9 steps to creating an email marketing strategy that’s “thoughtful, intentional, and value-packed”

Profile photo of author Tiffany Regaudie
Email marketing
June 30, 2022
In cotton-colored font on a lemon-colored background, image shows the words "9 STEPS" stacked 3 times on the left. Across the right side of the image, black font reads, "creating an email marketing strategy that's 'thoughtful, intentional, and value-packed.'" The Klaviyo flag is in the lower right corner in black.

Sara Du doesn’t believe in winging it with email marketing.

“Email marketing isn’t just about messaging your customers whenever you want,” says Du, co-founder and CEO of Alloy. “It’s about thoughtful, intentional, value-packed messages that reach customers at the right time.”

“Without a list growth strategy, for instance” she adds, “you have no idea what your goals are. You’ll find yourself throwing things at a wall, hoping they’ll stick.”

Email marketing isn’t just about messaging your customers whenever you want. It’s about thoughtful, intentional, value-packed messages that reach customers at the right time.
Sara Du
Co-founder and CEO, Alloy

So what does a good, thoughtful, intentional, and valued-packed email strategy look like?

The answer is not one-size-fits-all. To figure out what is right for you, follow these 9 steps to set yourself on the right path.

1. Conduct an audience and content audit

To create smart, persuasive email content, start by understanding your core audiences’ lifestyles, challenges, and pain points. An audit teaches you everything you need to know about your product, market, and customers to send relevant emails.

Customer interviews, market research, and conversations with your product development and customer service teams are all essential components of a sound audit.

Image shows an example of a customer journey template in the form of a chart with 6 steps listed in the first column: 1. Problem unaware, 2. Problem aware, 3. Considering options, 4. Interested, 5. Committed, 6. Using and loving. The next column, called “Key messages,” is left blank for brands to fill in the messaging that meets the needs of each segment of shoppers and what they want them to believe at each phase of the journey.

When you’ve collected enough quantitative and qualitative data, compare your findings to the content you’ve produced so far: How does your content serve or not serve your audience? How can you make it better so that it solves problems?

Here are some tools to help you conduct your audit:

Email marketing benchmarks

How well does your email performance stack up against industry averages?

Email templates and design

Use tools like Klaviyo’s email template library, Really Good Emails, or MailCharts to see what good content looks like. Do you notice any themes? Does anything spark ideas for how you can improve?

Zero- and first-party data

How do your subscribers and customers interact with you online? If you haven’t yet started collecting behavioral data, use Klaviyo’s customer-first marketing guide to get started.

Customer funnel and buyer journey

Build clear brand narratives for each stage of your funnel so you and your team can easily give purpose to every message and touchpoint.

2. Set goals that align with your overall brand goals

Your email marketing goals will be different depending on your business model, audience, cash flow, and seasonality, but a few common examples of email strategy goals include:

  • Email list growth: for when you’re just starting out with new subscribers
  • Engagement: for when you need more zero- and first-party data for list segmentation
  • Revenue: for when you have a solid base of email subscribers who have indicated they’re ready to buy
  • Fewer cart abandonments: for when a lot of people are visiting your site and almost buying
  • Increased customer lifetime value (CLTV): for when you’re starting to see more loyal customers

The most important thing to know about goals is that you need enough data to determine whether or not they’re working. Your email marketing strategy should walk a fine line between sticking with a plan long enough to live out its potential and changing that goal at the right time, only when you’ve tested enough to know it’s time for a change.

3. Choose the right email marketing tools

An email marketing platform—sometimes referred to as an email marketing service, email service provider (ESP), or customer relationship management software (CRM)—is a tool used to create and send emails to a specified list of email addresses.

Most of today’s email marketing tools have built-in features that allow you to use templates, create email marketing campaigns, automated email flows, segments, lists, and more.

Not sure which tool is right for you? Check out our list of the 10 best email marketing services and marketing platforms.

4. Define your audiences so you can personalize for them

If you’re selling to everyone, you’re selling to no one. The more precisely you define your target audience using demographic, geographic, psychographic, and behavioral email segmentation, the better results you can expect from your email marketing efforts.

Think about what kind of information you need to personalize your emails. That’s what you should be asking customers for.
Carson McComas
CEO, FuelMade

“Think about what kind of information you need to personalize your emails,” suggests Carson McComas, CEO of FuelMade. “That’s what you should be asking customers for. Skin concerns, pregnancy stages, shoe sizes, exercise goals—you get the idea. Get personal with customers.”

5. Build an email list

Email marketing is alive and well because it’s where your brand gets attention after getting permission. Your email list is one of your marketing team’s most valuable assets because you own it—and no algorithm switch-up can take that away from you.

Encourage people to opt in to your email list with sign-up forms by offering incentives like coupon codes, free shipping, or access to gated content in exchange for email addresses.

