How to write an email marketing strategy

In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to write an email marketing strategy. We’re going to cover:

  • writing daily emails to a list
  • launching campaigns
  • sales campaigns
  • automation campaigns

I’m going to give you an example campaign all for learning how to write an email marketing strategy for your customers or for your own business.

The first problem is thinking about where do you start? What type of emails should you be sending? 

I think a lot of businesses worry that writing a full email marketing strategy sounds a bit wanky and a bit over the top. In truth, your email marketing strategy is really just the blueprint or framework that you will refer to, and hopefully, it will become second nature to follow because it’s based around a very simple and singular plan for the business. 

A lot of people worry that sending too many emails at once, or per day, will make your list think that you are spam and a lot of businesses panic about creating an email marketing strategy because they worry about being seen as spammy if they send too many emails. Realistically, you should be sending multiple emails a week and at least one email per day. 

If you think about the value that your emails can give to your audience, the first question you have to ask is, “Are you planning on sending spam?” Of course, presumably, you are planning on sending valuable useful information to their inbox and rightly so. If every time someone opened one of your emails and $1 was put into their account, they would easily hit refresh every hour. 

Instead, if you only sent one, very salesy promotion heavy email every month, your list would get sick of it. Therefore, it’s got nothing to do with the frequency of your emails but rather the content and value within. 

Writing an email strategy for your business or writing an email strategy for your customers is not something that only large businesses or enterprise-level businesses need. An email marketing strategy for your business might simply be reminding yourself to keep it conversational, promote your best content or to get feedback, and treat email in the same way that you would with your colleagues or friends.

It’s simply a repeatable plan that you’ll stick to over and over and over. At Sell Your Service the way that we measure any kind of strategy is asking ourselves, “Would we do this 1000 times?” 

If we are comfortable repeating the strategy a thousand times, then it’s probably a pretty good indicator that it is simple enough and effective enough to follow.

Email marketing is repeatedly proven time and time again to be a solid revenue generator. The ROI on email marketing, has demonstrated time and again to be higher than social media, content marketing, and SEO. Many businesses realize that advertising is simply a route to growing their email list because they know that the majority of their sales will come from an email list. 

Of course, to top it all off, you might be thinking, you have no idea what you would even say in an email marketing strategy. So when learning how to write an email marketing strategy, it’s important to work backward from the goal that you set for your email. Typically, email is a fantastic revenue generator. 

At Sell Your Service we can now predict sales based on how many emails we send. We have correlated the number of emails sent and promotional emails as well as pure content value emails compared to the amount of revenue we generate that week or that month.

How to write an email marketing strategy

We’ll be covering how to write an email marketing strategy for your customers or how to write an email marketing strategy for your own business into these areas.

  • Split the strategy into three areas
    • Daily emails
    • Campaigns
    • Automation
  • Get comfortable with testing
  • Example campaign.

Split the strategy into three areas

If you’re looking to learn how to write an email marketing strategy, it’s easier if you split the marketing strategy into three areas.

  1. Campaigns

Campaigns are longer-term plans that are anywhere between a week and a year. For our case, and for the sake of ease, I’m going to suggest you stick to three months or 13 Weak campaign cycles. That means you’ll be doing one campaign every quarter, which is going to be around four a year.

  1. Daily emails

Daily emails refer to the type and the frequency of emails you’ll send per day. Lots of people panic about the idea of sending an email per day which is going to be anywhere between 250 or 365 emails which, by the way, there is nothing wrong with as we have already discussed.

  1. Automation

And finally, looking at your email marketing strategy, understanding where automation plays a role, and not to rely on it too heavily. Automation is simply a string of emails you set on autoresponder to send during certain times or after certain events. 

While extremely effective and certainly responsible for a large portion of our immediate sales and our sales on automation. You need to have a level of flexibility with the daily emails and campaigns you create and not rely exclusively on automation.

how to write an email marketing strategy
How to write an email marketing strategy – 3 part plan

Get comfortable with testing

This is a really important part of building and learning how to write an email marketing strategy. You have to get comfortable with the idea that your strategy will evolve over time.

Earlier when I mentioned that a strategy is really measured as asking, “Would you do this 1000 times?” You have to get comfortable with the fact that the details, nuances, language or offers that you send as well as the style of the email will change over time.

If you accept that for every five emails, you’re going to have to check which is the most opened and which is the most clicked on and which is the most read. You’ll begin to adapt your strategy for next time.

Of course, there’s no point in changing everything all the time. It is very much an iterative process, but you want to build a strategy that works from proof of what works.

