Trying to promote your business using email without an email marketing plan is a recipe for wasted effort and mistakes that turn off customers. For example, I’ve seen countless small businesses attempt to achieve a barrage of marketing goals in a single email or sequence, and others that sent a barrage of campaigns in a short period of time. This overwhelms the reader and usually results in a quick unsubscribe (or worse, a click on the spam button).
On the flip side, I’ve signed up for brand emails with great anticipation only to be disappointed when nothing arrives. And, unfortunately, it’s common for time-strapped small businesses to give up and stop sending email newsletters if early efforts don’t produce the results they envisioned.
With a strong plan outlining your email marketing goals, audience, data, and strategies, it’s easier to avoid mistakes and align campaigns to specific goals. To make it easier for you to develop an effective email marketing strategy, use our free downloadable template and follow the steps below.
Email Marketing Plan Template Download
Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or email marketing novice, your process for developing an effective strategy will still be similar. Jump ahead by using our email marketing plan template as you walk through the steps below.
To use the template in Google Workspace, save a copy to your drive or device. For Microsoft Word, download to your device and enable editing.
Step 1: Gather Campaign and Industry Data for Insights
As the first step in outlining your email marketing plan, take the time to research concrete data that will help strengthen your overall email marketing strategy. There are two types of data you can use to support your plan. Here’s an overview of what each one is and what it’s for:
Data from your previous email campaigns
Market insights, average statistics, and consumer behavior
Open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, engagement patterns, sending times
Industry benchmarks, average open and click rates, customer preferences
What It’s For
Guides improvements and strategy adjustments based on past performance
Provides context and benchmarks to align with industry best practices
By combining the data from your campaigns with insights from your industry, you create a strong mix that guides your entire email marketing plan. Adjust your goals and audience based on what has worked before, and add new ideas from industry trends to make your campaign content relevant.
As you go forward, remember that this data isn’t fixed. It changes depending on your audience, industry, and the current landscape. Even after finalizing your email marketing plan, you can make it a habit to look into these data periodically.
Step 2: Identify Your GAP (Goals, Audience & Positioning)
The GAP is the quintessential building block for any type of email marketing and should always be kept in mind when developing a campaign. This is the goal, audience, and positioning. Most of the time, the GAP is something businesses come up with introspectively by simply asking themselves the right questions.
With that in mind, here’s each component of the GAP explained along with how you can answer it according to your business.
Email Marketing Goals
The goal is your “why.” Why are you sending out emails in the first place? Like any other marketing initiative, defining your goals early on is key to a well-guided campaign. It establishes what you want to achieve, whether it’s to increase sales, build brand presence, or drive website traffic. Usually, businesses only take on one to two goals per campaign.
For example, a local bar that plans on launching an email marketing campaign would probably want to increase brand recognition and/or promote a new drink from their menu. On the other hand, business-to-business (B2B) companies, like IT service providers, may opt to collect valuable contact information or encourage upgraded services.
Depending on the goal of a specific campaign, your audience could be narrow or broad. For example, a niche audience for a lapsed customer email marketing campaign could be customers who haven’t purchased or visited in the past 60 days. One the other hand, a cross-selling campaign would target active customers, and a general email blast could go to everyone on your list.
So for this step, you’ll want to develop customer personas for your ideal buyer types and then plan to refine your audience when creating individual campaigns through segmentation. By establishing the target audience, marketers can tailor the email content to resonate with the audience better.
Brand and Content Positioning
Positioning involves determining how your brand and content will be perceived by your target audience. It’s about finding the right place for your offering in the minds of your customers. As with your target audience, you’ll need a broad positioning statement that can be refined when sending individual email marketing campaigns based on the goal, audience segment, and so on.
A brand positioning statement communicates what’s special about your brand vs competitors, who it’s best for, and what customers can expect. It also helps establish a recognizable identity with cohesive messaging to increase brand awareness and create points of connection with your audience.
Find inspiration for your brand by going through brand positioning examples that have proven to be successful in the market.
Step 3: Outline Your Content Strategy
Outlining your content strategy starts to breathe life and structure into your plan. It’s the content your audience directly sees—which, for them, is the most essential part of your campaign.
