add, are some of the most important of your user segments — to your brand. You’re encouraging them to look at your website, browse through your blog posts, or sign up as trial users.

Because of the nature of these email campaigns, the messages will inherently have an extremely high open rate. Ideally, they’ll also have a high deliverability rate. For this reason, you want to make sure that they set the tone for future lifecycle emails.

Depending on what you’re selling, you’ll want to work alongside your email marketing team to break this audience into even smaller user segments. Ensuring that all of your marketing automation is set up properly is another must! You don’t want to be the person sending the same welcome emails over and over again.

A screenshot of a welcome email campaign from Bellroy. The header reads, “We’re thrilled to have you with us.” Below, the body text reads, “Here’s what you can expect from us…”

One of my favorite welcome emails is from Bellroy. This brand’s welcome emails are the epitome of a well-done drip email campaign. They’re simple, stunning, and they tell you exactly what to expect in the future.

“We’re thrilled to have you with us,” declares the primary header, and it flows clearly into the pitch. At the same time, it doesn’t sound like it came from a sales team. In fact, it sounds personal! It’s a targeted message, and it tells you exactly what you need to know, “Here’s what you can expect from us…”

The First Purchase Email Drip Campaign

Like welcome emails, a first purchase email is an essential marketing strategy. These drip email campaigns target new buyers. When a new user buys a product for the first time, they initiate this drip sequence, but what does that mean for you?

A screenshot of a first purchase email from Moment. The header reads, “We love your selections.” Larger text reads, “Take $14 off our bestsellers.” The CTA is, “Get $15 off.”

Moment has a perfect example of how to run first-time purchase email campaigns. Its simple campaign welcomes new consumers with a simple message, “We love your selections”, and tempts them with $15 off of their next purchase.

This is exactly how a first purchase drip email campaign should operate. Like onboarding emails, first purchase email campaigns are meant to flatter customers. They offer a hook, and they cleverly direct customers to newer, shinier landing pages, where they’ll find plenty of things to buy.

Thank You Email Campaigns

The “Thank You” drip campaign is a more general version of the first purchase funnel. In these situations, customers are sent a message whenever they purchase something. This is one of the most common ways that brands use drip campaigns, and most people have come to expect these messages after buying something online.

Feedback Drip Campaign Emails

Staying on good terms with your customer means soliciting their feedback and taking their opinions into consideration. To do this, brands send former customers a feedback email campaign, which calls upon buyers to share their past experiences.

A screenshot of an email from Chewy. The headline reads, “What did you think of your recent purchase?” Beneath five gold stars the body text, reading, “We’d love to hear how you and your pet enjoyed these products. Please leave a review so we can share it with other pet parents just like you.”

This feedback email from Chewy invites customers to put their two cents in and share their opinion of the product. It’s exactly what a feedback email campaign should be: simple and upfront.

Abandoned Cart Email Campaigns

We’ve all done it.

You go to a website, plop an item into the cart, and leave without buying.

This is a common behavior, and it’s a good sign that you have a very solid potential customer. To take advantage of this, brands will send out abandoned cart email campaigns, which gently remind users that they still have something in their online cart.

A screenshot of an email from Everland. The header reads, “You have great taste.” Beneath this is text reading, “Then again, we might be biased. See what’s waiting for you in your cart.”

Everlane’s abandoned cart email is a great example of an engaging drip campaign. It’s simple, upfront, and tantalizing. One of my favorite parts is the inclusion of a product image, which really helps draw users back into the sales funnel.

Engagement Series

The goal of an engagement drip email marketing campaign is to help re-ignite your subscribers' interest in your brand. These are uniquely caused by inaction. When a user hasn’t visited your website for a while, this automated email campaign will be deployed.

A screenshot of an email from Dropbox. The heading reads, “Here's what you’re missing on Dropbox Paper.” The CTA is, “Browse Template Library.”

“Here’s what you’re missing.”

That’s the key phrase in many of these campaigns. Your goal with this drip email is to engage with former users and direct them to appropriate landing pages. You’re not necessarily hoping to net a sale. Instead, you’re hoping to boost engagement.

Unsubscribe Email Drip Campaign

After the initial purchase, many users will forget about your brand. They’ll ignore your emails, and you’ll see a drop in open rates. That’s when you toss out the unsubscribe email.

These messages are meant to test the water. You’re hoping for more information. If both you and the recipient are on the same page, this email campaign will temporarily boost engagement. If not, you lose a consumer who wasn’t all that enthusiastic about your brand to begin with.

A screenshot of an unsubscribe email from Myles. The header reads, “Ghosting us?” The CTA is, “Keep me posted!”

Myles Apparel offers a great example of an unsubscribe email that reaches out to inactive users. The email uses humor to lighten the tone, but clearly states that the subscriber will be taken off the list if no action is taken.

… And So Many More!

Now, the drip campaign examples listed above are just a few of the many kinds of campaigns that are regularly used by email marketers. You might also use drip campaigns for product recommendations, comment notifications, customer appreciation, loyalty programs, rewards, and more.

Ultimately you get to decide how and when you'll use email marketing automation to send drip campaigns.