There’s no point building an email marketing strategy based purely on this blog post, hyperbole and theories from email marketers. When you’re learning how to write an email marketing strategy, you have to build in your testing protocol.

Testing is not as complex or in-depth as you might think. The only two things you’re really going to need to test are subject lines and the offer, which also can fall under the subject line.

You also might want to test email styles both in terms of what is sent. Is it an HTML or a plain email? 

What type of conversational tone do you have with your email list? Testing subject lines is probably one of the most valuable aspects of an email marketing strategy. 

When you’re thinking about how to write an email marketing strategy and if you build in a timeframe of going over subject lines that have worked, you know that you’ll build a smarter email marketing strategy next time. 

I absolutely love using daily emails and regular emails to customers as well as one-off campaigns as a method of testing offers. I’ll talk a little bit later about asking for feedback and sharing older content with new subject lines but it can give you really valuable insight into what your audience really wants.

You might think that your customers are desperate to learn how to manage their cash flow and while you might know that they need to learn how to manage their cash flow, subject lines or offers or topics talking about the best SEO practices might get opened more.

Therefore, that’s telling you that your audience is more interested in SEO than they are in managing cash flow. We have a saying at Sell Your Service that “you don’t get an opinion with marketing. What works, works”.

If you have clear indications from your email marketing strategy and repeated email marketing campaigns that your customers are interested in SEO, you better be providing them with SEO products or content. 

It’s also worth testing email styles. I have found that stripping out as much HTML and styling as possible has worked extremely well.

The plainer the message, the more plain the style, the more click rates we’ve had, the more open and the fewer spam filters we’ve been trapped in. Over designing emails has become a real problem just as over-designing landing pages has become a problem.

Email is not social media, it is directly into one person’s inbox and writing to one person will be far more effective than attempting to do a classic newsletter-style blast. Everybody knows of course that your emails are being sent to hundreds or even thousands of people but the conversational tone is in someone’s inbox as opposed to social media, which is a broader outreach process.

Make sure to build in again, testing protocols in each mini-campaign or series you write, for your email marketing strategy to test what is the most effective and what is the most clicked on or viewed. Finally, a note on testing, the thing you really need to walk away with is, “is this helping us reach our goal?”

Generating sales via email marketing is extremely effective. It doesn’t happen overnight and you’ll need to test a lot of subject lines, offers, and email marketing styles.

Eventually, if your goal is to make $1,000 or $100,000 per email campaign, you need to have a specific goal in mind for your email marketing. That’s the only way to test whether something has become effective.

For example, many of my campaigns might get very high open rates but lousy click rates. Therefore, if my goal is sales then that’s obviously not going to reach it.

I don’t care how many people open it. If no one’s clicking on it I’m not going to make sales. 

On the flip side, if I send an extremely specific email with a low click open rate but an extremely high click rate from that open rate, also known as a click to open rate that might result in more sales. Conversely, if my goal is to test a brand new offer or think of new product ideas, what I want is email replies and opens. 

I might not be that concerned about clicks because I’m just concerned about what gets the most opens.

Let’s now talk about the three types of emails that you will build when learning how to write to your email marketing strategy.

  1. Daily email marketing strategy
  2. Campaign email marketing strategy
  3. Automation email marketing strategy

How to write an email marketing strategy for emails

Without question, you should be sending daily emails to your list. My friend Cam Jarrad has got an absolutely outstanding template for writing a daily email and gives you all of the ideas and topics that should be sent to your market.

If the idea of a daily email scares you, good. Your email marketing strategy will only work if people open your emails or even know that you are in their inbox.

You need to become a regular, consistent presence within their inbox. Marketers constantly talk about trust and visibility but the first sign of being shown a method of being trusted and being seen as visible inside an inbox, they get terrified at the thought of it ultimately boils down to the fear of upsetting or offending people. 

Your email marketing strategy absolutely needs to have a daily email component outside of the campaigns or automation. If you had to just do one email marketing strategy for your customers or one email marketing strategy for yourself, I would recommend sending a daily email. 

You can still send sales emails, you can still send trigger emails, you can still send feedback and what we call “shot across the bow” emails. But a daily email is far more effective for testing your email marketing campaigns, testing your email marketing strategy, and testing the messaging and offers within your own business. Ask yourself what would you send to one person? What would you send to one customer?

