Confession: My email creation process is often haphazard. And that’s a problem. Inefficiencies, inconsistencies, poor planning… it all adds up to a disaster waiting to happen.
It’s shameful to admit.
I’ve been sending email campaigns for 20 years and educating people on email marketing for the last five. But I can’t keep telling folks, “do as I say, and not as I do,” because my sloppiness has led to some pretty epic email fails, including those I talked about at the last BEE webinar (now available on-demand!).
Yeah, I should know better. And I’m working on it! This article actually started as my personal playbook. And my friends at BEE thought these tips might be handy for you as well.
So if you too are looking to improve campaign creation, collaboration, and deliver more engagement-worthy messaging, here are four simple steps that any team can adopt.
Step One: Identify the Audience, Objective, and CTA.
I teach an email strategy workshop several times a year, and when I ask attendees who completes a brief for every campaign, only one or two hands are raised. “Yeah, me neither!” is usually my response. In an ideal world, every email campaign starts with a campaign brief, but we skip this step way too often.
A complete campaign brief can be pretty in-depth, so we can’t always be bothered. But friends, we have to do better.
At a bare minimum, be certain to document these three essentials and share them with all campaign stakeholders and contributors.
- The Audience: Who is on the receiving end of this email campaign? What are the criteria for inclusion? What actions have they taken (or not taken) which qualify them for the targeted segment?
- The Objective: What is this email campaign meant to accomplish? How will it advance meaningful bottom-line goals? Be specific and cite relevant baseline KPIs and your goals for improving them whenever possible. For example, statements like “Enhance brand awareness” are a cop-out, while “Boost email-generated blog traffic by 30%” cites a crystal-clear objective.
- The Desired Recipient Action: Define exactly what you want the recipient to do. This action must directly support your objective. Do you want them to register for an event? Request a demo? Purchase a cross-sell based on a previous purchase? Be LITERAL.
Step Two: Give The CTA the Attention it Deserves
Repeat after me: The message matters most.
We do a gazillion things to create and deliver great emails that we get so bogged down with minutiae and don’t give the copy all the love and attention it deserves. But if your message stinks, it doesn’t matter if you have a gorgeous email design. It doesn’t matter if you send it at the optimal time for opens. It doesn’t matter that you’ve cleared every spam filter or if it’s been fully QA’ed on every email client under the sun. Copy should never be an afterthought, and it doesn’t play second-fiddle to design and development.
The success of your campaign usually hinges on clicks, so give your CTA the attention it deserves and build the rest of the campaign copy around it. And be certain it doesn’t include phrases like “Click Here” or “Learn More.”
Your CTA should align directly with the desired recipient action you already defined during Step One. Now that might seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but we sometimes expect our subscribers to figure these things out for themselves.
When I worked with the higher ed vertical, I had a university client who said the desired recipient action for a campaign was for students to speak to an admissions rep—yet there was no mention of admissions on the email or landing page.
More recently, I spoke to a business coach whose lead nurture campaign was falling flat, yet none of her emails invited subscribers to book an informational call about her services. Be certain that the CTA drives the very literal action you want recipients to take.
Following CTA copy, compose the subject line and preheader (because you can’t get the click if you don’t get the open!), followed by the headline and body copy. Finalize all copy as much as possible before email design begins.
If the team members contributing to strategy and copy have some clear design ideas, pass a rough sketch along to your email designer before they get started.
Step Three: Communicate Constructively
Prepare your creative team for success by ensuring they understand the audience, objection, desired action, and any constraints or rules. For example, is there a cap on the word or character count? Should the CTA appear above the fold? Are stock photos off-limits? Be sure to communicate all of those expectations.
And never, ever offer vague, subjective criticism. If you request revisions on copy or design, there should be a clear business reason and clarity on the next steps.
“I just don’t like it” is not a business reason. “I’ll know it when I see it” offers zero direction.
Valuable feedback might sound like this: “Let’s be certain there are at least 40 pixels of white space around the CTA, so it stands out and is easier to tap on a smartphone.”
If you can’t define a reason for a change that aligns with the campaign’s business objective, don’t ask for it. Let creatives do their job.
If you need a little more help on this front, check out this advice for working with remote email creation teams.
Step Four: Use An Email Design Tool with Strong Collaboration Features
I’ve been using BEE for about a year now, and I am stoked that they recently added so much functionality to the free version! Providing design feedback is much easier when it’s centralized right where the email is created, and now that functionality is available to all users.
With the free version of BEE Pro, an unlimited number of team members can comment and contribute to the email creation process.
And if you are looking for a more sophisticated collaboration tool, BEE Pro for Teams offers user roles and permissions. For instance, Viewers can access commenting but not editing, while Editors can create and modify templates and locked content. Get started with the Free version of BEE Pro, or test out the Team Plan for free—no credit card required.
Previously I had to send out message drafts and field feedback through email, Slack, and even WhatsApp! Now all comments are centralized right where the email design lives. And I have no more excuses for skimping on the email creation process. I feel much more confident there will be fewer email fails in the future.
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