"Marketing Automation That Doesn't Suck"
Drip puts the power of lifecycle emails into the hands of everyday marketers like you and me.
It lets you setup lifecycle, or as they call it marketing automation, emails triggered by any action a user takes, “be it expressing interest in particular topic, downloading a sample chapter of your book, starting a trial of your software, or viewing your upgrade page but not upgrading.” They aim to give you 90% of the features of enterprise-level marketing automation software, like Infusionsoft, at 10% of the cost.
Drip was created by serial entrepreneur Rob Walling, who saw marketing automation gaining more attention, and wanted to create a tool to help people get started. Originally, he just wanted to create a simple solution to setup auto-responders, but kept getting requests for more advanced features.
He realized that while his competitors offered those features, their software itself had become bloated. They simply kept adding feature after feature, with little regard to usability, and the result left users frustrated.
This was the market opportunity Rob was looking for.
Instead of trying to cater to the needs of all ESP [email service provider] customers and watering down his offering, he wanted to focus on providing huge value to just one segment.
Drip is built from the ground up to make it easy to get started with marketing automation, while also giving you access to the advanced features you will need as you grow, without all the extra bloat.
Enough hype. Does Drip deliver on their promise to be lightweight marketing automation software that doesn’t suck?
In short, yes. But because it is a young product, there are still some kinks that will hopefully be sorted out, but even with that, the pros greatly outweigh the cons. Keep reading to get the full story and make the decision for yourself.
Why I tried Drip:
When I was first setting up my lifecycle email campaign, I knew that to make it work there were two technical components:
1.An opt-in form on my website that would add somebody to a mailing list
2.An ESP to manage that list and send out scheduled emails
I didn’t think it would be very complicated, but boy was I wrong.
ranted wrote extensively on this subject in that course, so I will dial it back a bit here. But I ended up trying 5 different “premium” plugins made just for this task ranging in price from $49 to $99. All I wanted was a simple form that was easy to customize while having at least a semi-professional look to it. NONE OF THEM COULD DO THAT.
At this point, I had had enough. I’m sure some of the trouble that I ran into could have been overcome with more effort, but that’s not the point. The point is I don’t want to have to spend hours hacking some tool to get it to work the way I want. I just want it to work right the first time.
I was ready to quit and I hadn’t even gotten to testing out the email services these forms were supposed to connect with. Ugh.
After hours and hours of built up frustration from messing around with all these tools, I stepped away from my computer for a break. I started thinking about what my goals were with this project and realized that I was letting a small piece of the puzzle get in the way of moving forward. This was silly.
I was trying to pound a nail with a screwdriver and wondering why I kept failing. I knew there had to be a better way.
Then I remembered watching a Mixergy interview with Rob Walling where he talked about his new startup, Drip, which tried to solve this exact problem. And he promised to make it all easy.
Every other option I tried promised the same thing, but Rob is credible, so I figured it was worth a shot.
I’m glad I did.
Where they won me over:
Being a bit demoralized from my epic fail with 5 different plugins prior to trying drip, I was dreading trying yet another tool. And this one had the added complexity of dealing with the email side of things as well. Great.
I knew the value of marketing automation, so I put on my big boy pants and dove in.
The onboarding process makes it pretty clear what you need to do to get started, so I followed the prompts and found myself at the opt-in form editor.
It took some trial and error to get everything formatted the way I wanted, but they made things easier by showing a preview of your form and how the changes look in real time.
OK, that was actually pretty easy.
I took a deep breath and got ready for what I was sure was going to be headache-inducing; setting up and formatting the emails, and scheduling when they would send.
I clicked next and was greeted with a simple text editor with enough features to get the right formatting, but not so many that I was overwhelmed. Honestly, it was just like writing an actual email. Not bad at all.
After setting up all my emails, I knew I was about to hit the wall; telling the system when to send each email, what order to send them in, and what other crazy information they were bound to want.
I instinctively went to open the documentation page when I saw a setting on the dashboard that said “Delay Between Emails” with a drop down box next to each email. Oh.
You mean I just have to tell it “send this email on the first day, the next a day after that, and so on?” That’s it?
Yes, that’s it.
So I set the schedule, changed the status of the emails from “draft” to “published,” and I was done. I looked at the clock and the whole process, start-to-finish, took me less than 30 minutes.
Best of all, I still had my hair.
Where they could improve:
I was originally planning on setting up a footer opt-in box on a few pages on my site and also a sidebar widget. Tons of sites use the pop-up “light boxes” and while they can be done well, I don’t love them. The problem is that right now that is the default format Drip offers.
These pop-up boxes have been shown to dramatically increase conversions vs standard opt-in forms, but they can annoy users, so they aren’t my ideal solution. That being said, they make it easy to change when they are shown, how often, and to whom, so I am pretty happy with the low level of intrusion they can have.
Now, there are a couple of workarounds if you don’t want the pop-ups.
They give you the HTML code to embed the popup form on any page you want. This is an OK solution and works easily enough, but the problem is those forms are not designed from the ground up to be footer or sidebar opt-ins. They work, but the design is lacking for the job.
A more custom solution is integrating drip with a premium plugin called “Gravity Forms.” This should make it easier to design the opt-in box the way I wanted it, but I wasn’t able to adjust the layout as much as I wanted [even for simple things like putting text next to a form instead of above it] without editing the CSS files.
Maybe I am being lazy, but I don’t want to have to read up on CSS or email support every time I want to make a change to the opt-in form. I just want it to work.
The only other issue I’ve run into is that the text editor for creating the forms doesn’t have great options to change the formatting of the text, other than for entire sections. So if you want to italicize a word, you need to use HTML tags to do so. Is this a big deal? No. You don’t spend a ton of time on the forms, so it’s basically a one-time inconvenience, but still something I wanted to mention.
Overall, Drip really did make it about as easy as possible to get started and launch my first campaign. There are a few small annoyances that I talked about, but that’s all they are; annoyances. I’d rather have to use a few simple HTML tags to design my opt-in form than not have a lifecycle email course at all.
And that’s where Drip shines. Where everybody else tries to do everything, Drip focuses on the right things, makes them easy to do, and all at a reasonable cost.
They also have way more segmenting features than you would expect at that price point. I signed up primarily for their auto-responder and easy opt-in forms, and am perfectly happy to trade $49/month for just those features along with my time and sanity. But now that I see everything else they have to offer, I don’t see myself outgrowing them.
Drip offers a 3-week free trial to get your feet wet, so if you’ve heard about the benefits of lifecycle marketing, you have a risk-free way of giving it a shot. I had a few questions during my trial, and they were very responsive and helpful every time. I strongly recommend giving them a test drive.
Don’t believe it was this easy? I put together a step-by-step guide, “How to Launch a Lifecycle Email Course in Under 30 minutes,” documenting the whole process.
Hopefully this post helps you guys make a more informed decision about where to turn when you decide to take the plunge into lifecycle marketing.