Every shop that connects with its customers via email (which should be every shop!) needs an email marketing calendar. It’s a critical component of planning and executing your entire email marketing strategy.

In its basic form, an email marketing calendar is a schedule of what you’ll send to your subscribers and when. It’s a framework for telling your brand story, connecting with your customers, and pushing sales. It maps your big ideas and turns them into actionable steps.

Unfortunately, a lot of businesses neglect to plan their email marketing. They miss critical opportunities because they don’t think in advance. As a result of skipping this vital planning step, they end up weak, ineffective emails and struggle to adequately prepare, design, test, optimize, and measure their campaigns.

To get maximum ROI on your eCommerce email marketing, you first have to map out your campaigns in a calendar. Click To Tweet

Your email marketing calendar can be as simple as this:

Email marketing calendar

Whether simple or detailed, though, having a calendar of any kind will help you develop more effective email marketing campaigns.

Free download: Sample month of an email marketing calendar

Planning ahead produces better work

Email marketing calendars let you see into the future and get a bird’s eye view of all your campaigns at once. Getting this overview of everything you’re sending (or planning to send) means you’ll have more opportunities to produce better work.

For example, let’s say you’re launching a new product, so you’re crafting an announcement email. You’d love to include some testimonials from people who already use the product (perhaps you gave away some samples), but you don’t have them yet.

If you don’t think about the announcement email until the day before you intend to send it, you won’t have time to collect testimonials. But if you plan the email a month in advance, you would have plenty of time to reach out to a few people.

It doesn’t even half to be a full month. Just one day’s notice has a meaningful impact on your work.

You may find it helpful to map your email marketing calendar together with your other marketing efforts. A high-level view that includes your social media, blog content, paid ads, and other marketing activities on the same calendar is a great way to evaluate everything together and make sure it all works in conjunction. If your marketing efforts are multichannel, a unified calendar allows you to see at a glance how your efforts on different channels interact with one another and make sure you’re getting appropriate coverage across the board,

You may find it helpful to map your email marketing campaigns together with your other marketing efforts and create a unified calendar. Click To Tweet

Here’s an example of an integrated marketing calendar:

Email marketing calendar

Here are a few more benefits you gain by planning and working ahead:

  • More time to proofread and check emails for errors.
  • More time to share the email with other people in your organization to get their feedback.
  • More time to consider unique angles, find good imagery, and craft the best copy.
  • You can make sure there’s enough variety in your content (you promote different things and reach different customer segments)
  • Gain an understanding of how your campaigns interact with each other (so you’re not over-messaging to one specific channel or sending conflicting emails).
  • More time to create alternate versions of your emails to test for effectiveness.
  • More time to really look at your email marketing data and draw insights.

But if you wait until the last minute, you rob yourself of those advantages. Instead of creating awesome content, you end up with something that’s probably adequate, but might actually be messy and detrimental.

Consider this: how is the user experience if you have two campaigns, announcing two different products, scheduled to go out on the same day? With a calendar, you’ll notice that these two campaigns might compete with each other and create noise that makes them less effective. Without a calendar, you may let them go out together and create ill-will with your customers who are now annoyed that you’re sending to them twice on the same day.

The benefits of time don’t just apply to yourself, either…

A calendar keeps your team informed

You probably don’t work in a vacuum. Like a lot of email marketers, there are other people in your organization who need to be kept in the loop.

Even if you’re the top of the marketing team and you don’t need anyone’s buy-in to make decisions, you may still have people below you who require your direction, like designers, copywriters, or data analysts.

An email marketing calendar ensures your team understands what’s expected of them and when they’re supposed to deliver. Click To Tweet

For instance, if you need a special product photo for an upcoming campaign, your photographer will need to know at least a few days in advance. If you don’t give them enough notice, they may not have enough time to provide the photo. This could diminish the effectiveness of that campaign. But if you give your photographer months of notice, there’s plenty of time get images ready for you when you need them.

