Planning Your Email Marketing Calendar
An email marketing calendar helps you stay ahead of time and be ready for anything on your way to a big sale or promotion day; however, there are some things you need to consider while preparing this calendar.
In an e-commerce business, doing the right thing at the right time is crucial, and so is sending the correct email at the relevant time. And this is what an email marketing calendar is for.
An efficient marketing calendar keeps you organized and prepared for any small or big-scale sales and promotions. So if you’re wondering what should my email marketing calendar look like? And how should I structure it? You’ve come to the right place.
In this blog, I’ll walk you through unique ways of keeping a calendar by providing you with different Email marketing calendar ideas through which you can leverage your marketing opportunities.
- What Is An Email Marketing Calendar?
- Where Do We Start?
- How To Structure An Email Marketing Calendar?
- Why Is An Email Calendar Important?
- Best Practices Every E-commerce Business Should Implement
So without further ado, let’s dive into it!
What Is An Email Marketing Calendar?
An email marketing calendar helps you understand how to create a schedule, manage, analyze, and structure your email sending to build good customer relationships, add value over time, and create a drumbeat of consistent communication with your audience. Such as through newsletters, e-book mailouts, and more.
These calendars ideally engage, educate and entertain your audience through which you add value to the customer experience.
Where Do We Start?
To start building a helpful calendar, you should look at various things and ask yourself different questions regarding your marketing plans. Starting with;
First of all, you would want to see how often you are sending to your audience in a particular period.
You will start from scratch if you’re not sending at all and have just entered this new realm. It will be a blank canvas on which you can work efficiently if you follow some dos and don’ts.
However, you’ll need to understand that you can not go from zero to a hundred right away in the beginning.
It would be best if you worked your way into it because going from zero to a hundred right away seems like an overwhelming task since it will be challenging for your team and tough on your audience. It would be uncomfortable and, more importantly, annoying for the audience to start receiving so many emails from a company they had never heard about or received an email from before. That would not be a great user experience.
So you should gradually start ramping up into it by deciding what your current cadence should look like.
The second thing you will be thinking about is how you get into a consistent, replicable rhythm. In an e-commerce business, you cannot bombard your audience with messages, emails, and ads whenever and whichever way you want.
There must be some planning and consistency in how you approach your audience. You need to set a rhythm for yourself, so you don’t overwhelm your team as well as your audience. As our site’s name also suggests ‘Marketing rhythm”, finding your rhythm to grow your business is crucial.
So the focal point of your marketing calendar should be consistency over intensity. Building consistency into your system will make that system much more functional in the long run and make things more predictable and scalable for you and the business.
“Long term consistency trumps short term intensity”Bruce Lee
The third thing you need to consider is your business’s relevancy to your audience at different times of the year. The relevance and importance of the content you send to your audience throughout the year are vital to email marketing.
If you are a business selling only winter products, then winter will be a peak time for you; in the summer, you may not be the hottest commodity. When winters arrive, you’ll be sorted on what you need to do.
However, if you’re a year-round brand, you must adjust according to different contextual times of the year. And will have to find what will be valuable and relevant for the audience during those times.
So, for instance, if you’re in the sports clothing business, you will be a year-round business. You will have to come up with ideas like “What cycling clothes do you need in the summer?” “How do you stay warm, cycling in the winter?” or “How to clean your bike in the spring when it’s raining?”
All these things will be beneficial and relevant to the audience consuming your product. You will be incorporating these into your marketing to maximize their value of it.
It would be best if you also planned how you could be strategic about your calendar to align those insights and needs with what will be relevant to your audience. And that’s where much of that content plays a significant role in maintaining the audience’s engagement.
To learn more about viewing your audiences differently, we talk about audience hierarchies in a past blog.
Another thing you should ensure is that your way of engaging the audience is not only through sending discounts weekly or even monthly. That’s one of the things that kill your business. You might be building some consistency there, but not necessarily the sustainable strategy because, in this way, you’re essentially in a race to the bottom.
Success In The Past
While planning your calendar, you should look for times when you have succeeded. You look at what interested your audience in the past and what kept them hooked to your brand. It is a good litmus test of where you should start and what you should do.
This will help you answer many questions, like what suitable content you have that you could share, what your business’ marketing calendar or promotional calendar should look like, etc. So making sure your calendar and content are aligned tightly helps you understand many things.
