The Step By Step Guide To A Successful Email Campaign

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Email marketing is been put to the back of most people’s marketing plan, marketed as “old school” which newer, shinier things have entered the marketing world. This can be true, but only if done improperly. It can be used to garner more sales or traffic to your blog or company website.

“Many marketers have been seduced by social media advertising, perceiving it to be not only “cooler” but also more effective than email,” writes Wordstream’s Dan Shewan. “There’s no denying that social media gets a lot more media attention than email. However, claims that email marketing is no longer effective are simply not true, and any marketer worth their salt will tell you that email remains a cornerstone of their campaigns.”

In other words, it can be every bit as valuable to your organization as social media, or even more so depending on demographic. Of course, running a successful campaign’s anything but easy. There are plenty of easy mistakes, and a great deal that can go wrong – which is why today, we’re going to go over how you can ensure your email campaign reaches as many people as possible – and stays out of their spam filters in the process.

First, You Need a Goal

Before you dive into the planning process, there’s one question you need to ask yourself: why are you doing this?

Presumably, you’re looking to increase attendance at your events – but do you have any goals beyond that? Do you want to draw in additional clients? Intrigue prospective partners and vendors? Simply make your event management firm look awesome?

Next, You Need a Plan

So, you’ve got your end goal firmly in mind. What’s next? Time to start generating ideas and pumping out content, right?

Not exactly.

Now that you know what you want to achieve, it’s time to think about how you’re going to achieve it. You now must nail down a step-by-step of how you want your campaign to play out. You need to plan before you start planning, in other words. Make sure to account for the following:

  • The length of your campaign. What period of time will your email blasts be spread out over? 
  • The resources required to generate your emails.
  • How you’ll put together a mailing list.
  • The tools you’ll use to support your efforts. Unbounce’s Amanda Durepos recommends Trello for idea generation and KISSmetrics for result tracking; Adspresso’s Andrea Marban identifies Constant Contact, Emma, ExactTarget, AWeber, Mailchimp, and iContact as possible platforms from which to launch your campaign.
  • Desired results, and how you will measure success. Be as specific as possible (we’ll discuss this in greater detail later in the piece).
  • Your target audience, and what resonates with them.
  • What the current marketing landscape looks like – what information or content do your competitors currently lack? Are you able to tap into that?

Now that you have the basics, it’s time to get down to specifics.

Now, You Need an Idea (And Content)

With your marketing plan in hand, it’s time to start thinking about what your campaign’s going to look like.

What sort of email blasts will you send out to your subscribers? Will you merely provide them with news and updates about upcoming events? Special, subscriber-only offers and coupons? Useful information related to their industry?

The type of content you generate here depends entirely on what you want to convey to your subscribers – which is highly dependent on your goals.

“Start by analyzing what you want people to know – are you pitching a sale, announcing a promotion or other news, giving tips and advice, or are you welcoming newcomers?” Reads a guest post on Tintup. “After you know what it is that you are trying to convey, think about what would get you interested if you were on the receiving end and how the information pertains to your audience. Then all you have to do is write it out, add a few images and headers, arrange the layout to be eye-catching and intriguing, and click send.”  

Then, You Need a Mailing List

Even if you know your target audience, how to catch their attention, and what you want to convey, all of this is for naught if you’ve no way of reaching out to them. Cold email blasts aren’t the way to go here. You need a mailing list.

And to create a mailing list, you need incentives. What those incentives are is up to you, but the most common way to generate subscriptions is through either gated high quality content (white papers, pieces written by industry experts, etc.) or specific, subscriber-only benefits. The purpose of these incentives is quite simple: they exist to convince your audience that your mailing list is worth their time, and won’t simply take up space in their spam folder.

“If you believe people won’t mind you adding them to your email list without their knowledge simply because you’re doing good things in the world, consider this your notice of dissuasion,” advises the Wired Impact Blog.  “Your goal is not simply to grow your list.  It’s to grow the number of people in your community that you engage with on a regular basis.  To grow the number of supporters with whom you’re routinely maintaining relationships.  To grow the number of people that give their time or money.”

