An Ultimate Email Marketing Checklist

Email marketing checklist

Launching an email marketing campaign is too big of a task. You need to take many things into account — campaign goals, content, and the technical aspects of launching. To make it easier for you, we made an email campaign checklist — and explained why you need it.

What is an email marketing checklist and why use it

Imagine that you chose a complex recipe with many ingredients and a long cooking time to try out for your next weekend dinner — like village pasta with a zucchini sauce. This dish requires buying vegetables and herbs — and you need to research the cooking process as well. When you make simpler go-to dishes that you’ve done many times before, you cook on autopilot — you don’t measure ingredients or ponder on each step. But if you’re cooking something complex, you make a shopping list of ingredients, use a kitchen scale, and set timers to make sure your dish won’t be raw or overcooked.

The same goes for email marketing — think of an email campaign as a complex “dish” with lots of ingredients and a tricky cooking process. To make sure you don’t make any mistakes or forget to put something, you need to make a list. It will also help you psychologically — breaking larger projects into smaller tasks will make you feel less overwhelmed.

Let’s start “cooking” our email marketing campaign and dig deeper into everything you need to consider.

1. Building a campaign strategy

Every email marketing campaign starts with mapping out the campaign strategy. This includes setting goals and segmentation. Let’s take a closer look at these two campaign strategy aspects.

Defining the goal

You might think of email marketing goals as something like “improve customer loyalty” or “increase sales”. But how will you understand that customer loyalty has improved and it’s the direct result of your campaign?

The examples above are not really goals — they don’t have clear success criteria and are not time-bound. The key to great email marketing goals is using the SMART method, which is:

SMART framework

The SMART framework allows you to:

  • Improve teamwork in the marketing department.
  • Track your progress over time.
  • Prioritize smaller tasks.
  • Use collected data more effectively.
  • Define clear success criteria and ease analytics.

To get a better understanding of this approach, take a look at this spreadsheet.

SMART aspect Example Room for improvement A better example
🎯 Specific Increase sales Too abstract, no defined success criteria Achieve a 10% increase in sales online
📊 Measurable Improve customer satisfaction How will you measure customer satisfaction? Achieve an average customer satisfaction level of 4.3 out of 5 according to our survey
🥇 Achievable Gain $1.5 billion in one day It doesn’t sound realistic Gain $1.5 billion during the second quarter of 2022
🗺️ Relevant Using memes and slang to attract new Gen Z subscribers and decrease the average age of your audience It’s not a part of a bigger picture — you need to work with the customer loyalty of your current clients instead of gaining new audience Increase CTR in already gained subscribers by 20% within a month
🕒 Time-bound Achieve a 10% increase in sales online No deadline Achieve a 10% increase in sales online by the end of the next month

Segmenting your audience

Segmented email marketing campaigns generate more than a half of total revenue. That’s why segmenting your email list is so important. Segmentation structures the list and allows you to appeal to certain customer groups. You will send more relevant content — and your customers will be more eager to engage with it.

There’s no foolproof recipe for segmentation — it depends on your campaign goals. We collected some ideas you can use to increase the efficiency of your email marketing campaign.

Sign-up. You can tailor your content to customers who signed up on a website, at your brick-and-mortar store or during an online event like a conference.

Demography. Targeting by age, gender, family status, and other demographic characteristics is a basic strategy but it still improves the relevance of email content and deal suggestions.

Location. If you segment your list by countries, cities, and postal codes, you open a bunch of geo-targeting opportunities. It’s especially important for promoting special events. For example, if you want to draw more attention to a conference, send emails about an offline event to people near your business and emails about an online stream to people from other cities.

Engagement level. Segmenting by engagement level is especially important if you’re launching a re-engagement email campaign. And there are many ways to interpret what engagement means to you and how you can measure it. You can use onsite or in-app behavior or email metrics — for example, send tailored email to non-openers.

Subscription or registration date. You can base your segmentation on the “age” of your customers. For example, newbies might need a little onboarding and older clients will be happy to see new feature announcements.

Purchase history. You can make relevant suggestions based on clients’ purchase history — for example, matching, similar, or the same products.

Psychographics. It’s not easy to pull off — you need to collect tons of data through surveys. But the general gist is segmentation by lifestyle, hobbies, values, and other preferences. It’s a powerful tool with opportunities for more subtle email content adjustments.

2. Content creation

Once you built the campaign strategy, defined goals and segmented your email list, it’s time to start writing emails. Let’s break this task into smaller objectives and go into details about each stage.

Crafting a perfect subject line

A subject line is the first thing your customers will notice in their inboxes. And your campaign open rate depends on their first impressions. That’s why coming up with a good subject line is important for successful email marketing campaigns. We brought you some tips on how to make a good subject line for your email campaign.

