Commentary

Do You Have An Annual Email Marketing Calendar?

One of the most helpful tools for email marketers is an annual email marketing calendar. This helps with planning, testing, and innovation in a way that a quarterly approach cannot.

If you don’t have one, it’s worth making one.

Here are the basic categories for a calendar that should be a big help to your team:

Seasons. Most brands realize that their year breaks up into different seasons. No, we’re not talking spring, summer, winter and fall. For sports teams, it’s often In-season, training, and off-season. For nonprofits, there is a giving season, etc. Think logically about how the year breaks apart for your brand, and you’ll have your seasons. This helps break down your planning into chunks, and gives you a sense of when your testing needs to be complete and results shared if you want to impact a particularly important season.

Themes. Within seasons, there are themes.  This is usually a brand marketing exercise, but often the concepts are available well in advance. The nice thing about themes is that they help marketers work with creatives on establishing a design aesthetic that will work across the theme. Instead of scrambling to come up with something new for each email, this is the opportunity to craft a strategy for creative that will help boost results.

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Offers. This refers to content, and depending on your industry it might be a combination of price, promotion, and product. Most brands have specific types of offers available in different seasons. Knowing the offer strategy is really important for testing and planning so marketers can conduct tests across multiple campaigns without worrying that the underlying offers will change significantly (as they may when moving from theme to theme or season to season). On an annual calendar, it’s not important to know specifics, just general categories and large promotion efforts.

Tests. Here’s where an email marketing calendar really pays off. By planning the full year in advance, you can insert innovation and testing ideas where and when they will be most helpful. This doesn’t mean you can’t tweak the schedule as the year progresses. It does mean you can plan ahead, so test results come in during the low season in time to move the needle on high seasons.

In a large enterprise, marketing calendars can be very controversial. A calendar will bring out the politics of the workplace as different marketing teams (website, display, etc) will each want editorial control. If your organization is new to an annual calendar approach, it might be a good idea to keep it under the radar until you’ve proven the value and can get senior level support for the tool.

Do you already have a calendar? Share your ideas for categories and layout in the comments.

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