The 6 keys to an effective email brief

Any email effort, to be effective, must begin with an effective email brief. This post explains what makes one effective and why.

The 6 keys to an effective email brief

It should be obvious. Develop a good plan, implement it properly, and manage it carefully. Solid results will come. Unfortunately, far too frequently that logic isn’t recognized until it’s too late.

That’s especially true with an email program - whether it’s a single email or a lengthy series. The absence of an email brief, as a plan is called for this form of communication, is the equivalent of GIGO, or garbage in, garbage out. 

That phrase was coined by an instructor during a programming class given in the 1950’s. He admonished his students for thinking the room-sized computer would provide correct answers to incorrect input. He added, “if you start wrong, you stay wrong.”

If you’re involved in a deadline-driven, strategically important email effort, wrong is the last place you want to be. 

An email brief takes into account all the steps that need to be taken by everyone involved in the project. Plus why those steps should be taken as well as what information is needed so no one makes a misstep. After working with hundreds of marketers who created thousands of emails over the last five years, stensul has determined there are 6 keys to an effective email brief. They are:

  1. Email structure
  2. Introduction and background
  3. Clear campaign objectives
  4. Content crafted for the target
  5. A timeline for all to follow
  6. Include a CTA

In brief, here are the key elements of each.

#1  Email structure

An email structure is an overview of the project. It can be as simple as a Google doc or makes use of a project management software like Asana or Jira to lay everything out. The key is to employ one structure for the brief. That is, have one brief that works for and relates to all project team members. That said, while the brief needs to work for them, it also needs to work for you. Ideally it ought to reflect your style from how you communicate to how you manage processes and people.

#2 Introduction and background

An email brief should begin by answering the key question: what is the goal for this email effort? Let the team you’re working with know why you want them to create some terrific emails.  Make it all clear. Crystal clear. To that end provide background to give team members some needed context.

The more “into” the project you can make the team, the better. Doing so tends to help them stay focused on the job at hand.

#3 Clear Objectives

Whatever your email marketing program might be centered around, there needs to be goals spelled out in your email brief. Those goals have to translate into clear, measurable objectives. When it comes to program measurement, there’s a warehouse full of frameworks. Use what works for you and, to be sure, your team.

However, using a one-off method for measuring success makes it virtually impossible to compare the email initiative you’re looking to create with others that preceded it. That helps no one, especially your team. They’re like most of us wanting to see progress and comparative performance.

It’s also advisable to make certain the goals you establish fit within your company's accepted measurement criteria.

#4  Content crafted for the target

An effective email brief describes the intended targeted audience as fully as possible. Even if previously defined, don’t be complacent. Your objectives may be different from a prior effort. And, let’s recognize that the people within your target audience change. They aren’t static. So keep it totally up-to-date. Further, it frames what the content in the email needs to be and what style of copywriting and graphic design will resonate best with that group.

The brief should include descriptive information about the target audience. Demographics, even psychographics can help your team design in ways that hits your target exactly where and how you want it to. The more texture you can provide, the more likely the email will strike a chord with the subscriber.

When the target audience is clearly identified, the ability to create spot-on marketing and communications strategies soars. It means your design and copywriting tandem can zero in on the points of potential pleasure or pain. 

#5 A timeline for all to follow

Providing a clear project management timeline as a key part of your email brief can improve overall communication and keep your team members and shareholders in the loop. Such a timeline can let team members get involved quickly. And stay moving quickly.

A thorough and realistic timeline can alleviate a lot of stress and recenter a team's focus. Remember, your email brief serves as a guide to help team members navigate through this process. You don’t want anybody to get lost.

To make the entire marketing campaign less overwhelming, breaking the timeline up into segments can help keep team members motivated. It can be used to track and analyze a project's progress at key milestones. Starting off your project with a timeline allows you to periodically make amendments to stay on track. 

This final section of your email brief should include a review of all managerial aspects of the email program. You can conclude your email brief by going over these major details again. It’s a great way to avoid misconceptions.

#6 Include CTA

Creating an email without a call to action (CTA) is a risk few can afford. And that’s why making certain to include a CTA is the 6th key to an effective email brief. After all, creating an email without a CTA is a risk few can afford.

More than that, including a CTA helps to move the target along the customer journey, further down the sales funnel. It lets them know what it is you want them to do. 

Whatever makes sense for the initiative, including a CTA prompts subscribers to take action. Just be sure to include the need for and desired type of CTA in your email brief. Surprisingly, it’s one of those things that does get overlooked.

To learn more about producing an effective email brief that yields an effective email program, download the stensul eBook 6 keys to an effective email brief - How to write the guide to your next successful email marketing campaign.” 

Stensul sloth love on Twitter

Stensul sloth love on Twitter

5 Reality Checks For Every Email Marketer

The Email Creation Maturity Model

Where does your current process fall on the maturity curve? How can you evolve to the next stage?

Download Whitepaper

Go from sloth speed to light speed

Ready to streamline your email creation?