Is everyone telling you that email marketing has one of the highest returns on investment of all digital marketing tools, and yet, you’re still confused about what to send to your list?

Email newsletters, when done strategically, can be one of the best digital tools in your marketing arsenal. However, it requires having an intentional, strategic plan for what content you’ll send.

Don’t make the mistake of opening the email draft and writing what comes to mind. Instead, here’s a step-by-step method to planning your email newsletter content strategy.

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Use a Calendar To Map Content Ideas

When developing a content strategy for your email newsletter, the best place to start is to print a blank calendar that already includes national holidays. These are available all over the internet, or most email clients will offer the option to print your calendar without all of your personal events.

Once you’ve printed the blank calendar, add the following information to the calendar:

Add Relevant Holidays

This visual representation of the holidays will allow you to see on which days of the holidays fall and better plan for how those holidays will impact your business and your communication strategies.

For example, if Christmas falls on a Monday, you’ll know that your customers will require additional communications about your Christmas hours and availability.

Add Promotions, Events, and Industry-Relevant Dates

Are there events you hold every year for your business? A Christmas in July sale? A Valentine’s Day promotional campaign? Add any promotional plans you have for the year, annual events, or industry-relevant dates that might get incorporated into your marketing plan.

Mix in Fun, National Observance Days

Every year, this list of national observance days is published, and it’s a fun way to incorporate relevant, trending information into your digital marketing campaigns.

For example, if you’re a coffee shop and National Coffee Day is on October 1st, this might prompt a special mention in your email newsletter the week before. Or, if you’re in the medical industry and it’s Nurse Appreciation Week, your email newsletter might include a photo of the nurses in your office.

Mix in a few of these fun observation days and add them to the calendar. Later, you’ll use them to develop content ideas for your newsletter.

Evaluate What Works Well in Your Current Marketing

Before planning your email newsletter content, the final step is to evaluate what’s already working well in your current digital marketing communications. Grab a notebook or a blank document and take a few notes:

Which posts tend to perform best on social media? Those with the highest engagement probably represent the type of content your audience wants to see the most.

Next, review your website analytics. Which pages draw the most traffic? Are your customers constantly viewing your inventory pages? Or, are they interested in your new blog posts? Your analytics will tell you the story of their preferences.

You should also incorporate any keyword research into your content strategy. This information will help you uncover your potential audience’s preferences, not just current customers who engage with you online.

A brief WordPress tutorial once a week may be necessary in your email newsletter if, for example, you are a website designer and your top-performing keywords revolve around WordPress tutorials.

Last but not least, consider what you like to find when you open your inbox. Are there newsletters you love to receive and others that you immediately move to the trash? What do those you love have in common?

The emails that have the highest conversion rates evoke an emotion from the reader and compel them to take action. Excellent copywriting, consistent content, and trust are all factors in ensuring your audience opens, reads, and takes action on your emails.

Create a Plan for One Newsletter

If you try to create a plan for a year’s worth of emails, you’ll most likely get overwhelmed and give up. Instead, no matter how frequently you plan to send your newsletter, focus on making a plan for one newsletter first.

With your calendar populated with holidays, planned promotions, and national observance days, and your notepad of ideas from your social media, website, and keyword research, you’re ready to make your first content strategy plan.

  1. Review the calendar and your notes and choose the date you’ll send your first newsletter.
  2. Make a list of five or fewer pieces of potential content the email might include. These should be a combination of the ideas you gathered in the first phase.
  3. For each piece of content, write down the purpose of sending that particular information to your audience and the call-to-action (CTA) associated with it. For example, if you decide to include information about National Coffee Day, you might want to have a CTA to bring the email to your shop for a special promotional deal.
  4. Once you have all five ideas listed with their purpose and CTA, choose the most compelling to include in your following newsletter and move the remaining items to a list for the next issue. Keep your running list of ideas handy so that when an idea comes, you can jot it down quickly.

Develop a System for Consistent Planning

Being inconsistent with your email marketing can be one of the worst mistakes you make. When readers are never sure when they’ll hear from you, they may be surprised to see your message in their inbox and begin to view your messages as spam.

Choose one day every month to repeat your content planning methods for the upcoming newsletter. (If you’re sending more often than monthly, repeat your session as many times as needed).

As you begin to use your content planning methods each month, the list of ideas will grow organically. If the content exceeds what you need each month, consider increasing the frequency of your newsletter or adding a paid subscription option to provide exclusive content.

Test, Analyze, and Measure

For each newsletter you send, take adequate time to test, analyze, and measure the results.

  • Record open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribes and determine if there’s a pattern.
  • Encourage replies and incorporate as much reader in future newsletters feedback as you can.
  • Do A/B Testing on subject lines, email length, design, and content and record the results.


There is no one way to do great content planning for email newsletters. However, the best email marketing results come from those who intentionally plan the emails they send, respect their readers, and adjust the content to meet the needs of their readers.

Remember – if you wouldn’t open it in your own inbox, don’t send it to someone else.

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