Before the Send: Your 4-Step Email Checklist

Updated: May 18, 2020

Email marketing is an incredibly effective way to reach and build your customer base. In fact, according to HubSpot, email is 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter (combined!) in acquiring customers. Before you dive in headfirst and start shooting off emails, take a moment to ensure your messages are optimized to reach your audience, compel them to action, and build their trust in your business. Here are 4 steps to run through before the send.

  1. Know the value.

  2. Check your copy.

  3. Check your CTA.

  4. Ensure you're compliant.

1. Know the value. You should tackle this question before you even start drafting your first email copy. What’s in it for your recipient? Sure, your goal may be a click-through to your landing page, but what value will your recipient receive by opening your email? It’s easy to become so focused on hitting metrics that you forget the most important factor of all: your customer. Ask yourself the following:

  • Is my email going to educate my customer? It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone on your email subscriber list is ready to purchase whatever it is your business sells. A critical job of effective email marketing is nurturing your subscribers, guiding them with relevant information until they are ready to buy. Let’s say, for example, you hand-knit scarves. Not everyone who signs up for your emails will be ready to purchase a scarf, but you can use your email marketing to educate them about the scarf-making process, various ways to wear a scarf, how to care for one, behind-the-scenes photos, even customer features. Nurturing people with guidance and information builds trust in your business and, when those people are ready to make a purchase, they will be far more likely to turn to you.

  • Is my email offering something new? Keeping your email subscribers up-to-date on what’s happening with your business is a great way to keep them engaged, and certainly a valid reason to craft an email. If you are carrying a new product line or have switched up your seasonal menu, email marketing is a great way to talk about it. Ditto if you’re offering a new service or enhanced features of an existing one. You can easily build a call-to-action around a new product or service too, but the value of the email should be in the new information you’re providing.

  • Is my email self-serving? The answer to this one should be a resounding “no”. Yes, of course you want your emails to generate awareness (at the least), but building an email for the singular purpose of driving your business objectives will, eventually, erode your subscribers’ trust in you. Once that trust is gone, your emails will go unopened and, potentially, your unsubscribes will grow. Nurturing your customers and potential customers, educating them, and providing them with valuable and relevant information will drive your business objectives, and will do so without sacrificing your trustworthiness.

2. Check your copy. When it comes to your email copy, what you say and how you say it is critically important. Sometimes you may want to err on the side of over-informing your readers but heavy email copy is, more often than not, a turnoff. Too little info can cause frustration. Neither of those scenarios builds trust or engagement. When it comes to email copy, look at two factors: the language you’re using and how the email is designed.

  • Is the language consistent with my brand voice? If your brand typically speaks in a very light, conversational tone, your email should not be written in an overly technical, crisp voice. Brand voice is a very real factor in establishing trust. You want your recipients to know who’ll they be hearing when they open the email. Confirm that your email copy is clear and to-the-point. Fluff words may feel good, but they distract from the intent of your message and clutter the screen. Naturally, you should make every effort to confirm there are no grammatical or spelling errors. Most importantly, be very certain that your email language is not in any way misleading. If you have even the slightest doubt that something may be misconstrued, spend the time reworking your copy. Those extra few minutes far outweigh the implications of devious marketing tactics.

  • How is my email designed? Visually, how does your email look? One of the simplest email designs is the inverted pyramid. With this design in mind, you can craft the entire body of your email to lead to your CTA. You catch your reader’s attention with a compelling header, provide additional information and build interest with your email copy, then present the CTA as the logical conclusion. Review your email design to make sure the flow is logical, seamless and clean. Too many icons, insets or images create distraction, and distracted eyes are not engaged eyes.

inverted pyramid
The inverted pyramid is a basic and effective email design.

3. Check your CTA. When was the last time “click here” really compelled you to click? Have fun with your CTAs, get creative, and experiment. If you’re using an email marketing platform like HubSpot or MailChimp, check to see if your plan includes A/B testing. If so, test different CTA button copy. If you don’t have access to A/B testing, track your CTAs. Which one brought the most traffic to your landing page? Which one was a bust? As you test and create, keep in mind that your CTA should be logical. If your email is announcing a product launch, your CTA shouldn’t read, “Get Your Free Bunny!”

Hudson Valley retailer Hamilton & Adams has mastered the art of the creative CTA. Take a look at the image below. The CTA copy is not only creative, it is the perfectly logical summation of the preceding website copy. The reader is brought into the moment with compelling language and is guided to the next step, picking their own favorite, seamlessly.

If your CTA copy has read “Click Here” or “Learn More” for the last dozen emails, go ahead and switch it up.

4. Finally, ensure you’re compliant. Legislation like CAN-SPAM and regulations like GDPR outline certain specifications that legitimate email marketing campaigns must adhere to. Be sure that every one of your emails is compliant before you send them out. The FTC outlines CAN-SPAM guidance on their site, and there’s good information about GDPR here.

These four checkpoints will help you build a solid email that will inform, engage and move your subscribers. As you continue to create campaigns, you will find email marketing to be one of the most powerful tools at your disposal, and one you don’t have to create on your own.