It’s the final week before Christmas, and that means plenty
Holidays present the perfect email marketing opportunity – from Christmas
Maybe you wish you could jump on the daily deal
Writers plot with it. Businesses use it in meetings. Chris
Not many people would like to repeat high school, and
This is the third post in a series on using an email marketing calendar to manage your campaigns more efficiently. You may want to read Why You Need an Email Marketing Calendar and Planning your Email Marketing Calendar before continuing.
My two previous posts have focused on planning your campaigns in advance to improve their quality, consistency and cohesiveness.
Of course, picking out dates to send campaigns might seem pointless if you don’t have any idea what your emails are going to be about!
So today, let’s get into some email content ideas — that way, when we talk next time about how to make all this even easier by using calendar software, you’ll be able to jump right into coordinating your campaigns for the upcoming months/year.
Annual Industry Events
Many of us work in industries that follow relatively fixed annual cycles, where certain things take place at the same time each year.
Since we know about such cycles/events well in advance, we can plan individual emails or multi-email campaigns to send in the time leading up to (and in some instances after) them.
A publisher in the music industry might send an email newsletter about the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference (occurs every March); if you write about cars, you might put a campaign together around the North American International Auto Show (each January); golf experts could talk about The Masters.
Other industry cycles work well, too. Are you an accountant? Create a campaign to send your subscribers from January up until (and through) Tax Day. Winery? Let readers follow the winemaking process along from harvest through crushing, pressing, aging and bottling.
Don’t Forget Holidays!
Industry-specific events aren’t the only annual occurrences that you can work into your email marketing calendar.
Holidays, while they shouldn’t be a cause of empty greetings, can provide a backdrop for thought-out campaigns.
Creating email marketing campaigns around the holidays may sound tired/trite to some of you — and in some cases, it is — but in my experience it’s all about the planning and execution, and how narrowly you define “holidays.”
"Special Features" — Narrowly-Focused Email Campaigns
Just as in other media, you can drill down to one particular area within the broader focus of your email newsletter and publish a group of articles on that topic.
This type of "special feature" (to borrow the term from more traditional media) can be a welcome diversion from your typical email newsletter content, and grab the interest of particular groups of subscribers.
Are you a travel agent? Highlight 5 destinations that offer exceptional value. Interior decorator? Show how different color palettes can make a room exciting, calming, bigger, smaller, and so on. A woodworking expert could take a little-used wood and showcase 3 projects that your readers can tackle using it.
The beauty of special features is that they:
Unless your email newsletter focuses on so narrow a topic that there’s absolutely no room to vary your individual message content, you can benefit from this type of campaign.
Small Series of Tips: Break Up the Monotony
The other ideas discussed so far are all for creating "primary content" — the main focus of each campaign you send.
Even with an idea of where to start, and plenty of writing experience, you may find it exhausting to continually crank out thoroughly outlined, researched and proofread articles for your email newsletter.
The tough part about motivating yourself to keep doing those types of campaigns is that you know that some people simply won’t end up reading the article thoroughly. They won’t have time, or they’ll want something they can scan through quickly.
This is where little "asides" or "mini-articles" can help. Since these are short, people are likely to read them, and they also require less of your time than a full-fledged article (so you can write a bunch of them in advance, and then just drop them into your campaigns as needed!).
Take a topic that you’d planned to turn into a full-fledged article — the primary content for one of your email campaigns — and break it up into bite-size packets of information. Then, put each of them into a different campaign under its own heading.
For example, a chef could use part of each email newsletter issue to highlight a little-known cooking tool and what it’s used for (maybe linking to a page with more details, a demonstration by video, recipes and/or a purchase link).
Multichannel Marketing: Sync Your Communications
If you’re taking advantage of other marketing channels like direct mail, radio and/or print media, think about how you can tie your email marketing campaigns in with those other media.
You might use email to alert subscribers of an upcoming promotion, or to look out for a flyer/catalog/postcard you’re sending them (or vice versa — you could use email to follow up after a campaign run in another media).
|To learn more about multichannel campaigns, check out the MineThatData blog.
It’s very advanced stuff, but if your business makes or plans to make significant use of multiple media channels to market to your prospects, it’s well worth your time to stop by.
What other types of content do you work into your calendar? Share them below!
This is the second post in a series; you may want to read the first post on why email marketing calendars matter before reading this one.
Do you feel like you’re constantly working at the last minute to get an email out to your subscribers?
