I’m a sucker for a brand new planner. In college, I would spend hours online, researching the format I wanted for a planner and the design I wanted on the front. And then I would spend the entire school year filling it in with ridiculous detail, eventually causing it to practically fall apart in my hands.
Now, not everyone is quite as nerdy as I am about planning. But there’s no denying that having a plan in place makes your life a lot easier—especially when it comes to email marketing.
A good email marketing calendar can help you avoid overloading your contacts, improve open rates, get to know your customers better, and, ultimately, boost your revenue. If you have a team, it helps to coordinate everyone in a central location.
So, you need an email marketing calendar—and fortunately, it’s no problem if you’re only now getting around to making one. We’ve created an editable template for the full year to help you get started.
That means all you really have to think about is the who, what, and when of your emails themselves. (Which is plenty!) Click here to get access to the calendar, then read on to see how we recommend using it:
Now, get ready to make the most of your email list with a clear strategy and schedule.
Step 1: Categorize Your Broadcast Emails
The first step to creating an effective email calendar is to figure out what kind of emails you need to be sending. This means gathering as much information as you can about upcoming events and promotions that you’ll want to share with customers.
Here at Drip, we have a simple but thorough spreadsheet that helps our teams coordinate blog content, webinars, and promotions in one place. (It’s what we’ve based the email marketing calendar attached to this post on.) This makes it easier for our team to know what kind of emails need to be going out, and when.
Narrow down your emails to a few general categories, so that you can get a handle on your overall email strategy. These might include things like:
- Your regular newsletter or blog update email (find out how to automate your newsletters here)
- Recurring event-related or date-specific emails
- Emails announcing any updates, events, or promotions you already have planned
Step 2: Fill in Your Calendar with Broadcast Emails
Now, insert these emails into your calendar template. Start by placing your regular newsletter on the day it always goes out, and then filling in any date-specific emails that you already know when you’ll be sending.
Then, pencil in emails you know will go out during a certain month or quarter, even if you don’t know exactly what the content will be or when it will be sent.
For instance, if you run a sale around the same time every month or every quarter, block out space on your email calendar. We’ve included a special column for these kinds of seasonal projects in our 2017 Email Marketing Planning Calendar—go ahead and download that if you haven’t yet:
The idea is to see how your calendar is shaping up in broad strokes. Are there any huge gaps you could take advantage of, or times of the month that might already have too many emails going out?
As your calendar takes shape, you’ll start seeing when other one-off emails might be well-received, without overloading your subscribers.
But don’t get too send-happy yet. First …
Step 3: Add Automated Emails to Your Calendar
One of the best things about laying out all of your emails is that you start to see when your subscribers might be getting overwhelmed. Even if every single email you send is absolutely amazing, too much of a good thing is still too much.
If your email marketing calendar is starting to look jam-packed, it might be time to consider which emails you could automate instead.
In fact, even if it isn’t very full, I’d highly recommend taking this step. It’ll pay off in increased productivity and better results from your emails in the year(s) to come.
A good place to start is by listing the emails that you automatically send now. Click into the Automated Emails tab in your marketing calendar, and list the automated emails you’re sending now. Add in information about who gets those emails, whether it’s based on actions, tags, or other criteria.
If you aren’t sending any automated emails—or your list of automated emails is pretty short—you have an amazing opportunity ahead of you this year. It’s time to get to work building automated and behavioral emails into your email strategy.
If you aren’t sure where to start, here are a few ways you can turn broadcast emails into automated emails that will help you make more sales (and clean up your calendar).
Instead of Mass Mailing Customers with an Upsell Offer, Upsell in Your Automated Post-Purchase Campaign
Building your upsell email into your post-purchase campaign is an easy way to turn one-time customers into repeat customers, automatically.
In this upsell workflow example, after someone purchases my ebook, they’ll get 3 emails, each a day apart. First, customers get a thank you email. Then, I follow up on some of the points in the book, checking in to be sure the material is helpful.
Finally, I follow-up with a special deal on my ecourse, just for customers who purchased my ebook.
