How to Create an Effective Email Marketing Plan

Marketing & Business

Email marketing is an integral part of your online marketing plan, which allows you to leverage the accessibility of email to deliver important memos, inspiration, updates, offers, special promotions, educational material, messages, entertainment, and more to recipients who have opted into receiving such communications.

Are you developing a robust, growing contact database? Are you staying connected with the contacts you already have? If you aren’t certain where your retreat center stands on these two important marketing questions, you may need some assistance with email marketing.

Email marketing doesn’t get a lot of attention these days, and some have gone so far as to even say that “email is dead.” This may be due to the fact that folks have acquired a sour taste for email spam; statistics show, and savvy Internet marketers know, however, that email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to nurture leads and retain the customers that you already have.

If done correctly, your email recipients will welcome your messages and you’ll find that email marketing is a productive addition to your overall marketing plan; I promise.

To help get you on the road to a successful email marketing strategy, I’ve put together a 10 step plan that’s easy to follow.

10 Steps to successful email marketing

  1. Select an email marketing service provider

When asked which email marketing provider a client should use, I typically prefer to start with an evaluation of their situation. Do they already have a huge contact database? What about a sales team? How are their leads currently gathered, and how are they nurtured?

Larger businesses with big sales teams, and those selling digital information products, may want to consider something more robust like Salesforce or Infusionsoft, which come with automated marketing tools and enable businesses to set up multifaceted lead nurture and sales funnels.

For retreat centers and teachers, I recommend an affordable, simple tool like Aweber. I like Aweber because it provides a good, easy platform for email marketing, without the complexities, or learning curve, of a comprehensive Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool.

Here’s all you need:

  • Easy social media and website integration
  • Contact forms for auto responders
  • Drip campaigns
  • Email blasts
  • Reporting
  1. Clean Up Your Existing Database

If you’re the proud owner of a substantial database, congratulations! That means you’re way ahead of the game. Don’t make the mistake of disregarding these valuable contacts. Take some time to clean up the database by updating existing information with a tool such as Data Connect or StrikeIron.

  1. Get your lists organized

Segmentation is one of the most often overlooked aspects of organizing an email marketing list. Good segmentation will help you increase your click through rates (CTRs) and response. You can segment your list by lead source, location, gender, past retreat attendees, interest, or any other segment you feel is relevant.  You’ll send specific messages to each segment of your list, thus increasing the efficacy of your campaigns.

  1. Build your list

There are a number of ways to get folks to opt in to your email list. Here are a few creative ways to avoid spamming, and email the people who actually want to hear from you.

  • Place a signup form with a call to action (CTA) on each relevant page of your website. I like to use what I call an “ethical bribe” to encourage opt-ins. An e-book or pdf download, access to a webinar or video, or admission to a members only are; the possibilities are endless and easy to implement.
  • Do the same for your social media pages
  • Add an opt-in form to your inquiry pages
  • Don’t forget to include an opt-in link to booking confirmations, client surveys, and review requests. A retreat booking software is an excellent tool for collecting emails from your audience.
  • Use a check-in application for retreat attendees that includes an opt-in for communications. I really like Birdeye; it’s actually a review tool, but you can customize your review requests so you easily can use it to “feed two birds with one scone.”


  1. Create a purposeful campaign

Target each message so that you can create design and copy that will speak directly to each list segment in your database.

To inspire you, here are some common campaign objectives that you may consider:

  • Qualify a lead beyond the information initially submitted
  • Promote a specific retreat
  • Generate repeat business from existing customers
  • Drive traffic to a new page or article on your website
  1. Go easy on the design

Keep it simple:

  • An 80/20 ratio of text to imagery is recommended
  • Use a few images, but don’t go overboard
  • Include a call to action, but present it as both a text links and a simple graphic
  • Use design elements to get recipients to focus on the most important parts of the copy

Here is an example of a layout template that I’ve found to be effective for all kinds of email messages. Note how the headlines, copy and calls to action offset aesthetic elements like images.


  1. Invest in compelling, well written copy

The importance of investing time and money into good copy can’t be overstated. If you are not a strong writer, hit up or any number of other freelancer sites and find someone who is qualified to handle your copy for you. If you are actually pretty good with pen and paper, do your homework first. Check out some of your favorite industry blogs and get a feel for how it’s done. In addition to that, there are a number of sites out there that can dial you in to the ins and outs of copywriting.

  1. Focus on the subject line

Perhaps even more important than good copy is your email subject line. After all, if you can’t get your recipient past that, you’re finished before you started. Take the following best practices and run with them:

  • Stay away from spammy triggers such as “guarantee”, “free”, “call now”, “urgent” and “order now”
  • Keep it short and sweet at under 70 characters
  • Make it notable, amusing, intriguing, and/ or actionable
  • Write at least 10 subject lines for each email, then narrow it down until you get a perfect open trigger
  1. Setup Tracking

The ability to evaluate the effectiveness of each email campaign will prove essential to maximizing your return on investment (ROI). You can track metrics of your campaigns through your analytics tools like Google Analytics and the reports that are generated by your email service provider. You’ll want to look at the following information:

  • Deliverability (Did your emails get through?)
  • Open rate (Were they opened?)
  • Click through rate (Did your recipients click on the links?)
  • Conversion rate (Did you get a lead or sale?)
  1. Test and polish

Every business is different and thus there is no one-formula-fits-all for email marketing. Your best bet is to implement best practices for design, copy, subject lines and segmentation, then test, tweak and test again. Some core elements that should always be tested and refined are:

  • Subject lines
  • Style, tone and context of copy
  • Font sizes, colors and formatting
  • CTAs

VasiliLynette Garet is a copywriter, editor, and content marketer with more than 20 years of experience in digital and traditional marketing, SEO and web development. Lynette has been living and working globally since 1996. She currently divides her time between Costa Rica and San Clemente, California. You can find out more about Lynette by visiting her website at or catch up with her on LinkedIn.

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