A good plan keys e-mail success

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly marketers want to put together an e-mail message, cram it into a system and send it to every single person in their database. Where have all the planners gone?

E-mail, like any other marketing channel, is most successful when it is appropriately leveraged. Would you ever just send a post­card to your entire database without first thinking through every test, content and offer iteration? Not likely — so why do it with e-mail?

The answer tends to be because e-mail is a low-cost, immediate channel. But that shouldn’t license marketers to abuse it. Of all the customers I work with, there is only one I have ever seen that had a detailed editorial calendar that was established on a quarterly basis. While that calendar did account for the need to send a periodic “quick turn” message, it was well thought out, highly targeted and resulted in great success. Even the definition of success was well documented and com­municated internally, allowing all levels of management to easily identify the successful campaigns — and the dogs — in their portfolio of e-mail marketing messaging.

The great apprehension in doing this tends to be the concern of getting it wrong. But if you aren’t putting together a solid plan to begin with, there is an even greater possibility of not getting it right.

My recommendation is to start simple. While you may send more messaging than is detailed in your plan, at least you know you are hitting the marks that absolutely need to be accommodated — for example, new product launches, seasonal campaigns or corporate directives. Preparing the right message for the right audience, around topics that are important to your recipient and to your organization, can’t be a bad thing.

You should dare to be different. Don’t just send e-mail to your entire audience at a moment’s notice when the feeling strikes your marketing department, as your pric­ing folks decide to put something on sale or because you didn’t know your sales team was going to be at a trade show and you need to drive attendance at the last minute. Good planning equals great messaging and great conversion, and a little planning can take you a long way.

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