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Email Checklist – Save Your Sanity and Send with Confidence!

Email Checklist
Email Checklist

Everyone has done it. You send an important email, and something just doesn’t feel right. Now long gone, you instinctively open it to discover a silly typoo in the subject line. Doh! And that’s just one of dozens of things that can go wrong.

When it comes to mass emailing, both your personal and brand reputations are on the line with every click of the send key. That’s why we’ve put together this sanity-saving email checklist. Don’t let an embarrassing or potentially damaging email ruin your day!

We’ll assume you have already gone through the process of thinking through your email. That you know your target audience, the objective, and the key points you want to get across. There are great articles out there outlining best practices for writing an effective email. Here, we address the mechanics of setting up and confidently delivering your message.

Email Checklist Summary

We have designed our process for marketing automation systems, but much of it applies to any email that is important and will be widely distributed, regardless of where it originates. We divided our email checklist into sections that seem to flow well with our standard process, and they should be fairly universal. Also, there may be steps that don't apply depending on what system you use, but most should.

Planning

  • Decide what your end goal is and be sure to use the appropriate metrics to track its success.
  • Carefully select your targeted audience based on your desired outcomes. Keep in mind there can be multiple segments based on your desired results.
  • Define the type of email you want to use. Is it a single-use or part of a campaign? If the latter, sketch out your campaign and workflows first.
  • What layout will you select? Engage your audience with an appropriate eye-catching layout, one that will entice click-through. Are your readers compelled?

Content Preparation

  • Create the subject line. Arguably the most important element of your email and it should be thoughtfully written.
  • Create strong preview messages, ones that will compel the reader to open your email.
    Compose email copy that consists of clear and short sentences that are jargon-free. Make your content easily digestible.
  • Compose your email in a word processor first. Editing in MS-Word is far easier than in most email systems.
  • Finalize the layout by making sure all links are clearly identifiable as links, your message is focused, and no unnecessary choices are presented. Lastly is your brand easily recognizable by the from name and email address?
  • Read! Read and re-read your email.  Proof your email content for any errors, such as spelling and grammar, and inaccurate information. As a rule of thumb, proofing your email from the bottom-up, at least once, will help you pinpoint any mistakes that might have been missed. Tools like Grammarly and Hemingway to improve the quality and readability.
  • When proofing your email, make sure the message relates to the target audience, is easy to read and clear, and will engage or persuade.
  • If you want to run a campaign that includes multiple emails, write the variations at the same time.

Email Setup

  • When running a campaign with multiple pieces of content, set that up first.
  • If you are driving readers to a landing page or form, create a unique form for tracking purposes.
  • Set up the appropriate automated workflows and notifications in your system.
  • Create preview text which is a subheading to your subject line that many email clients display.
  • Personalize your email with the recipient’s first name, if possible.
  • Select the “from name” field which can be a company or personal name.
  • Enter the “from” and “reply-to” email addresses.
  • Type the content of your message into the email system template, or copy and paste (text only) from elsewhere.
  • Add images, links, landing page and call-to-action buttons as required.
  • Using the built-in tools and augmenting with HTML where needed, format your email as desired.

Email Enhancements

  • Make it easy for your reader to interact with your email by adding a call-to-action button going to a form, download, or landing page.
  • Add images/graphics that will help support your written content and main email message.
  • Take into consideration subscribers with images turned off – will they be able to make sense of the email and act on it?
  • Compare your email content and selected images so that they both work together to encourage the reader to act. Always ask yourself, do your images support the main message?
  • Use links as needed making sure they are clearly identifiable as links.
  • If applicable, make social sharing and connecting easy by providing the relevant icons.

System Setup

  • At this point, you are now ready to create your email campaign. You can now add your email to a specific campaign (if supported by the platform you will use.)
  • Give your email a name that will help you find it later should you want to resend or clone it.
  • Is your email authentication in place? Be sure this is done prior to launching your email. Automate workflows if applicable.
  • Review each template field and personalize it wherever you can (with fallback for missing fields).
  • Ensure you have a recognizable “from” field. This will add validity to the recipient and reduce the risk of your email being seen as junk mail or even spam.
  • Ensure your “reply-to” field has an email address – again, this will increase the validity of your email.
  • Remember to remember your “text only” email version.  This too must be checked and verified for any errors.
  • You are ready to select your recipient list(s). Make lists based on how contacts have interacted with your organization.  Do you have donors? Volunteers? Employees? Separate lists can keep your messages to them on point.
  • This is also the perfect time to exclude recipients, if applicable, from a particular email list. Remember your message must be applicable to the recipient!

Optimization

  • Most email systems provide options for SEO. If you are using a landing page, optimize your URL name, keywords, tags, and images.
  • Ensure your email is optimized for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.
  • Use your system’s render testing feature to see how your email will appear on various email clients.
  • Test your forms, automated workflows, and notifications to make sure they work.

Final Review

  • Prior to launching your email it’s a great idea to send a test email to major email clients. This will allow for the opportunity to make any last-minute corrections.
  • Never assume that your email will be viewed on one device – test your email on multiple devices ensuring the recipient will receive the desired layout.
  • Check one last time for any possible errors such as spelling, grammar or any other glaring mistakes. Thoroughly proof email one last time, this includes any links within your email.
    A second set of eyes can only assist with this process.  Have someone else proof your email.
  • Are your images working? Test image loads and make sure you have included “alt tags.”
    If applicable, test automation.
  • Check one last time that your email is purpose-driven, kind and thoughtful.
  • Exhale and hit “send!”

