We all need a plan -- not always exciting or fun, but necessary to accomplish your goals and objectives. Not only will it help you determine what factors are going to drive a program's success, it will also help you avoid best practice mistakes and errors. Let's face it, there aren't too many email marketers who actually execute against a real annual or quarterly communication plan -- so if you do, you are in the minority. But kudos.
Honestly though, most email marketers' days are probably spent either fielding last-minute requests to send an email to support an existing program that is under-performing, or as an after-thought. Whatever your situation, I am sure that at one point or another you have leveraged my favorite mantra: "A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."
Quarterly or annual planning is almost unheard of in the email space, while common in other areas of marketing. If you have a solid plan, accommodating those last-minute requests becomes a whole lot easier, and measuring your program success becomes more transparent because you have the time to really think through how to attribute that success and to honestly define what success means. In creating a quarterly plan, you need to truly understand the who, what, when, where and why of your email program.
Who is getting the email? Understanding how your database breaks up based on how you communicate is integral to your programs' success. If an overwhelming number of customers are unengaged, then your communication strategy should vary from what you'd use for a database of highly engaged subscribers. Getting familiar with that breakdown will set the groundwork for your entire plan.
What is the content of the email? Are there specific offers, editorial content or seasonal direction that you can plan on including in the message? What resources do you need to generate that content? Spending time articulating what you want to say and then aligning it with your audience can help you identify mismatches in content to segments -- or further identify voids in content to address specific segment expectations.
When should the message be deployed? Considering the timing of your message distribution in conjunction with offers that have specific time sensitivities or significant volumes can help you avoid missing the expectations of your recipients.This tactic also helps you to eliminate multiple messages coming to customers within hours or days of each other, depending on your specific contact strategy.
Where do you need additional support or resources? If you are going to need custom data pulls or new creative -- landing pages or additional production support, say -- knowing in advance and planning accordingly for all groups and departments involved makes everything flow so much more smoothly.
Why are you sending the email? The quintessential question: What are your goals for this deployment? What behavior do you expect to drive, how will you measure that behavior,and how will you define success? Answering these questions at the front end of the process can help to validate that all the necessary steps are being taken to make it happen.
Let the planning begin -- 2011 is right around the corner, so what more could you be waiting for?!