Many publishers just like you often fall behind on their email marketing campaigns. You’re focused on getting a new product ready to go to market, or improving an existing one, or working on any one of a mountain of other important areas of your business.
Your sending frequency falters, and when the realization sets in that you haven’t emailed your list in a while, you rush to get an email newsletter out to it.
Playing Catch-Up Is Exhausting
Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that… but yet you’re here reading, so maybe you’re not as on top of your email marketing campaigns as you’d like to be.
Maybe you’re looking for a way to relieve some of the burden of trying to publish a newsletter at the last minute.
Now, one of the topics we discuss in our email newsletter seminar is where to quickly find content that you can copy and paste into a future newsletter — places like your sent folder, your blog/forum/FAQ, and article sites like EzineArticles.com.
However, if you’re waiting until the last minute to go and find/create your email content, those content sources can only relieve so much pressure.
To stay in touch with your subscribers consistently, and not feel like you’re rushing at the last minute, it’s best to space out your writing/publishing duties over time. This is where an email marketing calendar can do you a world of good.
But before we can go plugging schedules and send dates into our calendar, we need to take a few minutes to think about how we’re going to improve our campaigns using that calendar.
We need a plan.
Planning, Step 1: What Do Your Readers Want to Know About?
This might seem like a pointless exercise — after all, isn’t it obvious what they want to know about? Just look at your business, your site and your signup form; what do they offer?
I think this is worth doing because you might find that what you actually send to your readers doesn’t necessarily match what they want to know about.
A couple common causes of this:
You’re now talking to them about different topics than you did originally, or with a different focus, but you never updated your site or signup form to reflect the changes.
Now new subscribers, who didn’t see those changes as they took place, aren’t getting exactly what they bargained for when signing up.
Like the last example, there’s now a difference between what subscribers expect to get, and what they actually get.
Go back and scan a few months’ worth of email campaigns — if you find you’ve rushed content out like this a lot, you may find that what you think you’re writing about, and what your readers are actually getting, are quite different.
To plan your email marketing campaigns, and put together a calendar, you first have to decide what exactly you’re going to write about — and what type of content, stuff you may have sent in the past just because "it was time to send," you’re not going to send anymore.
Now, based on that, write down what you’re going to email them to meet those expectations — what topics are you going to focus on? What not quite on-topic content are you going to stop sending them?
Once you’ve decided what to send (and what not to), you’re ready to start brainstorming content, and spreading it over the upcoming weeks and months.
Planning, Step 2: How Often Do You Plan to Email Them?
If you immediately said “daily” or “weekly” or “monthly,” hold on a second.
It’s good that you’re that confident and decisive about your campaigns. That instinct (hopefully) comes from the experience you’ve gained in past email marketing efforts. You know approximately what your audience feels is the right frequency to hear from you.
But remember, we just spent time deciding what we are and are not going to send out. And the #1 thing that can blow all that planning we just did sky-high is our choice of email frequency.
After all, if you decide to send weekly, but you don’t have enough of the right content one week, what do you do? Many publishers fall back into the habit of sending content that’s not in line with readers’ objectives and expectations.
A few things to consider when determining your email frequency:
Consider: If You Send 2 Emails per Week, That’s 104 Emails per Year (or About 9 per Month)
And that’s per campaign. What if you have multiple campaigns and you’re sending to each one twice per week?
I’m not trying to scare you away from sending that often. My point is this:
I sure don’t want to be stressed out unnecessarily, and certainly not for 100+ hours a year.
Wouldn’t it be easier to spend a little time each day planning your future campaigns, instead of the odd panicked hour here and there on the days you send?
Planning, Step 3: How Far In Advance Will You Create Your Content?
For many email newsletter publishers, this can be the hardest part of planning. They think:
Please don’t take this line of thinking. It’s a productivity-killer.
Consider the following:
So it pays to put our campaigns together in advance. But how far in advance?
For me, this depends on the frequency you choose for your messages, the amount of content you intend to put in them, and whether or not you’re sending a series of closely-related messages on a certain topic.
The more often you intend to email your subscribers, the further in advance it pays to plan — if you think it’s bad trying to put one email together at the last minute, try doing it for two or three at the same time.
Amount of Content
The more you intend to put into your individual messages, the further out you should plan — instead of creating the email all at once the day you want to send it, try doing it in thirds, starting 2 weeks (or as far as you can) ahead.
By breaking up the amount of time you need to dedicate to that email, and giving yourself plenty of "buffer" in between when you create the email, and when it has to be sent, you take a lot of stress out of your email marketing.
