Ask any marketer to name the most effective marketing channels, and they’ll probably include email in their top 3. That’s because email is the channel with the highest return on investment for businesses.
Customers will likely give you a similar answer, considering email continues to top the list of their preferred communication channels.
But to unlock the potential of this channel, businesses must do more than send the occasional email. The most effective email campaigns begin with a detailed marketing plan that establishes what you’ll do, why, and how.
Not sure where to start? We’ve got you. This post will show you how to create an email marketing plan in 7 steps.
7 steps to create an email marketing plan
Sitting down to create a marketing campaign plan might sound daunting, especially when you have tons of ideas and are ready to execute them. But this exercise will help you think about the purpose of your campaign and the elements it needs to succeed. The following steps will walk you through creating a strategic email marketing plan.
To illustrate what each step might look like for a business, we’ll follow along with a fictional example: Baking supply company Whisks & Such is creating an email campaign plan to promote an industry conference meant to nurture new and existing leads. The 2-day conference includes baking demonstrations from celebrity chefs, roundtable discussions about industry trends, and tastings.
1. Define goals and metrics
Every good plan starts with a defined goal. So before you start discussing creative assets and schedules, ask yourself:
- What do you want to achieve?
- How will this campaign support your marketing strategy?
- How will you measure success?
The answers to these questions will help you determine the campaign goal and key messaging. Your goal could relate to revenue, audience engagement, brand awareness, or other objectives. Additionally, your campaign likely ties into a broader marketing strategy, so think about how this project will support the overarching goal.
Next, with your campaign goal in mind, get specific about the email metrics you’ll track to measure success, like:
- Open rate
- Click-through rate (CTR)
- Conversion rate
- Leads generated
- Email list growth
Whisks & Such’s email campaign goal is to get 5,000 registrations for the conference. This ties into a larger marketing goal to increase new clients by 20% in 2023.
To measure the performance of each send, the Whisks & Such marketing team will track open rate, CTR, and conversion rate. This will help the team understand whether the emails in the campaign capture recipients’ attention and encourage them to register for the event.
2. Define your audience and create segments
To give your campaign the best chance of performing, you must send the right message to the right audience. So the next step in your campaign plan is to define your target audience and create email segments.
Whisks & Such’s conference is in person in Seattle, with potential attendees, such as pastry chefs working in restaurants and hotels, likely having the budget to travel to the conference. So the target audience will include all the email subscribers in the US who elected to receive event-related emails.
However, Whisks & Such has a campaign goal to generate and nurture leads to convert them into clients, so the marketing team will focus heavily on subscribers who aren’t current clients. They’ll create 2 audience segments to target with different messaging and email frequencies:
- Subscribers who have elected to receive event-related emails: current clients
- Subscribers who have elected to receive event-related emails: not current clients
Want to know how you can get to know your audience to create effective segments? Email can be a great way to gather and activate first-party data about your recipients, especially when paired with a customer data platform like Twilio Segment.
3. Determine the content and theme
Now that you have an idea of the campaign goal and audience, start planning the content for your campaign.
First, determine the appropriate content type, such as:
- A welcome email series for an onboarding campaign
- A loyalty program email series for a customer retention campaign
- An email invitation series for an event campaign
Once you’ve determined the email type, you can decide how many emails the campaign will include and a general idea of the content for each.
The Whisks & Such campaign will be an email invitation series, and the content will include:
- A save-the-date email
- A formal invitation email
- A series of reminder emails (6) leading up to the event
Lastly, consider the theme for the campaign to help guide the look and feel of the content. Have you decided on the event’s personality? What colors, imagery, and tone will you use to reinforce it?
For example, in the event email below, Twilio uses vibrant colors, dynamic images, and eye-catching icons to reinforce the event’s personality.
Whisks & Such’s event is for pastry chefs, whose work requires precision and an eye for detail. So to appeal to this audience, the theme will be modern French patisserie characterized by clean lines and surprising pops of color.
4. Create an email calendar
The next step is to create an email schedule and add it to your content calendar. When planning your email schedule, it’s helpful to work your way back from the final goal or a key date to maximize your timing.
Since the Whisks & Such conference is November 1, the marketing team wants to begin teasing it 3 months in advance to give potential attendees time to get the expense approved and plan their trip if traveling. So the team created the following email schedule:
- Save the date: August 2
- Formal invitation: August 23
- Early-bird pricing ends reminder: September 27
- Weekly reminders:
- October 4 – Highlight celebrity chef 1
- October 11 – Highlight roundtable discussion
- October 18 – Highlight celebrity chef 2
- October 25 – Highlight tastings
- See you tomorrow: October 31
Adding your campaign schedule to your team’s content calendar also allows you to see how your campaign will intersect with other campaigns, holiday emails, and newsletter issues.
Don’t have an email calendar? We have you covered with the 2023 Email Marketing Calendar.
5. Develop creative assets
Now the fun part for many marketers begins. With all the campaign details ironed out, your team can develop the creative elements for your campaign, including:
The schedule created in the previous step makes it easy to see what elements you need for each email and set deadlines for asset delivery.
Whisks & Such’s copywriters and designers on the marketing team will use the content and themes decided in step 3 to guide their work. This will ensure all the elements come together to create cohesive emails that help reach the campaign goals.
Want more details on how to ensure emails drive toward your goals? Check out these content creation best practices.
6. Build automations
With all your assets in hand, the next step is to build automations. Once you set up the campaign, you can trust that your emails will go out on time and reach the right recipients.
But keep in mind a crucial part of automation is setting up exit criteria—the action that removes a recipient from the workflow—so recipients only get relevant emails.
For example, the Whisks & Such marketing team will set up the exit criteria based on registrations. This means that once a recipient registers for the event, they’ll no longer get emails urging them to register. However, those who opened the invitation but haven’t registered will continue to receive reminder emails.
If you haven’t set up automations before, don’t worry. Follow this tutorial on how to create email automations with Twilio SendGrid step by step.
One last thing: Before you hit Send, test your emails to ensure proper rendering, no broken links, and the ability to pass spam filters.
7. Track performance
To stay on top of your email performance, set up a regular cadence to track the metrics you determined in step 1. This could be weekly, biweekly, or monthly, depending on how often you send emails.
Whisks & Such’s marketing team checks email metrics weekly, tracking opens, clicks, and conversions after each send. This helps them determine whether the emails drive registrations.
Tracking performance can be challenging when the metrics are hard to decipher or the data is scattered. But the right tools give you access to all your email data in one place.
For example, SendGrid’s email statistics provide easy access to audience and deliverability insights, giving you an understanding of your audience’s experience. You can use this actionable data to tweak your campaigns and improve performance. Plus, you can quickly create reports that track data in real time and share these with stakeholders.
Build and send engaging email campaigns with Twilio SendGrid
The best-laid plans require the right tools for implementation. And when it comes to email marketing plans, Twilio SendGrid provides the tools you need at every step, including:
- Responsive email templates
- Intuitive drag-and-drop and HTML design tools
- Approachable email automation
- Strategic list management
- Real-time customer data through direct integration with Twilio Segment
- Complete email analytics
- And more
Get started today for free and discover what you can build with SendGrid.