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An email marketing campaign has a number of similar characteristics to a military campaign: both coordinate a large number of independent elements in order to achieve a common objective. And in both, the goal of victory is only achieved by not doing harm to innocent bystanders. In order to illustrate a number of email marketing best practices, in this article we will discuss planning and executing your email marketing campaigns using military terms. First, we will define the overall strategy and tactics, and then we will apply these to a couple of real-world scenarios.

Standard Strategy and Tactics
Most email marketing campaigns can be divided into 4 different phases: shaping the battlefield, deploying your forces, clean-up operations, and your declaration of victory.

  1. Shaping The Battlefield
    In marketing terms, this means setting up the mindset for the campaign. Create the proper context before your actual offers begin, and you can dramatically improve your overall results. This could take the form of teaser announcements. This is also the phase where you do your test mailings to determine the most effective approach for when you deploy the main waves of your campaign.

  2. Deploying Your Forces
    Deploying your forces means sending the actual waves of your main campaign. How many waves or flights will depend on the size and composition of your target recipient group, and the complexity of your planned campaign. Typically, you will need to send more than one mailing to the same target group in order to achieve your optimal response. This can mean sending several variations of the message, or telling a “story” sent over the course of several messages.

  3. Clean-up Operations (if needed)
    Clean-up operations are last minute “it’s not too late” reminder emails, or immediate follow-up emails. They help pick up stragglers who meant to respond, but forgot to, or as a reminder to those who have already responded. Different types of reminders may be required, depending on the nature of your campaign. For those who responded to the original offer, thank them for their participation. For those who did not respond, tell them what they missed. This is a great opportunity to offer something designed to appeal to those who failed to take action during the pre-event campaign.

  4. Declare Victory
    After the event or the promotion is over, tell everyone how fantastic it was in your next newsletter or general promotion. The purpose is to leverage whatever the original purpose of the communication into a final contact related to the campaign, reinforcing the idea that the recipient has either been a part of, or missed out on, something special. This helps create anticipated demand for the next similar promotion that is done in the future.

Campaign For A Seminar Or Event
Shaping the battlefield for a multiple city event could consist of the following: first, a general mailing sent to the national list that the “seminar is coming soon to a city near you”. Before the main deployment, you could be testing variations on subject line and content for a “pre-mailing” of the actual seminar invitation to a sample group from one city.

The main deployment of the campaign will consist of two waves: the first wave will say, “The seminar is coming to your city. Sign up and reserve your space”, and the second wave will say “It’s not too late! You can still attend the seminar in your city”. Both the first and second waves will be segmented into sub-waves sent to each city individually.

Clean-up operations will consist of sending an email reminder to everyone who had registered the day before the event in their city. Also, the complete PowerPoint presentation from the seminar will be offered to everyone who registered for the seminar, but did not actually attend. Lastly, the next month’s newsletter will declare victory with a sample of happy quotes from attendees.

Campaign For A Sales Promotion
Shaping the battlefield for a sales promotion could consist of the following: sending out a general information announcement that “according to Widget Magazine the x widget outperforms a y widget by 10 to 1”.

The main deployment of the campaign will consist of three waves: wave one will let the recipient know that the “you can pre-order your x widget”, wave two will inform the recipient “the x widget is now shipping, and we have them in stock”, and wave three will inform the recipient “get your x widget before they are backordered again”. Before wave two is sent, all recipients who purchased an “x widget” are removed from the list. Likewise between waves two and three. It goes without saying that anyone who opts-out is removed immediately, of course.

Clean-up operations will consist of welcome emails sent to anyone who purchases within 10 days of their order. These welcome emails will invite recipients to join the “x widget fan club”.

Finally, the campaign will declare victory by informing everyone that “not only are we the best source for x widgets, but we founded the x widget fan club”.

Planning and executing your email marketing campaign doesn’t have to be a battle. However, in order to get the best results, you will have to have an effective strategy, and coordinate many different elements. Winning the day in this case means building your bottom line, without doing any “collateral damage” to your brand identity. Careful attention to detail, and adherence to ethical best practices, and you may actually find your messages are welcomed.

This Web Marketing article was written by Ron Evans on 2/14/2005