Proactive Instead of Reactive
Suppose you have a large sale like a giant warehouse clearance sale entering into summer; it will be one of the business’s main events of the year.
It would be crucial to have your marketing calendar out a few months before, so you can start planning and predicting promotions and finance. An ideal time for beginning these plans is at least a month to six weeks before the sales start.
Making sure these plans and sales are aligned with your broad overall marketing calendar is essential too. Aligning these with all the different promotions, product rollouts, and events you will be having will help ensure that you have everything covered.
There would be no fear of missing anything, and you’ll not have to worry about anything on the spot. Essentially, this tool allows us to be proactive instead of reactive. It will hopefully save you some time and headaches in the long run.
How To Structure An Email Marketing Calendar?
To structure your calendar, you need to plan what you will do through a specific period. For instance, you may want to start with planning for a month. Later, you can extrapolate and do that for a longer window, but let’s look at planning for a general month.
As we discussed earlier, when you start the planning process, you must think about the rhythm of the content you’ll be sending. The rhythm will depend on how many emails you’re going to be sending every single week.
This provides a consistent hub of contents for your calendar’s structure, giving it an excellent foundation and a nice backbone. This content hub also helps you build a nice consistency with your audience and trains them to expect to receive content from you consistently. So you’re not suddenly bombarding your way into their inbox.
So the hub sends you’ll be sending every week or so need to be dispatched on the most suitable days for your audience. Tuesdays or Thursdays can be the two intense days to start for hub content.
Usually, everybody’s inboxes are flooded on Mondays, and there are chances that your emails might get left unopened. As for Fridays, people tend to travel on the weekends, so it’s a bit of a hit-or-miss day; hence Tuesday or Thursday are easy wins because they fall in the middle of the week.
But once you understand your audience and become a familiar brand, you can grow from there and pick other days for the sending. But to start, we typically recommend Tuesdays and Thursdays for use as your hub days.
Breaking The Content Into Themes
You get four Tuesdays and Thursdays in a typical month, which makes it around 8 emails per month. But you should start with sending to your audience every Tuesday and build that consistent drumbeat of content. These first few emails train your audience to see you regularly in their inboxes.
If your business has content that will be valuable for your audience, we suggest you send them various information or insights four times a month, preferably on Tuesdays. You may divide the content you have for each week on your calendar.
Also, you can have several things you can share with your audience that might keep them engaged. So if you talk about four emails per month, these could consist of emails with “how to’s…” or another email asking for feedback or insights on your product.
The third send could be another article guiding people about your product. And the fourth send could be customer testimonials or any user-generated content.
So these content types give you a variety of stuff to send to your audience and don’t make your messages monotonous for them. For example, if you send the same “how to…” email every Tuesday, it will lose its charm after a bit while and make the audience bored.
Engaging The Audience
While sending this content, you need to ask yourself, “what can I do to make things engaging?” or “what can I do to keep everything fresh and entertaining?”
So if you send different stuff every week and introduce some fresh content monthly, that will create a nice cadence and build a rhythm for your business and your audience.
Sending content like this prevents you from sending just transactional and promotional emails. It breaks that cycle of constantly bombarding people with transactional and sales-focused emails. It helps maintain relevancy and consistency in sending.
These content emails are essentially the “lead into our joke.” The punchline for a business is a sale or promotion, but the lead-in will make that punchline hit harder and more effective.
The hub content creates a drumbeat for the audience and keeps them indulged, and when you hit with a promotion or sales email, the audience takes an interest in what you’re offering. An audience interested in your brand will be ready to buy when the time arises.
The Second Content Hub
So again, we’re building that consistency and rythm through our hub content. And with the consistency you have now built up, you may dive into the second hub of the email series. This means you may start sending on Thursdays, too, transitioning into two emails per week.
Let’s say you have a sale or promotion in the current month. You would give a three-day window to build a wave within the audience. You start this with an announcement, a “did you know..” email, and then a “last chance” email.
So it would be a compressed window for the customers to take quick action. You may have a larger window for a more significant promotion or event that builds some early anticipation in the audience.
Rolling Out A New Product
In cases where you’re introducing a new product, you can build a more significant, more substantial wave here, providing a longer window or a longer time horizon.
