There’s no debate among modern marketers that email marketing can be a powerful tool for building brand awareness, engaging audiences and driving revenue. The question, though, is how to optimize results—at a time when every marketing dollar and resource matters.
You know optimization takes thoughtful planning, followed by seamless execution. But what are all the right steps?
After hundreds of Tegrita client engagements, we’ve developed a reliable framework for optimizing email marketing results. We call it Email Flight Management (EFM). Like a commercial airline flight, email marketing success involves a time-tested approach to arriving at the intended destination.
With this proprietary framework—the foundation of Tegrita’s EFM consulting service—we’re helping businesses reach new heights. With the same measure of discipline, intention and efficient work, EFM can move the needle toward optimized results for you too even if you're not a Tegrita client.
What Is the EFM?
Through these seven distinct phases, EFM helps marketers navigate every step of the email marketing process to ensure desired results:
- Flight Plan (Strategy and Design)
- Intake Process (Audience Data Collection and List Segmentation)
- Aircraft Preparation (Program Asset Creation and Technology Management)
- Pre-Flight Checks (Testing and QA)
- Takeoff (Campaign Deployment)
- Cruise Control (Monitoring)
- Landing (Analysis and Optimization)
In this blog post, we'll explore each phase of the EFM framework, providing insights, best practices and tips for optimization.
1. Flight Plan (Strategy and Design)
No commercial airliner gets off the ground without a thorough flight plan, and no email marketing campaign delivers optimal results without a comprehensive strategy and design. Start with a collaborative effort among key internal stakeholders to:
- Define the role of email marketing in achieving your business objectives
- Identify how email marketing will be effectively integrated into the customer journey
The strategy and design phase of EFM is the time to remember the core principles of all smart email marketing campaigns. In a recent episode of the Revenue Rehab podcast, Inbox Enlightenment: Transforming Old Advice into New Revenue, Adaptigent Chief Marketing Officer Jeffery Hassemer distilled the principles into what he calls the three Rs:
- Give a reason
- Keep it relevant
- Reinforce the relationship
It’s important to clearly document and communicate your strategy. Email marketing can be complex, so flesh out your plan before you get started. By documenting your strategy, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page and goals aligned.
We recommend building an email marketing playbook for documenting and sharing your strategy with all stakeholders. Your playbook should include your goals, objectives, target audience, key messages, calls-to-action, and email governance rules. This document is your team’s north star. It should be comprehensive and detailed enough that everyone understands the strategy, but it should also be flexible enough to apply to all programs.
Your strategy should define the role of email in your overall marketing strategy. But remember, while the larger strategy sets the direction, each of your email campaigns will have its own requirements. Your strategy needs to be clear but not too granular.
The flight plan phase is also the time to align your email marketing with sales activities for maximum impact. Collaborate to complement your sales organization’s process flows. Is your email marketing nurture campaign, for example, helping drive forward the ongoing sales conversation?
Remember, no campaign, no strategy succeeds in a vacuum.
PHASE 1 OPTIMIZATION TIP:
Email marketing is often measured in the revenue generated from newly uncovered sales opportunities. But the value of your campaign could also come in helping speed up sales opportunities.
Understand where the sales process is hard. When do prospects need more information? Where do bottlenecks and roadblocks exist that email marketing can help eliminate? Where can it minimize the pain and move things along more quickly?
Velocity is a critical area where your email marketing strategy and design can deliver maximum impact.
2. Intake Process (Audience Data Collection and List Segmentation)
Before takeoff, commercial airliners conduct an intake process to collect passenger and cargo data and determine the best way to allocate flight resources. At this stage, you should collect audience data to segment a hyper-targeted campaign that maximizes engagement and conversion.
Spending time on thoughtful segmentation during the intake process is critical.
PHASE 2 OPTIMIZATION TIP:
We are all inundated with email, much of which we don’t act on or even read. Why? Because it doesn’t provide value to us based on our specific interests and needs.
When you do the work to ensure your email marketing messages are meaningful and the calls to action deliver distinct value to recipients, you will optimize the potential power—and results—of your email marketing. Every time you hit send for your email marketing, you are using valuable resources and budget. Spend wisely by hyper-segmenting your list based on the value you’re offering in your email message.
“Money flows in the direction of value,” explains Adaptigent’s Hassemer, “so we’re not going to ‘talk’ to anybody unless we have something of value to give them. That value can range from a discount, product, or information, but to be effective in converting email marketing to revenue, it must be something useful or valuable to your audience.”
3. Aircraft Preparation (Program Asset Creation and Technology Management)
Similarly to preparing an aircraft with all necessary resources for a safe flight, effective email marketing execution includes preparing for success by identifying, readying and integrating the right technology, and building the necessary program assets. Tegrita specializes in implementing and integrating marketing technologies, as well as handling end-to-end email program execution to optimize efficiency and effectiveness.
