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Use an Email Marketing Checklist: The Secret to a Successful Campaign

Raise your hand if you’ve left an important item for vacation at home - and only realized after you were 30,000 feet in the air hurtling toward your destination. ::raisedhands:: Chances are, you didn’t have a list (or you totally forgot to check it).

That’s kind of what it’s like to launch a big campaign without following an email marketing checklist.

A list is such a basic tool, it may seem unnecessary if you’ve done it all before. But consider this… NASA uses checklists before it launches astronauts into space, and surgeons use them before they start cutting people open. While email marketing isn’t rocket science or brain surgery, it certainly has its share of complexities. (By that we mean it’s easy to mess things up.)

Enter: The email marketing checklist. Let’s find out how this simple solution can help you avoid email marketing disasters and see the sort of results you expect from you next campaign.

Why do you need an email marketing checklist?

We’ve all been there: You’ve worked for days - maybe even weeks - to create and finalize what you believe to be the perfect promotional email. Mere minutes after hitting the send button, you notice a glaring mistake that slipped through the cracks. “Noooooooo!”

Maybe it looks super funky in a popular email client. Perhaps you didn’t consider how your email looks in dark mode. Or maybe you forgot to include alt text on images, and the email isn’t accessible for anyone with image downloading turned off. It seems like a million things could go wrong. The sinking feeling sets in that whatever the mistake was could very well impact your brand’s reputation, ROI, or even your future deliverability rate. Ouch.

No matter how many times you’ve sent an email campaign, or how much of an expert developer you are, an email marketing checklist helps improve your chances of success. In the medical world, researcher Atul Gawande found that doctors that use checklists to remind themselves of even simple tasks, such as washing hands, have been known to reduce deaths by as much as 47%.

Email marketing isn’t a life-or-death situation. But if it works for high adrenaline occupations like emergency response teams, astronauts, and racecar drivers…it’s worth giving it a shot. Here’s how to incorporate one into your email marketing workflow:

How to build a comprehensive email marketing checklist

The first step toward creating an email marketing checklist is to think about your existing workflow. What’s working? What could be improved? A good checklist helps you move through the entire email marketing lifecycle so you don’t miss a single item. We've put together one you can start using now. Grab a PDF below and use it to check off your tasks (print or digital).

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Let’s walk through each stage in an email’s journey to your subscribers:

1.   Email marketing strategy

Good email marketing starts with a plan.

Every email campaign should have a purpose. (And no, the purpose isn’t “my boss told me to send more emails.”) The first part of your checklist should confirm why you’re going through all this effort in the first place. Ask yourself:

What is the goal of this email campaign?

Articulating exactly why you’re sending this email, and what you hope to gain, is a critical first step in your email workflow. This ensures that every time you press send, you’re adding value to your subscribers and/or to your business.

This is also the time to determine what metrics you’ll measure to determine the success of the campaign. For example, if the goal is to share a new downloadable asset, then you’ll want to focus on click-through rate and number of downloads as key success metrics.

Which segments will receive this email?

Once you have a goal in mind, you can understand which personas are best suited to receive the email. You may still choose to send your email to everyone; however, this is where you’ll determine what kind of messaging or imagery should be personalized to a given segment. For example, if you’re promoting a particular product, you’ll want to suppress anyone who already purchased that product.

What is the call-to-action? (CTA)

Before you write a single line of code, you need to know where you’ll send your subscribers when they read your email. What’s the next step after they open and read your message? Make sure the rest of your campaign strategy is in place before moving forward, such as a targeted landing page.

What is special about this email campaign? (optional)

This is where the magic happens. Is there anything exciting or special about this campaign? Give yourself space to brainstorm big ideas about design, copy, or coding here. (And it’s totally okay for the answer to be “no.” Not every campaign needs to be so extra.)

2.   Email campaign production

Next, it’s time to actually build your email campaign. This is where the email production process takes over.

Start with inbox details

Before you can woo your subscribers in the body of the email, you need to make sure they open first:

  • Choose a from name and reply-to email address
  • Write your subject line and preheader text, which all appears in the inbox.
    • Keep your subject line to no more than a few powerful words (3-4)
    • Keep your preheader text to no more than 50 characters, including spaces.

Make the email content actionable

Email copywriting is the meat-and-potatoes of your email campaign. Keep your message short and sweet rather than cramming in every single feature or piece of information - remember, you can always send another email.

This is also where you’ll craft your call-to-action. Decide now whether you’ll use a bulletproof button, hyperlinks within the text, or some combination of the two. Ideally, you should have only 1 major CTA per email, with 2 or 3 smaller links throughout.

