How to Refine Your Email Drip Strategy with a Data-Driven Approach

Email might just be the single most effective marketing tactic available. So why aren't yours working? How can you ensure that your messages are not simply lost among 200 emails your audience receives in their inbox every single day?

We regularly receive questions like the above. Given the variety of tools that can help even small business owners on a tight budget create beautiful emails, this tactic should be a go-to. At the same time, it cannot reliably succeed if you don't set it up strategically.

In an ideal world, an email drip strategy engages your leads and slowly nurtures them toward becoming customers. To get even close to that point, you need a data-driven approach from the planning all the way to to the evaluation stage.

How a Data-Driven Approach Translates to Better Email Marketing

Anytime you spend significant resources on a marketing initiative, you need to know that it's working. ROI matters not just for the current project, but to evaluate whether spending the same (or more) on a similar effort in the future will make sense for your business.

With a data-driven approach, you can accomplish just that. Because you know exactly how to evaluate both individual messages and your larger strategy, you can both measure and increase the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts.

The result is more reliable, and ultimately better, email marketing.

Is my email working? will no longer be a frequent or even valid question. Instead, the focus shifts to How can I use this data to make my email work better?

Don't underestimate the amount of time you can save with a data-driven email marketing approach. You no longer have to rely on expensive and and time-intensive market research to determine audience preferences and best practices. Instead, you can deduct these audience preferences based on your own data points. 

Finally, a data-driven approach allows you to set up better marketing automation for your drip campaign, a process which 74 percent of marketers consider especially beneficial for its time savings. Messages that are proven successful by your data can be automated to benefit other segments of your audience and future leads, as well.

Understanding the Data Points that Drive Successful Email Evaluation

Of course, any approach based on data-driven decision making can only succeed if you know what to look for. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be a core part of your email evaluation and implementation. Here are the most important KPIs for your consideration: 

  1. Open Rate: Naturally, the percentage of recipients who open your emails matters. But it matters less than you might think: open rates allow you to judge the quality of your subject lines and sender credibility, but little beyond that.
  2. Click-Through Rate: Unlike the previous KPI, click-through rates allow you better judge the content of your actual email. If they are streamlined toward a convincing call to action, and follow up on the promise you made in your subject line, your CTR should be above industry averages in email marketing
  3. Conversion Rate: Conversion rates take the process home, but might take more than just your email software to track. Through Google Analytics UTM Parameters and conversion goals, for example, you can track exactly how many of your recipients went beyond clicking on a unique link and also converted to the next step in their buyer's journey on your website. 
  4. Spam Rate: Don't lose sight of your negative metrics, either. You spam rate, for example, gives you a vital idea about message relevance. The higher the rate, the more clear the indication that your messages should relate more closely to audience needs and pain points.
  5. Unsubscribe Rate: This metric might be similar to spam rate, but don't confuse it as identical. Recipients who unsubscribe don't just consider your message irrelevant, but don't believe they will get value from your brand in the future, either. Unless your rate grows significantly beyond  industry averages (which tend to be below 0.4%), think of this metric as a natural list cleaner to keep your audience relevant.

Focusing on these 5 KPIs allows you to better understand the true success of each email you send. Now, you can engage in a number of tests and experiments to arrive at the perfect marketing email for your business and audience.

The Virtues of A/B Testing to Find Your Best Possible Message

Once you know the right KPIs, it's time to put them to good use. And perhaps the single best way to accomplish that goal is through A/B testing.

You might be familiar with the concept, which pits two slightly different versions of the same message against each other for demographically identical segments of the same audience. The goal is to determine which performs better, and move ahead with that variety for future efforts.

The elements you can test in your email can range widely. Consider testing:

  • Your subject line
  • Your sender name
  • The layout of your email
  • Visual content vs. text
  • The color of your call to action button
  • And more.

In essence, every bit of content and thought you put into an email can be tested. The goal is to determine what your audience likes better, and improve your email marketing over time as a result.

The key to success in email testing is singularity. It can be tempting to get ahead of yourself, pitting completely different emails against each other. Instead, focus on one element at a time (such as slightly changing the subject line), and conduct multiple tests for more wholesome changes.

Once you incorporate A/B testing into your email marketing, the benefits will become immense. You now have a built-in tool to measure exactly what your audience wants to see, and what gets them to act.

Even better, you can apply and automate your findings for future emails, saving significant time while simultaneously improving your email marketing results.

How Data Can Affect Your Small Business Email Drip Strategy

Of course, data can have a more strategic impact on your email marketing, as well. While A/B testing can play a significant part in improving individual messages over time, the same approach matters just as much when setting up your drip campaigns, as well.

For instance, the time and date at which you send your emails can be the difference maker in whether your audience pays attention to your message. Market research, combined with your own tests, give you a better idea of when, and how often, you should send emails to your audience.

Through data, you can also improve the relevance of your messaging. Ultimately, the only emails that break through today's crowded inboxes are the ones your audience immediately wants to read. The right data can help you hone and improve that relevance over time.

Spam and unsubscribe rates, for example, can give you a first idea of whether your audience actually wants to read your content. More comprehensive audience research, such as persona development and story mapping, can give you a better view of what type of content your audience might consider relevant and valuable. 

Based on this data, you can build a drip campaign poised to succeed. Your email marketing will improve, and continue to get better, thanks on a data-centric approach that relates audience preferences directly to your own efforts. 

What Will My Audience Get Out of This Approach?

That last paragraph leads us to the final reason a data-driven approach will help your email marketing succeed: your audience will benefit from it. Because your research allows you to make planning and evaluation decisions directly related to their needs, the messages they receive will become more valuable.

The results can be as simple as a more relevant email about your law firm's services just when they needed it. But they can also become more complex, such as a campaign from a real estate company designed specifically to appeal to past homeowners who might be in the market to sell now.

Once you open up the Pandora's box of data, the possibilities for improving your email marketing are almost endless. From improving individual messages to better segmenting your audience and adjusting your strategy, data (and a focus on the right KPIs) can help you inform every aspect of your efforts.

Are you ready to hit the gas pedal on your email marketing? Considering that the amount of messages your audience receives on a daily basis will only increase, you better be. With a data-driven approach, you can move and stay ahead of your competition to deliver better, more relevant, and more timely emails that drive your audience to become customers.

Let's Chat About Your Email Strategy and Wasting Less Time