How to Create an Email Marketing Plan That Works

by Jimmy Rodela | Updated Aug. 5, 2022 - First published on May 18, 2022

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Learn how to make an email marketing plan that generates engagements and conversions. The Ascent outlines several tips to help you create a high-performing email marketing plan.

Email marketing remains a staple for marketers, even with the emergence of new marketing methods. In fact, email marketing beats social media in terms of gaining new customers. Sixty percent of consumers prefer to subscribe to an email list to receive deals or promotions.

Moreover, email produces the highest ROI among marketing channels, generating an average of $38 for every $1 spent. That’s why most B2C and B2B businesses invest in email marketing plans to generate more sales and raise brand awareness.

Overview: What is an email marketing plan?

An email marketing plan outlines the steps to implement an email marketing strategy. You either prepare an email marketing plan, or you wing it. If you want to see some email marketing home runs, choose the former.

Having a plan gives you a better sense of the problems you need to address, the type of email content you should create, and who your audience is, among other things.

A well-thought-out marketing plan lets you reach the right audience with the right message at the right time. All of which are crucial elements for successful email marketing campaigns.

How to build an email marketing plan for your business

Email marketing is not just about blasting emails to a list of contacts. Follow the steps below to create an email marketing plan that drives meaningful results.

1. Define your goals

If you don’t know why you’re sending emails, a disconnect will arise between your email’s content and your subscribers’ needs.

This disconnect can cause your subscribers to either ignore your future emails, unsubscribe, or worse, report you as spam -- all of which can be prevented if you start with a clear goal.

When setting goals, consider who you want to reach, what you want to say to them, and how you’ll hope they respond. Narrow down your goals by asking the following questions:

  • Who? Identify your target audience. Learn about their pain points, aspirations, and the emotional/psychological triggers that influence them to take action on your offers.
  • What? What do you want your contacts to do with your email? Do you want them to download your content, subscribe to your webinar, or sign up for an event? Define a goal for each email message so you can add a clear call-to-action (CTA).
  • When? Determine what types of content are relevant to your subscribers based on which phase of the buyer’s journey they’re in. For example, someone in the awareness stage prefers to receive insightful content about a product or service. Meanwhile, someone in the decision stage will find pricing guides more valuable.
  • Where? Figure out what device your email subscribers are using to open your emails. Are they using smartphones? Laptops? Or tablets, perhaps? Use your email service provider’s email analytics to obtain this information so you can optimize your email marketing campaign accordingly.
  • Why? What is your desired outcome for your email marketing campaign? Does it align with your business’s overall direction? Asking these types of questions will establish cohesiveness between your email marketing campaigns and all other promotional initiatives you’re pursuing to grow your business.

2. Grow and segment your contacts

Learning how to build an email list doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Offering a lead magnet, for example, can do wonders for your list-building efforts. When you offer a lead magnet that provides tons of value, your audience is more likely to share their email addresses.

The most common lead magnets offered are:

  • Templates or resources
  • Ebooks
  • Free trials or samples
  • Discounts
  • Webinars

Obtaining the email addresses of your prospects is just half the battle, though. If you want to convert your email leads to paying customers, you need to learn how to segment your audience.

Email segmentation means grouping email addresses according to a sub-niche. Some of the most common segmentation ideas are sorting based on gender, age, interest, and behavior. Choose the segmentation type that fits your data and goals.

Segmenting emails allows you to create personalized content since you can tailor it specifically to the sub-niche’s interest. As a result, segmented or targeted campaigns boost click-through and open rates and generate 77% of your overall ROI.

3. Create value-packed emails

Your content should be relevant and helpful to your subscribers. To know what content works for them, create your marketing materials based on where they are in their buying stage. The structure of your email content is also important.

Use the AIDA model to organize the structure of your email templates. AIDA stands for:

  • Attention: Grab the reader’s attention with your subject line or header.
  • Interest: Give relevance to keep readers interested.
  • Desire: Show the value of your product or service.
  • Action: Encourage them to act.

Here’s how it looks when you apply the AIDA model to your email.

Screenshot of a promotional email template from Foodpanda

Foodpanda’s simple email promotion used the AIDA model to deliver its content effectively. Image source: Author

Notice how the email template is short and simple, yet it conveys clear information and encourages the reader to take action.

Remember that the best marketing emails focus on giving value to the readers.

4. Optimize for email deliverability

Email deliverability is a metric that shows how many of your emails are reaching your recipients’ inboxes. Pay attention to this metric if you want your email marketing campaigns to succeed. After all, if your emails aren’t in your subscribers’ inboxes, they won’t be opened or read.

To optimize your emails for deliverability, consider the following email marketing tips:

  • Collect emails with consent: Before you send an email sequence to a customer, obtain their permission first. Otherwise, they could flag you as spam, which then hurts your sending reputation and email deliverability. Use a double opt-in if possible.
  • Segment according to audience expectations: Are your subscribers getting the email content they expected to receive? Also, have you taken the time to remind them who you are and why they are receiving your emails? Make sure your emails align with your audience's expectations. If they signed up for real estate investment tips and tricks, don’t send them emails on house repainting tips. While both emails have to do with houses, investment and repainting tips are two very different worlds. Your audience will unsubscribe or tag you as spam if they receive email content that doesn’t match their expectations. Whether you’re aware of the disconnect or not doesn’t matter, your email deliverability will suffer.
  • Monitor hard bounces: Hard bounces can cause serious damage to your email deliverability. If left unchecked, they can smash your email marketing campaigns to oblivion. Essentially, hard bounces are emails that are returned (or not delivered) for permanent reasons. The recipient's email could be invalid, deactivated, etc. To manage your hard bounces, use an email marketing software that monitors delivery. Test your emails before you send in bulk, use double opt-ins, or check spam mail databases -- all can give you an edge in avoiding hard bounces.

5. Automate your campaigns

Automating your emails lets you scale your campaigns while streamlining your process. Because of the set-it-and-forget-it nature of email automation, your campaigns can run without your constant attention. You just need to do the initial setup, and they'll run 24/7.

For example, use email automation to send welcome emails whenever someone signs up for your newsletters. Automated welcome messages let you onboard new subscribers without manually sending email messages every time someone signs up -- your email automation software will do it all for you.

An email system such as Mailchimp lets you do this easily. The platform has several email automation templates you can choose from.

Screenshot showing Mailchimp’s email automation templates

Use email automation templates to fast track your email marketing campaign creation. Image source: Author

After selecting a template, start adding your content, audience, and the timing when your email will be sent.

Email automation options in Mailchimp

Specify the timing of your automated emails to give it extra oomph. Image source: Author

Using email automation saves you a lot of time and headache while making sure you stay on top of your email marketing campaigns.

Also, setting up behavior-based automation, such as birthday greetings, allows you to send highly relevant emails to your contacts at the right time.

Screenshot of a birthday promotional email from Zalora

Zalora sends automated birthday greetings and offers an exclusive discount to encourage subscribers to buy. Image source: Author

Notice how Zalora leverages its subscriber’s birthday by offering a 27% discount to encourage a purchase.

Use email automation to your advantage to provide continuous email communication and drive more engagement.

Create an email marketing plan that engages and converts

Maximize the customer lifetime value of your subscribers by creating a high-performing email marketing plan.

Follow the steps mentioned in the guide, and build upon them to create an email marketing plan tailored to your business dynamics.

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