“The way in which you offer value to subscribers will vary based on what your audience is looking for and what you have the capacity to offer,” the blog continues. “Some sites offer a downloadable piece of content like a whitepaper or eBook while others give a trial membership or access to a portion of the website.”

In your case, it’s probably better to offer event-related perks: discounted event passes, special VIP information, supplementary materials; you get the idea. One more thing – Make sure the opportunity to opt-in is clearly visible on your website, your social media sites, and any other relevant pages.

You Also Need An Understanding Of The Metrics

One more thing before you buckle down and launch your campaign: it’s important that you actually understand the metrics you apply. Otherwise, how else are you going to know what you need to focus on when measuring your results? Don’t worry – contrary to what a lot of folks like to say, analytics isn’t actually all that difficult to understand.

According to Hubspot, you need to pay special attention to the following metrics:

Clickthrough Rate: How many of your subscribers actually engage with the emails you send out? How many of them actually click through to your website?

Conversion Rate: Of your subscribers, how many sign up for your events?

Bounce Rate: How many emails ‘bounce’ or fail to reach their targets? Note that there are two types of bounces here – hard bounces result from an invalid email address, while soft bounces result from a delivery failure to an otherwise valid address.

Sharing/Forwarding Rate: How many of your subscribers share your email blasts with friends and family? This is important because it lets you measure how much additional exposure your campaign is getting – and how many new contacts it might reach.

List Growth Rate: At what rate do you gain or lose subscribers?

You also don’t need to pay any mind to open rate (how many people open their emails) or unsubscribe rate (since it doesn’t represent an accurate picture of your mailing list’s health). 

Finally, You Need To Write The Emails

Last but certainly not least, the most important part of your email campaign – the emails themselves. Not surprisingly, how you construct and write your blasts will have a greater impact on the success (or failure) of your campaign than any other factor on the list. To that end, there are certain design principles you need to follow in order to better guarantee success.

Drawing on advice from a pool of marketing experts, Small Business Trends recommends you do the following:

Pay attention to timing: When are you sending out your emails? Consider that in your branding, and choose a day of the week (and time of day) that best suits what you’re attempting to accomplish. Annie Wang of Her Campus Media, for example, recounts how her company has branded their email newsletter as a nightly “study break” aimed towards female college students.

Don’t overdo it: You don’t need to send out a million emails if you’re running a campaign. Send sparingly – stick to a schedule, sure, but only write up a new email when you’ve something new to offer. Don’t send out blasts just for the sake of doing so.  You’ll end up spamming people instead of offering them something of value.

Keep it short and simple: Don’t pack your email messages with meaningless filler or unnecessary information. Get right to the point – if an email is more than three hundred words, then it’s probably too long. 

Avoid needless bells and whistles: While there’s something to be said for deciding on the ideal text-to-image ratio, don’t get too hung up on including media in your messages. Remember, your goal here is simplicity – you want to get your meaning across in as quick and inoffensive a way as possible.

Use a strong subject line (that’ll avoid the spam filters): Your subject line is arguably the most important component of your email. It’s what makes the difference between people opening your messages and consigning them to the trash, after all. With that in mind, you need a headline that’s short, witty, and in some way intriguing. Unfortunately, I can’t really offer much advice here – this is something you’ll have to work out on your own.

Interact: Email marketing’s a two way street, believe it or not. What that means is that the more personal you can make your messages – and the more directly you’re able to interact with customers – the better your results.

Use tags: Consider adding tags (for example [AVC 2015]) to your email subject lines, in order to differentiate them from other messages in a user’s inbox.

Make it mobile-friendly: 65% of emails are opened first on mobile devices. Make sure yours can be, too. There’s really not much else to say here.

Closing Thoughts

And there you have it – a (relatively) brief overview of what’s involved in running a successful email marketing campaign. Mind you, you’ll have to do a lot of the real work yourself. We’re just here to give you a push in the right direction.