Drawing up a strategic plan for your email newsletter
Email marketing is becoming more common all the time, as more and more people realise that it produces solid results. Surveys show that digital newsletters are one of the most cost-effective tools available for marketing today, on a par with search engine optimisation.
The question is: how do you go about it? Simply sending information and offers willy-nilly into cyberspace is not a good way of doing things. Newsletters sent by email need to be thoroughly researched and well thought out – you need to know when, how and to whom you need to send them. Some form of marketing plan can be useful here. For many people, however, this sounds complicated and time-consuming. How can you find time to do this on top of all the other things you have to do?
In fact, it does not need to be difficult or time-consuming. This guide takes you step-by-step through designing a plan for your email marketing.
The key is to work effectively, strategically and systematically so that your newsletters reach the right target groups with the right information – whether that means the newsletter, the offers or a combination of both.
Step one: Define your target group
The very first thing to do is to give some thought to who will primarily be the ones who will read your newsletter – in other words, to define your target group. Once you have done this, it will be easier to decide the content of your mailings.
What does your target group look like? Are they company directors and managers? Customers – current and/or new? Members of an organisation or association?
When you have decided whom you primarily wish to reach through your mailings, it can be useful to describe them in a few words: Who they are, and what you want them to get out of the campaign that you are planning. This is because your mailing needs to be suitable for its recipients – and, in the end, lead to your email marketing producing results.
You are planning a newsletter for company directors and managers. Some items that may be useful to them:
- Company news and trends within their area of business
- Information about what is going on in terms of marketing and interesting results from current market surveys
You want to send emails to new and existing customers. Some items that may arouse their interest:
- Information and reviews of current products
- The very latest product news
- Special offers and discount offers
Step two: Define the scope of your purpose
Once you have defined whom you wish to reach, it is time for the next step – deciding the purpose of your email marketing. This is done by answering the following two questions:
- What do you wish to achieve with your email marketing?
- What benefit will your readers gain from the information that you provide them with?
Bear in mind that both points are equally important. It makes no difference what information and which offers you send out if the recipient does not find the content relevant and interesting.
By giving thought to and defining the purpose of your email marketing, you create the foundation for designing the content of your mailings. If you are wondering whether or not to include something in a newsletter, for example, consider whether it is in keeping with your purpose. If it is not, leave it out.
Step three: Create a number of aims
Defining a number of aims is an important part of drawing up a marketing plan. By then monitoring the aims you will have the opportunity to see whether or not your investment in marketing using digital newsletters has been a success.
The aims can vary over time. For example, an initial aim may be to increase the number of people who receive your mailings. In the longer term, the aim may be to increase sales and/or the number of loyal/returning customers.
You will probably not see any dramatic effect immediately. The initial period is about strengthening your base of loyal subscribers and generating more. Little by little, however, you will start to see results.
This is provided that you create high quality mailings and that you make them known by highlighting them in various contexts.
Think about what you hope to achieve from your email marketing over the next six months. Then write it down in terms of three points:
- Your aim. For example: ‘to increase the number of subscribers by 40 per cent’ or ‘to increase sales by 20 per cent’.
- The means to achieve the aim. For example: through newsletters, special offers and – not least – by marketing the newsletter in marketing material, on various websites and in social media such as Facebook and Twitter so that you gain new readers/customers.
- Measuring achieving the aim – in other words, how you achieved the aim, for example using sales statistics, open rates and click rates.
Step four: Decide how often to send out mailings
If the newsletter comes out too often, it can feel tiresome and – in the worst case – be perceived as spam or junk mail. On the other hand, if the mailings are too infrequent there is a risk of the recipients forgetting you and, at worst, again perceiving the email as junk mail.
In many cases, an email once a month tends to be just about right, but of course the frequency depends on what you have to say. For example, if news or sales results are published every other week and are of use to your recipients, the frequency should be adjusted accordingly. If your recipients are under a lot of time pressure – such as higher management, for example – then you could either choose to send brief newsletters more frequently or slightly longer ones less frequently.
Whatever frequency of publication you choose, it is important in most cases to stick to it. Recipients need to know that they will be receiving the information they need when they expect it. Of course, you can make exceptions to this. If important items of news or offers are published on a specific day, recipients should receive them on the same day – or, better still, a day or so in advance (in other words, give your email recipients the ‘VIP treatment’). Find out more in the section entitled Tips about the content of your digital newsletter.
On the other hand, if one month you have nothing special to report, it may be better to leave the mailings that month rather than feeding your recipients with ‘old food from the cupboard’. Do not, however, make a habit of missing an edition; it should be the exception rather than the rule.
Step five: Produce a timetable
Now you have the foundation for your email marketing. You have defined your target group, purpose and aims, and you have decided how often to contact your email recipients.
It is now time to draw up a timetable for producing your mailings. In most cases, email marketing is built on recurring contacts, and a timetable will help you to allow enough time to produce regular mailings.
Produce your mailing!
Based on this planning, you can reserve time in your calendar for each mailing. Whether you wish to divide points 2–4 over two or more days is up to you. It needs to feel like the material is still current when you mail it out, but do not be in too much of a hurry. Sloppy mistakes and factual errors reduce the impression of the material as well as of the things you wish to market.
Do not forget to take weekends, public holidays and holiday periods into account when drawing up your timetable. Perhaps you may wish to send an additional offer before Christmas or the holidays? On the other hand, you should avoid mailing out material at times when most companies and organisations are closed for the weekend or for public holidays. The risk here is that your newsletter either will be drowned in all the other email that needs to be read after the holiday or will no longer feel current.
- Define your target group
- Define the scope of the purpose of your email marketing
- Create a number of aims
- Decide how often to send out mailings
- Produce a timetable