Email Drip Campaigns are NOT Marketing Automation

I love that the email campaign systems have adopted the phrase ‘marketing automation’ for their systems. I know automation, I have created automation with my own bare hands, and you, sir, are not marketing automation.


The email companies like to say that they have the lowest cost per conversion ratios and that email marketing is not dead. It “outperforms” every other form of online marketing. The thing that the email marketing firms conveniently forget was how much it cost to get that lead into your email system. It wasn’t free and there was a varying cost for every single lead in your system. (Not to mention the fact that every lead has a different potential ROI based on a lot of different factors.)


There’s nothing more frustrating to me to ‘download a whitepaper’ then automatically be added to someone’s spam cannon and drip campaign that then turns around and sends me something every week that I’m not going to look at (or even *GASP* daily!) So you give me some information and you deserve my email. Fine – I’m ok with that. But do you know me, do you know my company, do you know what I’m looking for, have you done any intel on your customer segments to determine which group I fall into and what content is most useful. NO.


I personally created a special email address alias so that whenever I needed to sign up for something to determine if it’s actually a solution that I need it drops it straight to the trash. Nothing upsets me more than unsolicited, untargeted content that doesn’t help me. My unsubscribing skills have never been so high.


The best example I had was a conference that I went to for Big Data. Most of the companies that presented were enterprise companies. In exchange for my free ticket, these companies got my email address to add to their spam cannon.


I got multiple emails from multiple companies there ‘pretending’ to ask for feedback on the conference but really just wanted to shill their solutions. Had they done 15 seconds of research on my company that was two LinkedIN clicks away, they would have known I wasn’t a target for their solution. Had they done another 2 clicks in LinkedIN, they would have seen that I WAS connected to at least 20 people in my network that WERE in companies in their demographic. 


Here was their message: 

Hi Crystal,

I hope you enjoyed the Phoenix Big Data Conference this year. It was our pleasure to sponsor this event and have [Presenter Name] present on [Some topic.] With the large attendance, many of our handout materials ran out, so I thought you might be interested in the following information on why [Company Name]’s solutions are the modern choice for data integration and data management. 


[…Blah blah blah, more junk I don’t need….more junk…. More junk]


Let’s pretend 2 things: 

  1. That I WAS actually in their target market, and 

  2. That I actually attended their session. 


“Hi Crystal – 

We notice that you work for [insert big company here.] We’d love to get your take on if you think our solution is a good fit for [big company] and if not, we’d love to get your thoughts and feedback on our product. 


We’ll buy you a coffee for a few minutes to learn more about your thoughts on our product from our session.”


Do you think that with a targeted ask appealing to my expertise and domain experience might get a better response than some generic fake ‘here’s more info from a session we hosted’ email? 


So that’s just part 1 of the ‘marketing automation journey’ – sending an email automatically – that amazing technology revolution from 2006 that is the bane of existence for many today. Many marketers believe that a lead form filled out on the website that puts the data in their CRM and sends an email is marketing automation. It’s absolutely not.


So, then the ‘smart marketers’ add you to the drip email system, mostly for evil purposes to get more eyeballs, regardless of whether or not the customer is a good fit.


To me, the right way to do drip email marketing is when onboarding a new client. ‘Here’s the quickstart guide to get started’, ‘Hey did you know about this feature’ sent a few days later, ‘Hey, here’s another cool thing you should know about’, etc. That’s useful, timely, and keeps your company top of mind. It should also actually represent usage – things they clicked, things they didn’t, actions they took etc. It should be a conversation without needing the conversation and this can all be automated.


Today’s version of the ‘three-days-later’ email that says ‘hey did you read our whitepaper’ and ‘here’s some other content that you didn’t ask for but I’m sending it anyways’ is a terrible way to build a relationship with customers.


Drip emails and logic-based drip campaigns (i.e. send a different email if they clicked a specific call to action) are not marketing automation.


I’m a technologist and a purist so marketing automation to me is entirely different. Marketing automation the system-to-system integration, processes, and automations that make your marketing smarter and more efficient.


Here’s our marketing automation process:

  1. Someone fills out our ‘schedule a demo’ form

  2. The data is added to our open source CRM database

  3. A job kicks off that researches the company and contact looking for:

    1. Industry info: what industry are they in and how does that compare with our current customers

    2. Competitive Analysis: How does this company compared to their peers in a number of categories

    3. Decision Maker Information: What can we learn about the contact

    4. Public Intel: Public information from their website and social channels

    5. Data Enrichment: Private information gathered from third-party APIs.

  4. We run AI algorithms that segment the lead and calculate their lead score from these 5 categories and sets of information.

  5. If their lead score is low, we send them a link to a webinar on how our software works (and track if they opened it) and also send their competitive analysis intel.

  6. If their lead score is high, an email is sent to Andrew (our virtual assistant) to schedule the meeting.

  7. Once the meeting is scheduled, then a personalized survey is sent out prior to the meeting to the contact to learn more about what their needs along with their competitive analysis.

  8. At the same time, a meeting is booked with the engineer blocking time to review the intel with the links at least 3 hours before the meeting (and track if they opened it.)


The right marketing automation process is: collect the lead, gather intel, and create targeted responses, interactions, and calls to action based on data. The wrong marketing automation is collect the lead, spam, spam, spam.


The goal of marketing automation is to reach the right potential customers with the right process that helps them move efficiently through the sales process. Information needs to be automated and sent to you when you need it, not a manual process that most people don’t follow nor have time for in their busy day. 

More to explorer


How to Predict Customer Behavior using AI

Predicting customer behavior can be easy if you are analyzing your customers and leads. Using advanced segmentation, you can predict how your customer will respond in a number of scenarios including churn, offers, upsells and more.

Read More »

Becoming AI-Driven in 2020

AI is still in the very early stages of adoption at most companies or a ‘wish list’ item for others.

For even more companies it’s a source of confusion – what is AI, what does it do, how can I leverage it for my business, and how can I prepare?

Read More »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This website uses cookies to monitor and measure traffic and optimize our site.

Free Book

The AI Revolution
The Future of Profit

Enter your email to receive the link instantly.

You'll also get a free copy of our book Marketing AI: 90 Days to AI-Driven once it's released.

We might send you a product update every once in a while, but we promise not to spam you.