Last month, my emfluence colleagues and I co-hosted a meetup for email marketers with pals from Litmus, Barkley, InTouch and DEG. One of the biggest issues facing our email peers is how the process of email marketing strategy and creation needs to change. I haven’t been able to stop thinking around that since, and last week, at #emflConf (the annual emfluence Marketing Platform User Conference), I drafted a little something new.

At the meetup, we agreed that many of us marketers suffer from a “backwards” production process. When email is a “tack on” to a campaign, you can end up with strategy and design for email that just recycled postcard design, magazine ad or worse. If the first time the email specialist sees the design is when it’s done, you’re likely to have a few best practices missing. Here’s what it looks like in a lot of teams now:

Current Email Process

Even if you don’t have a project manager or the designer and the coder are the same person, this process is flawed. Cue rounds of edits.

Email marketers should be a part of strategy conversations from the word go, so the campaign can take advantage of those things that make email drive ROI: direct, targeted, trackable, personalizable marketing. Bring in design elements that are “uniquely email” into the creative brief for the email design, like segmentation, versioning and variable content.

What if the process looked more like this?
New Email Process b

The first step is a meeting of the minds — collaboration and education between the strategist, the data keeper, the designer, the coder and the project manager. The more often you do this together, the shorter the meetings can be, as your project manager or designer starts to understand how to build effective email.

Then comes focus. The project manager and the designer/coder can execute something excellent based on team vision. Voila: the new age of email.

Now, I know I’m missing things here… I hope that this is a good start, but Ben, Susannah, Justine, Brian and Jason (my fellow panelists) should all weigh in! How can we take the email marketing process to the next level?


  1. This continues to be a struggle for our client teams that are trying to stay lean. They think they are keeping costs down by only bringing in folks ‘as needed’ – but only realize later (in final costs, hassles AND product quality) that not having the RIGHT folks up is even more costly. Ideally the data strategist (helping define who will receive the message and does this email have an actual goal that is measurable?) is involved before the brief is even conceived; and then that collaboration is the team’s review of the brief.

    The other thing that needs to be factored in is enough time. Email IS much faster than many other channels, but we still have to allow enough time for the teams to do their jobs. Assuming that we can just use existing assets from another channel/medium, doesn’t mean we can slap something together in a day or two and have it be any kind of quality. The process and consideration for strategy and creative for email needs to be the same as it would be for ANY channel. While the nature of email dev (as opposed to traditional production) means we can be nimble and fast – our speed is entirely based on how well we do in the brief and design phases. Once changes to design are being made while in development, all of our speed and nimbleness gets passed out a window.

    Living this every day, Jess. Keep preaching!

    1. A great point about the efficacy (and speed) of email still needing the intentional process just like any marketing medium! Thanks for being part of the panel and a go-to email marketing pal, Susannah!

  2. The whole machine hums when all the parts are connected! Change a part without assuring it fits with the rest, and the entire engine falls apart. Integration, man. That’s the ONLY way to get the most of an email, and these pictures illustrate the perfect flow. Thanks, Champ!

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