Back in July, Karen Gedney wrote this article in which she discussed the need for an email calendar. Most of us are already planning our 2007 campaigns, so I thought it was a good idea to post about this now. So here are a couple of things to consider:
Consider the seasonal nature of your prospects' work and personal lives and when they want to read about certain topics. This varies both by industry and by the kind of person you're trying to reach.
Business-to-business (B2B) magazines in your industry probably follow a standard calendar. Analyze a year's worth of issues to see if you can detect a pattern in the kind of articles published at different times of the year. This can clue you in to email readers' interests. Additionally, you may spot ways to synchronize your mailing with the publication's regular features, such as annual buying guides, state-of-the-industry reports, and so on.
Next, review your industry's conference schedule and plan accordingly. If everyone attends an annual conference, for example, it's unlikely your promotional email will be read from their BlackBerrys that week. Yet an email a week or two before the conference inviting prospects to visit your company's booth or a post-conference email reporting on the event's highlights could result in high readership.
Then take a look at a regular calendar to see when major holidays occur. Consider what's going on in prospects' minds a week before and after these holidays. If they're busy trying to get all their work done before the holiday or to catch up afterwards, your email will probably go unnoticed.
Get your hands on a school schedule for areas in which you broadcast your email. Factor in back-to-school dates, which can vary greatly by region, falling anywhere from early August to mid-September. Then, there are Christmas, midwinter, and spring recesses. Though most working parents don't take all these days off with their kids, they're usually contending with out-of-the-ordinary childcare arrangements that often drive them to distraction.
Finally, consider the seasons and what they signal to your audience:
- January can be a month of new beginnings or the start of a hellish tax season for accountants.
- In February, you can offer a "sweetheart of a deal."
- Certain months are more business-focused than others: February/March, May/June, and mid-October through mid-November.
- Slow summer months can be times when your readers ignore their inbox or catch up on their reading.
Every industry's calendar is different, so be sure to track email responses over time to detect seasonal readership patterns.
Consider Industry Buying Cycles. Does your industry do most of its buying at a certain tradeshow or conference? Do purchasers delay major purchases until certain company financial statements or national economic indicators are released? Is there a yearend spending spree as managers try to spend their budgets?
Create a Calendar. Now that you have all the blackout dates and key selling periods on your calendar, plan an email campaign calendar.
Consider all the steps necessary to bring prospects through the sales pipeline from initial awareness to lead generation, sales, and, finally, retention. Then, create a timeline of email marketing messages.
In the conference industry, which has a short promotion cycle, a typical email calendar can look like this:
- Pre-event survey: To learn top audience concerns for the year
- Save-the-date email: To alert prospects to put the event on their calendars
- Content email: To promote the release of the event's new agenda
- Early bird email: To notify prospective attendees of a savings deadline for advance registrations (usually, as many as two thirds of registrations occur before this deadline)
- Keynote speaker announcement: To generate excitement for marquee-name presenters
- Final notice email: To encourage fence-sitters to take action
- Post-event recap: To keep the momentum for the event going and encourage early sign-ups by enthusiastic attendees
How you plan an email campaign will be as individual as your company, marketing strategy, or product. But you must plan it, so you can seize the opportunities your shortsighted competitors miss.