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Email drip campaigns: How to use and create one, with seven examples

Email Drip Campaign Examples
What is an email drip campaign?
How to create an email drip campaign in 5 steps
7 email drip campaign examples and why they work
Final thoughts

Email marketing is a smart way for businesses to nurture leads through the buyer journey, build brand awareness and increase customer retention. You can also automate campaigns through drip sequences to save time, money and resources

In this article, we explain what a drip sequence is, provide a step-by-step guide to creating one and break down seven examples of effective drip campaigns (and why they work).

What is an email drip campaign?

Email drip campaigns are sequences of automated emails your provider sends to subscribers at specific times, usually after a certain pre-set trigger has been activated.

In most instances, the intention is to move the subscriber to the next phase of the marketing or lead funnel (e.g., sending informational content so they can learn more before buying).

If the subscriber is an existing customer, email drip sequences can help move them through the sales funnel via upselling and cross-selling.

For example, one of the most popular email sequences is the welcome email drip campaign, which is automatically sent to readers that:

  • Subscribe to your newsletter

  • Register as a user

  • Purchase a product or service

After doing one of the above, a new subscriber receives a series of emails in a varied cadence, usually to nurture them towards action (e.g., making a purchase, signing up for a free sales demo or joining a webinar).

An email drip campaign can range in complexity depending on a few factors:

  • The type of product(s) or service(s) you offer

  • Your target audience and the problems they’re trying to solve

  • Your audience’s position in the marketing funnel (i.e., how close they are to buying)

  • Purchasing behavior (e.g., are subscribers likely buying something out of habit or curiosity)

  • User behavior (i.e., how do subscribers act on your website)

For example, if you sell a commodity product that most people want (like phone cases), your welcome email series may be shorter – perhaps two or three emails.

Your customers already know they need to protect their device and a case will help them do this. In other words, you don’t need to persuade them why they need to protect their phone and teach them what a case is, simplifying the buyer journey.

Their first encounter with your product might also be after they make their first purchase, in which case the welcome emails point to cross-selling or upselling opportunities.

Suppose you sell a more complex or higher-priced item, such as premium medical supplements. In that case, you might need a slower, more educational approach to cater to a longer buying cycle.

When your customers are both problem- and solution-aware, drip campaigns are more about staying top of mind than encouraging people to buy.

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How to create an email drip campaign in 5 steps

Creating effective email drip campaigns often takes some trial and error.

It may feel a bit disjointed at first, but building drip sequences becomes a repeatable and scalable process as you find out what resonates with your target audience and refine your workflow.

Follow the steps below to set up your first or next campaign.

Note: Take your time with the first three steps, as it’s key to understand your audience, customers and specific campaign goals to maximize success.

Step 1: Select your audience

Except for certain triggered automations, such as welcome sequences or abandoned shopping cart emails, you should tailor your drip sequences to a specific audience.

Doing so takes time and effort, but getting to know your audience’s pain points on a deeper level will make the rest of your creation process much smoother as you’ll understand what motivates them.

The more personal and relevant you can make your drip sequences, the more likely people are to take action after reading them.

Remembering the channel where your subscribers entered your marketing or sales cycle is also good practice.

For example, someone who signed up to your email list via a lead generation social media ad to download a white paper is probably earlier in their buying journey.

On the other hand, someone who filled in a pop-up form to learn more about a specific product case study is likely further along.

It’s important to distinguish these groups because each subscriber type should be part of a different drip sequence.

Step 2: Choose your drip marketing campaign objectives

Start by asking yourself, “What result am I trying to achieve with this email drip sequence?”

To get the highest return on investment (ROI), it can help to choose a specific action as a goal before building your sequence and map out where it fits into the customer journey.

For example, you may be looking to increase sign-ups for your Premium plan or re-engage with inactive subscribers.

Your goal won’t always be transactional or a true “conversion”, especially if you sell higher-priced items that require more deliberation and multiple decision-makers (e.g., enterprise software sales or real estate).

Here are some examples of non-transactional objectives for drip campaign emails:

  • Teach loyal clients how to make the most of a new feature

  • Help potential customers understand the complexities of a certain issue

  • Qualify (or disqualify) new leads and help them see why your product or service is a fit for them

Whichever you choose, the overall objective of each drip email campaign is to maximize click-through rates.

Step 3: Set up your marketing automation triggers

While each of the automation tools available have different processes for setting up automation triggers, there are some elements most share.

First, the trigger starts with the email marketing landing page or opt-in form. It can help to think of these pages and text boxes as transactions.

You are using your copy to set expectations and accurately describe what users will receive in exchange for sharing their email addresses and signing up for your list.

Getting this right can help boost subscriber engagement, as people feel satisfied they’re getting the value you promised them on the initial sign-up page.

After building your trigger emails, it’s good practice to test them internally to make sure everything is working and catch any typos or grammatical errors.

Once you’re happy and your drip campaigns are up and running, your email marketing metrics (which we’ll cover briefly below) can help you optimize further.

Step 4: Craft your email content

You can decide on your drip email campaign content based on your objectives and customers’ problems.

