How to Plan an Email Marketing Campaign

Posted on 23/10/2017 by Team Hallam

If you’re considering adding email campaigns to your marketing strategy, these are the most important things to look at when planning your actions.

You might be wondering why you should start an email campaign when some say it is a dying technique. Well, the truth is that it’s very much alive and it works if it’s planned and implemented correctly. Read on to find out how to start and what aspects you need to consider in order to get positive results from your efforts.

Set Email Campaign Objectives

Measuring your campaign’s results is vital because it will help you learn what’s working and what you can improve. In order to measure your results, you’ll need to set clear objectives using the SMART framework.

SMART objectives framework
Image source

Specific: what is it that you want to achieve? Do you want to increase traffic to your website, get repeat sales, increase brand engagement, or something else?

Measurable: put a number on it. If you want to drive more traffic to your website, by how much  do you want it to increase? Express this as a percentage, or number of visitors.  This will help you decide what metrics you need to track.

Attainable: be realistic. Setting high expectations will distort the success of the campaign.

Relevant: make sure your campaign objectives are in line with your overall marketing strategy and aims.

Time-based: when will the campaign start and when should you start seeing an impact?

At this stage, also envision how every step in your email campaign will take your prospect or customer closer to your objective. The AIDA model is an “oldie but goldie” framework that can help you with this.

Think About Integration

To get better results, use email campaigns in conjunction with other digital and off-line marketing activities.

Integrate your email strategy with your overarching marketing strategy and highlight how different tactics will support each other to tell your brand story.

To give you an overview of the different communication channels and tactics you’re using alongside email, such as your website, PPC and social media, create a marketing calendar in Excel, like the one below.

Marketing calendar

Download template from the source: Smart Sheets

Choose the Tools

Choose an email processing system (EPS) to help you manage your campaign. The market offers plenty of choices from MailChimp and Dotmailer to Infusinsoft and many others. Analyse which one fits your needs and your budget. Most of them offer free trials, so you can take your time trying them out before committing to one.

Once you start implementing the campaign, there are other tools that can make your work more efficient. Here are just a few:

Collect Your Data

At the planning stage of your email campaign, consider how you’ll be collecting contact details. Two aspects need to be looked at: the channel and the message.

First of all, decide where it is best to ask your prospects for their details. This decision will be informed by your customer personas and where they spend time online. Some tactical options you may want to consider include social advertising, PPC and your website.

Next, think about your message and what value you can provide to them. To increase your sign-up rate, offer something in exchange for their information. It can be a discount code, a voucher or an industry report. This way you take control of the conversation and every time your name pops up in an inbox, it’s more likely that the email will be opened because some sort of benefit is expected.

Call to action example
Image source

Tip: don’t offer your promise on the immediate page after the sign-up page. The email should contain the benefit. It’s also a good way to check that the email address they’ve given you works.

Moreover, take into consideration what other elements on the data collection form can increase the likelihood of signing up. For example, you can tell them what email address you want from them: personal (B2C) or work email (B2B). If you’re not sure, use these different elements in rotation and determine which one works best.

Segment Your Data

After you’ve collected your data, it’s time to segment it. Research has found that email campaigns based on segmented data performed better than ones that use unsegmented data.

Analyse your data and determine what criteria you can use to segment it. It can be anything from interests and purchase history, to demographics, location and position in the sales funnel. This will inform your email content strategy and help you tailor your campaigns to individual characteristics. Relevancy is key in email marketing, it can make the difference between a conversion and an unsubscribe.

Top tip: create quarterly groups of “openers” and “clickers” to see who engages with your brand the most and which are your most valuable readers (another opportunity to get in touch with them with a reward). In addition, you might want to decide if you want to re-engage or delete your inactive subscribers. Be careful though – engagement rate depends on the nature of your business and industry.

Content and Design

The content and design of your email are probably two of the most important aspects of your email campaign.

