Email marketing has the ability to nurture leads because it uses a platform people already rely on regularly. In fact, more than four billion people — over half of the world’s population — use email on a regular basis.

Email marketing is so effective that its revenue was valued as a $7.5 billion market as of 2020 and is projected to grow to $17.9 billion by 2027.

Capitalize on this powerful market with a winning email marketing strategy.

A strategic, tailored approach allows you to do more than just churn out emails to your leads. It allows you to use real-time data to create measurable successes for your brand, learn from past email marketing campaigns, and get the most out of future marketing efforts.

Benefits of developing an email marketing strategy

As you develop an overall marketing strategy, it’s easy to put email marketing on the back burner. However, email marketing has proven benefits for small business owners, from building the credibility of your brand to boosting sales. 

When you strategize around your email marketing efforts, you can choose which benefits to hone in on. Determine which key performance indicators (KPIs) are important for your business, and track how those KPIs respond to your marketing efforts. Over time, you can adjust your efforts based on these results, which can lead to a measured increase in your email marketing successes.

Another benefit to having an email marketing strategy is that it takes the guesswork out of your program goals. When you have a strong email marketing strategy, your uncertainty goes out the window. You don’t have to think about whether you should be sending out an email or about what types of emails you should be sending. Your marketing strategy outlines these things for you.

As a result, you only have to follow the plan you laid out for yourself, which can make it easier to follow through on tackling marketing goals, avoiding procrastination, and creating a reliable email marketing schedule. 

How to create an email marketing plan

Creating an email marketing strategy involves having a system for determining how often to send emails, what kind of content to create, and who to send it to. 

It’s important to go step-by-step through the process rather than skip ahead to the content creation step. Only when you have all the aspects of your marketing plan working in tandem can you reap the benefits of a strong email marketing plan.

Step 1: Setting goals and success metrics

The first step to creating your email marketing plan is to set goals for what you want to accomplish with your email marketing. Are you looking to increase clicks through to your website? Boost sales?

Start by setting one SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Sensitive) goal for your upcoming email marketing campaigns. For example, you might decide that by the end of the quarter, you want to have a 5% higher click-through rate on your emails.

When your goal is specific and measurable, you will have a cut-off point for determining whether your goal was met or not. In the above example, if your click-through rate is 5% higher by the end of the quarter, you’ve reached your goal.

While you set your goals, you should also determine which metrics you’re using to measure success. These KPIs should be directly tied to your goal. So, in the above example, your click-through rate would be your KPI.

As you get a handle on your email marketing strategy, you may decide that you can tackle multiple goals — and multiple success metrics — each quarter. However, starting with one goal and one KPI can help you focus your efforts and achieve real success.

Step 2: Doing target audience research

The second step to developing your email marketing strategy is to research your target audience. You want to know your audience as much as you can — beyond basic demographic information like their age and gender.

Creating a customer avatar can be a significant first step in getting to know your audience. This in-depth exploration of your target audience gets into details like their hobbies, passions, and goals. This matters since 71% of customers prefer buying from brands that align with their personal values.

Once you know your target audience, you can begin researching the type of content they might find most appealing. Target audience research might include:

  • Conducting customer satisfaction surveys
  • Interviewing your sales team about their interactions with customers
  • Examining what your competitors are doing
  • Reviewing your blog to see which posts receive the most engagement
  • Auditing your social media engagement
  • Researching data on the buying habits and behaviors of your target audience

Take notes about your research, especially as it pertains to your business. For example, if you run a company that sells tea to people in the Gen X generation, and your research tells you that people in Gen X care a lot about the environment, you might note that it would be a good idea to talk about your company’s compostable tea bags.

These notes can kickstart your brainstorming and help you develop solid themes and topics for your upcoming email campaigns.

Step 3: Reviewing marketing results from the previous year

You will want to use insights from your end-of-year marketing report to set goals for this year. If you don’t already have this report you will want to compile it. It can be a time-consuming process, but doing so can help zero in on your most effective email marketing tactics

Your year-end marketing audit can also showcase where your customers were engaged on channels outside of email. By getting a complete picture of which marketing channels and tactics work best — and which ones need work — you can keep from reinventing the wheel or repeating mistakes.

