Start Here: 5 Essential Steps to Creating an Email Plan
I’ve learned that many marketing professionals have assumed responsibility for managing email programs that were created by their predecessors. These conversations usually begin with sharing a concern that the programs are in need of a major overhaul but they aren’t sure exactly where to begin. Where does one start? It can feel overwhelming. At this point I inquire about the program’s email plan.
“Plan? I don’t think we have a plan or if we do I’ve never seen it.”
If that sounds like you, you are NOT alone. Whether you are a seasoned professional or just getting started in the world of email marketing, it’s essential to start with the plan.
Making a plan is actually easier than you might think and it puts the control back into your hands, which is where it should be. Below are 5 steps to creating an email plan.
What is the purpose of this email? Every email communication has a job to do. Articulating the specific purpose or job of the email is essential. Doing this creates natural boundaries for content development and becomes the cornerstone on which all the other planning elements will be built. Marketers are less likely to under communicate or over communicate when they adhere to the email’s job.
2. Target Audience
Who should receive this email? It’s important to think through the qualification criteria to ensure you end up with the correct target audience. In addition to defining the selection criteria that you want to include also consider those that should be excluded. For example, many marketers choose to exclude new members from certain communications until they’ve completed the new member onboarding campaign.
3. Call to Action
What do you want the recipient to do? The primary call to action plays a supporting role to the email’s purpose. Defining the call to actions keeps the email centered and on track. Whether it’s a button or hyperlinked text, call to actions need to be clear, succinct and easy to interact with. Examples of call to actions are Log In, Create Password, Register, Donate, Download, Shop, etc.
4. Key Message
What needs to be communicated? Give thought to the information that the recipient will need and how you want them to feel. For example, a welcome email should make the recipient feel good about their membership decision and give them necessary information to engage with your organization. I recommend creating a bulleted list of the items that need to be included in the message. This gives copywriters the wire-frame to work from and ensures that the communication is complete and succinct.
When to send? Timing is important to you and to the recipient in terms of the experience they have with your organization. Is there a time sensitive action item that needs to be communicated? Will this email be a single email, a recurring email, or part of an email campaign? For example, it’s a best practice to send welcome emails within the first 48 hours after a subscriber has joined your organization. For welcome campaigns the spacing between emails should mimic the organizations normal email cadence to help set expectations with new subscribers.
Creating an email plan will put you back in the driver’s seat where you belong. Oftentimes the challenges we face are best solved by going back to the start.
Looking for more planning tips? Check out Email Marketing 101 for help with the building blocks of a great email marketing foundation.