6 Ways to Improve Your Email Development Process
By Nout Boctor-Smith
The email creation process can often be cumbersome with many moving parts and people. Even if your marketing team is small, an efficient process is crucial to keeping your campaigns on track.
We can all agree that email could use a little less chaos these days, so I’ve outlined six ways you can start improving your email processes.
1. Create a Project Brief
No matter the size of your team or email program, start with a project brief. Trust me, even if you’re a one-person email team, you’ll want to keep a record of what you did, the assets for the email, the goals of the email, and the campaign results.
You can find email planning or project brief templates circulating the internet, or you can make your own. If you’re starting from scratch, be sure to include:
- Dates for the email send and deadlines for assets.
- Goals and how you’re going to measure success for the campaign.
- Asset names such as your email or template, form, landing page, and segment names within your email service provider (ESP).
- Parties responsible for creating different pieces of the email.
- Envelope fields, including the from name and email address, reply-to email address, subject line, and preview text.
- Email copy and call-to-action.
- Design ideas or sketches.
- Links to include in the email.
- Cadence of your emails, including the send date, time, frequency, and if this is an ongoing campaign or a one-time send.
2. Establish a Formal Intake Process
Set up a formal intake process (the process you’ll follow when emails are requested at your company) with your stakeholders, designer(s), developer(s), freelancers, your boss, and anyone else who’s involved with email marketing campaigns. You’ll want to define roles and responsibilities for each person, deliverables each person is responsible for, timelines, and goals.
Set expectations and get consensus from the group; this is an opportunity to get everyone on the same page.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when creating your intake process:
- Mention that you’ll be creating a project brief to keep things organized. Get feedback on how you’ve structured your brief.
- Talk to your designers and developers and make sure you understand their needs. For example, designers may want to see a project brief to start designing. Your developer may want to see a PSD file before she starts to code. All this can be hashed out when you establish and document your email creation process.
- Make sure your designer and developer have access to your brand guidelines so the look and feel of the email is consistent with your website and other digital channels.
- Do you want to work in sprints? What are the agreed-upon service level agreements (SLAs)? In other words, how many days do you need to work on an email campaign? Will the email campaign complexity affect how much lead time you’ll require? These are important topics to discuss.
- Pitch the idea of adding the whole team to a project management software to keep everyone organized and on-task. Hopefully they agree!
- If your team is large enough, consider creating an intake form.
- How will you or your team prioritize work if you’re at full capacity?
- Who’s in charge of testing your emails to make sure they render properly across your major email clients?
- Once agreed upon, make sure you document the intake process in detail and share it out to the rest of the company or team.
3. Set up Project Management Software
I recommend using project management software to keep campaigns and requests organized. Trust me, a spreadsheet might be okay at the start, but as you get more projects, send more emails, and add more team members, spreadsheets don’t scale.
There are numerous options for project management tools today, including Asana, Wrike, Workfront and Basecamp.
When implementing a project management tool, make sure you:
- Find a tool that can help keep track of timelines, dependencies, deliverables, etc.
- Ensure the team understands what their responsibilities are within the projects– if they’re required to close tasks, update due dates, etc.
4. Schedule Periodic Check-ins
One of the most important steps in improving any process is to reevaluate its efficiency and effectiveness regularly. Try setting up a weekly or biweekly meeting with your team and stakeholders to make sure the process is working. Don’t forget to ask for feedback and give feedback.
Regular meetings will also give you an opportunity to find blockers in your process. If a teammate is stuck on a task, work together to solve the problem.
5. Benchmark and Measure
An interesting way to measure the success of your process improvements is to benchmark your current processes and see if changes have led to improvements.
For example, take note of the following stats before and after you implement your process changes:
- How many people are involved in the process?
- How long does it take your team to build and deploy each email or set of emails?
- How many emails per month or quarter does your team build and deploy?
If you notice a lift in the number of emails you or your team can build and deploy and a decrease in the time it takes to build an email, your process improvements are probably working. And make sure you brag about it!
6. Plan Ahead!
I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes right now, but your parents were right! Planning ahead is important (even in email).
Your email process improvements will go more smoothly if you have adequate time to think, plan, discuss, and collaborate. Don’t decide on a Friday afternoon that you’re going to implement process changes Monday morning.
One last piece of advice: Be open to change and evolution, because the best processes often morph and improve with time.
I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and let me know if you’ve implemented any process improvements and how it affected your email program.
About the Author
Nout (rhymes with fruit) is an email marketer and co-founder of Nine Lives Digital, a digital marketing agency that helps small businesses. She’s been involved in the digital marketing space for about nine years and has worked with email for about seven years. She’s interested in process improvements, email UX, deliverability, and code. She never takes herself seriously and is often described as a goofball. You can usually find her chatting on the #emailgeeks Slack community, obsessing over fashion, petting cats, and eating delicious food.
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