Above all, make sure your content is optimized and accessible for screen readers. For example, including alt text for all images—and that you’ve considered your word choice not just for persuasive copy but to make sure there’s no “spammy” words or phrases that appear in your email.

Design the email with subscribers in mind

Alongside email copywriting comes email design. This can happen at the same time or after the copy is finalized, depending on the organization. Your email UX should guide the reader toward the CTA and be readable whether they’re viewing on mobile or desktop.

This is also the step where you can choose or design imagery that goes along with your email message, and determine what kinds of fallbacks you’ll need for any special features like interactivity. This includes adding a plain-text version, enabling web-view, and checking your blocked-images version to make sure all are clear and easy to understand.

Even if you’re using a template, it’s important to double check your user experience and mobile responsiveness. At Email on Acid, we use an email design system that standardizes email components, giving you the best of both worlds.

Choose your A/B testing models (optional)

Every audience is different, which is why you should continually test your emails to determine what resonates with them and what falls flat. Choose what you will split test in this campaign - no more than one design element at a time - such as subject line, CTA button color, layout, button placement, image choices, and more.

Prevailing wisdom or best practices might suggest a bright-colored CTA button, for example, when your audience actually clicks more on a more neutral colorway. ::shrug emoji:: The only way to find out is to test.

3.   Email quality assurance (QA)

Now, it’s time to make sure you’ve dotted every i and crossed every t, metaphorically speaking. It’s no surprise that here at Email on Acid, we advocate for testing every email (and then testing again.) This checklist is here to help make sure you don’t forget a single item before you press send:

Approve your email with the rest of the team

Email marketing takes a village. Even if you’re an email team of one, this step is a great point to pause and take a break before continuing. Give yourself some space so that you can come back with fresh eyes on design, copy, and code. For larger teams, share your final design for feedback and approval before moving forward.

Preview your email across every email client and device

Email previews give you an idea of what your HTML email will look like when it is opened in different email clients and devices. Email clients, like Gmail and Microsoft Outlook, differ in how they display the same email message because HTML and CSS handling aren’t standardized in email clients the same way they are on most web browsers.

Previews help you determine whether or not your code is working as it should. Is anything looking weird or wonky? Have images been validated for proper rendering? Did the fallbacks work for dynamic or interactive content? Is mobile responsiveness working? This is your moment to double check every part of the email campaign.

Do one final check of your email content

Previews can help you spot errors, but it’s not the only tool worth using before you send to your subscribers. Check that all of your links are working and tracking is firing with URL validation, run your email copy through spell check one more time, and double check any templatized sections of your email, like your social sharing links, unsubscribe functionality, and your logo.

Then, it’s time to hit send!

4.   Evaluating email performance

The work isn’t quite done after you send out your campaign. Now, it’s time to determine how it went—high fives all around:

Review performance metrics

So, how did your email do? Depending on your goal for the email, take a look at your open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and any deliverability metrics to determine your overall performance. See how this campaign did against your overall campaign average—was it better, worse, or about the same?

View results from any A/B testing

Similarly, check out how your A/B testing went. Which element performed better? If it’s statistically significant, it’s worth incorporating into future designs. If the test is relatively inconclusive, add it back into your queue to try again in the future. It may be that it doesn’t matter that much to the overall outcome, but it’s worth trying again to be sure.

Use insights to inform your next campaign

Don’t forget about how your campaign did in the hustle and bustle of creating the next one. Make sure you take the time to sit with your performance and tease out any insights. Isolate what you’d like to test next—for example, what day of the week did you send your email? Could you segment users by geography so everyone receives it at 6 AM their time? Should you experiment with a one-column vs. two-column layout? This is where the fun is.

More email checklists for the busy email geek in your life

Who doesn’t love a good checklist? You can download a PDF version of this pre-deployment checklist or take a look at some of our other checklists worth printing and taping to your desk:

Automate email testing and QA with Email on Acid

It’s always a good idea to have a checklist before you send your next campaign.

But what if you didn’t have to think about it? Instead of manually ticking off each box in a long checklist, Email on Acid can automate the entire process. You can breathe easy knowing that every email sent is automatically checked for broken links, typos, rendering issues, and more.

Give Campaign Precheck a Try!

While you can use our email readiness platform in a variety of ways, we’ve designed the optimal predeployment checklist with Campaign Precheck. It streamlines and simplifies the entire pre-send process for efficiency and accuracy. Log in now to start using Campaign Precheck. Or, sign up for your free trial today!

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