Keep it short. Subject lines get cut off, especially on mobile devices. Make sure it’s not longer than 40 characters — and your subscribers will read it both on laptops and phones.

Don’t forget the preheader. It’s another element people see in your inbox before opening the email:

Email preheader examples

Keep your email preheaders between 30 and 55 characters, add a CTA, and make sure it works well with your subject line and doesn’t repeat it.

Avoid spam words. Stay away from clickbait words and word combinations like “Limited time offer” and “100% satisfied”, don’t use excessive punctuation or odd formattings like ALL CAPS, g a p s and ᴡᴇɪʀᴅ ғᴏɴᴛs. This looks suspicious both for automated spam filters and customers.

These are the basics — you need to meet these requirements, otherwise, you won’t get through spam filters. Or customers will report your email as spam. But how can you stand out using an email subject line? Use one of these strategies:

  • Urgency or scarcity — “Only 5 tickets left” or “Today only: 30% off all cocktails”
  • Valuable offers — “Give a gift your mom will love”
  • Asking open questions — “How to sleep better?”
  • Using a clear command — “Save up to 40% on gifts now” or “Join us to celebrate in NYC”
  • Being funny — “Not another marketing email”
  • Adding intrigue — “10 reasons why your love life sucks”
  • Being personal — “Thanks for being with us, Kate”

You can’t use all of them for one email — choose one that fits your campaign the best.

Choosing the email content template

A content template is a readymade email layout you can use instead of making each new email from scratch. Email marketing platforms have free templates, we at Selzy have over a hundred. But you can make your own using drag-and-drop email builders or even custom HTML and CSS code.

Your template choice depends on which content you want to include in the email and what type of campaign you’re launching. For example, this is what a basic newsletter looks like:

Bimble newsletter
Source: Really Good Emails

And this is a basic sales email:

Felina sales email
Source: Really Good Emails

Notice the content difference between the two. The sales email above is more focused on visuals. It has less text and more CTAs and pictures. And the newsletter is more text-centric, it has less flashy design, and it doesn’t have any buttons.

Writing the content copy

Basic copywriting rules apply to email marketing as well — the key is being useful and writing a text people would want to read. We’d like to both remind you of key copywriting principles and point out email-specific nuances.

Look at this content copy by Eat Sunny. It’s brief but informative — it has fun facts and useful advice for the reader.

Eat Sunny newsletter email
Source: Really Good Emails

And the entire text leads the reader to perform the target action, which is ordering food. Check out our tips to write as good as Eat Sunny.

Think of your reader. You’re not writing an email for yourself — so take care of your target audience, which values they have, and how they think of the world. This should affect both what your copy is about and which words you choose. For example, you promote a marketing conference. Junior and senior marketers have different competences and problems. And younger specialists might not know some industry terms yet. That’s why these reader groups need different emails and different word choices.

Be clear. Your content copy should be readable — avoid overusing passive voice, long run-on sentences, and complex vocabulary. To make sure your copy is not too complicated, automate content editing with online solutions like Hemingway. This website scans your text for expressions that worsen its readability — like verbose sentences or too many adverbs.

A screenshot from Hemingway website

Be useful. A good content copy resolves readers’ pain points — think of what you can offer. It doesn’t have to be a financial deal — information is useful too. For example, subscribers can learn something that will solve their problem or even just laugh at your meme selection. It depends on your campaign and its goals — but you should always have an answer to this question:

Email marketing usefulness question

Stay true to the Tone of Voice. Emails are a part of your brand personality — use the same style guides that apply to all branded content like social media and blog posts. For example, you’re promoting a solid B2B app for business purposes — and in your emails, you’re suddenly throwing fire emojis, memes, and teen slang like LOL and YOLO. It’s an exaggerated example but you should avoid even minor contradictions like that.

Be brief. Emails should not be a long read. According to Campaign Monitor, the ideal email copy length is between 50 and 125 words — we agree with them on this one.

Be respectful. New means of communication bring new communication norms. Follow the email etiquette — for example, don’t abuse emojis, be clear in your subject line, and don’t waste your readers’ time by dancing around the topic.

Add a straightforward call to action. If you add several CTAs, chances are, people will follow none of them. The rules are: one clear and short CTA per email.

Email from Havenly
Source: Really Good Emails

Take a look at this example from Havenly. It’s short and straightforward — its CTA is basically “keep an eye on updates”. The download button is a part of this CTA — you can download the app and you won’t miss fresh updates.

Deciding on your call to action

A CTA is a button at the end of your email — and a climax of your previously written content copy. But if you look closer, a CTA is actually your entire email. Both the copy and its design are aimed at one goal: to get your client to click that button below.