Deliverability

  • Are you familiar with privacy laws? Now is a good time to familiarize yourself if you are not. Respect CASL and other email legislation.
  • Overuse of anything can easily derail your campaign – be careful with the use of sales buzzwords, unnecessary caps, bolding and exclamation points.
  • Ensure your email system inserts your corporate information, along with unsubscribe and opt-in options. Or, do it manually.
  • Ensure your email system has DKIM and SP records to increase deliverability, which should only be needed one time.
  • Make sure your email is not coming across as spam to junk filters or readers.
  • Set up a text version of your message and an HTML option as well to increase coverage.
  • Build your recipients list from individual contacts or other lists. Take care with this and triple-check your choices.

Finally, the last step!
It’s time to double-check the checklist, hit send, and relax!

There are few things worse for a marketer, or anyone for that matter, than sending a mass email you wish you could take back. Unfortunately, once you hit the enter key, the damage is done. We’ve started using this email checklist ourselves and always find many things to fix or refine during the process. Like anything else, the more you do it, the more habitual it becomes. Hopefully, this can help you send more impactful emails and reduce some anxiety.

Content and Delivery: Build Them Both or Don’t Bother!

Content and Delivery
Content and Delivery

What’s more important – content or delivery? The reality is you can’t have one without the other. It takes content and delivery together to make your efforts pay off.

In this article, we’ll take a look at why content is such an important part of the marketing mix, and the vital role delivery plays in getting it out there. I will also mix in a few points to think about for those starting out.

Why Content is so Important

Content marketing is a strategy used to attract and engage prospects by sharing information they will value. It all starts with at least one clearly defined target audience, and most companies will have more. The materials you create must be relevant to those who receive it. Finally, the production and distribution of your content must be an on-going process.

In a recent article called a Definition of Marketing Even a Child Can Understand, I talked about awareness, attraction, and action. In today’s marketing world, getting people to know you, relate to you and eventually buy from you, relies heavily on content – especially with B2B.

Research by Smart Insights earlier this year estimated that content marketing was the activity having the most commercial impact on business in 2016. Leading with a total of 21% of those surveyed, content marketing was ahead of marketing automation at 15%, and conversion rate optimization at 11%. As you scroll down the list of the other categories such as paid advertising, online PR, and social media – content plays a critical role in these as well.

Content such as blogs, white papers, and infographics, can have a long shelf life. This means people can discover it months or years later and in some cases the same content can be reintroduced. The value of content and its ability to engage and persuade is hard to argue. But, only if it connects with the recipient. Yes, content marketing takes a great deal of investment. But, it continues to prove itself in driving brand awareness, sales leads, and customer satisfaction.

Direct Delivery Challenges

Once you have content worth sharing, it needs to get in front of the right people. This can be just as big a challenge as keeping up with content. Choosing the best vehicles to distribute your message is not as easy as it sounds. Let’s use the example of building out social media networks. This is not trivial, and it takes strategy, time and focus. You can’t build every network at once so it’s wise to pick three or four that best suit your needs and work them hard. To choose between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all the others will be far easier if you learn the social media preferences of your target audience.

Email is another strong distribution channel. Whether you use a simple email service or sophisticated marketing automation tool – the challenge is always the list! CASL and other privacy laws now force marketers to build lists that only include opt-in subscribers. This again takes a long time and your content has to be stellar to cut through the clutter. Also, once you have a growing list, you need to keep up the good work so people don’t unsubscribe.

Delivery Option Alternatives

If your networks and lists are early-stage, a more immediate way to distribute content is through publishing platforms such as LinkedIn and Medium. These are easy to use, free and can attract a good number of prospects to your brand. There is also a long list of other powerful, but less direct ways to get your message out. Examples include:

  • Advertising on Google AdWords or any of the popular social media networks
  • Advertising in online news outlets or industry publications
  • Remarketing using Google or services such as AdRoll
  • Online press releases through services such as PRweb and Newswire

These options can help you reach large audiences quickly and affordably. Because it’s digital, most systems offer strong analytics so you can see the results. In all these examples, there is high value in terms of brand building and awareness. But, if your goal is to drive people to a piece of content, these options typically require a stop at a web, or landing page first.

So far, we have been referring only to digital marketing. It’s important to note that print, direct mail, and other channels are still widely used and viable. If you re-purpose the same content across a variety of different online and offline channels, the impact is even stronger.

Content and Delivery – You Need Both!

Content and delivery go hand in hand. A car without gas won’t run and gasoline sitting in a can, just smells bad. I’ve run across clients spending tens of thousands of dollars a year on high-end marketing automation platforms and barely using them. I’ve also seen great content, that sadly no one will ever see. Both scenarios are inefficient and wasteful.

Ideally, content and delivery should be in the same, relative state of readiness. At the beginning, it’s great to write blogs and articles. You also need to focus on building up your social media channels and your lists of relevant contacts and prospects. Until then, and even afterwards, self-publishing and paid advertising can bridge the delivery gap. Of course, for both content and delivery, there is always outsourcing as an option. If you keep up the effort and provide consistent value to your target audience over time, you will be rewarded!