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referral marketing email drip campaigns

How email drip campaigns can enhance your referral marketing strategy

Rhys Williams
By Rhys Williams — November 21, 2023 -

Read time:  6 mins

Email drip campaigns are one of the most effective ways to talk to your customers. Compared to a single email, they have an 80% higher open rate. Overall, email marketing revenue stands at approximately $11 billion.  

A direct route into your customer’s inbox is an attractive option for marketers. But get it wrong and you’ll lose trust, respect and, ultimately, revenue.

So how do you make an impact without being obtrusive?


Defining your referral marketing objectives

Having a clear set of objectives is crucial to the success of your email drip campaign. Before you start, look at your customer journey and decide where you want to place referral requests. 

Do you want to run a campaign dedicated solely to asking customers to refer? Or do you want to use referral marketing to strengthen other areas like your welcome campaign?

Are your customers ready to refer? Or is another action more suited to where they are in the referral journey? 

There are lots of other actions that drive value in your business:

  • Sharing your brand on social media
  • Visiting your community or posting in a forum
  • Leaving a positive review

When customers do any of these things it’s fantastic news for your business: If your customers are going out and advocating on behalf of your brand, you don’t have to devote as much budget to paid ads, marketing and customer acquisition. 

A good referral marketing strategy rests on being able to identify which, if any, of these advocacy actions your customers are ready to take. Advanced referral marketing tools help you identify those customers who are likeliest to refer and create more tightly targeted messaging in your email campaigns. 


Segmentation strategies

Referral campaigns are only successful if they chime with the customer who receives them: You don’t want to be cluttering up someone’s inbox with irrelevant messages. At best they’ll ignore or unsubscribe, at worst, it will create such an unfavourable impression that they’ll churn.

To produce relevant and engaging emails, you need good data and good analysis. With enough high-quality customer data, you can create meaningful segments and deliver different messaging to different groups of customers. 

It’s often difficult to tell which of your customers you should be focusing on to make referrals. There’s no correlation between high spenders and likelihood to refer, for example. Conversely, a customer who has a relatively low lifetime value could generate several times their own revenue in referrals. How do you know what email campaigns to send to which groups of people? 

Mention Me’s customer advocacy intelligence platform allows you to segment your customers based on referral activity, creating segments based on high, middle and low referring customers. This makes your emails more targeted and relevant.


Decide on triggers

As well as creating email campaigns based on customer segments, you can trigger campaigns after a customer takes a certain action, such as:

  • Hitting a spending threshold
  • Writing a 5-star review
  • Signing up for a newsletter
  • Referring a certain number of times

If you have a referral platform that integrates with your CRM, referral data can inform smarter email campaigns, making automated decisions about what the next best action to take with a customer is. Mention Me integrates with Klaviyo and Emarsys to power smarter, more personalised marketing decisions and drive more revenue from referrals. 


Creating a compelling email drip campaign

Your emails need to be snappy, easy to read and skimmable:

  • Short copy: Longer-form copy is unlikely to convert well. 
  • Use images to break up the text. 
  • Have a clear CTA in a prominent place. 
  • Subject lines need to be short too. Longer subject lines are more likely to be cut off by the browser and binned by the recipient. 

Next, you need to structure your campaign. First of all, decide how many emails you’re going to send in total. Then you can start to map out your content: Where does each piece of information or CTA best fit in the campaign? 

There are no hard and fast rules for how long a campaign should be (or how you should structure it). Mailchimp recommends a range of 4-10 emails but emphasises it depends on the nature of your campaign, type of customers and what industry you’re in. 

For general guidelines on how to drip your messaging in over the course of your campaign, we recommend the advice (complete with templates and samples) from Hubspot: Your later emails should progressively refine your messaging and include bolder CTAs.


Personalise your drip campaigns

But rules are meant to be broken. You should play around with text length, layout, colour schemes, etc. Try to get a feel for how your email sits with your customers when they read it 

If you’ve done the preceding steps properly, the personalisation should take care of itself. If you have well-segmented groups with clearly defined objectives that relate to points in the referral journey, your emails will be relevant, delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.  

