4 ways to revamp your email creation process
If your email creation process happens at the pace of a sloth, it's time for a change. Columnist Mary Wallace outlines four steps to help you streamline and improve communications with your target audience.
Think of a sloth. Yes, the sleepy, slow-moving mammal with long limbs and hooked claws that hangs upside-down. It’s never in a hurry, moving sluggishly from one tree branch to the next.
Now think of how your company creates emails, from ideation to deployment. It’s a complicated process, which means big companies with multiple teams often move at sloth speeds. Yawn.
Let’s walk through a typical process. A communications brief lays out the email’s purpose and messaging, and a writer drafts the copy. Then a design team creates a beautiful email to support the message.
Finally, the email marketing team builds the email in their marketing automation tool and tests it, making any additional changes. A week or more later, the email is sent.
If you send a lot of highly targeted emails, this lengthy process may be holding you back. There are also myriad mistakes waiting to happen, from broken code to missed changes from overlapping versions.
Leaping from a sloth to a streamlined, efficient and effective jaguar is a must for email operations. This not only reduces expended effort and wasted time, but it improves communication with your audience as a result of more effective messaging.
Obliterating your sloth of a process, however, won’t happen overnight. Here are four ways to begin the evolution.
1. Manage your process and kill unnecessary steps
Take a long, hard look at your creation process.
A good one should provide reliability in the time it takes to build and send each email and in the resulting communication. Your process should be easy for all parties to adhere to, prevent bottlenecks and be flexible enough to accommodate ever-changing business needs.
First, document everything in steps, and include the roles involved in each one. This will give you a clear-cut view of your process.
Highlight any repetitive steps or any that can be combined. Remove steps that don’t add value, such as reviews by team members who aren’t stakeholders or multiple requests for the same details.
2. Centralize work effort so tasks are completed in parallel
This just takes a bit of planning and foresight. Centralizing the different aspects of creation and executing on multiple tasks at once saves a lot of time. Map out the amount of time it takes to complete each step, then see what can be done concurrently.
For example, see if the design team can work on creative assets while the content team is working on copy.
A work management tool like Asana, Trello or Workzone not only can provide structure for the process, but also can function as a centralized platform on which all team members can communicate. This ensures all required details are provided to everyone up front, information is up-to-date, and forgettable details don’t fall through the cracks.
“Too often, there are missed details in the kickoff conversations and in the creative briefs that lead to last-minute fire drills or glaring issues in the final product,” Workzone Customer Success Manager Alex Dingley told me. “That’s why it’s incredibly important to use systems that make it easy to tackle the work you do day in and day out.”
He recommends that your work management platform be tailored to include project requests with required fields to ensure nothing is missed and that files and details associated with those project requests are passed to the actual project plan so that no one has to hunt for the info while they’re in the midst of their work.
It’s also helpful to have reusable project templates. Templates should have just enough detail to account for each handoff within the job. This cuts your project-building time from several minutes of typing and tweaking down to just a few seconds of pointing and clicking.
3. Establish standards (for settings and naming conventions), and actually stick to them
Building a set of standards is a no-brainer for optimization. As the basis of every outbound communication, your email configuration should be consistent between deployments. If you need to revisit it each time, something’s wrong.
Start by defining and saving the correct settings in your email deployment tool, such as sending name and domain. This makes things simple and straightforward when you’re doing the actual email creating. It also helps your readers recognize you in their inbox when they see the same name time after time.
Use consistent naming conventions for saving emails and other associated assets such as forms, images and copywriting. Dedicate a specific section of the internal email title to help identify the purpose of the email, like campaign name, audience, buying cycle and deployment date — for example, “leadgen_kidsshoes_late_20170930.”
This helps ensure that team members working on emails not only can quickly find the email, but also its assets. Campaign reporting can also be streamlined, since you can easily include the appropriate emails.
4. Leverage modular templates and *gasp* give them to marketers
Modular templates are the kingpin of an anti-sloth email creation process, and directly in the hands of marketers, they do something amazing: They let teams create emails in a much shorter time frame.
“Empowering marketers with the proper tools can truly have a profound influence on production time,” Mike Zusel, senior solutions consultant for stensul, an email creation platform, told me.
Not only do templates empower marketers, they also streamline the email operations process, allowing marketers to focus on what matters.
Eric Hansen, SVP, head of brand and digital marketing at Advisor Group, added, “While templates aren’t necessarily the solution for all emails an organization needs, they can provide a huge time savings to producing one-off emails, allowing your teams to focus on more strategic initiatives such as campaign design, while also maintaining corporate email design standards.”
Zusel seconded that thought. “Even if you put aside the sheer time savings, one of the most impactful things that can happen is that these marketers now have time to work on higher-value projects that directly solve for business problems.”
The benefits of removing the sloth from your email operations process are many. With improved processes and tools, the best possible communication with your target audience will be as easy to accomplish as a jaguar running through the rainforest.