Subject lines are the first thing people see and using compelling copy in yours can boost open rates. They should be short so they don’t get cut off, relevant, personalized and clearly state what’s inside the email.

According to email marketing platform Litmus, most subscribers only spend two to eight seconds skimming emails, so the main body of your content should continue these characteristics.

Most email automation software comes with pre-made drip campaign templates, which can be a great starting point when designing your emails.

However, your drip sequences may be more recognizable and memorable with your business’s own branding design and voice.

Below are some more best practices when creating content for your drip sequences:

  • Make it skimmable. Shorter emails can be easier to read but don’t shy away from longer content if it’s helpful or necessary. Try to format it in a way that keeps people scrolling (e.g., breaking up big blocks of text into smaller chunks).

  • Use a clear call to action. A clear but non-intrusive CTA can lead subscribers to the next step of their customer journey and help boost email marketing conversion rates.

  • Conduct A/B testing. Comparing the success of your subject lines and CTA button copy can provide helpful data on what resonates with subscribers and how to optimize future email marketing campaigns.

  • Include an unsubscribe link. Unsubscribe links are required by law for businesses (according to the CAN-SPAM Act and General Data Protection Regulation) and decrease the chance of subscribers reporting your emails as spam.

Here’s how these best practices could translate to a drip campaign.

Subject: Welcome to [brand name], [name]



Thank you for starting your 7-day free trial!

Here are some links to help you get started:

[Link 1]

[Link 2]

[Link 3]

Reach out to customer support at any time if you have questions, or just respond to this email.



Email 2

If you didn’t get the response you wanted, your second drip email can act like a friendly nudge.

You may want to let the subscriber know there’s a time limit at this stage to inspire action.

Subject: [Name], you have [days] left on your trial



Your trial ends in [days].

Thanks for trying [product]! To make the most out of your time left:

[Tip 1]

[Tip 2]

[Tip 3]

Get [a % discount] if you subscribe before your trial ends.

[Button CTA]



Email 3

Your final drip email in the sequence is your last chance to engage subscribers and get them to take the action you want.

Here, you may want to create a sense of urgency and confirm why your offer is so valuable.

[Name], last day before [%] discount expires!



You only have today until your trial ends!

Sign up today and keep using Premium features like:

[Feature 1]

[Feature 2]

[Feature 3]

As an extra incentive, choose to pay annually and get an additional [%] off!

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions,


Step 5: Monitor your email drip campaign

There are a variety of metrics to keep an eye on when it comes to email marketing.

Each tells a different piece of the story and is impacted by different variables, so keep context in mind when reviewing your drip sequence performance.

Your marketing team will most likely be responsible for your email marketing strategy, but getting feedback from other parts of your organization is important.

For example, your emails may convert well and drive a high volume of leads for your sales team.

You could check in with reps to ensure the leads fit the company well. After that, leverage the team’s insights to optimize campaigns further as you collectively learn more about your audience’s preferences.

You can use email marketing software like Pipedrive’s Campaigns to combine your customer relationship management (CRM) and inbox activities.

Use it to segment your recipients, automate repetitive admin and track delivery and open rates from one place.

Campaign Automation

Build your own drag-and-drop layouts or choose from ready-made templates to keep your campaigns looking and sounding consistent.

7 email drip campaign examples and why they work

Guides can be helpful, but an effective way to learn is often by example. Below are six effective drip campaigns that address different stages of the customer journey.

1. Welcome drip sequence

The welcome email is the first a new subscriber or lead receives when they sign up for your list. It can also be the first email a new customer receives after purchasing.

Welcome emails play an important role for two reasons:

  • They set the tone for future interactions with your brand

  • Based on the content, subscribers usually decide whether or not they’ll continue engaging with your emails or company

The welcome drip sequence can be even more crucial for businesses that offer a free trial or freemium model (where the end goal is to turn new users into customers).

In these cases, getting people to sign up is sometimes only half the battle. After that, subsequent onboarding emails can focus on conveying the value of your product so subscribers turn into paying customers.

Collaborative and work management tool Smartsheet uses drip campaigns to educate its users on how to use the product.

Smartsheet Welcome Email

The initial email offers educational material, useful resources and the opportunity to contact the team directly. These three elements help eliminate any doubt about how valuable the tool is and instill confidence in the support team.

The language is informal but not too relaxed, signifying a professional yet friendly attitude.

You could follow this type of email with a drip sequence that includes:

  • Case studies highlighting results Smartsheets has gotten for similar businesses to the subscriber’s

  • How-to guides and tutorials for features they may be interested in

  • A Q&A of existing customers’ problems the subscriber may relate to

  • A discount or coupon for a complementary product to entice them

The content that different demographics find valuable will depend on their wants, pain points and preferences, so try to keep those in mind if you want results.

2. Lead nurturing campaigns

To effectively build customer relationships or move subscribers toward a sale, engagement should be your number one goal.

The selling will come once your subscribers feel seen, heard and understood.

Here’s an example of a lead nurturing email drip campaign that aims to encourage potential customer engagement.