How a Drip Campaign Can Help Your Business

Now that I’ve explained how a drip marketing campaign might be run, let me briefly explain its benefits. There are, quite frankly, so many ways that a well-designed drip campaign can improve your business, so I’ve picked out some of the most important.

A photo of many coffee beans with overlaid header text: “How a Drip Campaign Can Help Your Business.”

Build and Solidify Your Email List

With an effective lead nurturing campaign, you can turn new subscribers into loyal customers. A drip campaign will help grow and maintain your email list. The more robust your list, the more sales you garner.

Save You Time

Need I say it? Ok, I will: time is money!

Using automated drip emails saves you time. Marketing automation is a gift for your marketing budget, and automated workflows make everything much easier and less prone to error.

Set it, and let it do its magic, without your team laboring over sending emails one by one and obsessing over who gets what email when.

Optimize Your Segmentation

Segmentation is essential for email marketing.

Segmentation maximizes the effectiveness of each email you send. It ensures your marketing team can send targeted messages and increase the chances that your subscriber will receive the most relevant information. The more relevant your marketing messages are, the more important a customer feels. This sense of personalization is essential to varying and improving your lifecycle emails.

Depending on where a customer is in your sales cycle, these segmentations can help you understand how likely you are to nab a sale from someone.

Restore and Recoup Revenue

Using an abandoned cart drip marketing campaign, product recommendation campaign, or a subscription renewal reminder campaign may actually reclaim your lost revenue. These drip marketing tactics are crucial ways to push an inactive user further down the sales funnel. What's not to love?

Build Stronger Customer Relationships

Perhaps most importantly, a well-deployed drip campaign can create a better connection to your subscriber, prospective customer, and paying customer. A drip campaign reminds both new and loyal customers that you care about them. With their needs met and with a warm feeling, a user at any stage in the sales cycle can become a loyal customer.

How to Set Up Your Drip Campaign

So many benefits, so many possibilities!

So, how do you set up your drip campaigns?

A photo of many tools. Overlaid header and sub-header text reads, “How to Set Up Your Drip Campaign.”

Well, you will need solid email marketing software. You can use a platform such as Klaviyo (my favorite), MailChimp, SendInBlue, or many others. There are many platforms on the market, some free and some subscription-based, and they all offer useful automation features.

Once you decide on your platform, you then decide on the parameters of your drip campaigns.

A Few Best Practices for Your Automated Drip Marketing Campaigns

Alright, you have your platform. You've decided what actions, behaviors, and dates will trigger your series. Now it's time to write and design your email drip campaigns.

What should you keep mind mind as you work through your email campaign planning?

A photo of a coffee maker. The overlaid header text is, “Best Practices for Your Automated Drip Marketing Campaigns.”

Subject lines

The subject line is the first thing a subscriber sees, so make it clear and engaging! It should give a good idea of what the email contains and have enough draw to make the reader want to open it.

Email Personalization

Everyone likes to feel seen and heard, and personalized content is the perfect way to deliver. To capitalize on this, you’ll want to use personalization tools — such as first names — in your email drip campaign. As your knowledge grows deeper, you’ll want to start adding segmentations.

Personalized content also couples well with lead nurturing campaigns, as they provide a way for you, the business owner, to guarantee that your content is reaching the right person.

Humor And Design

Humor and good design go a long way in building a series that prompts readers to respond.

Your subscribers get a lot of emails per day. Make your email drip campaigns stand out by using great copy, personalization, some humor (in your brand tone), and awesome, eye-catching design.

How To Measure Success With Drip Campaigns

You've got your drip campaigns all set up and automated! Great! So how do you know your campaigns are working?

A photo of a dart board with overlaid header text, reading, “How to Measure Success With Your Drip Campaigns.”

Set your goal

Yes, you've got your campaigns ready to go. But first, in order to determine your success, it's time to further refine what you want to achieve with each campaign.

Do you want more follow-through with abandoned carts? Do you want more first-time purchasers to write reviews? Do you need to increase your click-through rate? Do you want those numbers to increase to a certain percentage or just increase in general?


Once you decide what your goal is, you need usage data (usually provided by your platform) to gauge success. Did you meet your goal? If so, great! If not it's time to send out a few test email campaigns.

Testing and Implementation

If you believe there's room for improvement in your drip email marketing campaigns, it’s now time to test options against each other.

Use A/B testing to see find the best version of your series. Use that data as you go, and you’ll start to see results. Over time, your lifecycle emails will reach your target audience more frequently. You’ll see more conversions, new subscribers, and dramatic improvements.

Final Thoughts About Drip Email Campaigns

A photo of Los Angeles, California, where The Email Marketers is located. Overlaid header text reads, “Final Thoughts: Dip Marketing Campaigns.”

That was a lot of information, but I’m so excited to see that you’ve followed along to the end!

If you’re still confused about drip email marketing or need help with your marketing strategy, remember that I’m always available! You can easily browse my other blog posts, and you’ll find plenty of amazing content about improving your email marketing campaigns and email automation.

Need even more help! Don’t sweat it! You’re always welcome to contact me, and I’ll see what I can do to help you create an effective drip campaign.