Content calendars are an essential marketing tool for any business. They help you establish a plan for engaging your subscribers over time and identify any gaps along the way. Content calendars can come in many shapes and sizes, but, for this guide, we’re going to focus on creating an email marketing content calendar. We’ll cover:
- Where do I start developing my content calendar?
- What type of content should I send to my subscribers?
- How often should I send to my subscribers?
- What tools can I use to manage my content calendar?
- Who, exactly, should I send to?
Content calendars are at the core of any organized email marketing strategy because they inform what emails you’re going to send, to whom, and when. It’s impossible to run a successful email marketing ad-hoc, without a clear vision of how and when you will communicate with your audience.
Where to Start
Your email marketing content calendar shouldn’t be created in a vacuum. It’s crucial to take into account key dates that impact your broader organization -- for example, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Mother’s Day, a new product launch date, and so on.
Use these dates as milestones and then work backward. If you know you’re going to send every day between Black Friday and Cyber Monday because you’re going to be having a blowout sale, think about when you want to start introducing this concept to your subscribers. Do you want to notify them day-of? Probably not.
Building hype is a great way to drive engagement, so consider reminding subscribers periodically for up to a month in advance. By the time Black Friday actually rolls around, you’ll be top of mind. Your goal should be to get subscribers so excited about the promotion you’re running that they’ll flock to your site once it's actually in motion.
You may be wondering how far out to plan your content calendar. This will vary from business to business and depends in large part on how far in advance you plan your other company initiatives. A good rule of thumb is to plan your content calendar a month in advance or quarterly. You can also plan it 6 months or so in advance if you have a clear idea of what you’re going to need, but be cautious of planning too far in advance. Delays can stack up quickly and derail a content calendar that looks too far ahead.
There are a few different tools that you can use to plan your content calendar. Here at Klaviyo, we use Trello, but you and your team may prefer a different service:
Everyone works differently, so if you don’t already use a project management tool that allows you to visualize your initiatives on a calendar, be sure to explore the options above to find what you like best. Below is an example of how you can use Trello (with the Calendar Powerup) to plan your content calendar.
Using labels, you can differentiate between the types of content you’re sending. In the description, you can even add a link to the email in Klaviyo so that you can easily access it. Adding a due date for when the campaign is slated to go out will allow you to visualize the emails on a calendar.
In Klaviyo, you can schedule campaigns in advance. Once you’re ready to flesh out the content of your email, build it in Klaviyo and schedule it for the appropriate time.
What Content to Send
Need help designing emails? We've got you covered. Check out our Email Design Guide.
Once you mark specific dates on your calendar, it becomes much clearer what type of content you should send. For the most part, the events you’ll want to mark fall into a few buckets:
- Sales (seasonal, holiday, etc.)
- Product launches
- In-person events
- Company announcements
- Blog posts (if you have a blog)
Aim to generate excitement and anticipation among your subscribers with all of these events. As you mark these dates on the calendar, this will also allow you to identify any gaps. Do you have weeks at a time where you don’t have any emails planned? If so, consider what you could send your customers during this time, but don’t just send emails for the sake of it.
Instead, come up with a goal that you want to achieve. For example, during the summer months, you may not have many email marketing promotions planned apart from Memorial Day and the 4th of July. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have anything else valuable to send to your subscribers, though. You may want to curate some of your best seasonal products in a lookbook, and then send this to customers. Let’s say you sell dresses. Summer is a popular season for many people to take vacations, so you may want to put together a lookbook of dresses that would be great to bring on vacation.
Opportunities like this exist throughout the year and can allow you to bridge any gaps in your content strategy. Emails that fall into this camp are sometimes referred to as regular “newsletter emails” and should be sent periodically to your core subscriber base, which we’ll define in the next section.
Need inspiration? Below are some examples of the types of emails you can send to your subscribers.
Who to Send to
The groups that you send to will vary depending on the occasion. For example:
- If you’re launching a new product, you might want to use segmentation to target anyone who has expressed interest in similar products in the past.
- If you’re having a large sale, you may want to target people who bought around the same time last year or who have recently expressed interest in your products by opening your emails or browsing your site, but haven’t made a purchase.
- If you’re having an in-person event, you may want to reach out to people within a 20-mile radius and invite them to attend.
Segments make it possible to hone in on different groups quickly and intelligently; you can slice and dice your audience in virtually any way you can imagine. For specific events, we have a number of holiday strategy guides that you can check out to get an idea of how you may want to build and send to these event-specific segments.
But who should your core subscribers be? Who should you send to most regularly?
Typically, this is considered your newsletter list, but you may want to get more granular than this. To ensure that your emails are delivered to the inbox (not the spam folder) and your subscribers don’t suffer from email fatigue, it’s important to use segments to build an engaged subset of your main list.
60-Day Engaged Main List
Your 60-day engaged main list will include people who are on your newsletter list and were recently added or have recently engaged with your emails. This "60 days" will vary from business to business, and you may adjust this as makes sense for you.
