4 Tips for Building your 2022 Email Marketing Strategy

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As we speed toward the end of the year (seriously, it’s almost Thanksgiving - how did that happen so fast?), email marketers are focused on two key projects.

1 - Ensuring those all-important holiday season campaigns all go out without a hitch.

2 - Finalizing your 2022 email marketing strategies.

While some companies probably put together their initial 2022 marketing strategies in the last few months, others are just getting into the planning stage. Whether you have your plans largely lined up or are still working on the outline for your strategy, I wanted to share a few tips that should help you put together more effective email marketing plans for the new year. 

 

1. Look Back at your 2021 Program

Just about any annual marketing plan (in any channel) should start with a look back at your program from the previous year. So, unless you’re brand new to the email channel, start by evaluating your campaign performance from 2021. What worked and what didn’t? What did you learn from your testing programs?

It’s a good practice to start by assessing what parts of your previous email program should transition to the new year or what areas are in need of a change. You will likely want to look beyond the previous year as well, to identify possible trends in campaign performance that you should prepare for in 2022.

As you look at your past results, particularly those from 2020-2021, it’s also vital to put them into context. Prior to the pandemic, year-over-year changes in email campaign performance may have been a bit more predictable, or at least not overly volatile. But that all changed in early 2020. We saw largely unprecedented shifts in consumer behavior, as quite literally every person’s daily activities were impacted like none of us have ever experienced before.

So, as you evaluate your campaign performance from the past 2 years, it’s important to consider the environment your recipients were living in and how that has also shifted and will continue to shift as we move into 2022. If you saw significant swings in performance over the last ~20 months, take the situation into consideration as you use these results to forecast how campaigns may perform in 2022.

Once you’ve gone through the process of evaluating what should move forward from your 2021 email program, you should have a solid foundation to kick off your 2022 plan.

However, some marketers look at what worked in the previous year, plug that into their new year’s plan and call it a day. That was never an effective long-term strategy to maintain a successful and high-performing email marketing program, even in pre-pandemic times. Considering the changing world that we all live in today, you need to do more than simply focus on what worked last year.

2. Prepare for What’s Next

While your campaign planning process should start with a look back, the next step is to look forward. One lesson we have learned from the pandemic is that predicting the future is challenging at best and impossible at worst. However, the fact that it is hard to predict simply means you need to spend that much more time considering what may be on the horizon.

Start with what is fairly predictable in 2022. Even with the evolving pandemic as a wild card, there are a number of developments we can expect in 2022 that will impact your email marketing campaigns.

  • The coming end of third-party cookie data
  • Changes in email tracking technology (like Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature)
  • Developing data privacy legislation

Each of these is a well-established change that is either coming soon or has already begun to impact the email marketing industry. You should already be looking at ways to adapt to each of these identified challenges. For example, if many of your campaign optimization programs have been based on using open rates as a KPI, you should be evaluating how to use more accurate metrics to drive your performance enhancements in 2022. It’s also a good time to look at your audience segmentation and targeting initiatives and identify if any will be impacted by diminishing third-party cookie data or even the ability to gather personal data that may change under evolving data privacy laws.

After you consider the identifiable changes coming in 2022, it’s time to consider some of the unknowns. There likely won’t be definitive answers here, but it’s a valuable exercise to consider how you might adjust your email marketing programs if the pandemic worsened or (hopefully) becomes considerably less of an issue. You should also begin thinking about what a new ‘normal’ may look like in 2022 and beyond. It’s likely safe to say that everyone who switched to working from home is not going to return to a traditional office setting, even if the pandemic disappeared tomorrow. So, having a significant percentage of the working population using home offices or simply working remotely is here to stay.

3. Adopt a Growth Mindset

With the future being so hard to predict, it might be a natural reaction for marketers to want to take a very conservative approach to planning. However, I would suggest taking a more positive and proactive approach. Successful marketers tend to be an optimistic group, who always believe there are ways to optimize and grow their campaign performance. This growth mindset is an integral part of many companies’ success. So, while the many unpredictable and challenging elements presented by 2022 may seem daunting, email marketers should approach the new year with real optimism, which should be reflected in your marketing plan.

Many of those challenges around data privacy and third-party cookie data are likely to impact other marketing channels more significantly than email marketing. Email marketers already start off with arguably the best piece of personally identifiable information, the email address. While channels like display rely on cookie data to drive a great deal of their audience targeting, the email address remains the most stable and accurate piece of targeting data available. Similarly, while other channels grapple with how to adapt to significant regulation (in some cases for the first time), email marketers have nearly 20 years of experience working effectively under laws like the CAN-SPAM Act.

As companies adapt their overall marketing strategies to accommodate all these changes, we can expect many of them to double down in the email channel. As it becomes harder to effectively target audiences across channels like social or display, smart marketing organizations will be looking toward email marketing as an already highly effective channel that can be optimized and grown even more.

After 40+ years, email marketing not only isn’t ‘dying’ it is likely to be rejuvenated as companies look for ways to become even more creative in the channel. So, amidst all the challenges, it’s an exciting time for email marketers and your plan should reflect this growth mindset. 

4. Include a Dynamic Testing Plan

One last area that I think needs special attention in 2022 is testing. Successful email marketers love testing. It’s a deeply ingrained practice and the foundation of optimization programs. So, you no doubt have a robust testing plan incorporated into your email marketing strategy already. However, with all the challenges and opportunities that 2022 will bring (as mentioned above), having an extremely dynamic testing plan in place is likely to provide a great return on investment next year. 

Start off with the more typical testing elements that you would include in your email marketing plan (subject lines, CTAs, etc.) but then look for ways to define additional tests that capitalize on some of the things we can expect to see in 2022. Be prepared to test heavily against other channels or test combinations of multi-channel campaigns. Identify ways to adapt your email targeting and audience segmentation in ways that can replace or complement what has been done successfully in other channels.

Take these 4 elements into account when planning your 2022 email marketing strategy and you should be in a position to thrive in the year ahead.

brett jordan cBY2CtqQ6YI unsplash 600Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

 

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