An Email Campaign To-Do List

One week ago today our world changed. It has been hard for me to focus on email marketing; it seems trivial compared with the events of this last week. Just in case someone has missed one of these important pieces of information, here they are again:

  • Red Cross blood donations: 1-800-GIVE-LIFE
  • Red Cross contributions: 1-800-HELP-NOW
  • World Trade Center Survivor List:
  • Salvation Army donations for victims: 1-800-SAL-ARMY
  • United Way of New York: 212-251-4035
  • Information about the attacks: and 1-866-483-5137

I’d also like to express my sincere condolences to anyone who has directly experienced a loss in this great tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with you!

One more thought: Please remember that America is a melting pot and we should all do our part to stop acts of hatred and to care about and for our neighbors. It is heartbreaking to hear of discrimination and harassment against Arab Americans or Muslims. Please take a stand if you see or hear of this type of behavior. Think of how you would want to be helped, and act on it — it’s not OK to turn your back and walk away because it isn’t happening to you.

Now back to mundane matters…

Below is a blow-by-blow list of the points that we cover in our agency for getting a campaign out the door. Certainly, adjustments will be needed if you are managing and deploying internal campaigns. It’s just helpful to see the list of points so that you can get your arms around what’s involved. In many cases, you may add the title or name of the person handling the task. Hopefully, this list provides a tool to help smooth out your deployment process. For those new to this medium, perhaps it will help show what staff resources you need to create and deploy the most effective and robust email campaigns — internal or outsourced.

Steps to a Campaign — Acquisitions and Retention (R)

  • Proposal sent
  • Proposal signed
  • Brain storm
  • Creative brief approved
  • Copywriter contacted
  • Designer contacted
  • List person contacted, or internal list person contacted (R)
  • Mail plan received, or comma-separated value (.csv) file received (R)
  • Mail plan to client, or .csv file cleaned and properly formatted (R)
  • Mail plan approved, or database created (R)
  • Lists ordered, or .csv file imported into database (R)
  • Lists billed
  • Lists paid
  • First draft of copy written
  • Revisions to copywriter
  • Second draft of copy written
  • Copy approved
  • Copy given to designer
  • First draft of design created
  • Revisions sent to designer
  • Second draft of design created
  • Design approved (revisions may continue for some time)
  • Design coded in HTML
  • Images sent to client and/or server for hosting
  • Images hosted and source links sent back to us
  • Image source referenced in the HTML by including an absolute destination (e.g.,
  • Text and AOL versions created (sometimes there is a revision process for these as well)
  • Text formatting:
    • Use a standard monospace font (Courier is commonly used)
    • Create a line length of 60 characters
    • Insert hard returns at the end of each line
    • Save document as plain text (“.txt” file type)
    • Headlines and calls to action are highlighted with use of line breaks, caps, and Wingdings to separate them from body copy
  • All messages checked for intro copy that is appropriate to the list (e.g., “You are receiving this because…”)
  • All messages checked for remove or unsubscribe copy
  • All messages checked across platforms (Internet Explorer, Netscape, Mac, etc.)
  • Remove links are created and tested to ensure functionality
  • “From” address is determined so that it can capture bounces, reply to’s, and so on. If you are using internal addresses or domains, check that the address is live
  • “From” name is determined so that it works in coordination with the message and the list
  • Subject line is created
  • Final files created for HTML (R)
  • Final files loaded for each (R)
  • Each link in the message is created with unique tracking (R)
  • HTML open tags are inserted (R)
  • List fields spot-checked to match headers needed for upload. General check of data to ensure correct file is being uploaded (R)
  • List uploaded into database (R)
  • File (or filter) created for any segmentation of the list (R)
  • Testing phase:
    • Messages tested internally
    • Message set up tested
  • Messages proofed for grammar and spelling
  • Any personalization uses checked
  • Inclusion of your company name and/or Web site URL checked (if you are taking recipients to a separate page, you can make this static text)
  • All links checked for functionality as well as destination. If using software for click-through tracking, check that it is recording the clicks
  • Messages tested for final approval (to client and client’s seed list of names)
  • Final message deployed
  • Status reporting
  • Final report created seven days after deployment
  • Analysis and assumptions created based on campaign results
  • Planning meeting date set for next campaign

And keep in mind that these are just the “headlines” for each component. Believe me when I say that just about every bulleted item potentially comes with a string of contingencies, mishaps, delays in processing, people “issues,” and a host of other things that can forestall getting to the next item on the checklist.

When you review a list like this, you can see that the devil is in the details! But don’t be overwhelmed. Just remember the events of this past week… it will bring it all back into perspective again.

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