If you are only sending newsletter campaigns once a week, you can make this number larger. Keep in mind how many emails someone can receive and not open before falling out of this segment. If you're sending daily to a 60-day engaged segment, this means someone can receive 60 consecutive emails and not open any of them before falling out of this segment.
Use your open rates as a barometer and adjust the segment conditions accordingly. If you're seeing open rates above 20%, you can expand the engagement criteria. If you're seeing open rates below 10%, you should tighten the engagement criteria. Learn more about creating an engaged main segment.
When to Send
Deciding on a sending cadence can be difficult and will vary greatly from business to business. Each audience is unique, and different groups can be more or less receptive to different sending cadences. To find what works best for you, we recommend testing. There are two components of deciding when to send:
- What day(s) of the week
- What time of day
What Day of the Week to Send
Determining which day of the week to send should depend on how often you’re planning on sending per week. You can test which days are best for your audience by splitting your engaged segment into equal parts, sending on each day of the week, and comparing open rates.
First, determine which days you’d like to test. Depending on the size of your engaged segment, you may have enough contacts to test every day of the week. Be sure that, equally divided among the days, you will have at least 100 contacts. To keep things simple, let’s say you’d like to test every day of the week and have 7000 people total in your engaged segment.
Next, export your engaged segment as a CSV file.
In Excel or another tool of your choice, divide the file into equal parts. In this case, you’ll divide your segment into seven separate files, each with 1000 contacts. Make sure that these contacts are randomized and not grouped in any particular way; this ensures that you isolate the day of the week as the one variable you’re testing.
Once you have seven new, separate CSV files, you can upload these to Klaviyo as new lists. Name each list according to which day of the week you’re going to send to them to keep things organized.
It’s important to note that new subscribers will not be included in this test, as they won’t fall into any particular list. This test must be run using static lists, rather than dynamic segments, which means that the contacts in your test groups won’t change. For this reason, you may only want to run this test for a couple of weeks.
To make sure that new subscribers don’t miss out on receiving any emails, you can create a segment of people who were added to your main newsletter list after the date that you divided your engaged segment into seven parts.
After you have run this test, evaluate your engagement rates (open, click, and Placed Order) to determine if one particular day of the week performs better than another.
What Time of Day to Send
Once you’ve determined which day of the week you’d like to send, you can start testing sending at different times of day. Please note that you should only test send time on emails that are not time-sensitive. You may want to ensure, for example, that a prominent sale email reaches all your recipients at the same time so that they all have an equal opportunity to buy. This type of email would not be eligible for a send time test.
However, you can test non-time-sensitive emails using Klaviyo’s built-in Smart Send Time feature. Smart Send Time works by first doing an exploratory send. An exploratory send must be sent to more than 12,000 people.
After your initial exploratory send, Klaviyo will find an optimal send time that has the highest engagement. During the second phase, Klaviyo will continue to validate the time determined from the results of the exploratory send and refine customer behavior changes. During a focused send, one email will send at the optimal send time and two emails will send at in a two-hour window from the optimal send time -- all emails will also send in the recipient's local time
Learn more about Smart Send Time.
Supplement Your Newsletter Emails
Once you’ve defined the dates you’re going to send newsletter campaigns to your subscribers and what you’re going to send them, you may start to think about how you can nurture contacts at different stages in the customer lifecycle. What about people who fall out of your 60-day engaged main segment?
There are a number of ways you can re-engage these contacts using flows. Flows are a great way to nurture contacts at different stages of their lifecycles and, because they are trigger-based, typically have much higher engagement than campaign emails. This, in turn, means they have a lesser impact on your email deliverability and don’t present the same risk that emailing unengaged subscribers does. The following are some flows we recommend in order to nurture your subscribers, which are all available in the Flow Library:
- First purchase anniversary
- Post-purchase followup
- Customer thank you
- Product review / cross sell
- Customer winback
- Repeat purchaser nurture series
- Post-purchase bounce back
- Happy birthday email
Grow Your Email List
While it can be tempting to try to squeeze the most out of your existing contacts, the best way to ensure that your main segment doesn’t get stale is by generating a consistent stream of new subscribers. New subscribers are typically the most engaged from an email standpoint. It can be expensive to attract new leads, but there are a number of ways that you can use Klaviyo to minimize this cost.
- Signup Forms -- Klaviyo provides built-in signup forms that you can customize, target, and analyze for no extra cost.
- Facebook and Instagram Ads -- use Klaviyo’s Facebook Advertising integration to sync targeted segments to Custom Audiences and create lookalike audiences based on your best customers. Then, nurture new Facebook Lead Ad signups using flows.
- Research additional ad platforms -- there may be a number of other advertising platforms that work well for your business. For example, you may find that you’re able to generate a lot of new leads using YouTube ads. In order to figure out what works for you, it’s best to test and iterate on different channels.
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