The great thing about setting up your upsell this way is that customers get the upsell email at a time when they’re most likely to buy. They already trusted you enough make a purchase, and you’ve just proven yourself as an authority through the material in your ebook.
That means you don’t have to run a special promotion or send a specific upsell email (and risk annoying people who aren’t in the right place to accept your offer). Just set up a workflow that sends this campaign to new ebook customers, and you can make more sales automatically.
Instead of Periodically Mailing About an Evergreen Offer, Send Pageview-Triggered Emails
If you have an evergreen discount you use to nudge people to buy, you might worry that your subscribers will eventually stop finding your “special deal” quite so special.
Mix it up (and give your subscribers a break) by using pageviews as a clue for which subscribers are closest to making a purchase, and offering them an incentive to convert.
In this example, I set up a workflow that is triggered when a subscriber visits my pricing page. It waits 3 hours, and then, if the subscriber is not tagged as a customer, it sends them a discount to nudge them to make a purchase. (Pro tip: make the deal even more enticing by limiting the time you give the subscriber has to make a decision.)
Now you have an automatic promotion built into your email strategy that will help you make more sales every week, not just when you decide to send a promo broadcast.
Instead of Mailing Everyone About Product Features, Automate Your Product Engagement Emails
If you’re marketing one complex product—say a software subscription or an online course—you probably want to remind your list every so often about its top features. Your retention rate depends on how many people are actually getting value from your product, so it makes sense to nudge them to log in and check out all the value you offer.
But instead of sending occasional “here’s why we’re great” emails to your entire list, I’d recommend letting your users’ behavior determine when those emails go out.
For instance, if you have a web app, you can create a custom event that records when a customer performs an action, such as logging in or accessing a certain feature.
Then, you can add a decision point to your main automation workflow to check whether a new customer has accessed that part of the app, and send an outreach email if they haven’t.
You can track product engagement even without the technical resources to create custom events inside an app. As long as you have a login page or another part of your product identifiable by a certain URL (such as a course module page), you can use Drip’s tracking code to record a custom event when someone views that URL, then set up the same kind of workflow.
These are just three ways to let automation determine when each individual subscriber should receive your most important emails. I’m guessing you can think of other ideas that make sense for your own business model.
Could you automate your customer appreciation emails? How about the emails you send to collect customer feedback? Run down your list of emails and see if there’s any possible way your broadcasts could be turned into automated sequences.
Once you’ve assessed your automated emails, drop your workflows and campaigns into the Automated Emails tab of your calendar.
Step 4: Assess Your Segments
While all of the automation strategies outlined above are great for making your life easier and cleaning up your email calendar, you’ll still want to take one more step to ensure that you’re not overloading your subscribers: segmenting your broadcasts.
Yes, even broadcast emails don’t necessarily need to go to every single person on your list. So we’ve added a couple of columns to our email marketing calendar template to help you think about segments.
For each broadcast, ask yourself both who should and who shouldn’t get this email. This will allow you to prioritize which emails you want to go to certain subscribers.
For instance, you might not want to send your newsletter to subscribers who haven’t made it through your welcome campaign yet.
You can do this by adding a newsletter tag to your workflow, which only gets applied after the subscriber has completed the campaign.
When you set up your RSS-to-Email Rule, you can edit your criteria so that only subscribers with the “newsletter” tag will get your newsletter. Your newest readers won’t get your regular updates until they’ve had a chance to get to know you.
Another way to avoid overload is to be sure that promotional emails don’t go to customers. Your customers are your most valuable subscribers, so you want to be extra careful with every email they receive, to be sure you’re not bothering them.
When creating a segment of subscribers to receive a promotional email, be sure to exclude those tagged as customers, along with any other criteria you want to include for the promotion. Then, just save the segment for your promotion.
By now, the broadcast tab of your email marketing calendar might look a bit emptier than you thought it would. And that’s a very good thing. Thanks to these automation techniques, you can still have a robust email marketing strategy that gets you more sales and more page views, while saving tons of time.
How do you build your email marketing calendar? Let us know your process in the comments!