Suppose you’re introducing this new product on the 22nd of a month, but you start building a wave early, i.e., from the beginning of the month. You begin sending early bird discount emails and saying things like this is your chance of pre-order or maybe asking them to join your VIP list to get exclusive early access and discount.
In this way, you can start to build anticipation and excitement within the audience, ensuring that you’re not overserving or underserving anything. And when eventually 22nd arrives, you can roll out your product smoothly and expect a terrific turnout because you have kept your audience engaged and interested in your campaign all this time.
But things don’t just end with the introduction of the product. You can also follow up with those who made a purchase asking for reviews and feedback on the product.
The wave may go a little longer, but essentially this is what gives us a chance to incorporate our hub content and our hygiene content to keep conversations and interactions with our audience going without making them sound dull.
Planning these calendars gives you an excellent way of preparing for a month in advance and figuring out what will be relevant and valuable. If you start planning early, you can cover multiple touch points and apply what you want to send and how you want to communicate.
That being said, planning for this ahead of time prevents you from becoming a cowboy and shooting from the hip.
Why Is An Email Calendar Important?
Planning Ahead Of Time
The email marketing calendar is significant because shooting from the hip and trying new things without any plan is very foolish and risky for a good marketer.
For example, if you start learning how to dance, you may begin by learning basic dance steps and work on your flexibility instead of trying to break dance right away.
This calendar helps you make things scalable and easy for you. It allows you to plan quarterly or monthly, so you do not fall behind on things and goals you plan to achieve for your business.
When planning your calendar, you can use Google Sheets or CoSchedule, or whatever tool you have in mind to prepare your emails. So whenever you plan to send again, you’ll not be creating every single email from scratch, which makes your life a lot easier.
Also, when things get a little crazy and stressful near the big event days, you will not have to worry about preeminent things, and you won’t have to be stressed about new situations because you’ll have most of them figured out beforehand. So this allows you to be more proactive than reactive.
This also gives you more transparency to the rest of your team so they can see the results too. Suppose you have a role of an email marker in a business. In that case, this allows you to take a driver’s seat position instead of being in the passenger seat by structuring and controlling how your marketing calendar should look like.
You can also incorporate your social and content teams and connect this with your editorial calendar. But you’ll need to build those emails at least two weeks from when they’re going to be released, so nothing is left for the last minute. This prevents things from getting chaotic, lessens the chance for mistakes, and ensures all your I’s are dotted and our T’s are crossed.
Best Practices Every E-commerce Business Should Implement
So to become a successful business, it’s crucial that you implement some practices that will ensure effective results.
Building A Rythm
The first thing you must ensure is the rhythm of consistent sending in your business.
It would be best if you built that consistency slowly and gradually. This would be one of the most important things to do because it trains your audience to consistently see you in their inboxes.
Just like SNL, it doesn’t go live because it’s done. It goes live because it’s 11 o’clock on a Saturday.
Besides this, you also need to remember the consistency over intensity rule. Don’t overdo anything, and don’t overwhelm your audience with many weekly messages. Be consistent rather than being persistent!
Evolving With The Market
Another thing you need to focus on is the importance of evolving and changing content over time.
Markets change fast, and you need to evolve with it. You must be aware of what is working and what’s not. Whatever tool is best for you, understand what’s worked best for you in the past, and try to use that again. It would also be good to see how you can incorporate different things into your mix and make it better.
Moreover, if you’re introducing different pieces of hub content, you need to A/B test, experiment, explore and try other things. After which, when you have a good baseline and a good read on your audience, you should be able to understand what’s going to work.
You should practice these few things to get the most out of the calendar you plan and follow.
So to conclude everything, an email marketing calendar is something that helps you take a proactive approach to your business rather than being reactive.
It helps you prepare and plan for your big sales and promotions well in time. Plus, it allows you to view things monthly and quarterly, making it easier to understand what needs to be done and when.
These plans help create an environment for you and your audience that enables interaction. With time this interaction becomes a regular thing and builds a rhythm that makes the sending process a smooth experience.
And when you follow that rhythm consistently, you can find what will be relevant to your audience at different times. This will help you better inform and educate them, eventually making their experience valuable.
And as Black Friday is creeping up, I want to share the guide I put together to help you to prepare for the crazy holiday season and make it somewhat manageable.