With that in mind, there are four aspects you need to decide on for your content strategy:
Once you’ve decided on these four parts of the content strategy, everything will come together much easier. Keep in mind that in answering what goes into these sections, you need to use the previous steps to strategically align your content. A simplified example is:
- Goal: Encourage repurchases
- Audience: Previous customers
- Positioning: Why risk buying somewhere else, when you’ve already tried a product you liked?
- Email Type: Promotional email
- Content Type: Discount voucher for next purchase
- Style: Casual with a bright color to evoke a sense of urgency
- Timing: A month after the last purchase
Step 4: Create an Email Marketing Planner
Now that you have a strategy in place, you can begin scheduling and categorizing your emails in an email content calendar or planner. It should include basic information, such as email headlines, email type, date and time of sending, and status. Ideally, your planner will also include key performance indicators (KPIs) for tracking campaign success, so you can see all your data in one place.
A template I’ve personally used includes the target audience, status of copy and media, and additional notes for further customization. You can use this email marketing strategy template for free by downloading it below.
To use the template as a Sheet in Google Workspace, first save a copy to your drive or device. For Microsoft Excel, download to your device and enable editing.
Step 5: Choose the Right Provider
A lot of small businesses make the mistake of signing up for email marketing software without having done the foundational work above. Choosing the right email marketing app based on your goals, audience, positioning, and the types of emails you want to send can supercharge your efforts, saving you time and money and increasing your return on investment (ROI).
The providers below are our top recommendations for the best email marketing software for small businesses. They all have free or affordable starting costs, intuitive dashboards and email editing tools, and templates that make quick work of building virtually any type of marketing campaign based on your goals. The best providers also make it easy to import and manage your email lists.
Free plan up to 500 contacts; paid plans from $13/month
Free plan up to 2,000 sends/month; paid plans from $18/month
Paid plans from $12/month
Paid plans from $7.49/month
As you start sending campaigns, you should also consider using email in tandem with SMS text marketing. This allows your audience to engage on their preferred channels while also extending the reach of your marketing overall.
Benefits of Developing an Email Marketing Strategy
Considering these steps, marketing rookies may wonder whether an email marketing plan—or even email marketing in general—is worth it. These email marketing statistics help show how valuable a well-strategized campaign can be:
- Reach your target audience. With the ability to segment your subscribers based on their preferences and behavior, you can deliver highly targeted content. In fact, a segmented email campaign can get open rates as high as 94%.
- Increase brand awareness. Nearly 90% of Americans use email. By consistently communicating with your audience via email, you can reinforce your brand identity and stay top of mind.
- Drive traffic to your website. Email marketing campaigns can be used to direct recipients to your website or aid in almost any marketing goal. Among B2B marketers, 64% claimed that emails help achieve their business goals.
- Boost sales and revenue. Email marketing allows you to nurture leads and guide them through the sales funnel, ultimately leading to conversions and higher revenue. In 2022, email marketing has a $36 return on investment (ROI) for each dollar spent.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What should be included in an email marketing strategy?
An effective email marketing plan includes clear goals, target audience, positioning and key message, content strategy, and a schedule for campaign execution. Similar to developing an SEO content plan, it is vital to conduct market and campaign research for a successful campaign.
What types of campaigns should my email marketing strategy include?
A comprehensive email strategy should incorporate campaigns such as promotional offers, product announcements, newsletters, welcome series, and re-engagement efforts depending on the GAP (goals, audience, and positioning) and the content capacity of the business.
Is it illegal to send emails without permission?
Yes, sending unsolicited emails without permission violates anti-spam regulations that exist in almost every country. That is why learning how to do permission-based email marketing is essential for any email marketer. Consent from recipients is crucial, and emails must provide clear opt-out options and sender identification. If not followed, your account may be flagged or blacklisted.
How can I build an email contact list?
Build your email contact list ethically by offering valuable content or incentives in exchange for email sign-ups. Use landing pages, pop-ups, social media, events, webinars, and partnerships to attract subscribers.
Success with email marketing requires careful planning, research and analysis, and a structured approach that keeps everything cohesive. Establishing the goals, audience, positioning, and content strategy will allow a smoother campaign execution—all of which you can do using the steps and free templates provided above.