Why You Need Content Calendars For Your Video Email Marketing

I interviewed Luke Glasner, Co-Principal at RedPill Email, an email marketing vendor providing analysis, strategy, and optimization services in email, search and social media. Luke was one of the featured speakers for the recent webinar hosted by the Email Experience Council: “Video Email: When, Why, and How.” In this post, Luke shares with us his experience in planning calendars and integrating specialized content production around video in email marketing.

Making the case for video in email marketing

“Despite the headwinds facing email, it remains a top source of audience and revenue for most businesses. Mobile and social may get all the press, but email still brings home the bacon.  Who wouldn’t want to combine the persuasive power of video with the reach and reliability of permission email?” said Justin Foster, Co-Founder/VP Market Development of video commerce solutions provider Liveclicker, a former professional in the e-mail marketing industry for 7 years.  Liveclicker recently authored the 2011 Video Email Marketing Guide, and is the creator of a unique video in email automation solution called Video Email Express.

Here are some additional reasons from other expert resources for using video in email marketing:

  • Increased market interest. According to an August 2011 Forrester Research survey: 50% of interactive marketers believed that marketing’s effectiveness will increase with online video over the next 3 years; while 43% said it would with E-mail marketing.
  • Increased clicks. According to David Daniels, former VP and Principal Analyst for Forrester Research, “Video in email can increase click-through rates as much as 2x-3x.” According to a video email case study by Holland America Lines, in-email video produced a 2x higher CTR versus a static image, and 2x higher CTR than their average campaign.”
  • Improved mail client penetration. While full video in email with audio is not yet available on popular email client browsers like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, the EEC reported that the email clients supporting video in email has now jumped to a 37% share of the email market with web email client adopters including Hotmail and MacMail.  It is also already widely accessible on the iPhone and iPad, and iTouch. (As a backup, animated GIFs without audio are readily available for all popular webmail clients today.)

Why do any special internal planning with video in email campaigns?

“Internal planning is a component absent from many video email strategies,” says Justin Foster of Liveclicker, and one of Luke’s fellow EEC Webinar presenters. He and Luke argued any email marketing campaigns involving video content today should have specific planning and content strategies that align with the medium of video, and not just a cookie-cutter approach.

Luke recommended that anyone serious about using video with email should do what professional publishers have been doing for a long time: Create content calendars.

“I learned a lot about these calendars working in print publishing, where you are often working against an editorial calendar (editorial calendar, content calendar, they’re the same thing). It’s definitely an undervalued tool, and as marketing becomes more integrated, the calendar’s importance will increase.” he said.

Benefits of using a content calendar for video in email campaigns

A content calendar is a good way to have a structure for organizing yourself with producing and publishing online content. It is meant to serve as a guide to plan, organize, and maintain your digital content; with a timetable for you and others in your team to coordinate around and follow.

A good content calendar should cover a schedule of all the following:

  • Who will you be reaching?
  • When will your content will be published?
  • Who will be responsible for creating and publishing the content?
  • Where and how the content will be distributed?

As Luke mentioned, content calendars are also referred to as “editorial calendars” by professional publishers. They can easily be created in any spreadsheet or calendar program, which are both suitable for a content/team schedule and timeline, featuring one or more calendars.

Luke shared are a number of benefits to setting up and using content calendars with video in email marketing:

  • They keep your content consistent and relevant. “They keep the team on same page across channels, by showing what the major upcoming marketing initiatives are,” said Luke.
  • They help you identify new content opportunities. “They stop the blank-screen syndrome – where you don’t know what topic to present, whether it is written or video. With video in email, you have new opportunities to create content, such as: Customer testimonials at trade shows, on-location events, how-to’s, even meetings with co-workers!”
  • They ensure that you meet deadlines.
  • They help you better collaborate with others. “Video is a cross-channel medium,” says Luke. “Basically, they allow different groups to work more collaboratively across marketing channels such as email, website, YouTube, mobile, etc., and they help explore synergies across departments.”
  • They help you measure performance – i.e., they help you measure frequency and effectiveness of your marketing communications by matching time points of a campaign with conversion activities happening both online and offline.
  • They prevent unnecessary repetition. They make sure you don’t overlap or repeat yourself with the same content more than you would care to.
  • They provide reminders of video content availability. “The calendar would notify all the departments when the video assets will be available both for video email and other video campaigns,” says Luke. “This allows email marketers to be aware of and leverage additional content from other channels for use in their email campaigns.  Using these assets in multiple channels, and sparingly, also helps to convey a more unified brand message overall.”
  • They help you be realistic with timetables. “The calendar also helps to prepare for the longer lead times necessary for a video email campaign,” says Luke. “For example: if the company is new to video and they are planning some holiday video emails, perhaps for Black Friday or a holiday video email card, then they will want to start preparing for creative production in August/September.  This ensures that there is adequate time to prepare for the campaign, especially when there may be multiple videos for different email segments. If you’re a retailer, you may want subscribers identified by gender to get different videos for different email creatives.  If you have multiple brands, you might want a different video for each brand. Plus if there’s only one person on the team then it may require quite a bit of prep time.”

“Mainly, the calendar keeps your teams in sync for timing and on the message,” said Luke. “It forces departments/teams/workers to communicate with each other, and allows a method of management for multichannel initiatives that make the most of creative assets. So it is useful to all levels of marketing – from the front line to CMO.”

What to plan for in your content calendars for video in email marketing

Luke says that a good content calendar program should actually have two calendar types: a master calendar where you can see everything at a glance, and separate calendars for specific activities (including video-specific content). “It also lists the name of each communication, it’s medium/format, purpose, expected launch date for communication, and collateral assets.”

The master calendar

First you start off at the top-level with setting up your master calendar. “At it’s core, it is outline in a table or chart format that shows the content’s specifications – so it would show things like name of communication, purpose, content topic, associated offer, media used, etc,” says Luke. “So in one place, everyone can see the creative assets available and upcoming, along with the main marketing themes for messages (e.g. ‘Holiday Sale’.)”

Below is a screenshot of a master calendar taken from the Content Marketing Institute’s website and article, “How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing.”

The sub calendars

“The sub calendars are meant to be for each channel/media, including online video. Each one also lists similar things as the master calendar –frequency, due/launch dates, etcetera,” added Luke. “So while the main calendar shows you frequency of content publishing across channels, the sub calendars shows you the frequency within one specific channel.”

Having sub calendars also helps the marketer become aware of any unnecessarily repetitive activity. “You can look across your sub calendars and ask yourself, do we really want to announce the same sale with the same copy across four channels so the customer gets the same thing four times? Or, should we instead stagger that or change up content?” Said Luke.

Content Calendar Tips for Video in Email Marketing

  1. Plan your schedule before you start – “With video in email, you definitely need to clearly define your goals up front, because of the additional production work and time that’s likely to be involved. So don’t overhype your expectations,” he says.
  2. Plan for multiple campaigns  – “This will help you better determine which video content is the most effective for the email channel,” he says.
  3. Allow yourself realistic lead times – “A lead time of 2 months for video production and campaign building for a new video with high production value is not unreasonable for a first effort,” said Luke. “If you already have content, plan for an extra 1-3 days in the campaign planning/post-production process for first-time launch. Thereafter, plan an additional 2-4 hours for each campaign involving video.”

Feature images courtesy of  iStockPhoto.com, ©alexi #17115710, ©tatarnikova #1575603.