Planning, creating and sending email marketing can be a frustrating experience. The brief gets changed, there are numerous revisions and everyone’s still got an opinion, even when the final version lands in the inbox.

And that’s not mentioning the mistakes, the tiny spelling errors or broken links that slip into the inbox unnoticed despite numerous checks.

In the first of our two-part series on email marketing production we look at the foundations for good practice. Taking time to focus on how you can improve the efficiency of your processes and reduce the number of mistakes by using the right procedures when planning emails.

Agree a purpose

It may sound obvious but make sure the purpose of your email is agreed with the stakeholders before you plan it out. Make sure there’s one clear purpose – not two or three. If the email contains too much content it will confuse recipients and it’s less likely to be relevant. Make sure the message which is the most important stands out above the rest and the call-to-action is clear and obvious. Agree the hierarchy of content or messaging – what are the most important things to be seen first?

Give clear direction

If you’re asking people to check your work, give them clear directions. Be polite but assertive – you’re not asking them for subjective comments or to rewrite the email on a whim, you’re asking them to feedback on essentials only. Ask them to look for typos, bad grammar, broken links and problems rendering in their inbox or on their mobile. Make it clear that you’re not asking them to critique the design or message.

It takes three

It may sound a lot but you should always get your email signed-off by three people before you send it. A fresh pair of eyes will spot mistakes that you can’t see; providing a new angle. Often people rely on two people to proof read, however if there are multiple changes or revisions along the email production process then it’s best to use another person to proof both people’s changes.

Create a wireframe

It can be tempting to skip this part but creating a wireframe instead of jumping straight into design is essential. A wireframe is a document which features the copy, basic layout and elements within a proposed email. It’s something that can be used as a brief and guides the designer. It forces you to think about what you’re going to put in the email, finalise the copy and makes sure it all comes together before the time-consuming design works starts. Wireframes can be spell-checked, in fact it’s far easier to proof an email when you’re not distracted by the design.

Get people to sign

Avoid verbal sign-offs on emails. If you’ve asked someone to check an email, ask them to put their signature to it. People can easily scan a test email but when they’re asked to commit to checking and prove it with a sign-off they’ll be far more likely to check thoroughly. If the person who’s checking isn’t in the office then ask them to send you an email confirming they’ve checked it.

Give 24 hours notice

Always send a ‘preview’ or a test send of your email 24 hours before the real send to your live database. This test send should be sent to a list of trusted colleagues and stakeholders – from directors to customer service representatives. It’s important you give people advance warning of what’s being sent to customers so they know about it if customers get in contact with questions. In 24 hours most people will have had a chance to review and send feedback if needed. Clearly mark the test send as a test in the subject line so people know it’s not yet gone to customers.

So if you’re trying to turn over a new leaf this year then lay down the right foundations, set expectations and involve the right people.

In our next post we’ll be look at the specific elements of your emails that you should be checking before you hit send. How to ensure the links, copy and appearance of your email are right and give the people checking your campaigns a clear structure to follow.