The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Email Campaigns

Email campaign planning can be tough if you don't know where to start. Here's a 7 step guide to help you achieve your goals.

February 13, 2023
The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Email Campaigns

If you're struggling to come up with ideas for email campaigns, you're not alone. Many store owners find it challenging to plan out campaigns that engage and convert their audience.

Mapping everything out on a calendar or a spreadsheet is gonna make all the difference in helping you plan successful campaigns. It helps you take back control of your email schedule and have better visibility for your entire team, or even if it’s just you.

Here's a handy template for you to plan your campaigns. Make a copy of this and campaign away!

Before I show you how to plan your campaigns, we need to get this out of the way first:

How far ahead should you plan your campaigns?

I’ve seen store owners plan and create BFCM campaigns just a week before the big holiday. True story! 

No points for guessing the effectiveness of these campaigns.

I’d recommend you to be 1 month ahead of schedule. This leaves you with ample time to make changes and avoid a lot of last-minute stress. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Planning a month ahead has two advantages:

  1. It creates a decent buffer if business critical events happen or you’ve suddenly got a ton on your plate.
  2. You start thinking long-term strategy and overarching goals as opposed to the “how-can-I-make-a-quick-buck” mindset

Okay, now that the precursor to planning out your campaigns is sorted, here's the exact step-by-step process for planning highly effective campaigns that practically print cash:

1. Identify important dates

First off, you need to have a good reason to show up in people's inboxes. So, the first thing you need to do is map out important days to your business–this could be when you launch a new product, an upcoming holiday, or a local/global event (like the Oscars or Super Bowl),. 

This website is your friend, if you want to find the wackiest…the craziest…the “why-does-this-even-exist” kinda holidays. 

(Happy Donut Day, everyone!)

As much as my views about tentpole holidays are polarizing, they are fun, engaging, and provide an excellent opportunity for eCommerce stores to reach out to their customers. T

Look up the “holidays” in the next month and note down the ones that make sense in your niche/problem-space. Add them to the first two columns in the sheet.

Congrats, you now have a reason to show up in someone’s inbox!

Bonus: Here’s a huge collection of the wackiest holidays in 2023, grouped by industry. Just use your industry as the filter and find the ones you can use.

2. Set a Campaign Objective:

Now that your campaigns have a reason to exist, decide what you’re trying to achieve. Revenue need not always be the be-all-end-all objective.

Ask yourself the following questions (and fill up column 3):

  • Are you launching a new product?
  • Are you trying to engage with your audience?
  • Is it to ask for a review?
  • Are you trying to improve your AOV?
  • Do you want to promote your referral program?
  • Are you trying to clear excess inventory?

Knowing the objective will make the rest of this process easier because you now know what the destination is. It will keep you focused on the desired outcome and help you measure the success of your campaign.

3. Decide a campaign type

One of the common questions I get from store owners is that they don't know how to come up with ideas for campaigns. 

You want to keep your emails interesting and contextual so people engage with them and make purchases. Sending uninteresting and irrelevant emails is a one-way ticket to spam hell.

So, start thinking about what educates and entertains your shoppers-either about your brand (and its values), how your products benefit your shoppers, or the problem-space you are in. Create emails around these pillars.

Here are some campaign types you can send:

  • Product launches
  • Product/Collection showcase
  • UGC
  • Reviews
  • Discounts/Offers
  • Brand News
  • Current Events
  • Survey
  • Back in stock
  • Behind the scenes
  • Referral and Loyalty

Tip: Add these (and more you come up with) to the Campaign Type drop-down in the sheet I shared earlier.

4. Decide on audience segments

By breaking down your whole list into smaller groups, you have more information about everyone in that particular segment. You can craft an email that speaks more specifically to that group. And, you can send more emails over time without annoying your subscribers and risking more unsubscribes. 

Ask yourself: who’d this campaign make the most sense to? Who’s more likely to engage with this and help you achieve the objective you set in Step 2. 

Also, to whom is this not relevant at all?

Drop your answers in columns 5 and 6.

Pro tip: If you’re a smaller brand with a smaller email list (<5k subscribers), don’t go too crazy with the segmentation. You’re probably better off with buyers, non-buyers, repeat customers, VIPs, new subscribers, and 30-day engaged segments. However, if you have a sizable list, get more granular with your segmentation.

Note: You have your campaign topic, objective, type, and audience. Give your campaign a name (column 7) for easier reference in the future. This is the naming convention I recommend: Topic | Type | Audience. But you know what, as long as you pick a format and stick with it, you’ll be fine.

5. Get some inspiration

Okay, you’ve got pretty much everything you need to send out an awesome email campaign. All you need now is a lil’ bit of inspiration and a ton of coffee.

Pro tip: Create a super-spy email id and subscribe to your competitors and top players in the market, not limited to your niche. I like to save all the emails I’ve liked to a Google Drive folder, grouped by campaign types.

Refer to your swipe file and jot down a few ideas. If you don’t have one already, reallygoodemails and Milled are two wonderful resources.

6. Plan out the email copy 

Once you’ve collected some ideas, it’s time to plan the central theme, the tone, the content, and the CTA. You can also add links to your product/collection page. You or your copywriter can then use this as a guideline for later. 

Put this in columns 8 and 9.

7. Identify what you’ll test 

A/B tests can be an incredibly powerful tool in making your campaigns effective so it makes a lot of sense to include that in your email calendar. 

Here are a few things you can test:

  • Subject lines
  • Sender names
  • Preheader text
  • Content
  • Design
  • Email length
  • CTA
  • Send times

Track your test results and you can identify opportunities to improve your future campaigns.

I like to complete this entire exercise in one sitting. Sure, it’d take 3-4 hours to fill this whole sheet (again, depending on the number of campaigns you plan to send every month).

With a well-thought-out plan, you can create timely and engaging emails that resonate with your audience. Remember to define your goals, understand your audience, segment your email lists, and track your results to continuously improve your campaigns. 

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