Your whole email persuades readers to perform the target action — but it doesn’t mean you have any slack when it comes to CTA buttons. Here are some best practices you can take into account:

  • Use action verbs — like “Start now” or “Find a store nearby”.
  • Get more personal — like “Find my love” or “Get your discount now”.
  • Don’t forget the design — your CTA button should be big and noticeable but not too flashy and annoying.
Blue Apron Halloween discount email
Source: Really Good Emails

Take a look at this email from Blue Apron. Instead of the basic “Shop now” button, they used “Get $40 off”. It’s a good tactic — subscribers will look at this button and understand what they will get in return right away.

Adding an unsubscribe link

An unsubscribe link is a legal requirement according to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. If you don’t add it, your audience will feel trapped, consider you intrusive, and might report your email as spam. Losing subscribers is sad — but this link is actually your friend. For example, you can add a feedback form on the website and ask unsubscribing customers what they disliked about your emails. Also, big contact lists are not always useful — non-engaged subscribers are not that valuable to you.

Klavivo unsubscribe link example
Source: Really Good Emails

Add an unsubscribe link to your email footer. Keep in mind that it should be subtle but noticeable enough — otherwise you will annoy your readers. In our example from Klavivo, the link is in bold and it’s highlighted with color. You can also play around with the context of the unsubscribe link — we like this example for the witty footer caption as well.

Proofread and check the grammar

Imagine that you’ve come up with an awesome email campaign. You wrote a great copy, found a sleek layout, and tested the perfect subject line — “Duck and cover, the ATOMIC sale is coming!”. And then you sent an email with a typo to thousands of subscribers — with an F-bomb in the subject line.

Email mistakes like this one can cost you money and brand reputation. Of course, you can write an apology email later — like Lakeland did after misinforming their readers:

An apology email from Lakeland
Source: Email Competitors

But prevention is a better strategy. That’s why, we couldn’t emphasize this more, proofread your campaigns before sending. Proofreading includes checking for typos, grammar and stylistic mistakes, and fact-checking. You can partially automate this process — for example, use Grammarly if you write in English.

3. Launching the campaign

Previewing and testing the campaign

At this stage, you basically perform the quality assurance of your emails. You need this to look at your emails from the customers’ point of view and make sure that your layout looks good on all devices and that all the links work.

Email marketing platforms have the preview function which you can use to look at your design as you build a layout or right after you finish it. But you can use the inbox test as well — send an email to yourself and look at it from both your laptop and your smartphone.

Applying contact filters

You need to filter your contact list if you send different emails to different reader groups — at this stage, you put previously performed segmentation to work. Use advanced filters to segment contacts by different properties from age to external events. Be careful and double-check everything — or you’ll send the wrong emails to the wrong customers like GOBE.

An apology email from GOBE
Source: Really Good Emails

In Selzy, you can segment your contact list from Contacts or while creating an email. In both cases the mechanics are the same: you choose the “Segmentation” feature and then add one or more conditions to create a group of contacts. Take a look at this example for a re-engagement email marketing campaign.

Contact list segmentation in Selzy
Source: Selzy

Send out or schedule your emails

Once you’ve fixed typos, glitchy images and invalid links, double-checked your campaign and added filters to contacts, time to send out emails. Or not — you can schedule your campaign and emails will be sent automatically at a certain time. But is timing that important?

According to various studies, the best days of week to send marketing emails are Tuesday and Thursday — and the emails sent at 5 PM get the highest click-through rates, while the highest open rate is in the morning. But really, it depends. For example, if you’re promoting a music blog or a streaming service, the best day for a newsletter with fresh releases is Friday — because most musicians drop albums on Fridays. So, timing depends on many factors — the goals of your campaign, the lifestyle of your audience, and the peculiarities of your industry. There’s no foolproof recipe. The only thing we can recommend for sure is adjusting your campaign to time zones and not sending emails when people are asleep.

Monitor your email bounces

A bounce is an email delivery failure. There are two types of email bounces — hard and soft. A soft bounce is a temporary delivery failure, and a hard bounce is permanent. Reasons for email bounces include:

  • Invalid recipient addresses
  • Full recipient inbox
  • Spam reports from recipients
  • Automated spam filters
  • Issues with your DNS settings

Your objective is to keep bounce rates as low as possible — if they are higher than 10%, your address will be blocked. Also, bounce rates might indicate technical issues from your side. That’s why if you see a sudden increase in delivery failures, you need to investigate the reasons.

Wrapping up

Email marketing has a lot of subtasks. But they can be structured into three stages: strategy, content, and launching. We made you a checklist to bring order to your work — print this out and feel free to use it.

Email marketing checklist

Do you make sure you get everything right with your campaigns?

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