Whether you do this prep work internally or with an experienced partner, ensure you have the best technology available to you within your budget and the program assets needed to fuel your email marketing campaign. Proper preparation is essential to optimize results.
PHASE 3 OPTIMIZATION TIP:
The aircraft preparation stage—the point at which you are building program assets and managing technology—is a good time to evaluate your internal resources. Do you have the time and skill sets on your internal team to effectively manage your email marketing in a way that will achieve your goals?
Should you hire additional resources to reach your goals, or is it smarter and more cost-effective to outsource the needed expertise? How can you prepare for success now and for future “flights?”
In Episode 44 of the Revenue Rehab podcast, our guest and B2B marketing leader Adi B. Reske recommends making a list to assess internal strengths and gaps. “What are the core skills that you have right now—top three, four, five on your team? And what are the gaps that you have to fill in order to hit your goals this year and next year?” she says.
4. Pre-Flight Checks (Testing and QA)
Like a pilot’s mandatory pre-flight checklist before wheels-up, thorough quality assurance and testing is essential to optimize for deliverability, targeting, personalization and engagement.
Even the best marketing teams make mistakes. We’re human. But there are best practices to avoid the oops email.
At Tegrita, we build these and other practices into the QA and testing checklist phase:
- Build sheets to detail the requirements for campaigns and campaign assets
- Dynamic content and campaign flow testing
- Review and approval meetings as a final check before approval and activation.
Read more about these QA processes here.
PHASE 4 OPTIMIZATION TIP:
You’ll help optimize your email marketing results by aligning with your sales team early in the strategy and design phase. Then, at the testing and QA phase, it’s good practice to add “sales alignment” to your QA checklist to ensure that alignment is reflected in your campaigns.
Ask again if your message is serving the sales processes. Get feedback from the sales team and others to ensure your messages deliver value and drive engagement with recipients.
5. Takeoff (Campaign Deployment)
Once an airliner is cleared for takeoff, it's time to fully execute the flight plan. For Tegrita clients, this is the point at which we deploy and immediately begin monitoring to determine if we are executing according to plan.
Successful email marketing doesn’t happen with a set-it-and-forget-it approach. It’s not a matter of simply clicking send and moving on to what’s next. Don’t assume everything always deploys according to plan.
PHASE 5 OPTIMIZATION TIP:
Are you tracking soft bounces? Your email marketing success depends on your messages reaching your recipients’ inboxes without errors, and you can’t reach your goals if your soft bounceback rate is too high. We’ve detailed how here.
Email address verification is another essential process for ensuring the email addresses you have in your database are valid, reachable and don’t pose a risk. Email address verification alone does not solve all targeting, deliverability, and data hygiene issues, but it is necessary to get the results you want. Learn more here.
6. Cruise Control (Monitoring)
After takeoff, a pilot makes minor adjustments to maintain the desired speed and cruising altitude. This is the time for monthly reporting and analysis of key performance metrics to ensure you’re hitting your goals. For our clients, we closely monitor key metrics such as engagement, segment performance, and overall program health to identify areas for improvement.
PHASE 6 OPTIMIZATION TIP:
Tie the metrics you’re monitoring to your campaign and business goals. Although you will want to track vanity metrics (e.g., opens and clicks) key performance indicators should tie back to business objectives and metrics.
You must have clear metrics around the business goals you’re driving to with your email marketing. Without clear goals, you can’t identify the correct metrics to monitor and measure. This is the essential data needed for improvement.
7. Landing (Analysis and Optimization)
Upon landing, the pilot evaluates flight performance and adjusts for future flights. Each quarter, analyze your email campaign performance to identify areas for further optimization.
It’s always valuable to A/B test elements of your email campaigns to determine what’s driving the best results. Test frequency, subject lines, calls-to-action and time of day you send your emails. Pay attention to your open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribe rates and other metrics to see how each change affects your results.
PHASE 7 OPTIMIZATION TIP:
Monitoring and analyzing your results is an opportunity to understand how you can further segment your lists and deliver even more value throughout the customer journey.
For example, if you find that over an extended period of time, you’ve had no engagement from a percentage of recipients, consider removing them from your list. If others are engaging in certain instances, but not others—when you send to them weekly but not twice-weekly, for example—use that data to segment your campaigns further for optimal results.
Ready to Soar?
Fasten your seat belt, with the six-phase EFM framework as your guide, your email marketing will take flight and deliver soaring results. If you determine you’ll benefit from strategic and/or execution help at any phase, we’re here to help lend our experience. Our goal is to improve marketing process, increase efficiency, and help our clients more quickly meet business goals in any economic conditions, regardless of internal resources.
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