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5 Steps to a Successful Email Campaign

Starting an email campaign can be overwhelming. Knowing what to say, when to say it, and who to say it to can easily leave you feeling like the effort isn’t worth the trouble.

If you’re not familiar with what an email campaign is, I’d start here: Why You Need to Up Your Email Marketing Game. But if you know what they are, and you’re just overwhelmed, we’ve got you covered. 

This seemingly daunting task can be broken down into five action steps that, when tackled individually, make this mountain much easier to climb. 

STEP 1: The Why

Figuring out why you want to send an email campaign will go a long way to focus your vision and keeping you from getting distracted from irrelevant marketing thoughts. Think of this question as your blinders–everything else stays out of your vision except the single reason you’re developing an email campaign.

Maybe you can’t even answer that question, but you know that email marketing is important. That’s okay too. 

Here are a few possible answers to that question:

  • I want to reach more people.
  • I want to inform people.
  • I want to increase my credibility.
  • I want to sell my products/services.
  • I’ve got sweet things to say.

Once you’ve got the “why” answer to your question, you can start to put some meat on the bones. 

Take ToasterTubs, for example. They wanted to spread the word about their cutting-edge combination hot tub/toaster, raise brand awareness, and inform their audience. They’ve got a solid mailing list filled with people who are interested in hearing from them.

To determine their core message, ToasterTubs answered the following question:

Why do I want to send an email campaign?

They came back with this answer:
We want to send an email campaign so we can educate people about the ToasterTub brand, make product announcements, and sell more products.

Armed with a solid “why” they could then dial in the purpose, goal, and audience of their campaign. Once you get your “why”, the pieces come together pretty quickly:

Purpose – To raise awareness of the ToasterTubs brand and line of products.
Goal – To increase sales.
Audience – People with disposable income who enjoy both toast and entertaining. 

Their purpose is to educate people so they’ll eventually make a purchase. And they know not everyone is in the market for toast-making jacuzzis, so they want to only target people with money to blow.  

With the core message in place, we move on to Step 2: The Design.

STEP 2: The Design

Knowing what you want to say, why you want to say it, and who you’re saying it to can make designing your email campaign easier and more effective.

If your purpose is to inspire your audience, then an image-heavy design might be used. If you’re trying to educate people, then something more text-centric might be in order.

But be careful, the design stage is where a big chunk of your budget can be spent. It’s easy to want a design that is custom tailored to your specific message. If your budget allows, great! But designing (and coding) custom emails for every send can add up quickly.

Pro Tip: If you want to maximize your budget, try designing a simple template that can be reused.

Or, if you still want a more custom feel, have a text template design, image-focused template, and special use template, and use whichever one makes the most sense.

STEP 3: Time to Write!

You’ve got the ‘why’. You’ve got your design. Now it’s time to write!

This stage in the process contains the biggest pitfall. Many people think impactful content means boisterous, long-winded long sentences; as if drawn-out pontifications that are designed to make you sound impressive actually impress people. (Get it?)

Don’t be that person.

Be true to your brand, be honest about your message, and get to the point.

People will connect with a brand that feels more like a friend and less like an annoying shouty person.

For the ToasterTubs campaign, the point was to first educate people. There’s no sales pitch. Just information. It starts with simple facts that appeal to their target audience, then slowly, over the course of a few weeks, the conversation shifts from brand-education, to product-education. See for yourself.

STEP 4: Collect Feedback

Your first draft is probably garbage. If you’re writing directly in your email marketing platform’s email builder and hitting send, you’re sending digital garbage.

But there’s a simple way to help rid the world of inbox pollutants.

First, read your email out loud, alone, to yourself. If it sounds unnatural, rewrite it (repeat until it’s good).

Second, read your email out loud in front of someone else. If it still feels natural, move on to the next step. If not, rewrite it.

Third, have someone else read your email back to you. If it sounds good, move on to step four. If what they’re reading makes them sound like an idiot, rewrite the email and go back to step one.

Finally, combine what you’ve written and designed. This is the final draft (maybe) of your email creative. You’ve got a thoughtful message and an intentional design. But before you hit send, make sure your email can stand on its own.

Pushing Against the Email

We call this “pushing against” the email. You shouldn’t care how much time was spent on it, or how proud of your work you are, what matters is if the email seems like it will be effective.

The best way to find out if your email is actually any good, is to ask it a few questions. Questions like:

  • Does this email look like your brand?
  • Does this email sound like your brand?
  • Does this email have a clear, concise message?

Then ask your team to critique the email. This is possibly the hardest part, because humans tend to equate critique with being personally attacked. But your email campaign will be most successful if you care more about the effectiveness of your email than you care about your feelings. Invite feedback.

  • What do you like about this email?
  • What don’t you like about this email?
  • What do you think the message of this email is?
  • What would you do to make this email better?

STEP 5: Send Out That Sweet, Sweet Email

This is a lot. It’s a lot to process. It’s a lot to do. But the difference between firing off the first thought that comes to your mind in a pre-designed template and strategically planning a targeted email campaign can be the difference between wasting your time and growing your business.

If you and your team can follow these steps, and honestly ask and answer these questions, then you’re setting yourself up for a successful email campaign


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