10 things you need to commission creative email marketing work

So, you want to commission an email campaign? You’ve got a lot of elements to set up, and part of the process will be getting a template designed and built.

This can often be a difficult part of the process because while you know your audience, you know your product / service, and you know your tone of voice, getting this into a usable form can be tricky.

To make this task a little easier, below is a quick checklist, written by a designer, consisting of what you need to have ready and decided on when you start the process. I’m writing this to apply to Email Template creation – but it can be applied across the board. An alternative to commissioning an email campaign externally is to use marketing software and go at it yourself, the checklist would still be the same.

1: Who is the email template for?

This one is a big question. It’s not just who are the recipients; it’s what tone of voice you take with them. It comes with big questions like when and how will they be reading the email, what will they be reading it on, and what are they going to do with the information? Will they want to share it with friends? Will they want to buy whatever it is straight away?

2: What do you want to achieve with this piece?

Another deceptively simple question, but don’t just think in terms of primary objectives. A great example is the sale of concert tickets. Objective one: sell concert tickets, but what about objective two? How’s your social media presence? How do you plan to increase your reach? Perhaps integrating email and social sharing and building your network should be prominent, and then what about other services you offer? Partner sites? Blogs?

3: Content

If you’re already sending emails and this is part of an email design refresh – give examples. If this is your first email campaign, write a couple of rough drafts. Don’t worry about your spelling, punctuation and grammar, we just want to know how much text and images will be used, the number of articles, stories, links etc.

Give Examples
If you don’t have existing examples or know exactly what you want, give us examples of a relevant nature that you are keen on. For example, if you work for a large financial service company, it’s best not to send us examples of the latest snowboarding magazine’s email. Instead, make it a relevant competitor in a similar sector; this will give us a much better starting point.

Provide us with any assets you want at the start, this doesn’t just include pictures, it also includes links. There’s every chance there will be static links in your template – usually in the header/footer, social media etc. If we have these at the start it will save you time later and help us get everything in place and tested.

4: Who will be in charge of using the template?

If you’re in a larger organisation chances are you’ll have a marketing department who will be in charge of putting the content into the template. If you’re a smaller organisation, it might be the case that you have a designer who does it, or you might be doing it yourself. It’s worth thinking about the user and their capabilities, skills and time.

Skills needed to send the emailings
Do you have someone who is HTML skilled, happy to delve into the code and duplicate sections, change background colours etc? Does your team have Photoshop or some other comparable image editing software, or will it all be done through a simple web interface like a visual editor by someone with very basic skills? This makes a big difference to the kind of template you will need and is therefore vitally important information.

5. Who will be managing the project

Have you ever heard the phrase “too many cooks spoil the broth”? When there are too many people involved in something, each with their own ideas and opinions, things can get very complicated very quickly.

This also applies to design. The easiest solution to this problem is assigning a single person as the main contact for the designer. This person then collates what it is that you want to achieve, along with the rest of the team’s ideas; communicating them to the designer without any other involvement. This really helps make the brief clear, enables the designer to know who to contact with regards to any questions, and filters out the noise. Ultimately, this will enable the designer to give you a much clearer and focused finished product.

6. Branding

You’ve invested a lot of time and effort in your brand, and your website. It’s vital for your communications to be easily recognisable and consistent, so tell us as much about your brand as possible, give us example stationery, if you have a brand bible – we need it.

The absolute minimum we need a high-res copy of your logo, a list of the fonts you use and colour values, and a link to your current web presence so we can take cues from it.
Also- If you’re undergoing a rebrand and your new look won’t match your current branding- Tell Us! and supply us with the latest materials, even if they’re not yet live.

7. Know what you want, but be open to new ideas and suggestions

When it comes to design, we do this all day, every day, and while you know your brand best, when it comes down to aesthetics, usability and best practice, we can always bring something useful to the table. You’re hiring experts, so expect expert advice.

8. Give good feedback & amends

When you get the first drafts of the design, you’ll probably have some ideas/questions – this is fine as it helps us to reach our goal of creating something that you’re happy with.

Bear in mind, it’s easier to make changes at the design stage than the build stage, so ensure everyone who needs to have input sees it. Collect all your ideas/requests into one coherent list, give us a call and we can talk you through the changes, clarify any points, explain our thinking if there’s any bits you’re not sure about. We will then we come back with the amended version that is as close as possible to your ideal template.

9. Realistic Time Frames

Be sure to leave enough time for a couple of rounds of amends and for everyone involved to think about the template and give their opinion. Templates happen in three parts, design, amends, and build. We always endeavour to turn work around as quickly as possible and that process is helped by receiving timely feedback, and having realistic expectations of the time the process will take.

10. Signing Off

The sign off process has a finality to it, a finality that sets into action a process of building, testing, installing.. a veritable flurry of activity.
so excuse me if this seems obvious, but I really can’t stress this enough.

● If you’re not happy with something, then don’t sign it off until you are happy with it.
● Make sure if the marketing manager, content editor, copywriter, secretary, postman – anyone who has a say in the final outcome has had their chance to contribute before you sign off.

The reason being that once you sign off a design, we start building it, and once it’s built, it’s a lot harder to add in new features, move stuff about; all this will lengthen the process.

So always remember that creative is hugely important to your campaign- after all the technical work and planning is done, this is your email shop-front, the part your end users will be seeing and interacting with, so it has to look right to them, and be fit for purpose for you. As with anything, a little forward planning, asking the right questions, and being open to good advice will set you on the right path to getting the email campaign your brand needs.

Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson is a Digital Designer Grown in Cornwall and exported to Brighton. With a background in Fashion & Charity, he loves all aspects of Art & Design, but focuses his efforts on digital. Operates on a strict diet of heavy metal and good books.