Jumping into an email marketing program without doing the necessary planning is a little bit like waking up married in Vegas: It seemed like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight you've made a big mistake.
Email marketing -- like a wedding -- takes planning to be truly memorable. As marketers, we are experienced in planning. We hold countless meetings where we detail strategies and delineate tactics. We develop marketing calendars and charts. But we tend to leave email marketing out of the planning phase. That's because many marketers view email marketing as a channel and not as a strategic part of their marketing mix.
As a result, marketers are missing out on the richness that email can add to their marketing results. Instead of perceiving email marketing as a last-minute detail, companies would benefit from better planning their email marketing programs to contribute to the overall success of their marketing plans.
Here are four key strategies marketers can use to plan their email marketing efforts:
Determine your audience and message. Marketers often begin this step from the wrong direction: with a list of subscribers that determines the audience. Instead, think about whom you're marketing to, and reach out to those targets to build your list through a permission-based, opt-in program. Once you identify your audience, you can create messages that resonate with this group. During the opt-in process, ask your subscribers what kinds of information they want to receive from you and how often they want to receive it. Set clear expectations about what subscribers will receive and meet those expectations. Finally, make sure your corporate and Web site branding reflect your email design. Design is part of the overall message and branding should be consistent across all tactics.
Plan the timing of your communications. Many organizations share customers among product lines or divisions, resulting in multiple touch points to the same customer. It's important to have a global picture of each customer, providing insight about what marketing messages are impacting that customer, and at what time. This should include all marketing media: print, broadcast, online, email, etc. A marketing calendar will ensure customers aren't overloaded and that campaigns are both efficient and optimized. The other thing the marketing calendar will do is help integrate all marketing tactics. Campaigns with synergies can cross-promote products and services, but only if there is proper planning from the start.
Create a web of references. Because email marketing can easily link out to landing pages as a way to connect to any other marketing campaign, it is an excellent way to create a "web of references" that can supercharge your marketing program. Forward to a Friend and Social Media links make the web of references even more powerful. The key is to cross-promote and integrate campaigns.
Implement your plan wisely. Some marketers feel that since email is inexpensive and easy, the risks are low. Not so. Email that is rushed is prone to mistakes and won't benefit from the integration that can make your marketing campaigns so successful. Make sure you take the time to plan your emails together with the rest of your marketing tactics. Also ensure that each email is tested for rendering, typos, broken links and other easy fixes.
Finally, don't be afraid to make changes to your email campaigns. Since you can see results in real time, you can monitor and adjust your campaigns quickly, optimizing them as you go. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that your planning is paying off.