End to End: The Email Campaign Process

Photo by Webaroo.com.au on Unsplash

While the end result to a subscriber can be very simple, a lot of time, effort and planning goes into bringing an email campaign to life. Tons of work goes on behind the scenes to create that seamless customer experience.

Every email campaign follows the flowchart pictured above. The amount of time spent within each stage depends on the size and complexity of the business requirements and the campaign objectives. Regardless, each phase needs to be ticked off and completed to a high standard.

Having an experienced and dedicated project manager or business analyst or campaign owner (or whatever you call them!) that oversees the delivery of each component within the campaign process will help fuel the project with forward momentum and keep each stakeholder accountable for their own timelines and deliverables.

The intent of this article is to provide a broad overview and some brief detail into each phase of a campaign’s delivery. Below I have listed some of the key milestones and deliverables that typically encompass each stage. It is by no means exhaustive and may or may not be required for every project.

Generally speaking, the order in which they are present is the order they should be performed. However, with strong communication and management, it is possible to do many of these concurrently. For example, it is possible for the data team to generate the audience in parallel with the development team creating the HTML emails.

Project Kickoff and Planning

  • Define the business problem and campaign objective. What do you want to achieve?
  • Consider your budget and resources, and determine your timelines. Create a GANTT chart and mark out exactly when design, data and build milestones need to be met, when testing needs to be completed and when the campaign needs to go live.
  • Identify your stakeholders. Who needs to be involved in approvals, signoffs, testing? Who needs to be informed of updates? What is everyone’s role to play?
  • Map the customer journey. Putting some extra effort upfront pays dividends downstream. Map the customer journey using BPMN constructs. Define the decision split criteria, wait durations, and number of communications involved in your journey.
  • Set up Jira or your project management tool. Write the tickets, assign the tasks.
  • Plan for dynamic content, personalisation, data dependencies and merge field content. It doesn’t magically happen. It requires thoughtful preparation, hygienic data and a clear idea of who you’re talking to and their stage in the customer journey.

Data and Segmentation

  • Segmenting your email list lets you send highly-targeted emails to people based on their interests or demographics.
  • Consider the filters that need to be applied to your database in order to whittle your audience down to those that need to be targeted.
  • Who is responsible for this part is largely determinant of the organisation’s resources. It is common for analytics teams, data science, business analysts, and automation specialists to take ownership of this key piece.
  • SQL skills considered essential here.

UX, Design and Copy

  • Entails working with a creative agency or an in-house design team. Either way, formal creative briefs for visual design and copy will need to be written.
  • Depending on the scale of the project, its complexity, and the organisation’s digital capacity, it is here where a lot of value can be created (and pain saved) by wireframing designs first with a good UX’er.
  • Prepare for multiple rounds of creative and amends based off feedback.
  • Limit to 2–3 rounds of creative review. Any more risks derailing timelines and budget. If it helps, take longer providing initial feedback to ensure you compile detailed and consolidated feedback for the designer to implement.

Legal Approvals

  • It is easier to make changes in the design stage, than rework thousands of lines of code to accomodate a legal requirement.
  • Get your General Counsel’s tick of approval before commencing build.
  • Depending on feedback, minor tweaks can be made in the build phase. Try and get signoff from Legal subject to reviewing the final product if it is a small edit to what is in the creative design initially submitted for review.

Build

  • Build the campaign by coding the designs into responsive emails and landing pages.
  • Create the journey in journey builder.
  • Create the data extensions.
  • Write the SQL activities.
  • Create the API integrations.

User Acceptance Testing

  • Test email and make edits.
  • Send email previews to Litmus.
  • Checked against visual designs.
  • Checked against copy document, including subject line and preheader.
  • All links checked and confirmed.
  • Personalisation and data flows checked.
  • Test the journey.
  • Create test dummy data to test different scenarios and segments. Do the behave as they should?
  • Log all errors as bugs within Jira and assign to the project manager. Re-test when “fixed”.
  • Complete your pre-deployment checklist.
  • Approvals and final signoff.

Deployment

  • Change staging or test DEs to live ones.
  • Clear testing data extensions.
  • Create new journey version for reporting purposes.
  • Deploy solution to production.

Campaign Review

  • Check email metrics such as clicks, opens, conversions and bounces to measure the impact of your campaign.
  • Review any A/B testing results that could inform future campaigns.
  • Identify points of optimisation.
  • Reflect on what worked well and what didn’t. Ask what can be improved for next time?
  • Good firms will document everything that was done. This is especially helpful with managing digital assets and for any handover if necessary.
  • Ensure to provide ample time for your teams to complete this step before overloading them with the next campaign.
  • Make use of an analytics team to generate deep insights following each campaign. Report results to upper management and get more budget for marketing automation!

All this work can take weeks to accomplish. Great teams have this dance rehearsed down to a fine art and the email channel becomes the machine that drives fantastic customer engagement and business results.

I am a certified Salesforce Marketing Cloud Consultant at Bower House Digital in Melbourne, Australia.

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