If you are serious about adding email to your marketing mix, you should take email seriously enough to develop a plan for it. Too many organizations launch a half-baked email program and are disappointed when it doesn’t live up to expectations.
The plan does not have to be as long as War And Peace, but it must include a few key elements so that you can develop a focused, targeted, measurable program that gets results. At a minimum, here are the elements that help grow smart: Objectives, Audience Definition, Key Messages, Format, Tactics, Timeline, Budget, Measurement
First, determine what you want the email program to achieve from marketing and communications perspectives. Is this a newsletter designed for relationship management purposes, or is it a sales-oriented vehicle? Are you trying to build awareness, generate leads, increase web traffic, encourage loyalty, or close sales?
Next, you need to define audiences. Who are you trying to reach? What do you know about them from demographic and psychographic perspectives? Are you addressing multiple audiences? If so, do you need to segment your audiences and develop emails with different messages? How will each audience profit from our communications?
Now, what is it you want to say to each audience? What’s the nature of the content? Will this include just editorial information or will it also contain some sales-oriented material? Closely tied to messages is your format. Are you producing a newsletter with a lot of editorial material, or does it contain just brief snippets of information? Is it an announcement list, a discussion list, or just commercial messages? Think about your audiences as you develop the most appropriate format. Your tactics section lays out tasks and who is responsible for them. What technology do you need? Do you have in-house email capabilities, or should you use an application such as Target? How will you build and manage your list? How will you acquire new subscribers? Who will create content, design, and distribute the email?
After you answer those questions, it’s time to turn to your timeline. Develop a schedule for having your technology in place, building your list, creating content, designing, and distributing the email. Determine if this will be a one-time mailing or if it will recur weekly or monthly. Your budget may help you answer many of the questions above. Small budgets may mean you complete a lot of the work in-house. Finally, it’s time to establish criteria for measuring the program. An awareness program may call for some baseline research, so you’ll know how you are doing. A relationship management program may measure customer retention. Increased click-through from your email to your website is also a measurable element. Sales-oriented programs might measure total sales from email or incremental sales increases with individual customers. No matter your objective in using email, spend a little time cooking up a plan so your results won’t be half-baked.
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