Even if you only have 10 people on your email list or if you have 100,000 people on your email list, stop thinking of them as transactional components and start thinking of them as human beings. Repeated tests across multiple different marketers, and email marketing strategies have shown that personal email style emails work infinitely better than the classic overdesigned heavy HTML pretty looking emails.

Only recently I received multiple emails from an investment app that I use, from the CEO and from the CFO talking pretty openly and candidly about the next stage of their business. This is a large corporation that makes a fucktonne more money than I do.

Yet I still felt connected to them because they wrote the email in a more genuine and authentic manner. Rather than having a designer go through it, then a copywriter, an HTML developer, and a marketer to send it. It looked like it was from the CFO, even if all of those four parties were originally involved.

I felt closely connected to this large company because it felt more candid. I’ll guarantee that they will continue to send (and if anything increase) the number of emails they send similar to that. 

Finally, when it comes to daily emails, my favorite use of them is looking for feedback. One type of feedback, I would call passive feedback, is thinking about the open rates and click rates and replies to your current emails. 

If you send a daily email every single day for a week and tested just a bunch of different subject lines, you will get a really clear indicator of what the best subject line is. Even if the email content is different, it’s almost irrelevant because you’re testing those types of email subject lines. 

That’s what I would call passive feedback. You’re getting feedback from people who are using the product, which is proof and evidence as opposed to opinion or a hypothesis. 

Active feedback is when people literally reply to you. I know that I’ll get between two and five replies from every email I send and they’re a massive indicator as to whether I am resonating with people or not. 

If I don’t get a single reply from a long-form copy style email, with no call to action (similar to a blog post). Or just a standard email similar to something I would send a friend or a colleague, then I know that that particular message or offer doesn’t resonate with people.

Looking for feedback within your daily emails is the fastest method for you to write an effective email marketing strategy.

How to write an email marketing strategy for campaigns

Campaigns are what I would break up into quarters. Some businesses run yearly campaigns but over time, I have learned that anything less than three months is too short and anything over three months is too long. Three months gives you thirteen weeks to play with, which also allows you to break it into three x one month blocks, which again, I’ll talk about later in the example campaign.

I tend to cycle our campaigns in three month quarterly rotations. Which means I’ll typically pick four products at the start of the year to promote. Maybe one of them will be a brand new product, or a launch, and I will create emails based around the products that I have picked. 

When writing an email marketing strategy, campaigns are a great place to start because it means you don’t have to build out an entire year but it also will begin to show you enough of a pattern that you can stick to every single day. 

I tend to work backward from the final day of the campaign, rather than starting on the first day. In the example campaign later, I’ll show you that I tend to start on the final day and think “what’s the final email we’re going to send?”

I also will vary the number of emails that we send per day, depending on where we are within the campaign. If I know that I want to launch a brand new product or sell an old product or a current product or if I’m running a promotion, I’ll work backward from the final day. For example, on the final day of the month, we’ll stop sending emails. 

The day before, maybe we send three emails (in a single day), the day before that maybe we send two emails. The day before that, maybe we’ll send one. 

The day before that, we don’t send anything and maybe it’s one email every other day for the week before that. Don’t get too stressed or het up about how many emails you should send per day, you know that you should be sending a daily email anyway.

If part of that daily email is not just pure content, and you think some of them are going to be sales campaigns, just drop them in between each campaign email. Doing it over three months can also give you a bit of a theme. 

Picking a word-based around your offer or message, that you know your audience is interested in and relating it to the product that you’re creating,is a really easy and fast way to build an effective email marketing strategy. 

Let’s say that you sell co-working space office furniture and you want to sell some current products, so you’re going to be selling furniture and products that already exist. The theme could be anything based around your offer brand or message.

We know the product is going to be current furniture that already sells which means you don’t need to run a promotion as well.

Side note, a lot of people believe that an email marketing campaign is just another name for “discount”. You absolutely categorically do not have to offer a discount in your email marketing strategy.

If you ran two promotions side by side and sent the exact same number of emails to your customers, one of them talking about a product and one of them talking about a product with a discount, you’d probably end up with relatively the same number of sales.

It’s not the discount that generates interest. It’s the amount of content and noise you’re making around that product. 

Lots of people get confused thinking that when they launch a product, they need to offer a discount and every time they talk about it later they also need to offer a discount.

Email marketing is not a discount platform. Email marketing is a promotion platform. You’re not writing an email discount strategy. You’re writing an email marketing strategy.

Just talking about the product, the service etc. is enough to garner enough interest in order to generate more sales. Anyway, back to your email marketing campaign.