Step 4: Creating list segmentation

Segmenting your email lists is a vital part of a winning email marketing strategy. This is because not all of your customers have the same needs.

For example, consider a company that sells accounting software to mid-sized companies. The people benefiting directly from the software are the company’s accountants. However, the CEO or managers of the companies are likely to be the ones deciding whether or not to purchase the product.

These two groups of people will require different messaging. The accountants will benefit from content showcasing how the new product works, how it makes their lives easier, and how it prevents mistakes. The decision-makers, on the other hand, won’t care about the technical aspect of how the software works. Instead, they’ll be interested in how the software will save them money and whether it is worth the investment.

Segmenting groups with different needs into their own email lists allows you to send targeted emails that matter to your recipients. Paired with a strong email headline, this can increase your email open rate, position your brand as an authority on the subject, and improve lead nurturing efforts. 

Step 5: Starting with important business dates and holidays

Once you’ve audited previous marketing efforts, set your goals, and cleaned up your email list, you’ll be ready to start adding items to your email marketing calendar.

The first thing you should do is add key dates to your calendar that you don’t want to forget. This may include:

  • Important holidays
  • Product launches
  • Charity programs
  • Business events

For each key date, determine how far in advance of the date you need to start marketing for it. Highlight those dates so that you know to prepare content for them. As you begin plotting the rest of your email campaigns, you can fit them in around the dates you already have outlined. This prevents email campaigns from running into one another.

Step 6: Plotting campaigns on an email marketing calendar

Planning out your actual email campaigns on your marketing calendar is the final — and often most exciting — step to developing your email marketing strategy.

For this step, you’ll want to pull out the notes you took on your target audience in Step Two. Using those notes, begin brainstorming different campaign ideas with which your target audience is likely to connect.

Next, evaluate the ideas for email marketing you’ve come up with based on your goal. Highlight marketing ideas that seem to align the closest with your stated goals and KPIs.

Once you’ve determined which email marketing campaigns you want to use, you can begin plotting them out on your calendar. As a general rule, plan to send your customers about one email newsletter per week. Your newsletter should contain content that provides value to your customers, rather than just asking them to purchase your product.

The only exception to this rule is when you have a genuine sale that you’re running. In this case, it’s okay to send promotional emails highlighting the sale. If your customers are used to seeing quality content from your brand, they’ll be more receptive to promotional emails when you do need to send them.

Step 7: Planning time to craft your emails

It’s one thing to design an email marketing plan for yourself and another thing to ensure you follow through on your plan. Studies show that 88% of people procrastinate on tasks for at least one hour each day. Forty percent of the time, procrastination stems from feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start on a task.

When you schedule a specific time each week to craft your email content and headings, you can nip that procrastination in the bud. If it’s already part of your plan, you already have one foot in the door. You may as well take the other step.

The more often you create emails, the easier it will become. Over time, crafting high-quality email newsletters will be second nature to you.

Having a set time to craft your emails also ensures that you don’t fall behind. When you have a detailed marketing calendar, sticking to the dates on your calendar is critical to achieving your goals. When it’s time to audit your email marketing success and compare your KPIs to the SMART goal you set, knowing that you stuck to your schedule and did your best will help you accurately assess your results. This, in turn, can help you tweak your methods and set goals for future email marketing campaigns.

Tips for creating high-quality email marketing campaigns

Even with a top email marketing strategy, you’re unlikely to achieve success unless you have equally strong email content. Knowing how to grow your email list, create professional-looking email content, and provide genuine value to your customers will help your emails stand out.

If customers consistently have positive experiences with your emails, they are less likely to send them to their trash can without opening them and more likely to actually read what you have to say and benefit from it.

Growing your email list

If your email list remains stagnant, then your results are limited to your current audience. Having a strategy in place for growing your email list helps broaden the reach of your email marketing efforts and helps you achieve success with your programs. 

