Email Marketing: Planning Campaigns

Email Marketing Planning Campaigns

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Email Marketing:  Planning Campaigns Guide

Email Marketing Planning Campaigns

How much effort do you put into planning email marketing campaigns?

In this blog post we will take you through the steps for planning email marketing campaigns for your business.

Don’t worry, we’re not going to go through the whole process in one fell swoop.

We have split this blog post into bitesize chunks to make it easier for you to digest!

We recognise that planning is easily overlooked but we know how much better your campaigns can be.

It just takes a little more effort in the planning stage.

Each section probably sounds familiar.

We’ve covered a lot of the details in other, more specific blog posts.  The idea of this guide is to pull the steps together to help you plan your next email marketing campaign from start to finish.

But first, don’t forget to sign up to our email newsletter so that you don’t miss out on future blog posts like this one!


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Planning Email Marketing Campaign Goals

The very first thing that you need to do when planning an email marketing campaign is to decide on your campaign goal.

In our email marketing goal setting blog post, we discussed how you can use SMART targets to give a structure to your campaign goals.  Having the right goal for your marketing campaign is the first step on your journey to success:

When goal setting for data driven marketing campaign it is useful to use the SMART Framework

Setting goals with the SMART target framework helps when planning email marketing campaigns

Just like a house, your marketing campaign needs to be built on solid foundations.

Decide what you want to achieve before you move to the next step.  If your focus is on driving sales, make sure each element of your plan is geared towards that single goal.

Sounds simple, right?

Not quite.  It’s easy to get caught up in the details when looking at targets.  If you become too engrossed in one target, it is easy to lose focus of the bigger picture.

The best email campaigns focus on one main target which contributes to your marketing strategy Click To Tweet

Being critical is never nice but we recommend scrutinising your email marketing campaign goals as much as possible.  That’s not because we love being harsh.  It’s just that a goal without a purpose is a waste of everybody’s time and effort.

Ask why you want to achieve your target.

Is it because your company wants to achieve an increase in marketing revenue for the quarter?  Perhaps you want to build up your email marketing list in the next two months.

Whatever strategy you have, you need to be completely sure that your email marketing efforts contribute.

They shouldn’t simply be regarded as an inconvenient aside.  Why not take a look at our webinar for some ideas as to how best to define your goals and objectives:

Let’s go through some questions you can ask yourself with each part of the SMART framework:


  • What exactly do you want to get out of your email campaign?
  • What do your Marketing Executives need to know to deliver a successful campaign?


  • What metrics are you going to use to measure success/failure?
  • Does your metric relate back to the main campaign goal?


  • Are your targets within reach for your team?
  • Is the target too easy or hard?


  • How does the target fit in to your marketing strategy?
  • Does the target help drive better marketing performance?


  • When do the results need to be achieved by?

Every time you create a goal, stop and think…

Is this goal achievable?

There is a reason why ‘achieveable’ sits at the centre of the SMART framework.  If your goal is too easy, people will switch off.  Too hard and your team will quickly lose motivation and give up.

If your goal is not achievable, you will not succeed.

Similarly, there is a reason why ‘timely’ fits at the end of the framework.

You need to set a realistic deadline.  An open ended target is doomed to failure.  There is no sense of urgency without an endpoint and no way of telling when you need to measure your success.

Everybody loves to celebrate success…

Examples of Poorly Defined Email Marketing Campaign Goals

When setting goals, there are a couple of pitfalls you definitely need to avoid.

In the following example, Company A need to drive click throughs from an email campaign to an informative blog post as part of a strategy to increase awareness of sunbathing without protection.

In previous email marketing campaigns, the company achieved an average click through rate of around 6%.

Example Target 1

Goal:  This email campaign needs to drive higher engagement levels to be effective.

There’s little point in saying you are going to send an email campaign to ‘drive engagement’.  It’s too vague.

This goal fails against each of the SMART criteria:

  • Specific:  The target is vague and does not explain what each element of the campaign is expected to achieve.
  • Measurable: It doesn’t say how the goal will be measured.  It leads to the question What do you mean by ‘engagement’?
  • Achievable:  There is no outcome – how much engagement does the campaign need to achieve before it is deemed a success?
  • Relevant:  The goal does not show how it contributes to the overall marketing strategy
  • Timely:  The campaign does not specify an endpoint when the results will be measured.

