Article first published in December 2015, updated June 2019
I’ve worked with a lot of organizations that have been sending email marketing campaigns for a long time (10+ years) but, often, no one has ever stepped back and asked why they’re sending certain types of emails, nor have they revisited their overall strategy.
While these things are all important, there should be a strategy that guides the type of emails you send, how often you send them, and who you send them to.
What is an email marketing strategy?
An email marketing strategy is one part of your overall digital marketing strategy. This strategy helps guide you in not only developing emails to send, but helps you decide who to send them to and how often.
Fifty-seven percent of email subscribers spend an average of 10-60 minutes browsing marketing emails during the week, and it’s your brand’s marketing strategy that’ll either make you stand out amongst the crowd or will land you in the trash bin.
How do you develop an email strategy?
Developing an email strategy takes a considerable amount of planning; however, when done right, the time spent on the planning process can lead to some significant goals being reached.
Any good strategy begins by defining your team’s goals. Setting goals is one thing, but defining them takes them to an entirely different level. In fact, your team should be setting SMART goals:
Source: Content Marketing Institute
Once you’ve defined your SMART goals, you want to define your methods of measurement that’ll be used to define your overall success. In the case of email marketing strategies, this would include important email benchmarks, such as open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribe rates.
4 steps to owning your email strategy
All too often, brands haven’t thought about the complete lifecycle of their subscribers and simply treat everyone the same.
If this sounds familiar, you can own your email strategy like a boss by following these four steps.
1. Create a mission statement for your email program.
Your first step in owning your email strategy should be to create a mission statement that outlines the core purpose of email marketing for your organization.
Whether it’s to generate revenue, nurture leads, educate, or retain customers, it should be very clear in your head—and everyone else’s—what the purpose of your email marketing is and isn’t. With the purpose defined, you can use your mission statement to help carry out the next three steps.
2. Set SMART objectives and track them.
You’ve probably heard of SMART goals, which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely, but have you set SMART objectives for your email marketing?
Because you’ve already created your mission statement, you can now align your objectives with it and what you want your subscribers to do. Then you can ensure you’ve set up ways to track performance against these objectives.
All too often, I meet email marketers who are too focused on tracking and improving basic email-related metrics, such as opens and clicks, that they forget about the other metrics that drive the business, like conversions, average order value (AOV), total sales, and leads generated. These metrics are easy to track and measure with our Google Analytics integration.
3. Develop a comprehensive contact plan.
A contact plan is a useful way of mapping out the sequential order of the emails that you want to send, your segmentation, and frequency.
Think of it as the who, what, and where of your email strategy. It’s important to ask yourself and your marketing team why you send certain types of emails and to think critically about what provides the most value for your subscribers during this process.
I find it easiest to map out this type of plan on a whiteboard first. Start at the very beginning of your funnel and keep in mind that you may have several different funnels for different types of customers or products, so make sure that you clearly define who you’re creating each contact plan for.
Depending on your business model, you might begin with lead nurture emails or a welcome program. The idea is to map out the sequential order of emails in your current program and then expand and improve from there.
4. Present your strategy and get buy-in.
To get internal buy-in from management and other people within your organization, it’s imperative to include them in your strategy and planning process.
It may be most effective to start with the basics and hold an educational training session on email marketing best practices and concepts for any internal stakeholders or people who aren’t familiar. These are oftentimes the people that request irrelevant, untimely campaigns to be sent at short notice. Providing them with some basic knowledge can be important for getting them onboard with your new strategy.
You should now be ready to present your contact plan to the entire business. Be sure to clearly outline your new mission statement, your objectives, how it’ll be tracked, and how the new contact plan is going to help you achieve results.
Completing these four steps is important to chart a new course in owning your email strategy like a boss.
Next steps for launching your email strategy
You’ve got your email marketing strategy set and ready to go, so now what?
Next, you’ll want to ensure you have the tools to help you not only get your content out but to get it out to the right readers at the right time. The best way to do this? Email automation.
Source: Campaign Monitor
Email automation is the process of automating your campaigns to be sent out as subscribers hit defined triggers. As a part of your overall email marketing strategy, you’ll want to carefully consider your customer’s journey to help you create automated email series that pertain to their needs and which stage of the sales cycle they may be in.
Source: Campaign Monitor
4 Automated email campaign series every marketer should know
Once your email marketing strategy and customer journeys are all mapped out and ready to go, it’s time to start the creation process.
1. Welcome series
The welcome series is exactly what it sounds like: an email series that’s designed to welcome your new subscribers to your brand. This series can be broken up into any number of emails, but the general idea is first to send them a “thanks for joining us” email, followed up with some information on who your brand is, what you plan to offer them, and maybe even a thank you promo or discount to entice them to make a purchase.
Source: Really Good Emails
While newsletters are often thought of as “one-off” emails, they’re frequently created into a series of their own and are sent off on a regular basis, such as weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. These campaigns are a great way for your brand to show off your niche expertise with not only original content, but curated content from well-known members of your niche.
Source: Campaign Monitor
3. Survey/feedback emails
Survey and feedback email campaigns are an excellent choice because they allow you to get more one-on-one with your readers. Asking them for feedback makes them feel important, like they’re more than a face in the crowd.
Source: Really Good Emails
4. Transactional emails
Finally, transactional email campaigns should be considered essential to any brand that’s planning on selling a product. These emails begin after a product has been purchased, signed up for, or downloaded, and should keep the customer up to date on the status of the purchase or downloadable content.
It’s easy to sit back and go with the status quo, but it’s much more rewarding to go back to the drawing board and own your email strategy so you can reap the rewards of increased ROI and results.
Knowing how to set up your email marketing and content strategies are only half the battle. Before you can do any of that, remember: You must know who your audience is, what they want, and how you’re going to get it to them. This is where customer journeys come into play.
Check out our guide to creating a customer journey. Let us walk you through the process and provide you with some examples to help spark your creativity.