Creating the perfect email marketing strategy: What you need to know

Email is powerful. In fact, for every dollar spent on email, you can anticipate a $42 return on investment—if you do it well.

But before you can grow your email list, you need a plan. Think of it like this. When you start your work day, do you just take a willy-nilly approach? Or, do you look at your calendar to see what’s scheduled for the day, look through your emails to see what fires are burning, etc? Most people take the latter approach. And that’s what I am talking about—a plan to guide you on what you need to do, when, and why.

With an email marketing plan in place, you’ll have a better sense of what to do and who to target. But having a plan in your head isn’t always enough—you look at your calendar every morning for a reason—to remember what you need to accomplish.

By documenting your email marketing plan, you’re helping everyone on the team stay aligned, marching toward the same goal. And, you make sure that none of the important details fall through the cracks.

Quite frankly, documenting your email strategy means you’ll be more likely to stick with it, reach the right people, and achieve your goals.

Creating the perfect email marketing plan that drives results doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you follow these 8 steps to a successful email marketing strategy.

1 – Choose your email marketing goals

You wouldn’t run a marathon without training for the race. Similarly, you shouldn’t begin planning your email marketing strategy without setting goals.

Before you begin creating goals, take a moment to reflect upon what makes a good goal. Good goals are SMART goals. Here’s what SMART stands for:

  • Specific: Avoid creating vague goals. Be sure to include details about how you plan to reach your goal(s).
  • Measurable: You should be able to measure your goals with specific numbers or checkpoints.
  • Attainable: When creating your goal, consider the resources you have. You need to make sure your goal is attainable with your current budget, time and skillset.
  • Realistic: Your goal should be challenging, but within reach. Review historical data or research industry benchmarks to determine what this means for you.
  • Time-bound: Give yourself a date by which you want to complete your goal.

When you create any goal for your email marketing strategy, make sure it aligns with these five guidelines.

Now, let’s define your business’s specific goals.

Not sure what kind of goals to set for your email marketing strategy? Consider your overall business goals for this year and improvements to your email strategy that could help you reach them. Write down a list of the areas where you’d like to improve and create goals from them.

To get our creative wheels turning, you might want to focus on:

Growing your email list 

With a larger email list, you’ll be able to build relationships with more people, tell them about your business, and encourage them to purchase a product or service.

Increasing your email open rates 

If a lot of people aren’t opening your emails, it’ll be impossible to keep them engaged and build a relationship with them. Addressing this problem could help you increase the number of subscribers you’re able to interact with.

Improving your email click-through rates

Good email click-through rates indicate that people like your content and your business, which can impact their purchasing decisions.

Decreasing unsubscribes and spam complaints

Decreasing unsubscribes and complaints can help improve your deliverability and ensure you’re sending engaging, valuable content to your subscribers.

Asking for—and implementing—subscriber feedback

By applying subscriber feedback, you can create more useful emails to your subscribers, which could help you increase open, click-through, and conversion rates.

So, how does this apply to you? Let’s imagine you set this goal for yourself: 

I will grow my email list to 100 subscribers by the end of the year by adding a sign-up form to my website and asking my personal connections to join my list.

This is a great example of a SMART goal. It’s specific because it describes exactly what you’d like to do and how you plan to do it. Since it explains the number of subscribers you’d like to attain (100), it’s also measurable.

While a realistic goal will also vary from company to company, 100 subscribers in a year could be a very accessible goal for someone just getting started with email marketing.

And finally, since this goal gives a specific date by which you plan to complete it, it’s time-bound.

Bottom line: make sure to create goals that are realistic and attainable for you with your current resources and limitations. If your goals are unrealistic, you’re likely to miss the boat. And when you miss the boat over and over again, you stop trying as hard. This is super dangerous territory when it comes to your email marketing strategy.

2 – Define your target audience(s)

After you’ve set goals for yourself, it’s time to determine who your ideal subscriber is and create a persona for this subscriber.

By creating a persona for your ideal subscriber, you’ll be able to attract the right individuals to your email list and send content that’s relevant and helpful. This will guide your email marketing strategy moving forward, from how you grow your email list to how you communicate with your subscribers.

Nick Westergaard of Brand Driven Digital says, “List growth is always key. But it’s not just about quantity. Quality matters. Who are you trying to reach? Who do you want to talk to more? How can you encourage them to sign up for your emails?”

Your customer persona document should answer these questions:

  • What is your ideal subscriber like? Male or female? Age? Married or single? Kids? Occupation?
  • What are their interests?
  • What is their industry?
  • What are their goals?
  • What are their pain points and problems?
  • What could prevent or stop them from buying your product/service?
  • What type of content do they consume?

To answer these questions and get quality subscribers, you need to know your audience. Once you do, you’ll understand who you want to target and how you can encourage them to sign up for your list. And after they subscribe, you’ll be able to write emails that help them resolve their unique problems.