Example Target 2

Goal:  The email campaign needs to achieve a click through rate of 10%+ within 24 hours. This will help educate people about the dangers of sunbathing without protection.

This goal gives the marketing team a much clearer idea of what they need to do according to the smart target framework:

  • Specific:  The goal includes details about how it will contribute to the overall marketing strategy.  It gives the marketing team enough information about how they will achieve their target and gives success metrics.
  • Measurable:  The goal includes a metric against which success will be measured – click through rate.
  • Achieveable:  The goal sets a target which is slightly above, but not out of reach, of previous campaigns.
  • Relevant:  The campaign increases awareness of the dangers of sunbathing without protection.
  • Timely:  Results needs to be achieved within 24 hours of the email send.
Email Marketing Planning Campaign Goals

Do your email marketing campaign goals have a realistic deadline?

Selecting The Right Contacts For Your Email Campaigns

Once you have decided what it is you want to achieve and how your campaign will help, you need to choose who you are going to target.

Just think about that for a moment.

We say ‘target’ instead of ‘send’ because the best campaigns are those that are written for a specific audience.

When you are building your email campaign, you have already created your email marketing list.  You already know who your contacts are and what they are interested in.

Use this information to your advantage.

Targeted and specific email campaigns perform so much better than batch-and-blast campaigns.  If you want to learn about that in depth, you’ll probably have downloaded our Email Segmentation whitepaper anyway.

Email Marketing Segmentation Statistics

Segmentation is a good technique to boost results when planning email campaigns

The main thing is to send your campaign to people who will be interested in what you have to say.  As you can see from the Marketing Profs statistics, segmentation can have quite a profound impact on your results.

So what segments should I build?

The narrower your segments are the better.  Building a segment is of no use unless it is specific.

If you have created a segment with just a handful of your contacts, it is likely to be homogeneous.  This allows you to target these individuals as one.

You can deliver a far more specific and tailored marketing message than if you were to send your email to hundreds, or even thousands of recipients.

As a result, email recipients are far more likely to take action.  You can expect to see a much higher open and click through rate.

The best thing is that your contacts appreciate the effort you take in segmenting your contact list.

77% of consumers have chosen, recommended or paid more for a brand that provides a personalised experience – Forrester.

The reason for this is simple.

By personalising your content, you are letting your customers know that you are capable of catering to their demands.

Aligning Marketing Teams

Communication is kind of a big deal.

The most successful email marketing campaigns are achieved when your team are fully on-board.  Your team should have one focus that they are all working towards.

Planning Email Campaigns Team Meetings

Are your marketing team members all on board with your campaign goals?

And, before you ask, we know how hard this can be!

Marketing teams comprise of many different members and roles.  It can be hard to make all of your team to pull in one direction.

Luckily, there are several things you can do…

Be Clear About Your Email Marketing Campaign Goal

Tell your team what you want them to achieve.

Create your SMART goal before you do anything else and make sure everybody else is fully aware.

Communicating clearly about what you want each member of your team to do gives them the confidence to deliver the project exactly how you want it.

The more specific you can be, the more this benefits the eventual outcome.

By telling your team what you want to achieve in person, any team members with questions can raise them straight away.  It may take time, but communicating your goal face-to-face gives your team an equal opportunity to work from the same level playing field.

Alternatively, you can use your internal email communications…

Use Internal Email Comms To Your Advantage

Your email platform is your friend.  Keep everybody in the loop by sending email updates to your team.

Marketing teams often overlook the tools they are using, failing to use them in-house.

Yet, it gives you so much functionality that it’s wasteful not to use it.

This way, you can monitor whether your design, copywriting team and campaign managers have all received the same information.  You can keep your team engaged with relevant information they need to know.

Track whether your email updating people on an important change to the brief has been read.  Alternatively, follow up if it is languishing amidst a number of other unopened emails.

Use Task Management Tools

Task management platforms such as Trello and Asana give your teams structure.  They can ensure that they stay on track and achieve their deadlines.

Schedule your working week to deliver the email campaign at the right time.  This gives you the opportunity to set time aside for your own email campaigns, without detracting from your client work.

It’s all about opening up the lines of communication in your team.


Any delays or missed deadlines can be monitored and easily followed up.  Your team can also provide updates and ask questions if they get stuck.

