Good Email Marketing Starts With End-to-End Planning
Email marketing is said to have an ROI of about $40 to every $1 spent. It is one of the most impactful channels we have in our toolbox—if it’s done correctly.
However, with all marketing campaigns, maximizing ROI comes with a big “if”:
- If your campaigns are high-quality
- If your campaigns are set up correctly
- If everything works in the email
- If you send to the right segment
- If your subscribers can actually read your emails
- If the email renders correctly in the inbox
You can eliminate some of these “ifs” by planning for your email marketing program, creating a comprehensive pre-deployment checklist, and monitoring emails post-send. Focusing on these three key factors will help you minimize any mistakes and save you time and heartache down the road. It will also boost your return on investment in your email marketing program.
There’s a finality in email. Once you hit send, you can’t get that email back. And sending an email out with mistakes isn’t just about the “oops” moment – it can have a huge impact on your brand and your email marketing program. It’s difficult to measure the value of a brand, and the impact that mistakes can have on that brand.
Just think about all the planning you’ve done up front: the effort of wrangling various departments (like marketing, sales, product, legal, support), getting stakeholders to sign off, and the money it costs to send that email. That all goes down the drain when an email with a mistake gets sent. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the other initiatives that email campaign might be supporting. It can get expensive—fast.
But we don’t mean to scare you. Mistakes do happen, and they aren’t necessarily the end of the world. But they are preventable! Being thorough when you plan your campaigns through the review process will reduce the mistakes you make. It will also help preserve your brand, rather than tarnish it. Whether you’re a one-person team or one of many, you need to have solid planning and a pre-deployment process in place.
Planning is much more than just finding email inspiration. It comes down to being strategic about your program as a whole. Do the campaigns ladder up to something bigger? Are you setting yourself up to personalize more and segment your audience effectively for future sends?
As email marketers, we need to plan ahead of time to make both our email program and individual email sends successful. Ryan Phelan, an email expert with over two decades of experience in the industry, recommends setting aside time for strategic planning for your program. For each individual email, we recommend asking some questions ahead of time:
- How are you going to measure the success of the campaign?
- What’s the point of the campaign?
- How are you preparing for it?
- Who are you sending the email to?
All of this information can form the basis of your creative brief, which will provide the direction you need. Make sure your team collaborates effectively during this process. Use a shared document that multiple team members can edit, like a Google Doc, or Word on Sharepoint.
Whether you are performing quality assurance manually or using an automated tool, start with a thorough checklist and decide who on your team will manage it. The important thing is that you have a checklist in place and one that works for your team’s process. A manual checklist might look like a PDF or an Excel spreadsheet that you can go through every time or adapt to certain campaigns. For an automated tool, take a look at Campaign Precheck. We built it to make life easier for email marketers with our click-to-fix technology that helps you review and optimize your campaigns.
These are three areas of your email we recommend reviewing and double-checking:
- The Sender Name: Is it from a person or the company? This is often situational and depends on your specific subscriber list. You need to test it!
- Subject Line: Is it going to grab your audience’s attention? Check out some best practices for subject lines.
- Preheader Text: It’s one of the easiest ways to enhance your email, and it’s an area that needs improvement in the industry. It has zero impact on your renderability but offers a huge opportunity to drive clicks and opens.
- Accessibility: It’s 2020 and it’s time to make your emails accessible. Accessibility can be difficult to manually check, especially your contrast ratios and color variants.
A key thing to keep in mind is that visual impairments or disabilities may be temporary. Your most engaged subscribers may go in for Lasik, cataract surgery, or suffer an injury that prevents them from engaging with your emails like they used to. If you don’t make those emails accessible to them, you might lose those subscribers. Luckily, we’ve made it really easy to make your emails ADA compliant with Campaign Precheck’s click-to-fix technology.
- Links: Do they work? Do they go where they’re supposed to? Are they tracking?
Your UTMs need to be specific to each campaign, or you won’t get the full picture of how successful your campaigns are. Plus, once an email is opened and a link is clicked, your ESP supplemental analytics (like heatmapping) can no longer track. Setting up UTM codes will help you see what your subscribers do on your website.
- Spelling and Grammatical Errors: They’re one of the easiest things to overlook. Make sure to use spell check or a tool like Grammarly to avoid sending out an email with mistakes.
- Images: Can your email be understood if images don’t load? If not, you need to add more text-based content and alt text.
Deliverability is a broad topic, but it’s essential to think about before you deploy your campaign. Even after you’ve gone through every step above, and you have the perfect email, it won’t matter if your email doesn’t make it to the inbox. That’s why we recommend running your email through spam testing before you hit send. This will give you a good idea of what your deliverability looks like.
This is another reason to reconsider all-image emails. Filters that see an all-image email will ask: what is the email trying to hide? Why is there no content? Why is it all images? It has an impact on your deliverability. Here’s a tip: If you add 500 characters to your email, it starts to look a whole lot less like spam and will begin to pass filters according to our testing at Email on Acid.
You don’t know where, when, or how your subscribers are going to interact with your email. If your subscribers can’t interact with your emails due to rendering issues, they may become disengaged. It also doesn’t look professional or trustworthy if your email is broken. You need to test the following before you hit send:
- Your Template: does the template render correctly in every inbox?
- Your Content: often email marketers test their template once, and think it’s good to go after that. Changing content—including copy, images, and links—could break your template. It’s a good idea to check your email every time.
- Your Dynamic Content: This one can be a little tricky, but you need to determine how to validate your dynamic content. What portions are good? How do you understand certain segments and variants? Create a Gantt chart to determine how dynamic content should behave.
A lot of your pre-planning will factor into how you handle the post-send. For example, if you’re planning to optimize your emails to be accessible, you should also plan to make the landing page you’re driving traffic to accessible as well. Otherwise, you’ll have a misalignment and possibly a bad customer experience.
Also consider that people may open your email a few days or possibly even weeks later. Most campaigns are opened up front, but there is always a little trickle of subscribers that open the email days later. How many things may change post-send? Will the links and images still work for them?
We tip our hats to every email marketer out there. Your job is incredibly difficult with lots of moving parts and high stakes. We know that email marketers want to make sure they’re doing it right, and there are a ton of steps involved and concerns to be aware of. By planning ahead, having a solid pre-deployment process in place, and ensuring the experience of your brand is positive and professional from beginning to end, you’ll get the most out of your email marketing program.
Need a Checklist?
We created one specifically based on feedback from our customers and the industry as a whole. From pre-deployment to post-deployment, we’ve built a tool to help you make the most out of your email marketing campaigns.
Campaign Precheck is a flexible pre-deployment checklist that easily fits into your existing email development process.
Simplify the Email QA Process and Deliver Perfection
What’s the best way to run through your pre-send checklist? With Sinch Email on Acid’s Campaign Precheck, we’ve simplified the process and set everything up for you. Use it to double-check your content, optimize for deliverability, ensure accessibility, and preview how campaigns look on more than 100 of the most popular clients and devices. All before you hit send!