6. Tailor emails to each stage of the customer journey

Different stages of the customer journey require different email approaches. Dissecting each stage and defining what types of emails you should send and when will give you a clear picture of the overall email experience.

In a color scheme of salmon and cotton, image visualizes the different stages of the customer journey and where email fits into each one—for example, a welcome series during the subscribe stage, and a review request during the purchase/use product stages.

To go a step further, you can also create different email flows for different segments.

“Once you have systems for collecting data (quizzes, pop-ups with checkboxes, etc.),” says McComas, “focus on creating emails with tailored content based on each type of customer and their unique needs. This includes welcome email flows and email newsletter campaigns with relevant product recommendations, education, and other dynamic content.”

Focus on creating emails with tailored content based on each type of customer and their unique needs.
Carson McComas
CEO, FuelMade

7. Design your emails and determine send frequency

Crafting the perfect email is an art as much as it is a science. Your email design—format, fonts, colors, and text sizes—is how you stand out in an inbox teeming with other emails, so it’s okay to spend a good amount of time on basic email design best practices.

You’ll also need to consider frequency, or how often you send different types of emails. While email marketing automations send based on behavioral triggers, you may send other campaigns and newsletters on a set schedule that varies based on season.

We recommend stress testing frequency by sending weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly, and keeping an eye on unsubscribe rates and other metrics to see whether you’re sending too much. On the other hand, if you’re seeing high engagement rates, you may be able to send more.

In lavender font over an image of a woman working at a laptop with her hair pulled into a bun, text reads, "6 email marketing strategy examples." The Klaviyo flag is in the lower left corner in lavender, and a lavender line dissects the image diagonally over the lower right corner.
6 effective email marketing strategy examples from real-life brands
A strategic breakdown of 6 email campaigns from real brands, complete with tactical execution and results to inspire your campaigns.

8. A/B test email elements one at a time

A/B testing is how you optimize your digital marketing strategy and understand how different audience segments respond to your content. Some basic examples of A/B tests for email include:

  • Testing email subject lines for open rate performance
  • Testing calls to action (CTAs) for click rate performance
  • Testing images and layouts for click rate performance

The golden rule of A/B testing is to test only one element at a time. If you’re testing subject lines, don’t test CTAs at the same time—the double variable will skew your results, and you won’t know what’s responsible for an improvement or drop in performance.

With Klaviyo, you can customize your A/B test parameters by audience percentage and time. This means you can reserve certain portions of your segments for A/B testing and only send to the rest when you know which version performed best.

9. Track and monitor performance so you can make changes

What does it mean to monitor email performance? It means tracking the following key metrics:

  • Click rate
  • Website and landing page visits
  • Conversion rate
  • Revenue per recipient
  • Deliverability rates
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • List growth rate
  • Return on investment (ROI)

Regarding email open rates, keep in mind that Apple’s iOS 15 privacy features, launched in June 2021, allow Apple Mail users to block third parties from tracking email opens. Considering Apple owns 58% of email client market share, that means more than half of your brand’s open rate metrics don’t reflect how many people actually opened your email.

There’s a lot of value to unlock via email. But without an intentional and consistent strategy in place, you’re only accessing maybe 20% of your brand’s potential on this channel.
Carson McComas
CEO, FuelMade

Klaviyo handles this by helping you identify which emails have been opened by Apple iOS users and separate them from the rest, so that you can still extrapolate learnings related to open rates from your data.

Your job here is to see what works and what doesn’t, and make improvements in your email marketing strategy based on those results.

“There’s a lot of value to unlock via email,” says McComas. “But without an intentional and consistent strategy in place, you’re only accessing maybe 20% of your brand’s potential on this channel.”

Email marketing strategy FAQs

Why is an email marketing strategy important?

An effective email marketing strategy is important for creating relevant content that can persuade your audiences to engage with your brand and eventually purchase your products. Your email strategy involves getting to know your audiences so you can segment them properly based on behavioral and lifestyle data—the knowledge of which can not only bring in revenue from email, but also carry over to other marketing channels.

How to develop an email marketing strategy plan?

Develop an email marketing strategy plan by conducting an audit, getting to know your audiences, setting engagement and revenue goals, and spending a fair amount of time on email copy and design that fit your buyer personas and brand. Then, through testing and optimization, you’ll be able to make changes to your strategy based on how your audience segments are responding to your content.

What are email marketing strategy best practices?

Some of the most important email strategy best practices include customer research, audience segmentation, clean copy and design, list hygiene, and A/B testing for continuous optimization.

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Tiffany Regaudie
Tiffany Regaudie
Tiffany is a writer and content consultant who specializes in marketing, health, and the attention economy. Before devoting herself to freelance writing full-time, she led content teams at various startups and nonprofits in Toronto, Canada.