How to form your email marketing strategy step by step guide
October 16, 2018
This time, we’ll take a closer look at the step-by-step process of how forming an effective email marketing strategy one year ahead. But before we take a deep dive, you must be wondering – why should you even bother investing in a direct mailing system? There are so many other online marketing options available today: Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, partnership programs, media-buying, YouTube… you name it. And you’d be right – there’s a plethora of alternatives. Well, to some extent. But when it comes to return-on-investment (ROI), email marketing is the most cost-effective marketing channel there is. For over a decade now, email marketing has been the best return-yielding channel for the investment you put into it. Roughly speaking, for every 1$ you put into it, you’ll get 34.5$ in return – and you just can’t argue with numbers like that. Hands down, this is the most effective and profitable way of reaching new customers, building personal, long-term relationships with your audiences, and well… bottom line – boosting your sales.
So, how do can YOU enjoy all that goodness?
Easy… First – create a long-term plan.
Forming an email marketing strategy means coming up with a long-term plan. It might sound boring to those watching from the sidelines, but there’s nothing boring in the world of newsletters itself. It’s a pulsing and dynamic world that’s constantly changing. It’s challenging and can grow along with society and its every-changing needs, side by side with the ever-evolving technology and time.
Holiday season’s over , so don’t get too comfy. It’s time to ask the right questions. It’s not ‘what’, ’who’, or ‘why’. It’s ‘how’ and ‘when’.
Let’s get this out of the way first. A newsletter strategy plan shouldn’t pretend to be your business plan nor your company’s roadmap, and if it does, then you’re probably doing something wrong. It shouldn’t provide answers to questions like ‘what’, ‘who’, or ‘why’. Instead, it should simply tell you ‘how’ and ‘when’.
An email marketing strategy is essentially an action plan that sets goals, tasks, and the resources required to achieve those. It sets your timeline and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Just like in the military, this strategic plan can be divided to 3 parts:
1. Goals – Fist, you need to set your goals. For example: My goal is to increase the company’s revenue this year.
2. Strategy – Then, you set your strategy in a manner that supports the goals you’ve set. For example: My strategy is to increase sales made through the company’s website.
3. Tactic – Finally, you lay out your tactic. This is the series of actions that you’ll need to do in practice to execute your strategy and achieve your goals. For example: This year, we’ll use a cool new feature on our direct mailing system, and that is sending SMS messages to our customers, containing the company’s newsletter. We’ll push further and not stop just with emails. This feature will allow contacting a large and heterogenic customer group immediately and informing them about events and discounts that are happening RIGHT NOW. This feature will push the customers to act quickly and impulsively – whether it is joining a customer’s club, making a purchase, using a discount code, share, or participate in giveaways and competitions.
Data – not the Lt. Commander from Star Trek – but rather, Information.
Data-gathering may sound deterring, maybe even a bit scary, but it is one of the most important parts of forming a smart email marketing strategy. We’d gladly skip this step if it wasn’t so important. But trust me – once you figure out what to do, and how to do it, you’ll see that data is actually your best friend. But not just any best friend. And not just any best friend – it’s the kind of smart friend you’d take with you to a trivia game and consult with before you fall into the depths of oblivion and embarrassment.
When talking about data in the context of email marketing, we’re talking about customer data. This is the time to figure out who your costumers are. What are they buying? When are they buying? Why are they choosing you over your competitors?
How do you collect this data?
You become an awfully meticulous statistician. But just for a few days, no more!
* Speak with your customer service reps. Generally, it’s advisable to maintain steady communications with this department, since it pretty much stands at the forefront of your company, talking to the customers themselves every day. They know what are the most common issues that customers have with products \ services, they know how to resolve those issues, they know the customers’ language, their dreams and aspirations. They also know the service \ product that your company sells very well. They are an endless spring of data, and it would a shame not to use their knowledge and experience to leverage your strategic plan.
* Review your competitions. Not only you should know your own company and customers, but you should also know your “enemies”. What’s happening in your sector? Has the competition grown? Shrank? What are competitors doing? What is their strategy? Can you benefit from their strategy somehow? (hint: not always). Learn from their experience – what you should try, but also what you should avoid.
* Analyze your company’s direct mailing history. How did this marketing channel perform so far? How did it develop as time went on, if at all? What was our last year’s email marketing strategy? Was it effective? Do all the A\B comparisons to see what worked, what failed, and try to understand why.
* Use the date that you already have. Check your company’s activity on social media, check the Google Analytics data for your company’s website, your mobile activity, and look for trends.
* Talk with everyone who can be of any help. Literally, every single person. Talk with the reps of the company’s different departments, prepare a list of questions to ask the higher management staff as well, draw insights from these, and hear their vision. But most importantly, talk with the customers. Any type of customers, be those one-time customers or loyal ones, try to get all the feedback you can get – both good and bad. Talk to customers who are subscribed to your newsletter – ask them if they like the messages they get, do they find them useful, or did they suspect them to be spam.
Got all the data? Great. Praise be the savior! Now, it’s time to form your smart email marketing strategy.
At this stage, it’d probably be advisable to form a steering committee from people working in the company’s management, as well as marketing department employees, and gather them all in one place. Find a quiet place where you could work without interruptions, cell phones, and outside noises. If that place turns out to be the building’s maintenance room, then kindly ask the maintenance manager to let you use it for a while, and if he refuses, then file an anonymous report about a serious problem with the plumbing. It’s money time!
Now that you are holding all the necessary data before you, you can start forming ideas, drawing sketches, erasing, and starting over. Let your imagination roam free, don’t bother yourselves with costs, technologies, or talents. Handle those later. Write down and document all your ideas. Keep going until you have a complete email marketing strategy, or until there’s white smoke coming from the building (what, smoke? In the building? Where’s that maintenance manager when you need him?)
Sure, it probably won’t end with one meeting, and not even with two. You’ll need to gather your steering committee quite a few times until you finish forming your strategic plan. The goal is to come up with a comprehensive document detailing your strategy, as well as a practical action plan for implementing it within the timeline of the upcoming year.
Congratulations! By now, you should have a complete strategic plan. But hold on for a sec, don’t submit it for approval just yet. Let it rest for a couple of days. Go over it again later with a fresh outlook. If you found any problems, then correct them or find solutions. Make sure that the plan has all three components: goals, strategic, and tactics – both long-term and short-term.
Send a draft to management, make sure to make it clear that this is just a draft, and wait for their feedback. Make any corrections necessary based on that and prepare to present the strategy for the management’s approval (Gosh, the excitement!!!).
The plan was approved?
Don’t sweat it if it didn’t. Revise and improve it as necessary until it gets approved.
Finally got the plan approved after all the corrections and revisions?
Now it’s time to implement it. Don’t expect everything to go smoothly, though. After all, this is a big plan, for a whole year ahead – things can, and often will, change. The world of online marketing requires trial and error too. Just don’t be a quitter, and always aim high!