Nurturing Email Drip Campaign

In just a few lines, the first email establishes authority (“hundreds of thousands in revenue”) and involves readers in the learning process with a question before the three examples.

The following day, the second email goes out. The author adds educational value by explaining their workflow and includes a subtle CTA with a link to learn more.

Nurturing Email drip campaign

The following day, the second email goes out. The writer wants to show readers that they care about their opinion, which makes them feel seen and heard.

Nurturing Email drip campaign

In the third email, the author lists students’ names and photos, with a problem next to each.

Acknowledging multiple struggles that relate to one overarching problem shows empathy, which helps build a connection.

Nurturing Email drip campaign

The last email ends with a brief product introduction that promises to solve the problem.

Notably, the writer saves the promotional aspect for the final email in the sequence when they’ve (hopefully) engaged the reader enough to act.

3. Promotional sequence

Promotional email sequences are the type of drip campaign you may want to send when launching a new product, introducing a new feature or running a limited-time offer.

With these types of email, your choice of format comes down to your audience and what resonates best.

Some businesses will tap into readers’ emotions through scarcity, using time-sensitive copy like “While supplies last”. Others will simply inform you about the sale in a matter-of-fact way.

The most effective promotional sequences remind subscribers of their problem and how your product or service solves it.

Coffee roastery Detour combines this method with a discount to make engaging with their email an easier decision.

Detour Promotional email drip campaign

The example above is effective because people may not have considered the quality of their coffee before reading the email.

Drinking coffee made from “the world’s highest quality green coffees” roasted to order is most likely a better option than what they’re currently consuming.

While this example tries to entice customers to make their first order, you could send something similar to encourage repeat orders after separate confirmation and “thank you” emails.

4. Upsell or cross-sell drip sequences

Asking customers to make another purchase may seem difficult, but this is where upselling and cross-selling come in.

Doing so tactfully can increase customer retention, offset acquisition costs and create loyal customers (assuming your products solve a genuine pain point).

Instead of mentioning additional products in “thank you” or purchase confirmation emails, you can prompt upsells on separate occasions.

Personal care company Harry’s does this well in the example below:

Harry's upsell email drip campaign

In this case, the new subscriber has purchased new shaving razors.

After a previous “Thank you for your order” email, the company cross-sells relevant products that could enhance the shaving experience.

The third email in this sequence may be a follow-up email where Harry’s offers a small discount to further lead the reader towards making another purchase.

5. Cart abandonment sequences

For e-commerce businesses, setting up an abandoned cart email campaign can help you recover otherwise lost revenue from interested shoppers.

In this example from luxury bean bag brand Moon Pod, the shopper has left two items in their cart.

The company reminds the potential customer to return while also offering 10% off as an incentive.

Moonpod abandoned cart email drip campaign

If the shopper doesn’t engage here, the next email in the drip campaign could up the ante and increase urgency.

For example, Moon Pod may choose to increase the discount from 10% to 15% or put a time limit on how long the offer lasts to incite action.

To establish a connection and increase open rates, it’s good practice to personalize your abandoned cart emails with the customer’s first name.

To instill further confidence, encourage customers to reach out by replying to the email.

6. Re-engagement emails

For e-commerce and brick-and-mortar businesses alike, you can use re-engagement emails to try to win back inactive subscribers.

In this example, virtual private network service NordVPN is trying to re-engage a user after their subscription has expired.

Nord VPN re-engagement email drip campaign

If the reader doesn’t click through, NordVPN may follow up with an email a few days later noting that the deal expires soon (i.e., the five-day countdown is almost over).

Re-engagement emails can also help you separate truly inactive subscribers from those that may engage again, a process that’s part of good email list hygiene.

The fewer inactive subscribers you have, the better your inbox health and email deliverability will be.

7. Renewal sequence

Renewal reminders can be helpful for upselling customers from a free trial to a paid plan.

These email drip campaigns are also effective for establishing trust by reminding paying customers they can expect an upcoming charge.

You can keep your renewal drip emails brief and straightforward or go into a little more detail to remind customers why they should stay with you.

For example, the proofreading platform Grammarly uses its first email to share important dates and pricing.

However, it offsets any potential dryness with a cartoon cat, a rainbow and the opener, “Dear Wonderful You.”

Grammarly email drip campaign

Grammarly then outlines the product’s Premium plan features (which help tap into the pain points and problems it originally solved for the user) and conveys its value compared to the free plan with simple tick icons.

You could use each section of this example for three separate drip emails, depending on the time left before renewal.

It’s also good practice to include contact details for your support team or information on lesser-known features for the customer based on past behavior and user actions.

Final thoughts

Email drip sequences can effectively build brand awareness, improve the customer experience and drive sales based on past campaign performance.

By analyzing your unique customer journey, you can design different types of drip campaigns that offer relevant content to move particular groups of subscribers more smoothly through the buying journey.

The best email drip sequences are refined based on performance and behavioral segmentation, so try to consistently optimize your emails as your business and audience evolve.

Driving business growth