Three stages to developing an email marketing strategy

Developing a good email marketing strategy can be a daunting task. To help you get some perspective, here are 3 key stages to keep you on track.

Develop a customer centric communications strategy.

I know this can be a bit of an overused statement, but to make the email channel work in the modern environment of priority inboxes’ etc it is vital. Focusing on the needs and motivations of the customer as they would relate to your brand is a great place to start. If you are going to be talking to the customer and expect them to engage, purchase or become loyal as a response, you’ve got to say the right things. This can’t be done at a campaign tactical level, when the heats on to get more sales to hit target; it needs to be part of an overriding communications strategy. This strategy will set out more than just how many promotional emails need to be sent to achieve revenue objectives. To develop this email communication strategy, these are some of the key elements.

  • Understand how your customers perceive the brand and its products or services.
  • Research the motivations and needs that engagement with your brand satisfies.
  • Research the strengths that define your brand equity.
  • Define your customer lifecycle and set business rules to identify where each customer sits.

Focus the strategy on increasing LifetTime Value

Once you have got a clear idea of your customer and the stages the customer goes through in their engagement with you (from discovery to defection), you can start to plan. One key objective of any email communications strategy should be to increase revenue by increasing customer lifetime value. Now, don’t think this is purely a retention statement, it equally counts for acquisition too.


If you’re going to be focusing on lifetime value, it will have an impact on which sources you target for acquisition. Customers coming from sources that provide a low lifetime value customer should be avoided, or the price you pay for acquiring the prospect should reflect their future value. In the case of an email address, they are not all worth the same, so the first task would be to identify sources of prospect email addresses that will provide good future customer value. A good place to start is to look at any results you have from past activity, and look at the overall sales achieved over time, from those customers.  The problem with email is that it is a cheap marketing medium that can be abused with little (apparent) cost implication. Good email prospect data, costs far more than poor quality prospect data, but can be far cheaper in the long term, as it produces good long term results.


Without the understanding of the customer (and you’ll only get this from the research suggested above) you won’t be able to sell to the customer what they want, how they want it. You’ll only be able to sell your product or service how you perceive it. Customer knowledge also allows you to tailor communications for each stage of the customer lifecycle. This will make your communications more relevant, more effective and more likely to meet business objectives. The strategy should be one that makes every marketing communication be seen as a positive experience by the customer, not a negative “interference” experience.   Ensure you do this by following these key rules:

  • Define the commercial objectives for each stage of the customer lifecycle.
  • Develop a customer communication plan that reflects the customer research and meets business objectives.
  • Ensure research and testing is part of the strategy, to promote future development.


Make it part of a multi touch, multi channel strategy

In a connected world, where people are hooked onto the grid in multiple ways, touch points come via multiple channels. Just to take one example of a device, the smartphone can deliver a marketing message via email, web, social and SMS simultaneously. Studies have been suggesting recently that someone is likely to be watching the telly or walking round a store while access their phone, so the potential for cross media confusion abounds. Add this to multimedia spamming potential, and it makes integrated marketing communications essential for each channel’s success. Email has an important role to play in future direct marketing, with its unique strengths, it can only be effective as part of an overall cross channel strategy. Complimenting other channel activity, email often drives an uplift on other channels as well.

Taking a strategic approach to the email channel can bring lots more opportunity to the party, ultimately allowing customer knowledge to drive content, timing and targeting; nudging that little bit closer to true one to one marketing.

  • mailermailer

    Nice article Tim! I would also add that part of the over-arching email marketing strategy is identifying the types of content your target audience actually wants to receive. If you’ve done all the hard work in understanding your audience and figuring out who to target, it’s important to follow through with that and give them information that they can use in the email.

  • Tim Roe


    Thanks, the research you conduct would certainly inform
    multiple elements of your eventual program. Content, frequency, timing, all
    need to be defined and would fit within the overall objectives of your strategy.

  • email archiving

    Great post, but there is always that extra step that we alone need to take. It’s easier with tips like these.

  • Stevent

    This has helped me more than any book. Very good post ! Keep up the good work !

  • Jonathan Saipe

    Nice post. I always hark back to Seth Godin’s golden words: anticipation, relevance and personalisation – spelt with a z of course :) 

  • Stephanie Fischbach

    Thanks for posting, Tim. I love your customer centric points . With the social media and emphasis on conversational relationships, actually listening to your customers and providing them with what they need or want is so important.