Ten Steps for Developing an Effective E-mail Strategy, Part 3

Welcome back! If you’ve been following along, the first four steps of your e-mail strategy are already completed. If you’re just joining us, it’s not too late. Check out part one and part two of this series. There’s still time to catch up. If you start today, you’ll have a complete e-mail strategy by June.

Again, the 10 steps required to develop an effective e-mail strategy:

  1. Identify qualitative goals.

  2. Analyze the current situation.
  3. Complete a competitive analysis.
  4. Define the target audience.
  5. Determine which types of e-mail meet your needs.
  6. Develop a content strategy and a frequency and send schedule.
  7. Design the e-mail template.
  8. Create quantitative goals.
  9. Compile budget and ROI (define) projections.
  10. Evaluate results and tweak the strategy accordingly.

These come from the strategy section of my new book; the publisher’s offering this chapter free of charge, if you want more detail about the process. Also in the chapter is a case-study-like example, so you can see how it’s done.

Part one went into the importance of developing an e-mail strategy and walked through the first two steps: identifying your qualitative goals and analyzing your current situation. Two weeks ago, steps three and four completed a competitive analysis and defined your target audience. Today, determining the type of e-mail that will best meet your needs.

Determine Which Types of E-mail Meet Your Needs

A common e-mail misconception is that e-mail is one thing. In reality, e-mail is a channel, a pipe. There are many different ways to use it, many different types of messages you can send. Let’s cover some of the most common.

Short-Form Editorial

As the name suggests, these are short and sweet, and the primary content is editorial. One example would be the alert e-mail messages many organizations send on an as-needed basis. Also in this category: tip of the day or week e-mail.

This type of e-mail is great for:

  • Driving traffic back to your Web site

  • Generating qualified leads
  • Keeping a brand or company top of mind with clients and prospects so they think of you when they need your services (which may lead to direct sales)
  • Building a relationship with readers

You can sell ad space in short-form editorial e-mail, but I don’t recommend it. Promotional space is very limited. You’re usually better off utilizing it for your own brand. For this reason, I didn’t include generating ad revenue in the list.

The heart of this type of e-mail is editorial, but the promotional element is there, too. The content ratio should be at least 50 percent editorial; there’s nothing sadder than a tip of the day missive that’s 25 percent tip and 75 percent promotion. Be sure editorial is pure. There’s no room for advertorial in this e-mail type.

Long-Form Editorial

If you publish an e-mail newsletter, you’re familiar with this type of messaging. Long-form editorial e-mail goes a bit further than short-form when it comes to meeting business goals. In addition to the above list, these can help you:

  • Position yourself or your company as an expert.

  • Provide readers with insight into how you work with customers and prospects.
  • Generate revenue from advertising.

Unlike with short-form editorial, here you have advertising space to sell to third parties. Be sure to do some careful analysis before you go this route. It takes resources to sell and incorporate advertising. Even if you only pay sales commissions, you still have increased production and management costs. You also have an opportunity cost (it’s space you could use for your own products or services) and a competitive cost, as these ads complete with your own for your reader’s attention.

Again, editorial has to be pure. An article about how your product helps people who purchase it isn’t editorial. At least 60 percent of the content (yes, more than half) should be editorial; no more than 40 percent should be promotional. These are rough guidelines, but if there’s any doubt in your mind, measure. To do this, I print an e-mail newsletter and do a rough area comparison (length by width) of each content type.

Short-Form Promotional

The best example of a short-form promotional e-mail is an e-mail postcard. A postcard takes up one screen. There’s no vertical scroll, as there’s no key content below the fold (perhaps standard footer information, but nothing critical to the message).

The content is strictly promotional, nothing editorial at all. What can be accomplished with these e-mail messages is different from what you can do with editorial messages:

  • Drive traffic back to your Web site.

  • Sell products or services directly.
  • Encourage readers to take part in a special event, on- or offline, such as a contest, course, or conference.

One of biggest mistakes people make with short-form promotional e-mail is to include too much content. A short-form promotional e-mail should contain minimal copy. Often (but not always) an image is what really tells the story. Focus is key. If you have one great seller, this format is appropriate. If you’re looking to promote three or more items, a catalog e-mail is probably more appropriate.

Promotional e-mail can be very effective at motivating immediate action, but does little to build a relationship or reputation. It’s completely a sales message.

Long-Form Promotional

This is like short-form promotional e-mail — but longer. Catalog e-mail, which features multiple products, fall into this category, as does letter e-mail, which appears to be a multipage correspondence from an individual.

Long-form promotional e-mail can do all the things its short-form counterpart does, but it can do it for products that require more detailed copy. It’s better at direct sales than lead generation, and it doesn’t build a relationship with readers, since it’s all about the product or service.

There are other types of e-mail, most notably transactional and press releases, that you should also consider. This short list should give you a head start.

The best part of thinking about e-mail types is you don’t have to choose just one. You may decide to publish a newsletter (long-form editorial) with a companion alert e-mail program (short-form editorial). For prospects, you could publish a slightly different newsletter and send a postcard e-mail (short-form promotional). Reporters covering your industry may just receive press release e-mail, nothing more. If it sounds like a lot at once, know you can phase the program in.

That’s a quick thumbnail on how to choose e-mail types. Take some time over the next two weeks and let me know if you have questions.

Part four of this series covers step six: develop a content strategy and a frequency and send schedule.

Until next time,


Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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