If you are selling tables, for example, and your brand is all about sustainability, the theme could be sustainability. Therefore you know that the rough topics you’ll be talking about are sustainability, eco-friendly design, sourcing from local suppliers as well as talking about the product.

Pick a product for the three months and pick a theme as well which is also going to inform a lot of the content that you push out, curate, or create. Campaigns finally can be used to launch new products. 

They can be used to sell current products, they can also be used as an attention-grabber. They can also be used as a method to hype up an audience and get them ready for a new product. 

My advice would be to try to launch one new product every two quarters. First-quarter, sell current products. Next quarter, launch a product. Third-quarter, sell a product. Fourth-quarter, launch a product.

You’ll end up swapping and changing it. I tend to launch fewer products with a full email campaign and we’ll try to sell more current products but there’s no hard and fast rule.

How to write an email marketing strategy for automation

First of all, it’s important to understand that automation doesn’t replace sales. Yes, automation is absolutely critical to scaling a business and generating sales on autopilot but you can’t automate what you’re not already doing.

If you are currently making ten sales a week through your current marketing efforts, you’ll want to try and automate that as opposed to making zero sales and trying to get to ten sales a month by just using automation.

Automation doesn’t replace sales. It also doesn’t create sales. It simply helps you do what you’re doing already.

Therefore, you should be building an email marketing strategy for your automation around what works. Email automation is extremely powerful for welcome emails and onboarding emails and it does work for sales and promotions.

However, if you find that there is one particular daily email that you’ve sent that got a really good response rate, a good click rate, a good open rate, start putting that into your automation campaigns. If you run a sales campaign for a product, 100% put that in.

If you are running a launch campaign and it’s gone well but not outstanding, maybe you don’t want to automate that campaign. Personally, I would try automating it and see what happens and then try to beat it with a second campaign in a few quarters’ time but you need to automate what works as opposed to writing it from scratch and hoping for the best.

Keep automation extremely simple and extremely short. People overcomplicate them with branching paths, “if-this-then-that” type of formulas instead of really simple automation strategy.

We’re going to welcome every new subscriber, send them a bunch of content on automation, and then add them to our daily email list. That’s as complex as it needs to get. 

Some automation works extremely well. Such as if someone has seen an offer or a sales page, trying to follow up with them and sending them an email to push them over the line or chase them, is extremely effective. But don’t rely exclusively on email automation to generate sales from scratch.

Here’s an example email marketing strategy and campaign. If you want to learn how to write an email marketing strategy, following an example or a template is an extremely easy way to begin getting to grips with what you’re going to write.

We’re going to take a campaign from June 1st to August 31st which gives us roughly thirteen weeks. We’re going to split each month into a different objective which will also allow us time to write the email campaigns out as well as not bombard or overwhelm our audience.

June is where you’re going to ask for feedback and share all the content. Again, I still want you to write a daily email.

If something’s worth doing once, it’s worth doing 1000 times. Asking for feedback is what we would call a shot across the bow campaign or a very simple, “‘What do you think?’ campaign”.

I often send emails along the lines of, “If you wanted to accomplish a goal within ninety days, what would it be?” Or “What is the most important thing happening in your business right now?”

There’s no reason your emails have to be these long novel style letters with loads paragraphs and text. When writing an email strategy, you can absolutely have two or three-line emails that get sent out saying, “Hey, Mike, what are you working on the next ninety days? Hit reply and let me know.”

The first month of the campaign is also a great time to share older content. Get people who have just subscribed to your email newsletter, to start reading older content. Start testing new subject lines on that older content, or taking subject lines you know work really well and putting new content inside the email.

They don’t have to be long, heavy emails promoting a blog post, which people are going to click through to. Some of my most effective YouTube promotion emails, are a subject line with the title, “I’ve just released this brand new YouTube video for free. It talks about how to Sell SEO Click here to watch it.” Then, that’s it.

The first month is a really good time to start giving a huge amount of value to your audience. Make it easier on yourself by asking for feedback, which could be really simple emails and sharing older content.

July or the second month in this campaign is where you give massive value based on the feedback that you’ve got from your audience.

If you’ve reached out to your audience and said, “What’s the biggest problem you’re facing in your business right now? What do you want to work on? What are you currently working on? What are your goals?” or you’ve seen lots of people clicking on emails based around SEO or cash flow management or whatever.

The second month is a really good time to use that insight, to create new content to push out to your audience. This is where you can have slightly longer emails and again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with just paragraphs of text.

Don’t feel you have to add in loads of images or diagrams. Written books have been selling pretty well for the past 500 years-ish and most of them are just text.

