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Drip Marketing: Build Relationships Little by Little, Drop by Drop

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Before consumers buy from you, they must know, like, and trust you. Moving along that continuum takes time and patience. In today’s snug economic times, earning enough trust to get someone to crack open their wallet or company checkbook is no small feat.

That’s why we’re such big proponents of the drip marketing strategy. The logic behind the strategy is simple: Because you can’t know when someone is going to be ready to buy, you want to have a recurring presence in their world, so you’re always top of mind.

To sustain a drip strategy with the goal of moving someone along the know/like/trust continuum, you need to mindful of the following.

Plan carefully

Drop marketing is not really a "by the seat of your pants" sort of tactic. You want your efforts to be a seamless flow of information, contact, and relationship building. That’s not something you want to make up as you go. Think of your drip marketing efforts as an elaborately choreographed dance. You need to know the steps before you get on the dance floor.

Know how to respond to "What's in it for me?"

No consumer is going to let you keep buzzing about if you don’t offer something of value. Today, everyone is asking, "What’s in it for me?" Your efforts need to be focused on consumers' needs, not on your features and benefits. If you talk about yourself too much, consumers will tune you out, unsubscribe, unlike you, or disconnect the line.  Give consumers valuable content, and they’ll never ask you to leave.

Have 110% consistency

Your ultimate goal is that consumers trust you. You do what you say you’re going to do. You deliver the goods. Which is why your monthly newsletter needs to arrive every month. Why your webinars shouldn't get canceled at the last minute. Why your print ads should all tie together.

Remember that a little is a lot

The goal is to be a regular presence, so customers don’t forget you. Your goal is not to be their ever-present companion, so every time they turn around---there you are! The beautiful thing about a drip strategy is that a little goes a long way. If you consistently execute on three or four tactics, that’s plenty. You want to be memorable, not annoying.

Don’t broadcast

Drip marketing is not a stage for you from which to shout out all your messages. Drip marketing is a way to stimulate conversation. Ask questions. Offer Q&A options. Be human. No one is going to trust a company or person if they don’t believe they have a relationship with them. While the system may be automated, the relationship can’t be.

Wondering what makes a good drip marketing tactic? Think about adding some of these into your mix.

  • Newsletters (electronic or print)

  • Podcasts

  • Webinars

  • Facebook Fan Page updates

  • A "lunch and learn" series

  • LinkedIn Group (participating or moderating)

  • Radio show (Internet or traditional)

  • A book club focused on your area of expertise

  • A smart phone app

  • Direct mail series (3-D or flat pieces)

  • Whitepapers or free reports

  • A how-to video series

That’s just scratching the surface. Remember: A little goes a long way. Don’t bite off more than you can consistently deliver at a quality level you’ll be proud to produce. Do a few of the above activities well---and the results will quickly make the time and discipline to do it right worth the effort.

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Drew McLellan's a 25+ year marketing agency veteran who lives for creating "a ha" moments for his clients, clients' customers, peers and audiences across the land. Sadly, for his daughter, he attempts to do the same thing at home.

Drew’s favorite tools for creating these moments are vivid story telling, Italian heritage inspired hand gestures and the occasional tipping of a sacred cow.

Over the years, Drew has lent his expertise to clients like Nabisco, IAMS pet foods, Kraft Foods, Meredith Publishing, John Deere, Iowa Health System, Make-A-Wish, and a wide array of others.

Drew writes at his own blog, Drew’s Marketing Minute and several other hot spots.

He’s written the book 99.3 Random Acts of Marketing, co-editing the Age of Conversation series of books with Gavin Heaton and he launched his own firm McLellan Marketing Group in 1995.

Recently he has appeared in the New York Times, Entrepreneur Magazine, Business Week and Fortune’s Small Business. The Wall Street Journal calls him one of 10 bloggers that every entrepreneur should read.

Shoot Drew an e-mail.

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  • by Cathy Burrell Wed Jul 18, 2012 via blog

    I LOVED this article. Such practicality, such common sense. When times are tough businesses want instant results. They want their sales increased NOW...and the reality is, the 'lack of customer relationship' problem didn't happen overnight, so the solution might take a little time. It's never too late for a business to start building relationships with their customers. Thanks for the reminder.

  • by Drew McLellan Wed Jul 18, 2012 via blog


    Thanks -- it's funny isn't it -- it seems so simple and logical when we look at it from a distance and yet there are very few companies who are disciplined enough to actually develop a marketing habit that allows them to do this.

    You don't walk up to a stranger and ask them to marry you, so I'm not sure why we think we can do the equivalent with our prospects?


  • by Lorelei Gibb Thu Jul 19, 2012 via blog

    Really enjoyed this article as it speaks volumes about how to (correctly) build relationships: only yesterday at a business meeting I was discussing the same point. However, I was suprised that you missed off face-to-face networking in your good marketing drip tactics - this post is a template for how to network successfully at any business event.

  • by trixie brown Fri Jul 20, 2012 via blog

    I like this article it’s true before starting a business you and I as a reader or soon as a business person needs to build a good relationship to others and give them our trust and make them to trust us.

  • by Jennifer Kelly Fri Jul 20, 2012 via blog

    In praise of slow, steady and consistent! Thank you for the reality check.

  • by Drew McLellan Sat Jul 21, 2012 via blog


    No doubt about it, it's tough to beat face-to-face. I was focusing more on tactics that would touch many people at once. But I concur with you completely.


  • by Drew McLellan Sat Jul 21, 2012 via blog


    Trust is the cornerstone of any good customer relationship. And trust doesn't form overnight. It needs to be nurtured. Which is why drip marketing is so effective.


  • by Drew McLellan Sat Jul 21, 2012 via blog

    Thanks Jennifer!

    Like most things in business -- super fast is superficial and rarely long lasting. Whether we're talking growth, sales, expansion, etc -- slow and steady really does win the day.


  • by Vani Thilagar Mon Jul 23, 2012 via blog

    This is so very true - it is exactly how most Mom & Pop stores have started and thrived. What better way to shop than from a neighbor who has been around a long, long time and knows exactly what your family needs? So sad that many of these businesses have been swallowed by franchises, where no one knows your name.

  • by Ethan Beute Wed Sep 5, 2012 via blog

    I won't restate others comments, except to say - very nice, level-headed argument for an extremely useful tactic.

    We've seen many of our customers improve their drip email campaigns by adding video.

    As you open, "Before consumers buy from you, they must know, like, and trust you." A nurturing and education campaign featuring you - your face, your voice, your personality, your expertise, etc. - builds rapport in a way text and images alone just can't do.

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