Breaking down the campaign creation process in this way means that you can easily identify and deal with any bottlenecks and delays.  You can stop any problems at the source before they develop into major hurdles that you need to overcome.

Considering Automation When Planning Email Campaigns

To make the most of your marketing campaign potential, you may wish to consider using automation to enhance the email marketing experience.

Planning Email Automation Workflows

Automation can help drive engagement with your email marketing campaigns

Email marketing automation allows you to trigger marketing emails based on a set of triggers and rules.

We’re not saying that every email you send should be automated.  In our experience, that makes brands come across as a little stuffy and rigid.

However, a well-tested automation series can improve the customer experience.  This makes your marketing appear slick and well-oiled.

Find out how to get started with automation in our webinar:

If you want to use automation as part of an email marketing campaign series, map out how it will work.  Make sure you plan an automated email series over a sensible period of time to make it seem more natural and thought out.

Planning Email Marketing Campaigns Active Automation Welcome Email

This Active email campaign was triggered when one of our team members signed up to a race

This automated welcome email from Active takes advantage of the recipient’s interest in the company immediately after they sign up to an event.  The welcome email gives the reader three clear reasons to visit the Active website.  This helps drive website traffic and encourages the recipient to take part in the Active community.

Capturing your contacts’ interests at the right time gives you the opportunity to build meaningful and profitable customer relationships over a prolonged period.

Planning Mobile Optimisation in Your Email Campaigns

A lot has been made of the increasing number of emails that are opened on mobile devices.

For good reason.

Mobile was the most used device for email opens in 2018 according to the Litmus State of Email Study, accounting for around half of all email opens.

Failing to plan for mobile in an increasingly mobile world means that you will fail to optimise for over half of your recipients Click To Tweet

That’s a lot of missed opportunities.

Making sure you deliver mobile optimised emails is as simple as making sure that your email marketing platform allows for mobile optimised content.  You only have to take a look at the email below to see what happens when emails aren’t:

Bad Email Optimisation Part 1

A poorly optimised email design from 123 Sushi

See how the content stretches off the right hand edge of the screen?

‘Mobile optimised’ means that your content will stack to improve the readability of the email when viewed on a smaller device or screen.  However, when emails aren’t optimised, you often have to scroll to see all the content in your email, text appears small and images aren’t sharp.

This detracts from the customer experience and makes your emails seem outdated and unprofessional.

Creating an email with a responsive design gives you the opportunity to target your recipients no matter where they are.  This helps you take advantage of every possible opportunity.

Planning Email Campaign Design and Content

The next part of the planning process is to consider your design and content.  These elements carry the main part of your marketing message.

Arguably, you should spend the most time planning them out.

Email Design

Before you commit to an email design, think about how your content will aide recipients who scan through it quickly.  Consider the potential reading environments that your contacts will be in when they receive your emails.  Making sure that your content caters to your recipients’ needs is essential to success.

You have a very limited amount of time to get your recipient’s attention so it is important to structure your content carefully.

Have you noticed yourself scanning emails in a particular way?

Your contacts are likely to scan your email in an F-shaped reading pattern.  The F-shaped pattern involves two horizontal scans of your content, then one vertical scan down the left hand side.

It’s a good idea to create your content accordingly so that you can still get your message across even when you don’t have people’s full attention.

Whichever email design you choose, make sure your email’s main content elements stand out.  Even details such as the email’s background colour, using borders around images and using GIFs need to be carefully thought out.

A good mix of text to images is a great way to go.  Images give your reader something to focus on in each section of your email.  Yet, overdoing the images can also be off putting as it makes the reader skip through parts of your email campaign.

We recommend using a text-to-image ratio of at least 60:40.  This ensures that you don’t trigger any spam traps which look out for image-heavy emails.

Email Content

When planning how you are going to design your email campaign, you need to consider how each element will enhance your marketing message.  Think about how you can add value for the contacts you have selected.

Get some content upgrade ideas in our video below:

Depending on your contacts and goals, you may want to include visually appealing graphics, animations or GIFs.

Engaging your reader is important.

The words you use are central to your email success.  Using proven copywriting techniques allows you to get your message across in an engaging and appealing way, enticing the reader to take action.

Whatever you do, try not to be too salesy.  Nobody likes to be overloaded with sales messaging when they look through their inbox.  Focus on the benefits that the reader can get from taking action rather than the reason you want them to take action.

