If you’re investing time and money into email marketing, then it doesn’t make sense to send messages and hope something works. Instead, you need to be confident that the email campaigns you send have the best chance of driving the results you want.
Like any other part of your business, you need a strategy and a plan to make the strategy come to life, so before the year ends, you should have a 2021 email marketing strategy defined and an email marketing plan in place.
Email Marketing Strategy vs. Plan vs. Tactics – What’s the Difference?
Before we go any further, let’s get some confusion around semantics out of the way by defining three terms – strategy, plan, and tactics.
An email marketing strategy identifies your goals and your target market(s) of consumers (who). It provides a clear picture of where your brand stands in the marketplace compared to your competitors and documents the marketing messages you need to communicate in order to move your business closer to achieving its goals. An email marketing strategy explains what you’re going to achieve through your marketing efforts and why you want to achieve it.
On the other hand, an email marketing plan explains how, when, and where you’re going to fulfill your email marketing strategy by outlining a complete roadmap of tactics that when implemented, will lead to the achievement of your strategic goals.
Finally, email marketing tactics are the specific actions and investments identified in your plan that you’ll use to execute the plan.
Think of it this way. If your email marketing strategy identifies one of the things (i.e., the what) that you’re going to achieve as a specific increase in demos for your cannabis-related software platform, then your email marketing plan could include a blog calendar filled with monthly tactical campaigns (i.e., the how, when and where). These campaigns can include special promotions, free content, webinar invitations, and more.
Questions to Answer in Your 2021 Email Marketing Strategy
Documenting your 2021 email marketing strategy doesn’t have to feel like an overwhelming task. Start by answering these important questions:
- What goals do you want to achieve through your email marketing investments in 2021?
- What email marketing campaigns are your competitors sending and investing in? How often do they send messages?
- Who is your target audience? How will you find them in order to connect with them via email?
- What email marketing challenges do you face that you’ll need to plan to overcome in 2021? Do you have the right tools and resources to realistically achieve the goals in your email marketing strategy?
- What have you been doing in terms of email marketing during 2020? What worked? What needs to change?
- What key performance indicators (KPIs) will you track to determine if you achieve your goals?
- How will you integrate your email marketing with your other marketing investments?
Defining Your Strategic Goals for Email Marketing
The first question in the previous section can often be an obstacle if you’re not a seasoned email marketing professional and don’t have such a person on your team – either as an employee or a vendor/contractor.
To help you get started, here is a list of some areas to focus on as you develop your own email marketing strategic goals for the next 12 months:
- Increase website traffic
- Increase social media audience and sharing
- Build brand recognition and trust
- Build and strengthen relationships
- Educate and share information
- Become known as a trusted expert
- Generate media inquiries and publicity
- Increase demos or trials
- Move people through the marketing funnel and buyer journey
- Increase client inquiries (online forms, email replies, phone calls)
- Close sales
Once you have clear, specific, measurable, and achievable goals written up, you can fill in the rest of your marketing strategy. This includes competitor research and defining your target audience, which is another area that can be frustrating. Follow the link to learn how to create buyer personas, and defining your target audience will be much easier.
Bring Your Email Marketing Strategy to Life with an Email Marketing Plan
Once your 2021 email marketing strategy is defined, you can create a tactic-filled email marketing plan. Plot everything on a calendar keeping in mind how important it is to send a consistent volume of messages on a consistent schedule to stay out of the spam folder!
Your email marketing calendar will tell you what you’re going to send, to whom, and when, so you never have to sit down at your computer and try to think about what message to send to prospects. Without a plan, you won’t get the results you need or reach your goals.
Think about your different target audiences and create quarterly plans to move them through the marketing funnel and buyer journey. It can be easier to think in 3-month intervals than an entire year, so go ahead and break the year into smaller chunks if it helps. This also allows you to do a complete analysis every quarter to see if you’re on track to reach your strategic goals or need to make some changes along the way.
At a minimum, your email marketing calendar should include the following information for every campaign:
- Send date
- Target audience
- List segmentation criteria
- List size (or sizes for multiple lists)
- Type of campaign (e.g., educational, announcement, sales, etc.)
- Message topic
- Subject line
- Call-to-action (CTA)
- CTA URL destination
- UTM codes (if you use UTM codes to track what people do after they click a link in your campaign)
- A/B testing element
- A/B testing result
After a campaign is sent, you can add KPI metrics directly to the calendar (e.g., open rate, click rate, and so on) or you can create a separate document to track results if you prefer.
Key Takeaways about Email Marketing Strategy
Keep in mind, simply sending one generic sales message after another to large lists won’t help you reach your goals. In fact, that strategy is usually a recipe for ruining your sender reputation with mailbox providers, which means your messages will end up going to spam rather than inboxes in the future.
For your email marketing strategy to be successful, you need to send highly-relevant messages to hyper-targeted lists of people. By creating a comprehensive content calendar as part of your email marketing plan, you can map out exactly how you’re going to use email campaigns to move your audience to take the necessary actions so you’ll hit your strategic goals.
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Susan Gunelius, Director of Email Marketing Strategy for Cannabiz Media, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her nearly 30-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.