How to run a successful email content audit

Scott Burdsall

3 minute read

When COVID’s first wave initially struck in early 2020, many marketing teams were left without a clear crisis response plan. Many needed to develop new messaging plans overnight and created campaigns that might have sounded good at the time, but it quickly became clear that everyone had similar ideas. Even the most comprehensive crisis-management protocols didn’t tend to envision a world of lockdowns and mandatory social guidelines–or the economic, social, political, and cultural upheavals that would follow.

Over the course of 2020, we’ve learned what our brands stand for, what our customers really want from us, and some of the organizational traps that kept us from responding as efficiently and effectively as we could. Now is the time to put that knowledge into action. While we managed to survive the initial storm, the pressures placed on the email marketing teams are set to continue in Q4 2020 and into 2021.

Prepare for the long haul

It’s the perfect time to assess your capabilities to ensure they are ready for the ongoing pressures. Auditing your email program will help you figure out where you’re spending time, money, and human resources most efficiently; where you need to change your processes; what budgeting information to consider; and whether you have a glut or gap of talent to accommodate a higher digital profile.

Within a full program audit lies the content audit. This shows you which messages you need to update, rewrite, or delete. It also can reveal gaps where you are missing a message template or content plan.

How to complete a content audit

Gather up all the email messages you send, including newsletter, promotional, and transactional messages; segmented and targeted emails; triggered sequences; one-off emails; and the like. Then, organize them against your purchase funnel. Once you have a full inventory, you can review and score your messages against these factors:

Goal: What role does this message play in your overall email strategy? Is the message goal evident to your subscribers?

Appearance: How long has it been since you updated the design, and does it reflect current best practices?

Functionality: Do all links work? Does the email function correctly in different viewing environments (desktop, tablet, mobile, smart watch, or an Alexa/Google Home device)?

Accessibility: How well could someone with a physical, visual, or cognitive disability understand and act on your emails? Colors that color-blind people can’t see, low-contrast content, unfocused navigation, and small links instead of large action buttons, for example.

Brand representation: Does it reflect current branding (images, voice, colors, logo, overall look and feel)?

General impressions: Formal considerations aside, do you like what you see when you look at your emails? Do they deliver a consistent look and feel across different message categories and purposes?

Performance/Business impact: Measuring performance can be as simple as reviewing all your email reports if you can gather them in one place, such as your CRM or email dashboard. But even if you have to resort to spreadsheets, you should be able to see patterns emerge to find emails programs that are over- or under-performing based on your goals and budgeting and to judge whether your budget is allocated proportionately.

Things to consider

The amount of time it takes to do a content audit depends on how complex your messaging program is and how you evaluate its success. If your team handles only one aspect of all the email communication your company sends–say, all ecommerce or membership messaging but none of the employee or shareholder newsletters–you can safely limit your focus there.

If you use an outside agency to manage some or all of your email marketing, consider asking your account manager to take on this task. Agencies are often in a better position to do both the analysis and evaluations if they have access to more sophisticated tools for quality and performance analysis.

Agencies that are worth their fees are up-to-date on current and developing standards for measuring quality and benchmarking performance. Plus, they can be detached and unbiased in their assessments.

Feeling stuck? Here is a template that will help you get started. Use the steps above to fill in this template to complete your audit.
Trendline Email Content Audit: Priority Matrix

Spend some time auditing your email program in Q4 so you have improvements ready to be put into action for 2021.

Looking for more ways to enhance your internal capabilities? Check out our newest download Email Marketing in the NormalNow

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About the Author(s)

Scott Burdsall

Scott Burdsall is the Practice Lead, Strategy Consulting at Trendline Interactive, where he focuses on creating messaging and segmentation strategies to drive maximum conversions while maintaining a strong focus on the optimal omni channel user experience. He has 13 years of email marketing and product management experience, creating and maintaining programs for both B2C and B2B audiences and overseeing everything from day-to-day campaign management to platform migrations. Scott graduated from The University of Iowa and lives outside of Chicago, Illinois with his wife and two children. Scott enjoys music, running, and fixing up old bikes in his spare time. Follow Scott on LinkedIn

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