How to Set Up Your First Email Campaign

It’s time to get back down to basics. More often than not, we tend to discuss higher level strategies and concepts in a fairly broad sense. Recently I’ve been asked for insight on the “how-tos” of some of these marketing strategies. How do I set up my social media campaign? Where do I start with my content marketing strategy?

And, of course, the topic in this article, how do I set up my email campaign?

Setting up your first email campaign can seem to be a fairly daunting task but, when you break it down, you probably already know the answer to how to get it started, you just need put a process into place. Here’s the process that we use when we start a campaign for our clients.

Identify Your Goals

I know that, if you’ve read past posts, I probably sound like a broken record but this is the most important part of any campaign. Do you want to drive traffic to your website? Boost brand awareness? Sell a book? Whatever those goals are, make sure that they’re well defined before you start the campaign.

Identify Your Target Audience

First thing’s first – you have to figure out who you’re going to try to reach with your email campaign. This is something that you should have fairly well dialed in through your day to day business development and marketing activities (if not, we should start with a strategy session to identify that audience). The idea is pretty straightforward, just answer this question: “Who do I start my sales conversation with?” If your first conversation is with the CFO, then your target audience should be the CFO. If your first conversation is with the HR Director then your target audience should be the HR Director.

Once you’ve identified your target audience use this to inform all of the decisions you make moving forward.

Decide What You’ll Use for Content

Email content is one of the main sticking points that people find when thinking about an email campaign. Unless you or someone else on your team is creating content on a fairly regular basis in the form of blogs, articles, press, videos, infographics, etc, this can be a big challenge – but it certainly doesn’t have to be. If you have your own content that you want to use, make sure that the content that’s being created fits with your target audience – again, something that you should already be thinking about (but if not, here’s a good time to start!)

So what if you’re not creating your own content? That certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be running an email campaign. We have one client who sends out an email once a month with a general business article that he finds on inc.com or Forbes.

Find content that’s going to engage your target audience – even if you didn’t create it yourself. Make this as easy on yourself as you can.

Gather Your List

Pull together every spreadsheet of contacts that you’ve put together over the years, export your LinkedIn database and find that shoe box of business cards and build one master spreadsheet. This will take some time so be ready for it. However, this is the only way that you’re going to get any of the content in front of the eyes you need to see it.

Choose an Email Marketing Software

Your email marketing software is something that can make or break your campaign. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how great the campaign is, if you don’t like the platform you’re using you’re not going to continue to use it. We use a platform called Mission Suite to manage our campaigns but, because Mission Suite is a larger unified marketing platform, it has a lot of features and functionality that you may not need to use. If that’s the case, go with something more basic and focused on email. Most platforms have free trial periods for you to test their systems and make sure that it’s a system that you can keep using.

Set Up Your Template

Visually speaking, the template is the most important part of setting up your newsletter. Again, your knowledge of your target audience should inform your decisions here, as should the goals of your campaign. If you’re trying to push people back to your website then make sure that your template has plenty of opportunities to link back to various pages on your website. If you just want to stay in front of your list for brand awareness purposes, make sure that your logo and name are front and center.

The best way to decide on the template? Find someone else’s design and layout that you like and use that as a starting point. Don’t copy it directly but use them for ideas of what you like and don’t like. We all get enough emails in our inboxes so you should have plenty to work with.

This is one area where you might want to find someone to help you. If you don’t feel comfortable designing an email template, the few hundred bucks you’ll spend working with a graphic designer will be well worth it to get the job done.

Write Out Your Process

The best campaigns are both replicable and assignable to someone else on your team. In order to do either you need to create a written process. Something like this:

  • Emails sent out once every two weeks on Tuesday between 10am and 11am
  • Content will be pulled from Inc.com and Forbes online
    • Content is focused on topical business issues (ex. millenials, productivity in virtual work environments, etc)
  • Content to be selected the Tuesday before email goes out
    • Assigned to: Sarah
  • Email to be created and tested and approved the Friday before the email goes out
    • Assigned to: Sarah
    • Approved by: Bill
  • Email to be scheduled Monday before email goes out
    • Assigned to: Sarah
  • Tracking report pulled the Friday after the email goes out with the following metrics: Open Rate & Click Rate
    • Assigned to: Sarah

Run Your First Campaign

Now that you’ve got your process spelled out, the only thing left to do is actually run it and see where any issues might occur. Remember, your first time is going to be harder than your second, which will be harder than the third, etc. Running your first campaign will help you get the process going and ultimately refine that process.

Refine Your Process

Now that you’ve run your first campaign, review the process with your team and find any points that caused hiccups and talk through how to smooth them out. Inc.com and Forbes not have enough content? Maybe you need to add a couple more content sources. If your template isn’t easy to manage, talk through the potential of designing a new template. The only way to develop a strong campaign is to start it, test it, refine it and do it again.

Hopefully we’ve given you some insight into running your own campaign. If you have questions on managing this or running one for yourself, we’re here to answer them for you!

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