How to create an email marketing campaign

Creating an email marketing campaign can be 10x more effective when you break it down into a series of steps.

creating an email marketing campaign

Email marketing campaigns are one of the most effective forms of digital marketing we have available to us. They consist of a series of emails sent on the event that a customer takes a certain action.

Tailored and personalised campaigns are miles ahead of the rest in their effectiveness with 75% of revenue from email campaigns being generated by campaigns that are triggered by a specific action, rather the one-size-fits all marketing campaigns. And beyond that, automated email campaigns are responsible for 21% of all revenue from email marketing.

An automated email campaign is a powerful tool that saves you marketing team time, and simultaneously provides a direct-to-customer, tailored marketing campaign that is more powerful than any stand-alone, manual email marketing campaign.

Ask yourself why you’re creating the email campaign

know why you are creating an email marketing campaign

Before you send a single email in your campaign you need to understand your goals. To make this most effective think about this in two ways:

  1. What are the goals of your company or your campaign?
  2. What are the goals of your customers?
  3. What are the goals of this specific campaign?

Most people will have considered their companies goals before starting out creating a marketing campaign, but you’d be amazed at how few people think about the goals of your customers.

At the end of the day your customers aren’t invested in the success of your business. However, they are deeply invested in the success of their own business. And this is where you are able to connect to them and build a stronger relationship.

You don’t need just one answer. In fact, you need a different answer for every single email marketing campaign that you are planning to set up. Try setting up a strategy planning document for each email campaign which you can reference back to and use to measure the success of your campaign and note any edits that you make.

Use these three questions to kickoff your document and make sure to refer back to them to anchor the design and creation of your campaign.

Select a trigger for your campaign

select a trigger for your email marketing campaign

Your campaign trigger is the event or action that a customer takes that means they are then sent the campaign.

Triggers can be set up from inside your email marketing software and will be strongly determined by your ‘why’.

Let’s look at a few examples of which triggers you might use and why:

  • You want to encourage customers who haven’t used your product for a while: choose to set the trigger as ‘when a customer hasn’t logged in for more than 7 days’
  • You want to help educate your customers about how to get the most out of your product: choose to set the trigger as ‘when the customer signs up for a trial’. For more on this look at our advice on the best practices for onboarding
  • You want to convert a blog reader to a customer: choose ‘downloading an ebook’ as the trigger
  • There are so many examples and different ways to achieve the goals both you and your company have set. Try coming up with a few different triggers for your goal and workshop them with your team to narrow it down to one.

    Most email automation tools will allow you to make sure that a single customer cannot be in more than one email campaign group at once. You don’t want to spoil all of your efforts to send fewer, more targeted emails, and then accidentally spam your audience with a load of emails.

    Select an audience for your email campaign

    select a targeted audience for your email marketing campaign

    You’ll probably have a good idea of who you’re targeting by now, as you’ll have narrowed down the pool of people by both thinking about the right goals and selecting a trigger for your automated email campaign.

    Look and see if there are ways to further segment this audience.

    Even when two customers are aligned to the same goal and are coming up against the same trigger they can still have vastly different perspectives.

    Without a deep understanding of your customers, you won’t be able to create effective email marketing campaigns

    The most successful email marketing campaign would be one tailored to the individual. In the vast majority of companies this is not a reasonable task to attempt. Instead, we can do our best by creating very specific audience groups.

    Remember that the audience groups aren’t set by the members, they are set by the criteria. Individual customers will move in and out of different email campaign segments as their own journey’s develop. That’s the brilliant thing about trigger or action based groups, they keep up with your ever-changing customers without you having to move people in and out of groups all the time.

    Here are some reasons you might want to segment your audience further:

    • They have very different goals
    • They have different job roles
    • They have been customers for different amounts of time
    • They use the product in very different ways
    • They are on different pricing plans

    This is not to say that you pick one small audience and abandon the other, but that instead you create multiple different email marketing campaigns that are tailored and specific for the audience at hand.

    Understand the journey and the outcome of your campaign

    understand the journey of your email campaign

    A strong email marketing campaign will consist of a sequence of emails that help to guide your customer along their journey towards both of your goals.

    They can take many forms, from sharing educational articles each week, to encouraging someone to set up a demo-call or to start using new features of your product.

    This is the time to map out the journey that you will be taking the customer on. Start with the first and last email in the sequence.

    The first email in your marketing campaign sequence

    This email is incredibly important, in fact it’s the most important email in the entire sequence. If your customers don’t open this first email they are far less likely to stick with you on the journey you have planned. Do you research on catchy subject lines and work out what the best time of day is to send this email to this audience.

    The middle emails in your marketing campaign sequence

    This is where you want to be focusing on building up the relationship with your customer. It’s good practice to send a variety of subject lines and even mix up the times you send the emails to try and get the attention of as many of your audience as possible. We recommend sticking to sending one or two emails a week.
    Give the opportunity to the customer to complete the goal earlier than the the final email, you don’t want to miss the chance of them being ready and forgetting by the time the final email comes through. We have written extensively on call to action buttons before which is a great source of inspiration and advice on how to design your ask.