Make a list of what valuable content you can offer that your readers will appreciate, such as:

  • Industry reports
  • Guides
  • Whitepapers
  • Tips
  • Coupons
  • Free online courses
  • Taster sessions / free demonstrations
  • Templates
  • Prize draws

Your customer personas and past email reports can help you decide what content to send to different subscribers. Customer profiles will not only indicate what kind of content your readers enjoy but also when they’re more likely to engage with your email.

Design a clean layout and decide on one clear call to action per email. EPSs such as MailChimp offer free templates that you can use, however you can design your own too. The most effective layouts contain a catchy headline, followed immediately by the main body of the email. Structure your email in a logical way and test it on different devices.

Email example
Image source

Create an email content calendar by listing what solutions you can offer to your audience (based on their personas) and when. Consider any key dates in your industry such as Black Friday, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Other content-related elements you need to plan for are:

  • The sender’s name and email address
  • The subject line
  • Where your subscribers go after reading your email, which will depend on your call to action.

EPSs such as MailChimp allow you to split test different elements of your campaign and see what works for your audience. Test the subject line, the content, the sender’s name and email address and the delivery time to optimise your campaign for open and click rates.

Landing Pages and Your Website

When you are creating email campaigns, you need to consider how this ties in with other areas of your marketing activity too. I’m mainly referring here to your website and landing pages, however social media profiles and display advertising fall into this category too. They need to be on brand and aligned with the message of the email.

The design and tone of voice of your landing pages, emails and website should follow your brand guidelines. This will make sure your audience doesn’t feel like they have left your brand space. Here are some examples.

Landing page
Image source

Tip: create a user experience diagram and the different stages your audience goes through for each campaign.

Follow up and Autoresponder

It’s good practice to send follow-up emails after your prospects have taken the action that you wanted them to. If they signed up for your newsletter, send a confirmation email. If a purchase has been made, thank them and confirm the details of the order. Prepare a detailed plan that highlights what each email in the autoresponder will aim to do and what the call to action is.

Setting up autoresponder campaigns will save you time and most EPSs have this feature. This is an automated sequence of emails containing different information depending on what action the user takes. Decide at what time intervals each email will be sent e.g. 24h or 72h after the first contact. The initial email should be instant and thank the user while offering them the benefit promised. Amazon does this very well.

Here is an example:

  • Email 1: immediate, thank you + your promise
  • Email 2: after 24h, ask a question related to their needs
  • Email 3: after 72h, ask for a review/testimonial
  • Email 4: after 5 days, send them a case study

The timescale will depend on your industry and the type of product/service you’re selling (think how long a sales cycle usually is for you). Make sure your autoresponder contains enough stages to determine the user to want to do business with you.

Tip: try out different types of content and offers to see which ones work best. Do the same with the timescale.

Metrics and Tracking

Refer to your objectives to decide what metrics to use to determine whether your email campaign has been successful or not. Your EPS will provide you with a report for each campaign. Here is what you should look at to start with:

  • Open rate
  • Click rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Conversion rate (you’ll need Google Analytics for this).

Top tip: use UTM codes within your email to be able to track the activity in Google Analytics.

Legal Factors and GDPR

Do not start your email campaign without doing your research on email legislation and data protection. For example, it is mandatory to mention your registered company name, postal address and contact details in your emails. Are there any disclaimers that are necessary to include? Add them to the footer.

At the moment we can’t talk about email without talking about the General Data Protection Regulation. Make sure you know how it will affect your email strategy and what you need to do to comply. My colleague, Hannah Broom, has written a post about the implications of GDPR for marketers. We’re also hosting a breakfast briefing on the topic on 8 November.

Over to You Now

It’s now time for you to plan your email campaign. Let us know how you get on and if you need help, we’re just one click away.

If you need help with your email marketing don't hesitate to contact us.

Enjoy this article?

Subscribe for weekly insights

How to Plan an Email Marketing Campaign

Let’s thrive together

Get in touch to take the first step.

Contact us