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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!”
- 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.
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Founder and President of Think2Grow Marketing Inc.
I have been helping companies accelerate revenue growth for more than 25 years. With a broad base of expertise in marketing and years in sales and leadership roles, my simple mission is helping clients create awareness and attraction that leads to more business!