There are a number of creative ways to grow your email list. For example, you can offer customers a benefit for signing up for your emails, such as a coupon to your store or a free downloadable ebook. This can incentivize people to provide you with their email in exchange for a valuable asset.

You can use various email collection methods to add people to your email list, from pen-and-paper sign-up lists at in-person events, to point-of-sale sign-ups at retail locations, and email sign-up offers on your website.

example of a great website signup form
Here’s an example of a compelling email newsletter sign-up form on a website. Image source: CleanMama.

Using email marketing templates

In an ideal world, customers would instantly recognize your brand upon opening it, even without reading any text. Studies show that brands with a consistent look and feel have, on average, a 33% greater revenue than brands that lack consistency.

Email marketing templates can help you achieve this level of branding consistency. When you use a well-branded, personalized template, all you have to do is tweak your template as necessary, and your brand’s overall look will remain the same.

To get the most out of your email marketing template, look for one that allows you to have multimedia interaction with your customers. Images and videos have been shown to increase engagement with emails. A template allows you to seamlessly weave in video content and images and ensures that you can capitalize on the value of multimedia email content. 

Being able to weave images and videos into your email content also has the benefit of making your content easier to scan. This is appreciated, especially by the 46% of users opening their emails from mobile devices. Shorter, scannable paragraphs broken up by headings, images, and videos are less daunting when read on mobile devices than large blocks of text.

Writing strong subject lines

Before your customers even get to your email content, they are met with your subject line. Without a strong subject line, people may choose to skip over your email entirely. This means that your subject line is as important as the content you include in your email.

As a general rule, shorter subject lines work better than longer ones. Keeping your subject line under 43 characters long — approximately seven words or fewer — ensures that it doesn’t get cut off, even if people access their email on mobile devices.

When deciding on subject line copy, you will want to be engaging, but you also don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver. Subject lines like “This Will Be the Most Exciting Thing You See Today,” while engaging, comes across as clickbait because of the tone. While your customers might open the email, they might also lose trust in your brand.

Instead, to create effective subject lines, consider these tips:

  • Personalize subject lines, either by using your customers’ names or by referring to previous actions they’ve taken.
  • Use numbers and statistics.
  • Consider asking a question to spark curiosity.
  • Use normal sentence capitalization rather than using all caps.

Finally, if you’re not sure which subject line might work best with your customers, consider A/B testing a few different ones. For example, you might try using emojis in messages for some of your customers and avoiding them with other customers to see if one subject line performs better than the other.

Focusing on providing value to your customers

Once customers open your email, you want to reward their effort with high-quality content that provides a tangible value to their lives. Your digital content should be focused on what your customers need, not just on what you need as a brand.

This means that even if your email is intended to showcase a new product, the language you use should highlight how that product benefits your customers.

example of a strong email campaign
Here’s an example of an email that uses strong, customer-focused language to showcase a product.

Meanwhile, email content that doesn’t directly mention your products can be used to nurture leads, establishing your credibility as an expert on your topic and ensuring that customers are more likely to think of you when they’re ready to make a purchase.

Having a strong call to action

Every email you send should be created with a purpose. Your call to action (CTA) allows you to draw attention to that objective. 

Think about it this way: if you don’t tell customers what to do after reading your email, you’re unlikely to gain the results you want.

Ideally, the CTA you add to your emails will align with the email marketing KPIs you’re measuring. For example, if the goal of your email marketing strategy is to achieve a higher click-through rate, your CTA should encourage customers to click a link in their emails. 

On the other hand, if the goal of your email marketing strategy is to increase brand awareness, you might inspire people to share what they’ve learned with their friends, encourage friends to sign up for your newsletter, engage with your brand on social media, or answer a brand awareness survey. 

Create a strategic email marketing plan today

There’s a difference between sending emails to your customers and creating a strategic email marketing plan. Having an email marketing strategy in place allows you to set goals, measure successes, and grow your business over time. 

Get started today by setting some SMART goals for your email marketing in the coming year. Then, run an email marketing audit for the past year so you can see the distance between where you want to be and where you’ve been in the past. This information can help you decide how to move forward with your email marketing goals.