With 2015 just around the corner, now is an excellent time to prepare your email marketing calendar. Creating an email marketing calendar may not be high on your list of priorities right now, but it should be. That’s because it is crucial that you stay top of mind with your target audience!

Without careful planning, however, email marketing can quickly become an unmanageable task. By getting organized now, it will be easier to stay on track, measure your progress and meet your goals in the upcoming year.

Here are five steps you can follow to create your email marketing calendar for 2015:

1. Look back on 2014

The best place to start thinking about 2015 is to benchmark your success against 2014. If you regularly measured your progress, review your analytics, such as the number of click-throughs and open rates. Note what content worked best and the days and times that generated the most click-throughs and opens. If you haven’t measured your performance, try to look back at the year as a whole and evaluate your progress (and put analytics on your to-do list for 2015)!

If you set goals last year, ask yourself if you met them and note what led to your success. If you didn’t meet your goals, make note of where your efforts fell short.

2. Set your goals for 2015

Now that you have a benchmark, it will be easier to set your goals for 2015. If you are new to email marketing, you can start fresh with new goals.

Is your goal to have more clients next year? Is it to increase your number of sales? Is it to grow your contact list? The goals you choose are completely up to you, but don’t set the bar so high that failure is inevitable. Make sure your goals are realistic and strive to surpass them.

3. Decide on frequency

The best approach with regard to frequency is to decide what works and stick with it. If you tested frequency in the past, use what works for you. If you’re not sure what to do, twice a month is a good place to start. You want to stay top of mind, but you also don’t want to annoy your contacts and end up in the trash or, even worse, have them unsubscribe from your mailing list!

Consistency also is important. It’s a great idea to experiment a little with frequency, but once you find the magic number, try your best to stick with it most of the time. Your contacts will appreciate it!

4. Select your dates

Now it’s time to break out your 2015 calendar! Since you now know how frequently you plan to send emails, start penciling in “publish dates” for your email marketing. Try to space emails out as evenly as possible and be sure to consider vacations, holidays, birthdays, extra-busy times or any other special events that might cause you to be distracted from tending to your email marketing.

Once your publish dates are planned, work backward from each date and mark your deadlines so that you know when your content needs to be ready. Give yourself at least two or three days to make sure you have your content in order and your email prepared and tested. If you would rather prepare your content monthly or quarterly, mark your calendar accordingly. Do what works for you!

5. Start prepping your content

Don’t put your calendar away just yet! While you don’t have to have all of your content prepared months in advance, you should have an idea of the content topics that you will need and when you will need them. Start with the obvious: holiday content, seasonal content or content for other special times of the year, and mark those publish dates with the topics you want for that date.

Here are a few examples:

  • If you want to send holiday home decorating tips, find a date in early November and reserve it for that topic.
  • If you want to send tips on keeping your home safe while on vacation, find a date in June or July.
  • If you want to send a special message to your contacts before the spring market, find a date in February and reserve it.

After you’ve taken care of all of the major content topic points to hit during the year, go back and fill in the gaps. If you have a content or topic bank, use that to get ideas. If not, you may want to start gathering a file with content and topic ideas to use and reuse in the future. You don’t have to have all of the content ready to go; half the battle is just knowing what content you will publish when.

Once you complete all five of these steps, you will be well on your way to having a successful year in email marketing in 2015.

And as the year moves along, don’t forget to measure and analyze your progress. If you need to make a change, don’t be afraid to do so. None of your dates or topics is set in stone. If you can change something for the better, go ahead and do it. Analyzing your progress along the way is one of the smartest things you can do!

Nikki Ilchert is an award-winning digital marketer and branding expert. She loves helping Realtors, entrepreneurs and small businesses.

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