Volume 13

How is Email Marketing like flying a plane?

It's time to send your next email campaign and you are in charge. How do you make sure that you don't forget anything? Use a checklist.

Anyone who has ever seen a Hollywood movie knows that a pilot must work through a checklist before taking off in a plane. I learned on the weekend that military pilots do not have the benefit of a written checklist; they must memorize every step.

If a pilot were to omit an important step from the routine, the results could be disastrous. Likewise, when executing a marketing campaign, forgetting something could mean loss of clients, sales or damage to your reputation.

You are lucky. You can refer to any bit of paper you have handy when planning and sending an email marketing campaign. Here's a checklist to ensure that you cover all of your bases.

The Email Marketing "Pre-Flight" Checklist


No plane may take off without liaising with the control tower and lodging a flight plan. It would be pointless to take off with no idea where you are going.

  • What is your target send date?
  • Will you have staff available on that date to handle responses and enquiries?
  • What are your goals for:
    • Open rate
    • Click-through rate
    • Conversion rate
    • Resulting revenue
  • What did you learn from previous campaigns?
  • Who is your intended audience? Will you send this campaign to all of your subscribers, or will it only be relevant to a small group?
  • What potential dynamic subject lines could you use to encourage the recipient to read the email?

Passenger Preparation

Just as commercial flights wouldn't be operating without passengers, you wouldn't be sending email campaigns if you didn't have subscribers. They are, after all, the reason you are doing all of this.

  • Have new subscribers been added to your list?
  • Have you honored all remove requests?
  • Has any personalization information been added correctly?
  • Have you segmented your list into groups appropriate for your business?

Hitting the Runway

Have you ever sat on a plane and hoped that the mechanics remembered to put everything back in the right place after the last service? Every piece of the plane is vitally important to its operation.

  • Have you included the following components in your message:
    • Personalization
    • Unsubscribe link
    • Your contact details
    • A call to action
    • Send to a friend link
    • Update profile/preferences link
  • Upload any images that you wish to use
  • Preview both the HTML version and the Text version of your message
  • Create any online pages for survey responses or clicks on links.

Proofing / Approval

I have learned that when creating anything of importance it is vital to involve at least one other person for proof-reading and "double checking" purposes.

In my experience, the most common mistakes are:

  • Spelling mistakes
  • Links that don't go anywhere
  • Incorrect personalization
  • Incorrect information about the products or services being offered.

More than once I have had clients call me five minutes after sending thousands of emails containing incorrect information, wanting to recall the messages. Regretfully I must point out that it is too late. Please make sure you complete the following steps before sending ANY campaign:

  • Spell check all body text and subject lines
  • Proof read the text for grammatical and other errors
  • Send a test copy to yourself and click on ALL links
  • Ensure that the information about your products is correct and consistent with any information on your website
  • Send test copies in both HTML and Text formats
  • Try a test copy to a Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail account
  • Fill out any forms or surveys to test response pages

When you have tested and re-tested, you will be ready to schedule your email campaign for delivery. The final items that you must check and double check as you do this are:

  • Delivery date and time
  • "From" email address and name
  • Subject line
  • Intended subscriber list (have you selected the right recipients?)

"Post Flight"

Pilots also have checklists for landing planes. In my mind, landing a plane correctly is just as important as taking off, especially if I'm in it.

I can't stress enough how important it is to take control of the post-distribution process. By monitoring responses and tracking results, you are gathering vital information that you should use to drive the planning of your next marketing campaign.

  • Review bounces and unsubscribes
  • Review open and click rates. Note which links were most popular.
  • Respond to any comments, feedback or replies
  • Review responses to any forms or surveys
  • Compare results to previous campaigns
  • Write down what you have learned from this campaign
  • Outline key strategies for your next campaign

I hope that this analogy has encouraged you to make sure you follow a checklist each and every time that you send an email campaign.