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Thoughts On E-Mail Planning

By: Harry Hoover

Harry Hoover is managing principal of Hoover ink PR, www.hoover-ink.com. He has 25 years of experience in crafting and delivering bottom line messages that ensure success for serious businesses like Duke Energy, InterCerve, Levolor, North Carolina Tourism, VELUX and Verbatim.

If you are serious about adding e-mail to your marketing mix, you should take e-mail seriously enough to develop a plan for it. Too many organizations launch a half-baked e-mail program and then are disappointed when it doesn't live up to expectations.

The plan does not have to be as long as War And Peace, but it must include a few key elements so that you can develop a focused, targeted, measurable program that gets results. At a minimum, here are the elements that I recommend:
  • Objectives

  • Audience Definition

  • Key Messages

  • Format

  • Tactics

  • Timeline

  • Budget

  • Measurement
First, determine what is it that you want the e-mail program to achieve from marketing and communications perspectives. Is this a newsletter designed for relationship management purposes, or is it a sales-oriented vehicle? Are you trying to build awareness, generate leads, increase web traffic, encourage loyalty, or close sales?

Next, you need to define audiences. Who are you trying to reach? What do you know about them from demographic and psychographic perspectives? Are you addressing multiple audiences? If so, do you need to segment your audiences and develop e-mails with different messages? How will each audience profit from our communications.

Now, what is it you want to say to each audience? What's the nature of the content? Will this include just editorial information or will it also contain some sales-oriented material?

Closely tied to messages is your format. Are you producing a newsletter with a lot of editorial material, or does it contain just brief snippets of information? Is it an announcement list, a discussion list, or just commercial messages? Think about your audiences as you develop the most appropriate format.

Your tactics section lays out tasks and who is responsible for them. What technology do you need? Do you have in-house e-mail capabilities or should you use an application such as nTarget (www.ntarget.com)? How will you build and manage your list? How will you acquire new subscribers? Who will create content, design and distribute the e-mail?

After you answer those questions, it's time to turn to your timeline. Develop a schedule for having your technology in place, building your list, creating content, designing and distributing the e-mail. Determine if this will be a one-time mailing, or if it will recur on a weekly or monthly basis.

Your budget may help you answer many of the questions above. Small budgets may mean you complete a lot of the work in-house.

Finally, it's time to establish criteria for measuring the program. An awareness program may call for some baseline research so you'll know how you are doing. A relationship management program may measure customer retention. Increased click-through from your e-mail to your website is also a measurable element. Sales-oriented programs might measure total sales from e-mail, or incremental sales increases with individual customers.

No matter what your objective in using e-mail, spend a little time cooking up a plan so your results won't be half-baked.

© Copyright 2002 Harry Hoover

Other Articles by Harry Hoover

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

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