Closely-Related Email Series
Think of these as mini-campaigns within your larger email marketing efforts, where you have so much to say on a topic that it can’t fit into one or two "normal-sized" (for you) messages.
You’ll want to plan these out furthest of all, to make sure that:
These "features" or mini-campaigns require a little more planning than your typical messaging not only because you have so much going into them, but also because your subscribers are going to realize that these are special (after all, you’re going to market it to them, aren’t you?) and may notice if the planning isn’t there.
Next Up: Content Ideas
Our series on email marketing calendars isn’t over yet — next time, I’ll give you ideas for content to send to your subscribers, and to work into your budding calendar.
Talk to you soon!
RSS Subscribers: Know Someone Else Who Would Benefit From This?
Miss the first part of this series? Learn why you need an email marketing calendar.
I’m sure that by now you’ve watched, read and heard a lot of people making the typical New Year’s resolutions — lose weight, read more books, learn a certain new skill, visit that vacation spot they’ve been talking about for 5 years now…
There’s one problem with these resolutions: the things we need to do to stick to them start taking up more and more of our time as we go… and most people eventually abandon their resolutions.
Today, I’d like to suggest a resolution that I think you can keep… because once you get going with it, it gets even easier over time, and it carries a few benefits that can significantly improve your email campaigns’ effectiveness and profitability.
Background: What Determines When We Send Email?
In my experience, most small businesses sending email campaigns decide to send based on one or both of of these factors:
For most people, this translates to the following maxim:
Is That All There Is To It?
For too many businesses, yes. Their strategy stops there. They don’t plan out what they want to say in advance, and when they want to say it.
Instead, they wait until it’s "about time to email subscribers" or until something exciting gets dropped in front of them.
The big problem with this is that many of us say, "Oh no! I need to get something out to my email list today!" and rush to put together a campaign.
Our haste shows to our subscribers:
Surely There’s a Better Way…
Wouldn’t it be easier on you — and better for your subscribers — if you had a plan that laid out, in advance, when you were going to email your subscribers and an idea of what you were going to say?
I sure think so.
In my next post, I’ll show you how with a little planning and an easy-to-use (and free!) tool, you can create better email campaigns, stress-free.
RSS Subscribers: know any business owners/partners who could benefit from this type of email marketing advice?
These resolutions could provide a timely opportunity for our businesses — a kick in the butt to move some ideas sitting on the back burner up to the front where we can act on them.
This year, improving our email marketing campaigns could be one of the best things we can do for businesses, so let’s take a look at a few achievable goals we can work on.
Practical Goals for the New Year
Still sitting on the fence in 2007, procrastinating or waiting for the right time or circumstance to jump into email marketing or start a new campaign?
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It doesn’t take much to set up a campaign that clearly benefits the bottom line and the long term legacy of your business.
Hop off the fence and make new (or more) waves for your business in 2008.
We frequently see businesses making simple, preventable mistakes that knock their messages off course on their path to the inbox.
Start the new year with a brief review of email deliverability best practices and help ensure your messages are reaching your subscribers.
Waiting too long between messages and erratic scheduling are two of the most common ways email marketers lose their subscribers’ attention and interest.
Review your message scheduling from 2007 and make sure it’s on par with what expectations you’ve set for yourself and subscribers moving forward.
Is your email sign up accessible and clearly seen as a useful resources to visitors? Do you have your forms placed prominently on any of the pages visitors may land on?
Carefully review your website and forms and consider making some changes to see a boost in new subscribers.
The more we know about our subscribers, the better we can target them with information they will find valuable and timely.
Consider tactics like tracking clicks and opens, soliciting feedback, and integrating with a web analytics package to gather information. Then, form some conclusions and split test different strategies to see what works best.
My Resolution for this Year
One of the major goals I have for 2008 is to consider better ways to get the free resources we offer out there and used amongst customers and others interested in email marketing.
I’ve resolved to focus on exploring ways to integrate our email and other channels better to maximize the quality and number of touch points we have with people who are interested and could benefit from these resources.
What Do You Have Planned?
What are some of your resolutions for improving the marketing of your business next year? Please join the discussion in the comments.
Here’s wishing you a prosperous 2008!
Earlier this week, I was talking with Tom (our founder) about the holiday marketing tips we posted recently, and we got to talking about the email habits of both publishers and subscribers around this time of year.
There’s something that thousands of businesses (and in my experience, especially small businesses) do on holidays that brings you little benefit while making it harder to get your email through. Plus it potentially hurts other areas of your email marketing and your business as a whole.