This will help you write content that is appealing rather than forceful and sales-driven.

Email Marketing Planning Campaigns Design Pizza Express Example

Do you like the Pizza Express Email Design?

We love the design and content of this email from Pizza Express. It has clearly been planned out in advance and uses a number of recognised techniques to keep the reader engaged and trigger that all important action.

The email is visually striking and has a light-hearted tone throughout which is established with the World Cup-related subject line ‘Pizza’s Trippier than Kieran…’  The one downside to using such a World Cup focused subject line is perhaps the risk of alienating people who don’t like football.

The statement at the top of the email is relatable for most office workers. Although it’s simple, this gives the impression that Pizza Express are in touch with their audience.  It helps build a relationship.

Use the copy in your email as an opportunity to build a relationship with your readers Click To Tweet

Providing readers with the option to buy their pizza from Tesco or order it to their door, continues the idea that Pizza Express are a convenient option.

The email is split into three clear sections, funneling the reader towards each of the call to action buttons in an inverted pyramid structure.  Whilst the email has three different call to actions, the split between each of the content elements is clearly marked with a new image marked with an orange border.

Furthermore, the purpose of each is clear.  The first call to action is the most desirable but represents taking time out of the working week.  The second and third are convenient options for people short on time.

Each of the image elements is animated, giving the reader an even more engaging in-email experience.  It adds a little more fun, too, don’t you think?

The orange call to action button, contrasts with the white background in each content block.   Pizza Express use specific call to action text relevant to the action that the reader is expected to take.

  1. Get Your Voucher
  2. Buy From Tesco
  3. Find Your Nearest

An excellent email all round!

Planning Email Campaigns:  Logistics

You have a lot to think about before you hit ‘Send’.  If you don’t organise the process well enough then the campaign has the potential to get very messy.

Even with a well defined goal and a fully aligned marketing team, you still face many logistical problems when planning email marketing campaigns

Decide who is responsible for your campaign

Put one person in charge of signing off your campaign.

Having one decision maker in place who signs off each of the campaign elements makes this process much more straight forward.

Let everybody know who is ultimately responsible and stops any conflicts or arguments from occuring.

This gives you the ability to hold your team accountable for their contribution and means you can easily reward their success.

Organise Your Resources

Make sure that you have enough resources to achieve your campaign goal to the set deadline.

Organise your teams and set a clear schedule.  This way, you know how much time you have to spend on each element of the email campaign.

It’s likely that different elements of your campaign will be produced by different teams.  Give your teams the tools and information they need to collaborate in order to get the best results.

Your design team can plan out how much time it will take to create the email design whilst your copywriters will be able to craft the perfect email copy.

Plan Time For Testing

A big part of planning email marketing campaigns is the testing stage.  Split testing email campaigns gives you the opportunity to fine tune elements of your campaign in real time.

First, you need to make sure that your plan allows you the time you need to split test.

There is no point in split testing if you only have an hour to wait for the results.

Be realistic and designate a specific part of your plan to the split testing phase.

With a plan in place, you can be sure that the results of your split tests are accurate and the campaign that you send out is fully optimised.

The Legal Element of Email Marketing Planning Campaigns

Now for the legal bit!

Email Marketing Planning Campaigns GDPR

When planning email marketing campaigns, you need to keep GDPR in mind!

Don’t worry, we’ll keep this bit short and sweet.

Of course, you need to bear some legalities in mind when you are planning your campaigns.

Double check to make sure that your email marketing list is GDPR compliant.  Some things to think about include:

  • Do you have a legal basis for processing their data?
  • Are all of your contacts opted in to receive marketing communications if you are using consent as your legal basis?
  • Is your email related to the reason they signed up for your mailing list?
  • Does your email have an unsubscribe link?

We are sure that you are fully prepared for the GDPR regulations by now.  After all, it is almost three weeks since the regulations came into effect.

However, it’s always wise to double check, just in case.


Planning your next email marketing campaign thoroughly is crucial.  Without a clear goal, plan and email structure in place, you are likely to find campaign creation difficult.

We hope you find this guide useful when creating your next email marketing campaign.

Spending time at the planning stage is well worth it.  By following the tips in this blog post, you will be able to create campaigns that deliver much improved results.  Even the simplest of changes can make a huge difference to your campaign performance.

What do you focus on when planning your email marketing campaigns?  Let us know in the comments


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