Create your customer persona

Once you know who your ideal subscriber is, it’s time to create a customer persona that will guide your email marketing efforts. Your customer persona will take the information you gathered from defining your ideal audience and expand upon it.

First, consider what your best customers have in common. You might even want to have a phone or email conversation with a few of these customers. Then, write down all the information you have about your persona in a document or on a piece of paper.

For help creating your persona, I encourage you to use Digital Marketer’s customer avatar (their name for a persona) worksheet.

Example of a customer persona avatar

3 – Find the right email service provider

Deciding which email marketing company to set up and send your email campaigns is a critical step. You need to make sure this company checks all the boxes you need to send beautifully designed emails.  

If you’re already an AWeber customer, you already know about our incredible email marketing platform and award-winning customer service department, available 24/7, so feel free to move on to the next section – Build your email list the right way

For those deciding between AWeber and another email service provider, here are just a few reasons why AWeber is the best choice for your email marketing strategy.

Create easy & beautiful emails

You can create your emails using our Smart Designer, an AI-powered email template designer that automatically creates amazing-looking branded emails in just seconds. Or our easy drag and drop email editor which allows you to create custom emails in minutes – no coding required.

100s of email templates

Our mission is to do 90% of the work so you can spend more time building your business. That’s why we have a library of over 600 mobile-responsive email templates for you to choose from.

Email automation

Assign triggers and flows to your emails that deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Some of the best triggered emails include welcome emails, reactivation emails, cart abandonment emails, order confirmation emails, and reminder emails. 

That last one is actually something so many businesses totally forget. And we’re not talking about birthday and anniversary emails. Let’s say you are in the landscaping business. Send customers a polite reminder when it is time to schedule their next service and why. If you’re in the heating and air conditioning space, send an annual reminder to order new air filters for the year, or to have the furnace inspected and cleaned. Customers will appreciate knowing that you have their back—and you’ll get some transactions out of the deal.

Email marketing features

What we talk about here only begins to cover the tip of the iceberg. AWeber’s email marketing features include everything you need:

  • Industry-leading email deliverability
  • Automated tagging
  • Personalized communications
  • Email split testing
  • Custom segmentation
  • Landing page builder
  • And so much more

4 – Build your email list the right way

Before you can send your emails, you need an email list. If you already have a list, I’m sure you’d like to see that list grow. But how do you do that? And how do you do it in a way that is in your face but not invasive? A conundrum, I know.

Grow your email list

Your strategy to grow your email marketing list may vary, but one thing must be consistent: your customers need to opt-in to receive your emails. Any email sent without permission is considered spam.

Here are some permission-based email opt-in strategies:

  • Put a signup form on your Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), LinkedIn (if you’re in the B2B space), or other social media pages.
  • Have a signup form on your website.
  • Experiment with pop-up forms on your website.
  • Create a lead generation landing page using AWeber’s landing page builder. Offer something of value in exchange for their email address.
  • If you have a physical location, attend trade shows, or have a call center, simply ask for a potential customer’s email address.
  • Have a “Forward to a Friend” link in every email you send.

5 – Create a tracking and reporting document

By tracking and measuring the performance of your email marketing campaigns, you will be able to determine:

  • Your content performance
  • Where you need to make improvements
  • How frequently you should be sending emails
  • Which lead source is performing the best
  • The health of your email list

What Needs to be Included?

An easy format to use is Microsoft Excel or Google Docs. Your document should include the following information:

  • Date of Send
  • Audience (segments) sent to
  • A brief summary of the email
  • Email Marketing KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
    • Number of emails sent
    • Number of emails delivered
    • Delivery Rate (Delivered/Sends)
    • Emails Opened
    • Open Rate (Emails Opened/Delivered)
    • Emails Clicked
    • Click Through to Open Rate (Emails Clicked/Opened)
    • Opt-outs
    • Opt-out Rate (Opt-outs/Delivered)
  • Post analysis comments

Why are email marketing KPIs important?

Each KPI tells a story about your email marketing strategy. Knowing how to read each statistic will help you determine what to test, leading to a more successful email marketing strategy.

Here we will focus on the main 4 email KPIs:

Delivery Rate

Your delivery rate should be in the high 90s. Anything below this number needs to be addressed. A low delivery rate could indicate two things: poor list quality or the wrong email service provider.Address your list quality first. If your sends are segmented by the source they signed up for your list (i.e., a form on your social channels or a landing page), see if one source is the reason for the low delivery rate. Consider cleansing your email list if the low delivery rate appears across multiple segments.

Delivery rate formula with example

Open Rate

Your email open rate is directly tied to your subject line and possibly your subheader. What is considered a good open rate will vary by industry, but on average, a healthy open rate may be between 15% and 25%.