If you talk about a story or situation or problem that is both specific and interesting, that’s all your audience wants to read. Lots of people use email as a way to break away from social media and start connecting with suppliers, and leaders whom they trust. 

Some of my most popular emails are much longer emails based around sharing an idea or a concept. It’s always funny to me because lots of corporate businesses love the idea of their CEOs and CFOs being considered thought leaders but I’ve never once seen them write a compelling or decent email.

So many businesses share about board meetings or awards, as opposed to saying something either controversial or specific, to their brand. Or sharing a value that they think they should share. 

Use July to give massive value in terms of emails and also start to create training based content or promoting content that you have created in the other months. This is a time for you to give specific massive value to your customers and start increasing the trust. 

Finally, August is What I would call crunch time. This is when you’ll run the sales promotional campaign. I love to use 1-2-3 formulas which is, an email on day one, two emails on day two, three emails on day three, the week before we close the promotion.

If I know that I’m going to try and push a product, midway through in August in this case. I’ll start ramping up the sales copy emails in the first couple of weeks. Then use the second half of the month with testimonials, reviews, and reminder based emails.

For example, the email I might send on Monday, pure value-based email. Tuesday, I’ll send a sales email. 

Wednesday, I’ll send two sales emails. Thursday, I’ll send three sales emails, and Friday I might not say anything.

Then going back to the next week, I’ll then maybe send a daily email promoting a blog post, sales email, daily email playing a blog post, training reminder then another sales email on Friday.

Mixing it up is absolutely fine. There’s no set formula. 

Anyone who says there is a set formula for writing an email marketing strategy is talking out their ass. You have to find the offers and messages that work with your customers and that’s a pretty simple high-level overview of an example campaign. 

I literally break my email marketing campaigns into three boxes. One box per month. 

I’ll write a theme running across all three boxes and the first month is when we do outreach and sharing older content.

The next month is when we give massive value and talk about the subject giving away lots of information for free. Then month three is when we heavily sell and push the product or service.

What if I don’t want to send too many emails? I don’t want people to unsubscribe

You do want people to unsubscribe because that’s the fastest way of learning what people do and don’t like. First of all, if people don’t like getting a daily email from me, fine, I don’t want them on my email list either.

I would rather have people unsubscribe because they don’t like my marketing style, my messages, my offers, my beliefs, my values or the fact that I email every single day. In fact, I have found that my unsubscribe rate has gone down since emailing every day.

If I had to take a guess as to why this is, it would be because when I send promotional emails they’re now more used to my name and they believe that I give massive value as opposed to just emailing them when I had a promotion.

I now clearly spend a lot of time writing emails promoting content and giving away free information and training rather than just trying to sell to them.

You’re not going to send too many emails. Amazon sends dozens of emails a day to everyone and no one seems to get pissed off with that because it’s got products that they want.

Stop treating your email as a privilege to have and instead says a privilege to give. 

In summary, split the strategy into three areas. Campaigns, daily emails, and automation.

Get comfortable with testing. Test subject lines and consistently look at what’s working and what doesn’t work.

Build a strategy out of proof of what works. Include a daily email to your list, think about what you’d send for one person, and look for feedback.

Strip out all the HTML, strip out the design, and keep it basic.

Make campaigns cycle on a three month or a quarterly basis.

Pick a product and a theme and build emails from that starting at the end of the campaign and work backward.

Use this to launch new products and sales drives. Your email marketing strategy for automation should be used on what works. Automate what is currently working, keep them simple and short, and don’t use them as a method of replacing sales.

Simply use them as a method of automating what is already working.

As an example campaign, if I was to go from June 1 to August 31, I would use June to ask for feedback and share all the content, July to give massive value and training, and then August to heavily promote and push a product.

I’d use the first half of August as the ramp-up, selling the product, telling people it’s live, telling people “you can get it” and writing lots of sales content. The second half I’d use testimonials, reviews, and telling them about bonus content and chasing up people who almost bought.

If you want we’ve got a tonne of promotional product launch emails that you can download for free. You can just enter your name and email address box. 

Just enter your name and email in the box below and we’ll send you some “copy and paste, fill-in-the-blank” style product launch emails that you can use.

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Mike Killen

Mike is the world's #1 sales coach for marketing funnel builders. He helps funnel builders sell marketing funnels to their customers. He is the author of From Single To Scale; How single-person, small and micro-businesses can scale their business to profit. You can find him on Twitter @mike_killen.