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Use an Editorial Calendar to Make Emails More Relevant

Experience has taught magazine publishers and editors that consumers care about certain subjects at predictable times of the year. They codify this tendency in their editorial calendars, a 6- to 18-month running plan of what articles they will feature over time.

Email marketers can learn from this practice by developing an editorial calendar of their own to take advantage of naturally occurring periods of consumer interest. And, like publishers, email marketers can benefit by using this timing to make emails more relevant to consumers.

Editorial calendars help keep the members of an email database involved with timely content, thus reducing the risk of over-mailing.

In addition to increasing relevance, editorial calendars help email marketers accommodate the needs of multiple stakeholders by making room for them. In looking ahead six or more months, the email marketer can identify times or opportunities for which he or she simply must send email, such as new product launches or major sales. These mandated emails form a sort of skeleton for the email calendar around which the email marketer can place the flesh of less urgent communications. In other words, a marketer can take the total number of emails to be sent over a year, subtract the number of must-send emails and use the rest to help meet communications objectives for other stakeholders.

As noted above, the calendar should start with must-haves. Many companies develop general marketing calendars that serve to coordinate marketing communications and events across brands and/or channels. These general marketing calendars serve as a great start for email editorial calendars as the former tend to highlight important moments in the marketing year, which makes it even easier to time email launches. Email marketers with access to a general marketing calendar should look to it first as a basis for the email editorial calendar.

Beyond new product launches or other obvious events, what can the marketer do to flesh out the email editorial calendar? To answer that question, marketers need only pay attention to what their customers pay attention to.

Starting from the most general level, marketers should consider seasonality.  In some cases, this seasonality has become ingrained in category and even consumer consciousness. No one needs to tell a retailer to crank up the promotion for a holiday; every travel marketer gears up for summer.

However, other more subtle forms of seasonality exist. September does not just mean back to school for retailers and a new TV season for the networks. It also marks a time when people resume their normal schedule, which makes it a good time to pitch a product or service as a fresh start. Similarly, consumers tend to go into a sort of hibernation in the latter half of January and February. Emails sent during that time can focus on the home and indoor activities.

Over the long term, say 12 months, email marketers should identify times when email will not work well for them and avoid sending at those times. Almost all retailers mail more heavily in December, so non-retailers should consider reducing frequency then to avoid getting lost in the traffic. Public holidays that form three- and four-day weekends similarly yield reduced response to email

Business-to-business email marketers can also take advantage of the editorial calendar approach. Businesses make seasonal decisions just as consumers do. For instance, most companies get very busy towards the end of their fiscal quarters, so email marketers should know not to use those time slots.

B2B consumers also tend to pay attention to major industry events such as trade shows. Even if the email marketer has no trade show-specific information to share, he or she can still take advantage of the heightened interest in the category with a well-timed email. Individual industries may have unique seasonal opportunities of which the email marketer should be aware.

Using dynamic content, a marketer can incorporate both calendar-based and segment-based content.

In all, marketers should not regard email editorial calendars as set in stone. Clearly, opportunities arise that demand an email launch. However, by charting out email ahead of time, the marketer can ensure that he or she takes advantage of as many fertile periods for email as is possible while preventing inbox overload to the database.

Source: iMedia Connection

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