    The final email in your marketing campaign sequence

    Think really clearly about what you want your final email to say and what you will do if a customer hasn’t responded or taken any actions on your campaign. This is where you should go back to your ‘why’ and discuss whether you should involve the sales or customer success teams.

    Selecting the right template for your email marketing campaign

    select the right template for your email marketing campaign

    Creating an email marketing campaign that’s both functional and beautiful sounds like a lot of work. But actually, by using templates you can make this process really quick and easy.

    You might choose to send a plain-text marketing campaign which have proven to be successful in some circumstances, but be aware of the Uncanny Valley effect.

    Nicely designed email campaigns can be a great way to show off your brand’s personality and come across much more professionally.

    Writing copy for an email marketing campaign

    writing copy for email marketing campaigns

    We’ve written a lot about how to write and design email marketing campaign for different purposes. Elsewhere on the blog you’ll find:

    • Advice on how to create an email sequence
    • Email automation examples that increase engagement and conversions
    • SaaS welcome email examples to inspire you
    • Create an email onboarding sequence for freemium users
    • Create an email onboarding sequence for free trial users

    Here we are going to focus on some core tips for writing email marketing campaigns that will carry across all your campaigns.

    Subject lines and ‘sent by’ name

    When your customers receive an email from you the only thing they can see are your subject line and the name you’ve chosen (or the default name or email address). These are really important. They are the only things (apart from send time) that impact whether someone opens your email or not.

    Firstly, some housekeeping on your sent by name. Make sure this is tailored in the way you’d like it to be. For example when you receive emails from GoSquared the name appears as (FirstName) from GoSquared.

    Writing a subject line is more complex. Our advice is to think about your audience and the language that you know resonates with them and start there. Use emojis, humour or questions to entice the reader to open the email. And most importantly: keep testing and iterating on your subject line copy until you get the open rates you are happy with.

    Writing the first email in your campaign sequence

    It’s a good idea to set up what your customer can expect from this campaign. Don’t be secretive and instead tempt the customer to keep opening your emails by getting them excited about what’s to come in the coming weeks. You can do this by providing a contents lists of the emails in the sequence or by explaining the overall goal of your campaign.

    A smart way to help your customers receive the content in the way that’s best for them is to offer a ‘download them all’ option in this first email with a pdf link to all the knowledge and resources you’re about to share over the coming weeks.

    Writing your middle emails in your campaign sequence

    It’s key to offer something of value to everyone receiving your email sequence. If you’ve segmented your audience well this won’t be an issue because you’ll know exactly what this audience wants, and (because of the campaign trigger) you can be sure that they are all at a stage in their journey where they can appreciate your insight. You might want to offer an ebook, a webinar, a call with an expert or personalised advice for their issues.

    However you choose to set up your campaign make sure you keep coming back to the goals you set out for yourself in the beginning. Remember why you are sending the campaign and be clear on the value you are offering the reader. If you can’t confidently explain both the why, and the value, then don’t send the email.

    Try offering numerous opportunities for the customer to ‘complete’ the sequence. Don’t hold back until your final email for the big reveal, because a lot of the people receiving your emails won’t make it to the end of the sequence – it’s natural to see a bit of drop off over time.

    Writing the final email in your campaign sequence

    Share with your customers that this is the last email in the sequence. Celebrate their increase in knowledge with them and perfect your final ask. You’ll want to make sure that your call-to-action in this email is the best one yet.

    Be responsive to your email campaign

    be responsive to your email campaign

    If you notice a low open rate, low response rate, or a higher than desired number of unsubscribes pause your campaign and make some edits. It would be unheard of to get a 100% response rate to a campaign but if it feels too low, there are definitely aspect you can change to be more effective.

    The last thing you want to do is get into a situation where your emails become irritating to your customer.

    Email automation can do a lot for you, but nurturing those customer relationships once they do reply to your campaign or re-engage with your product is the job of your Customer Success or Sales team. This is why proper alignment between sales and marketing teams is more important than ever before, particularly in SaaS businesses where the role of the Sales team and the Customer Success team never ends.

    Creating an email marketing campaign checklist

    create your email marketing campaign checklist

    The advice in this post can be rounded up into 3 themes:

    1. Think about your why first
      If you don’t know why you’re sending the email campaign, then don’t send it. Your customers don’t need reminding that you exist just for the sake of it. When you are clear on your ‘why’ your campaign will be better quality, easier to measure, and please more of your customers.
    2. Understand your customer
      Without a deep understanding of your customer you won’t be able to run effective email marketing campaigns. A good campaign is highly targeted and personalised to the audience. There are very few (if any!) campaigns that couldn’t be improved by better targeting. Start off strong and give your customers exactly what they want, not what someone else might want.
    3. Always offer something of value
      By putting your brand and your products into your customer’s inbox you are asking them for something: their time, and perhaps even their money. Offer them something in return – the easiest thing for you to offer as an expert in your space is your knowledge and advice on a topic that really means something to them.