3 Keys to Success with Multi-Effort Email Series


Multi-effort email series, sometimes called drip campaigns, are one of the most powerful tools in an email marketer’s arsenal. They are a swiss-army-knife-type resource that can be used for nurturing leads, onboarding new customers, driving renewals for membership or subscription models, and many other things.

 Multi-Effort Email Series

But you must create an effective multi-effort series – just stringing together a bunch of random email messages is not going to get you the exception results that you need and deserve. Over the past few months, I’ve reworked a number of multi-effort email series for a variety of brands. Here are the top mistakes I’ve seen being made, along with tips for fixing them. 

If you’re using multi-effort email series now, here’s your cue to take a look and make sure they’re optimized for success. If you’re not doing any multi-effort campaigns – what are you waiting for? Bookmark this article and use to create an effective multi-effort campaign for your product or service. 


1. Have a Holdout Group and Perform a Lift/Loss Analysis

What’s a holdout group you may ask? In this instance, it’s a random group of people who don’t receive your email series. The idea here is to create a treated (getting the email series) versus an untreated (not receiving the email series) dynamic so you can gauge how effective your campaign is. 

And the best way to gauge how effective your campaign is is to do a lift/loss analysis. 

In this client case study, there are 10 email efforts which are sent over the course of a 12-month period. The chart below shows the conversion response rates to key actions driven by the series, by both the target (treated; getting the email series) and the control (untreated; not getting the email series) groups.  

Email Marketing


Now you can kind of eyeball and see the efforts which are underperforming the control group. But a simple lift/loss analysis (below) makes it much easier. 


Even without my red circle, you’d clearly see where the lift/loss is below 100% -- and therefore a loss. 

Lift loss is an easy calculation – you are just calculating the relative, rather than the absolute difference between the metrics. A negative percentage is a loss; a positive percentage is a lift. For example: 

  • Treated Conversion Rate: 23.8%
  • Untreated Conversion Rate: 14.5%
  • Lift/Loss: 64.1%


  • Treated Conversion Rate: 2.4%
  • Untreated Conversion Rate: 10.5%
  • Lift/Loss: -76.7%

This type of analysis makes it easy to see which efforts are lagging the untreated group, which are basically having little or no impact (I’m looking at you, efforts 7A, 7B and 8), and which are outperforming the control. This allows you to focus on improving the underperforming efforts and those that aren’t really moving the needle past where the untreated group is. 


2.  Create a Message Map to Define Your Efforts

Message maps are built from the key points you want to get across in your series and they provide an outline for what each effort in your series will focus on. This makes it easier to create a series where each effort is different; each email in the series stands on its own but together they are greater than the sum of their parts. 

A message map from a recent series I developed for a client appears below. 

Email Marketing

If you have different calls-to-action for different efforts, they should be listed here too. I like to use the features, benefits, and advantages analysis to information the message map; I also like to address common questions or objections. 

Message maps should focus on topics – I’ve seen some based on feelings, where effort 1 is fear, effort 2 is uncertainty, effort 3 is doubt. It’s fine if you want to structure your series around FUD (or any other emotions), but you need to flesh out what topics will induce the fear, what information will drive the uncertainty and why they should have doubt. Be specific. 


3. Include a Call-to-Action in Every Effort

I recently audited a 10-effort B2B series which was sent over a four-month period. There was some really good content in there. But the key call-to-action, the thing they really wanted the recipients to do, didn’t appear until effort 7, 84 days in. 

This key call-to-action wasn’t even a purchase; they just wanted a phone meeting. But the client didn’t want to seem pushy; they wanted to provide white papers, statistics, and all sorts of documentation supporting their products and services, before they asked for a meeting to introduce their products and services. 

The open rate was less than half what it had been at the start of the series; they had lost so much of the audience by the time they got to effort 7. It would have been very difficult to drive impactful sales revenue.

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Being upfront about your intentions doesn’t have to be pushy. But if you don’t ask, you won’t get. If you’re uncertain you can craft something that’s effective without being pushy, bring in a professional copywriter. 

In conclusion

Drip campaigns, multi-effort email series, whatever you want to call them, are great tools for successful email marketing. It just takes a little thought to make them super effective. Do try these tips with your series and let me know how it goes.


About the Author 

Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a recognized expert in the email marketing industry and a sought-after consultant, speaker, trainer and author specializing in email marketing strategy, tactics, creative direction, and optimization. She helps organizations make their email marketing programs more effective and more profitable. 

Jeanne is Founder and Chief Strategist at Email Optimization Shop, a boutique consultancy focused on optimizing bottom-line email marketing performance with strategic testing. She is also General Manager of the Only Influencers community of email marketing professionals, Chair of the annual Email Innovations Summit conference, and an Adjunct Professor in the graduate program at Georgetown University

Her direct response approach has helped B2B, B2C, government and non-profit clients including AARP, Capital One, Consumer Reports, Hasbro, National Education Association, Network Solutions, New York Times, PayPal, Scholastic, UPS, US General Services Administration (GSA), Verizon, Vocus (now Cision), and the World Bank.

Jeanne is based in Washington, DC, she earned her MBA from Georgetown University (Hoya Saxa!), and she is an avid hockey fan (Let’s Go Caps!).

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