Email marketing is different from other marketing channels because you can almost immediately track responses and trends. However, in terms of planning, email marketing is really quite similar to other channels. It requires a great deal of strategy and forethought.
If you’re constantly deploying one-off promotional emails, that’s not an email marketing strategy. It’s more like a shoot-from-the-hip strategy. In order to effectively hit your target audience, you’ve got to use the right ammunition in terms of messaging. Planning to do so requires an email calendar.
So where do you start when developing your email marketing calendar?
No Need to Reinvent the Wheel
You should plan for the future by looking at the past — your past email campaigns, that is. Take a look at both the creative and the analytics. What worked? Why? What didn’t work? Why not? When looking at previous campaigns, don’t forget to include your event-driven and triggered marketing emails. These are often overlooked because they are not tied to particular calendar dates.
As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There’s no reason you shouldn’t resurrect previous email campaigns that were successful. You can always refresh them with updated imagery and new subject lines. Trust me, your subscribers won’t remember a campaign that was sent a year ago.
But don’t stop at the one-year mark when looking at previous campaigns. It can be helpful to do a year-to-year comparison and see which campaigns garnered the best results.
Another way to fill your calendar – and a big time saver – is to repurpose existing content. Pull your email newsletter content from your blog to use in your email campaigns. News releases are a great source of company information you can share via emails. Customer reviews can make for very compelling email campaigns. You can also generate reviews by running a contest encouraging customer comments. The example below from Urban Decay also promotes social sharing:
Check Out the Competition
You also can “steal” ideas from your competition. You’ve got to keep an eye on your competition; you know they’re doing the same with your email campaigns. That means you need to subscribe to competitors’ email lists.
If you’re just now subscribing, all is not lost. Online galleries exist (mostly B2C) featuring hundreds of email messages. Email newsletter examples is one such resource. If you don’t want to clutter your inbox, you can receive digests of email campaigns from Milled or Swizzle, which cleans up already-subscribed emails from your inbox.
If you truly want buy-in from others in your organization, make your email marketing plan accessible. Many companies use software and platforms like MS Office, Google docs and SharePoint to encourage collaboration. Some even have a specific planning software. When selecting where you’ll house your documents, keep in mind the following:
- Ability to make notations and comments
- Easily share and print the documents
- Can make small changes without having to reformat entire document.
Forget the silos. Your email marketing calendar should not exist in a vacuum. It should be part of an overall marketing strategy. In fact, it should be overlaid with the campaign calendars of other channels — print, banner ads, direct mail, social media, in-store — so that you can dovetail promotions. Launching new products or services in the coming year? Be sure to include them in your calendar.
Keep Frequency in Mind
You must discover the balance between not emailing enough (you want to remain top of mind with your subscribers) and emailing too much (you risk a higher unsubscribe rate). But if you are sending targeted, relevant and valuable content then you shouldn’t have to worry too much about over-emailing your list.
While it’s important to develop a long-term email calendar, you also need to look at the short term. That is, take look at how many emails you send in a given week or on a given day. Don’t forget to take triggered campaigns into account, as this will increase the number of touches per subscriber.
During high-volume times of the year, such as Christmas season for retailers, subscribers expect to receive more promotional emails in their inbox. You can get away with increasing your email frequency while still maintaining the integrity of your list.
How did you plan your email calendar?