Besides, no one likes working in last minute panic mode. High-pressure environments crush productivity, especially if the stress is pervasive all the time. Give your team a clear view of what’s coming up so they can organize themselves and protect their sanity.

It seems counterintuitive, but scheduling creates flexibility

Just because you schedule your email marketing content on a calendar doesn’t mean you can’t be nimble. If a new opportunity arises that you really want to exploit right away, a calendar lets you push less timely content another day.

For instance, let’s say you sell pet toys and a video of a dog doing something silly goes viral. That might be something you want to capitalize on before the internet’s attention drifts elsewhere. If you’re working ahead, you can afford to spend a day on the viral video email without jeopardizing the rest of your plan.

If you use a tool like Google Calendar, moving email campaigns and action items around is easy. Here’s an integrated calendar that manages several marketing tasks. If something new comes up, you simply drag and drop things into your new order.

Email marketing calendar

Seasons and special dates can sneak up on you

You probably have a few dates or times throughout the year that are important to your business. Even if you don’t celebrate every holiday, there are at least a few you’d like to address, especially the big end-of-the-year holiday season. And, of course, every industry has some type of season.

It may seem silly, but those important points throughout the year can catch you off guard if you don’t plan ahead. You don’t want to be rushing to put something together at the last minute (because you feel like you have to do something) and then end up sending low quality emails. That costs you money, because they’ll be less effective than they could have been with proper planning, and makes you look bad—which costs you money long term by negatively impacting the trust and loyalty customers have in your business!

An email marketing calendar lets you organize your messaging so it aligns with opportunistic times. It ensures that you send the right promotions at the right times so you get as much value from your email correspondence as possible.

Planning gives you more control over your goals

Your calendar lets you set and track goals regarding your deliverables. If you set a goal of sending three campaigns per month, all you have to do is schedule the campaigns in your calendar.

Your calendar also lets you set and meet goals regarding your results. Like most brands, one of your email marketing goals is probably to increase sales. You can organize your calendar based on the optimal format to reach that goal.

Your email marketing calendar lets you set and meet your revenue goals as well as plan your campaign deliverables. Click To Tweet

For instance, let’s say your customers like flash sales, but not every day. You know you can maximize sales by hosting one flash sale per month. With an email marketing calendar, you can plan emails that not only space out your flash sales optimally, but you can also use other email campaigns to slightly hype your flash sale products beforehand.

Without an email marketing calendar, you wouldn’t have that kind of control to reach your goals.

Quick note: An email marketing calendar doesn’t replace drip campaigns or autoresponders

Your email marketing calendar is a place to plan one-off campaigns. These campaigns might include multiple emails, but they’re generally purpose-driven. For instance, you’ll probably send a few Black Friday or Cyber Monday emails this year, but you won’t use the same emails for the next year, when different items are on sale.

It’s still extremely important to create automatically delivered campaigns, like a welcome series, a cart abandonment series, and other types of lifecycle emails. Naturally, you also need transactional emails like order receipts, shipping notifications, etc.

Fortunately, these types of campaigns run automatically all the time. Once they’re set up, they shouldn’t represent a lot of your email marketing work (except, of course, for the occasional tweak), so they wouldn’t appear on your email marketing calendar.

Ready to design your own email marketing calendar? Use this sample for inspiration!

The key takeaway

When things get busy, email marketing is often one of the first things to get pushed aside. “We can always send tomorrow” is an easy mentality to adopt. Before you know it, you’re closing out the month with half the emails you intended to send.

An email marketing calendar is an important tool to develop, organize, and execute your email marketing strategy. It helps you coordinate your team, create the best content, and objectively analyze your results.

An email marketing calendar is an important tool to develop, organize, and execute your email marketing strategy. Click To Tweet

Your email marketing calendar doesn’t have to be elaborate, but you should definitely have one. Without it, your email marketing program won’t be as effective as it could.

About the Author Max Rice

Max is our co-founder and CEO at Jilt. He focuses on ensuring our app and integration plugins are top-notch while also working with merchants to get the most out of Jilt.

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