The last personalisation building block you need in place is data. Make sure you have your customer’s first name and any other first-party data you want to reference on the email list you’re pulling from. Be absolutely sure they’ve given permission for you to use this data as part of the campaign.


A/B testing and continuous improvement

To get a sense of what has the most impact on referrals, test out different versions of your drip campaign. This applies to both the order you send out emails and the layout of the email itself. 

Some elements to experiment with are:

  • Messaging — For example, suggesting someone give a discount to a friend vs saying they get money off themselves can elicit different responses. What works best for your audience? 
  • CTAs — Does short or long copy work best in the CTA? 
  • Images — What type of images are most engaging? How many should you include in your emails? 


How frequent should your emails be?

Your customers get a lot of emails, so focus on sending fewer, high-quality emails rather than frequent, low-value messages. Another good way to check that you’re sending the right amount is monitoring for burnout. Keep an eye on unsubscribe rates and engagement levels to avoid subscriber fatigue. Anywhere between bi-weekly and once every 2 weeks is a good frequency. 

But again, there are no set rules for frequency, and the timing of your emails depends on the nature of your campaign and customer base. 

If you’re asking customers to refer their friends, how long do they usually take to refer? Does this change with different groups of customers at different stages in the referral journey? Use behavioural data to determine frequency.


The Call-to-Action (CTA)

What’s the main action you want your customers to take after receiving the email? Getting clarity on this will boost your conversion rate.

  • Have only one main CTA in your email
  • Make it related to what triggered the email in the first place
  • Put it in a prominent place, with images and concise copy around it

Test out different things in the CTA. While you should only have one main CTA, try experimenting with subsidiary CTAs around it. For referral marketing campaigns, these might be prompting your customers to leave a review or asking them to share your brand experience on social media.  


Leveraging Social Proof and Testimonials

The social proof you use should be authentic, relevant, and specific to the email subject and to the needs of the customer.

If you’ve encouraged customer reviews and social media engagement elsewhere in your referral marketing, build a social proof collection and incorporate it into your email drip campaign.

An engaged customer base who loves your brand can have even more impact if you include their reviews and testimonials in your drip campaign. It lets your customers know they are amongst friends and can be an inflexion point to start building a community of advocates around your brand. 


Monitoring and Analysing Drip Campaign Performance

Once you’ve built a drip campaign that’s targeted and relevant to your audience, you're in a good place to measure your success. What that looks like depends very much on what industry you’re in. 

The KPIs you should be monitoring are:

  • Open Rate — Gauges the appeal of subject lines and sender reputation.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR) — Measures recipient engagement with email content.
  • Conversion Rate — Indicates the success of emails in prompting desired actions.
  • Bounce Rate — Highlights email deliverability issues and list quality.
  • Unsubscribe Rate — Reveals audience perceptions of content relevance and value.

Hubspot and Campaign Monitor both produce annual benchmarking by industry, so you can see where you should be aiming for. 


Compliance and best practices

You need to be aware of privacy and security regulations when sending emails to large groups of people. Getting this wrong can cause serious financial and reputational damage to your brand. 

  • Your emails need to be compliant with security protocols like DMARC, DKIM, and SPF so as not to be marked as spam or phishing emails.
  •  You need to abide by GDPR and other similar data protection regulations. This means asking permission to send people emails and removing them from your lists if they withdraw permission. 

Beyond the legal minimums, there are best practices you should follow so you don’t run the risk of creating a bad impression with your customers. Make sure your opt-outs are clear and easy to follow, don’t send too many emails and don’t use personal information that makes you look creepy. 

See your email campaign as a place to build trust. If you abide by best practices and are respectful of customers’ privacy, time and space, they’ll respect and trust you back. If you’re aiming to get your customers to share your brand with friends and family, you need to build a relationship of trust with them first. 


Maximising Referral Conversions through Drip Campaigns

Whatever form your drip campaign takes, your chances of success are improved massively if you understand where your customers are in the referral journey and how likely they are to make referrals. 

Email drip campaigns can be highly effective, but only if you craft your message sensitively and make the right ask at the right time. Mention Me’s customer advocacy intelligence platform helps you identify and nurture your biggest referrers, amplifying the love they have for your brand and increasing the opportunities they have to become customer advocates.

Harness the power of your customers today:  Request a demo

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