When it comes to building an email marketing calendar, one size does not fit all.
If you’re an ecommerce-only brand, your email content calendar differs from a brand that drives traffic both online and to retail stores. And, if your marketing team boasts half a dozen full-time pros, your email marketing calendar won’t look the same as that of a department run by one or two part-timers.
Still, every email marketing department — ecommerce-only or ecommerce/store hybrid, large and robust or small and striving — needs a good marketing calendar.
As this post from Jilt makes clear, marketing calendars help you:
- Plan ahead and produce better work
- Keep your team in the loop
- Revise your schedule to take advantage of emerging opportunities
- Prevent holidays and special dates from sneaking up on you
- Gain greater control of your goals
As Martha Stewart used to say, it’s a good thing.
Not all emails belong on your calendar
Before you begin building your email marketing calendar, let’s distinguish the emails that belong on it from those that don’t.
When someone subscribes to your newsletter, for example, that action might trigger a “Thank you” email your email service provider (ESP) sends automatically. Likewise, your ESP might send a 3-email drip campaign you’ve created to win back anyone who’s unsubscribed from your newsletter.
By contrast, some broadcast emails do belong on your calendar.
These are regular communications you’ll want to send to your active subscriber list. They range from new-product announcements and pointers to informational blog posts (like this one!) to holiday gift guides, seasonal promotions — whatever you’d like to toot your horn about.
Pro tip: if you’re not taking advantage of your ESP’s ability to send triggered emails automatically, it’s time to start. If your ESP can’t send triggered emails according to conditions you specify, it might be time to switch ESPs.
Why predictability is important
Regular means according to a predictable schedule: once a week, once every other week, once a month or as frequently (or infrequently) as you and your marketing team decide.
Predictability is important for two reasons: It streamlines the task of constructing your calendar and gives your subscribers or customers peace of mind. In other words, a predictable calendar tells your marketing team and your subscriber base exactly what they can expect, and when.
Sticking to your marketing calendar is nearly as vital to your brand’s integrity as the content of the emails you send. (Imagine promising your subscribers a weekly newsletter devoted to exclusive previews and special offers and then actually sending them clearance emails only when you had slow-moving inventory to liquidate.)
Fidelity to your newsletter’s calendar and conception assures your subscribers — and your marketing team — that you’re true to your word.
Pro tip: As important as predictability is, be careful about scheduling promotional emails too predictably. Promoting a sitewide sale at the end of every month trains your subscribers to buy only at the end of every month.
Deciding on email cadence
Taken together, the frequency, day of the week and time of day you mail add up to your email cadence.
Just as one size does not fit all for a brand’s marketing calendar, the same applies to cadence. When and how often you mail will affect your critical open rate and click-through rate.
If your brand is new to email marketing and hasn’t yet created a calendar, it’s unlikely you’ll find your optimal email cadence immediately.
Luckily, most ESPs make it easy to test your cadence variables. You’re not satisfied with your results when you mail your weekly newsletter every Thursday at 8 a.m.? Try Tuesday at 8 a.m. (or Wednesday at 1:00 PM) instead.
Pro tip: Sometimes your industry’s habits suggest the best day of the week to mail. For instance, the publishing industry publishes new books on Tuesdays. So, many publishers and booksellers schedule their weekly newsletter to mail on Tuesdays as well.
What are leading brands up to?
Of course, other factors besides email cadence can influence your open rate and click-through rate.
Chances are leading brands are mailing to your subscribers, too. There’s no shortage of broadcast emails landing in inboxes every day.
So, you might wonder: What are these brands up to? If you could get a look at their email schedules and know their email cadence, you’d have valuable clues for constructing (or revising) your own.
You’d also have an inside track on more than the day of the week and time of day your rivals send email. You’d know when they run promotions. How deeply they discount. How often they offer free shipping. Which holidays they take advantage of.
Details like these can inform your marketing calendar, too.
Which brings us to MailCharts.
We’re made for calendar building
MailCharts offers a wide-ranging view of the marketing calendars of thousands of brands.
Let’s imagine your company is a startup that makes athletic shoes. You’d probably like your email marketing calendar to take into account what Skechers or Nike or New Balance is doing.
Turn to our Calendar View. You can see what Skechers was up to in May:
At a glance, Calendar View lets you:
- See how Skechers (or any brand) approaches popular holidays: May the Fourth Be With You, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day
- Review the opening words of every email’s subject line, demonstrating in this case how aggressively Skechers emailed (18 times) and offered discounts (at least 11 times) throughout the month
- Note that Skechers sent personalized emails (on May 8 and May 27) to encourage recipients to celebrate their birthday with a Skechers gift
Pro tip: When you’re ready to dig deeper in Calendar View, click on any subject line to view and download the full email.
Reports break out more details
For additional details, head over to Reports to break out sending behavior, content analysis, promotions and email score. Sending behavior over the last 3 months shows that Tuesday at 9 a.m. was Skechers’ most popular send day and time:
Note: The arresting peak on the graph shows that Skechers sent 7 emails during the week ending April 12, an average of one a day. Does this kind of aggressive cadence risk a similar peak in subscriber fatigue and unsubscribes? We suspect it does.
Get a quick read on your industry’s calendar
Because we’ve rounded up brand calendars for 50+ industries — from Apparel and Baby to Beauty & Personal Care, Home and dozens more — you can even get a quick read on your industry’s calendar, too.
That means the email marketing team at your athletic shoes startup can spot trends running through a host of Sneakers/Athletic Footwear brands, including Skechers, Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Vans, Converse and others.
So, if the team asks, “What about emailing discount promotions? How often do we have to schedule them?” You can answer, “In the Sneakers/Athletic Footwear industry, over the last 90 days email marketers tended to send promotions at least 50% of the time:”
Build a marketing calendar. It’s your first step to successful email marketing. If you’re ready to plan ahead, take advantage of fast-changing marketing opportunities, prevent holidays from sneaking up on you and gain greater control over your goals, building a marketing calendar is the right way to start.
Leave triggered or drip emails off your marketing calendar. Begin by focusing on broadcast emails to inform, engage and sell to your universe of active subscribers.
Make your marketing calendar predictable. Decide on your mailing frequency (weekly, every other week, monthly — it’s up to you) and stick with it. It’s the best way to assure your marketing team and your subscribers what they can expect, and when.
Test to find your ideal email cadence. Knowing how frequently to email plus which day of the week and time of day to send — your cadence — can impact your open rate and click-through rate. To optimize these may require some experimentation (testing).
Keep tabs on what leading brands are doing. Their email marketing calendars can help you jumpstart (or revamp) yours — and inspire you to try out new approaches. MailCharts makes it easy to zero in on the marketing calendar and cadence of thousands of ecommerce brands plus the combined brand calendars of more than 50 industries.
Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash