How to Plan Your Email Marketing Strategy
This blog post is the second installment of our new series, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing – an eight-week series that covers the fundamentals of email marketing. Last week, we explained 6 ways email marketing can help your business. This week, we'll focus on planning an email strategy. Want a sneak peek into the content? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing. So you want to get started with email marketing? Good choice. Email is pretty darn powerful. In fact, for every dollar spent on email, businesses earn 38 dollars in return on their investment. But before you start growing your email list or sending emails, it’s important to have a plan. With a plan in place, you’ll have a better sense of what you need to do and who you need to target. According to research conducted by Content Marketing Institute, 62 percent of businesses that document their content marketing strategy consider it to be effective. In comparison, only 32 percent of businesses with an undocumented, verbal content marketing strategy believe it's effective. Similarly, documenting your email strategy means you’ll be more likely to stick with it, reach the right people and achieve your goals. To start email marketing the right way, read this post and take the simple steps outlined to plan your email marketing strategy. Then, use your plan to guide your email strategy and make your business blossom. Prefer watching a video to reading? Check out the video version of this post.
Create SMART goals
You wouldn’t run a marathon without preparing for the race by training. Similarly, you shouldn’t begin planning your email marketing strategy without setting goals. Before you begin creating goals, take a moment to reflect upon what makes a good goal. Good goals are SMART goals. Here’s what SMART stands for:
- Specific: Avoid creating vague goals. Be sure to include details around how you plan to reach your goal(s).
- Measurable: You should be able to measure your goals with specific numbers or checkpoints.
- Attainable: When creating your goal, consider the resources you have. You need to make sure your goal is attainable with your current budget, time and skillset.
- Realistic: Your goal should be challenging, but within reach. Review historical data or research industry benchmarks to determine what this means for you.
- Time-bound: Give yourself a date by which you want to complete your goal.
When you create any goal for your email marketing strategy, make sure it aligns with these five guidelines. [bctt tweet="When you create any goal for your email marketing strategy, make sure it's a SMART goal."] Let’s imagine you set this goal for yourself: I will grow my email list to 100 subscribers by the end of the year by adding a sign up form to my website and reaching out to my personal connections and asking them to join my list. This is a great example of a SMART goal. It’s specific because it describes exactly what you’d like to do and how you plan to do it. Since it explains the number of subscribers you’d like to attain (100), it’s also measurable. For a small business with limited resources, 100 subscribers is very likely an attainable goal (although what’s attainable might vary from company to company). While a realistic goal will also vary from company to company, 100 subscribers in a year could be a very accessible goal for someone just getting started with email marketing. And finally, since this goal gives a specific date by which you plan to complete it, it’s time-bound. Just keep in mind that while the above goal would be a great example of a SMART goal for certain companies, it may not be right for yours. So make sure to create goals that are realistic and attainable for you with your current resources and limitations.
Choose your email marketing goals
Not sure what kind of goals to set for your email marketing strategy? Consider your overall business goals for this year and improvements to your email strategy that could help you reach them. Write down a list of the areas where you’d like to improve and create goals from them. To get our creative wheels turning, you might want to focus on:
- Growing your email list. With a larger email list, you’ll be able to build relationships with more people, tell them about your business and encourage them to purchase a product or service.
- Increasing your email open rates. If a lot of people aren't opening your emails, it'll be impossible to keep them engaged and build a relationship with them. Addressing this problem could help you increase the number of subscribers you're able to interact with.
- Improving your email click-through rates. Good email click-through rates are a sign that people like your content and your business, which can impact their purchasing decisions.
- Decreasing unsubscribes and spam complaints. Decreasing unsubscribes and complaints can help improve your deliverability and ensure you're sending engaging, valuable content to your subscribers.
- Getting more subscribers to respond to your emails. When subscribers respond to your emails, you can communicate with them directly and build relationships that could encourage them to buy.
- Asking subscribers for feedback and apply that feedback. By applying subscriber feedback, you can create emails that are more useful to your subscribers, which could help you increase open, click-through and conversion rates.
Now that you have some ideas for your email marketing goals, I encourage you to download our email strategy planning template by entering your email address below. The template will help you plan and commit to your goals. (And as a bonus, you’ll also get an email calendar template and analytics dashboard!) [optin-monster-shortcode id="id03qtd6envefvm7"]
Define your ideal audience
After you’ve set goals for yourself, it's time to determine who your ideal subscriber is and create a persona for this subscriber. By creating a persona for your ideal subscriber, you’ll be able to attract the right individuals to your email list and send content that’s relevant and helpful. This step is so important because it’ll guide all of your email marketing strategy moving forward, from how you grow your email list to how you communicate with your subscribers. Nick Westergaard of Brand Driven Digital says, “List growth is always key. But it’s not just about quantity. Quality matters. Who are you trying to reach? Who do you want to talk to more? How can you encourage them to sign up for your emails?” [bctt tweet="List growth is always key. But it’s not just about quantity. Quality matters. -@NickWestergaard" via="no"] To answer these questions and get quality people, you need to know your audience. Once you do, you’ll understand who you want to target and how you can encourage them to sign up for your list. And after they subscribe, you’ll be able to write emails that help them resolve their unique problems. Your customer persona document should answer these questions:
- What is your ideal subscriber like? Male or female? Age? Married or single? Kids? Occupation?
- What are their interests?
- What is their industry?
- What are their goals?
- What are their pain points and problems?
- What could prevent or stop them from buying your product/service?
- What type of content do they consume?
With this information, you’ll be able to create a guide – or customer persona – that can help you attract quality subscribers who are ready to engage with your emails.
Create your customer persona
Once you know who your ideal subscriber is, it’s time to create a customer persona that you can use to guide your email marketing efforts. Your customer persona will take the information you gathered from defining your ideal audience and expand upon it. First, consider what your best customers have in common. You might even want to have a phone or email conversation with a few of these customers. Then, write down all the information you have about your persona in a document or on a piece of paper. For help creating your persona, I encourage you to use Digital Marketer’s customer avatar (their name for a persona) worksheet. To complete the customer avatar worksheet, survey your current customers or subscribers, ask them if they’d be willing to answer questions about themselves during a phone or email conversion or examine the current data you have about your customers and subscribers. Use this information to fill out the worksheet. Then, print your customer avatar worksheet and use it to help you decide how to communicate with your subscribers and audience.
Create your email marketing strategy
Now it’s time to create your written email marketing strategy. Create a document where you’ll write down your strategy, either in an online word document such as Google Docs or in a notebook. Brainstorm and write down your email marketing goals in this document. Make your goals SMART and consider what you want to accomplish. Then, add your completed customer avatar worksheet to this document. Consider whether or not your goals and customer avatar align. Will your goals help you attract and engage with your ideal customer? Can you think of any additional goals that’ll help you better reach your target customer? Add any extra goals you brainstorm. Once you’ve completed your document, bookmark or print it out so it’s easily accessible. You’ll use this document as a reference as you decide what content to send your subscribers, how often to send emails, how to grow your email list and how to measure success.
Let’s get planning
Now that you’ve created a plan for your email marketing strategy, it’s time to start implementing it! To get started, use the information in your email marketing strategy document to guide you. Start by taking steps that’ll help you reach your unique goals, like creating a sign up form for your website or writing your first autoresponder series. You can use your customer avatar to write and design content that speaks to your audience’s problems and interests. Need more help getting started with email marketing? Read next week's post, The Beginner's Guide to Growing Your Email List. Or get the full experience by checking out the Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing!