How to create an email marketing calendar

As an email marketing agency, brands repeatedly tell us that they know this channel is important, but they just haven’t focused on it. Unfortunately, when it comes to email, if you aren’t landing in people’s inboxes, then you aren’t on your subscribers’ minds. When was the last time you thought about a brand before they emailed you?

Failing to focus on email marketing has worse consequences than just falling off your customers’ radar, however. After a brand tells us that they don’t focus on email, I know what’s coming. Next, they say that they tend to send emails only when some executive thinks they should, and they then have to rush to get something out the door. Oftentimes, those emails look nothing like the website and are a poor representation of the brand. This kind of slipshod marketing can tarnish your image in customers’ minds.

So how do you get out of this pattern and build an email marketing calendar that will stick and lead to more revenue? Follow these steps to get started.

1. Align with public calendars

This might sound like cheating, but it’s not: Use another calendar to start your email marketing calendar! Natural marketing events already exist around many holidays. Look through bank holidays and other major annual events to determine which ones might be relevant for your brand. If you present an offer to customers when they’re likelier to be in the market for your product, your success of converting a sale goes up.

For example, imagine that you sell swimsuits. You could easily launch a campaign on Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer. Alternatively, if you sell health supplements, you might kick off a new marketing push in January when New Year’s resolutions are top of mind. These campaigns can also expand beyond email and be used in social media and other advertising platforms.

You can also take advantage of smaller events that happen every year. Think of events like Valentine’s Day, Tax Day, back-to-school season and other times when an opportunity exists for an email marketing campaign. Anytime you can approach customers when the calendar means that they’re already in a purchasing mindset, your conversion rates will increase.

2. Match internal marketing calendars

You may be surprised to hear that you already have an email marketing calendar. You’ve just never thought of it as such. You have product launches, right? You issue press releases occasionally, right? You offer discounts sometimes, right? All of these events are prime candidates to turn into a full campaign.

Start tracking these dates in a calendar somewhere that’s accessible to your team, like a Google Sheet. You now have a list of things that you can promote via email. Every time the company does something noteworthy, you can peg an email blast to it.

For our hypothetical swimsuit company, this process would involve listing the dates that new inventory drops and deciding which are worthy of an email campaign. Or say our health supplement company is being profiled in a magazine feature. All the promotional material prepared for the article can become an email campaign, which is then supplemented by the piece’s eventual release.

If you’re worried you don’t have enough product releases or press features, then plan an email once a month that highlights one of your products, mixing it up each time. Just put together some great product shots and visuals, some information about the product, and you have an email! Don’t overthink it; you already have a business and a product. Use email marketing as a venue to show it off.

3. Use templates

I often see companies with thorough email marketing calendars drawn up but poor execution in actually sticking to the calendar. Usually, this is due to “overdesigning,” i.e., focusing so much on making an email look perfect that the sending gets delayed. The most effective way to tackle this challenge is to use templates. If you prepare a few templates ahead of time, you can then match a template to a campaign when you build your calendar so that design is not a stressor.

Then, when it comes time to execute a campaign, you already have the structure of the email ready. All you need to do is insert copy, images and links and get ready to send it. This will allow you to stay on schedule and keep consistent cadence with your subscribers.

4. Understand your subscriber list

How did you acquire your subscriber list in the first place? Are they all existing customers? Maybe you did a giveaway with some other brands and most of the subscribers only signed up to try to get a free trip. Understanding these nuances will help you in forming a calendar.

If your audience is only subscribed to get a great deal, it might not make sense to feature a product at full price. Alternatively, if they’re loyal customers, maybe don’t do that 30 percent off sale next week. Try 20 percent instead and keep the margin.

There are infinite ways to split and segment your list, but if it’s your first time building a calendar, don’t overdo it. Stick with your core business, and once you start to see some results, then you can get more complicated and perform some segmentation.

5. Pick your cadence

Remember to keep it simple to avoid overwhelming yourself too early. Don’t ask too much of yourself or your team. Start with one email a month and expand from there as you get into a rhythm. Let the data drive your decision-making. If your subscribers are opening and clicking your emails at the same or better rate than they did in the previous month, keep going! This means they’re enjoying your content. If you see the numbers dropping off, then pull back and wait for a more compelling time to launch a campaign.

As you find more consistency in email, you will also find that you can re-use campaign ideas. If you successfully feature a key product in March, find another product to feature in April. And, of course, next year you can run these campaigns again. By following these principles, coming up with campaigns will become much easier. Soon, email marketing will be driving more and more revenue to your business.

This piece was originally published on Built In.

Author avatar
Will Pearson
Will is the co-founder of Scalero, a lifecycle marketing studio.