If your open rate is low, consider testing different subject lines or preheaders to see what style works best with your customers.

Open rate formula with example

Click Through-to-Open Rate

Several factors could contribute to a low click-through-to-open rate, such as your email design, content, call to action—really any element in the body of your email.

It is more challenging to isolate what may be causing a low click-through-to-open rate, so you need to set up some A/B test splits to determine the cause.

Click through to open rate formula with example

Opt-out Rate

We get it. It’s not fun to see people unsubscribe from your list. But, it happens to all of us. 

Generally, a good (low) unsubscribe (or opt-out rate) is below 0.2%. But anything above 1% is a problem. Determining why customers opt-out can be challenging, so be proactive. Set up a survey for people who opt out, asking why.

Example of an opt-out survey

Opt out survey example

This will help determine how to tackle the issue should it arise. 

opt out rate formula with example

6 – Create an email marketing strategy calendar

Creating an email marketing calendar will allow you to map out your strategy. The goal of an email send calendar is to allow you to easily view when you plan on sending emails and to which segments. It ensures that you send the right messages to the right audience at the right time, allowing you to get the most out of your marketing efforts.

Create your calendar so it makes sense to you. Color code different segments or messages to quickly glance at your strategy.

Email marketing calendar sample

7 – Start sending email campaigns

Once you create your email marketing strategy, it’s time to set up and send your first campaign. Your calendar lets you know the audience and message you plan on sending. 

Email marketing guidelines

Here are a few general email marketing guidelines you should follow when designing your email:

  1. Add a logo to your email. Make sure people know who the email is from.
  2. Have a call to action based on the purpose of your emails
    • Drive traffic to a landing page
    • Trigger a phone call
    • Increase foot traffic
    • Place an online order
  3. Make sure email laws are being followed for the country you are sending emails to. In the United States there is the CAN-SPAM Act.

8 – Analyze performance

Once the email campaign has been sent, it’s time to analyze the results. Add the results of your campaign to the document you created to track your KPIs. Figure out what worked, what didn’t, and how you can improve the email performance for your next send. 

But be careful to to change too many things at once. If you change up your strategy too much, your customers might get confused, wondering what happened. This can be a sure-fire way to get them to opt-out, even if they previously opted-in. So, be mindful. Look at the metrics that matter most to you, and go from there.

Remember that to optimize your emails, you may need to set up a series of A/B split tests for your next several campaigns. In fact, we highly recommend that A/B testing just become an ongoing part of your email marketing strategy. This will help you stay on top of consumer preferences as they change.

AWeber can help you create and manage your email marketing strategy

So, at this point, you probably know that you need an email marketing strategy. But I get it—getting started can be super overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to be a professional marketer to become an email marketing master. 

That’s why AWeber is here for you. We offer email plans to help you every step of the way. And you can even get started for free! Check out our plans today. And, be sure to follow the AWeber blog for more great tips to help you grow your business.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an email marketing strategy?

So, just what is an email marketing strategy, anyway? And do you really need it for your business? The answer is yes! And email marketing strategy is that set of procedures and guiding principles that you rely on to keep customers and prospective customers engaged through emails. 

Your strategy should align with your organization/s business plan to help you achieve your financial and long-term goals. Ultimately, an email marketing strategy is what keeps your customers engaged in between transactions so that you are top of mind when they are ready to buy.

What are the 7 email marketing strategies?

Gone are the days when email was a batch and blast process. Today, technology allows us to refine our approach to reach the right customers at the right time with the right message. This requires acknowledgment that the same message might not resonate with all consumers. 

Therefore, the seven email marketing strategies include personalization, segmentation, optimization, automation, analyzing responses and trends, prioritizing interactive content, and creating mobile-first and mobile-responsive emails.

What are the 4 Ps of email marketing?

If you’re in the marketing space, you’re probably pretty clear on the four p’s of marketing—product, price, promotion, and placement. And when it comes to email, they’re no different. Ultimately, the entire purpose of your email marketing strategy is to engage customers and consumers to get them interested in purchasing the product or service that you have to offer. Thus, you need to have a compelling product. 

Further, your email needs to communicate some sort of value to the reader—price. The place is the email—it’s the mechanism that you are using to engage with the customer. And, finally—promotion. For email, this is why it is so important to talk about the problems your product or service solves. And, it’s why every email needs some sort of call-to-action. Tell the customer what to do, and make it easy for them.


  1. Nick Raineri

    2/9/2017 7:28 pm

    Email marketing should be a part of every business’s marketing strategy. Great tips Liz!

  2. Noah

    9/2/2020 4:03 am

    Nice tips. Initially i dont bother about email marketing. But now, i do pay attention to it now

  3. Mark Parker

    9/7/2020 8:02 am

    Amazing Article And Your Information It’s Very Amazing And So Much Helpful For Me. Keep It Up And Thank You Very Much.:)