Email marketing is complex, and with over 300,000 potential renderings for an email, there’s no shortage of factors that can impact how your emails will actually look once they’ve hit your subscriber’s inbox.

So: what should email marketers have on their pre-send email checklists?

In this blog post, we dive into the what and whys of email campaign checklists, the six phases to sending the perfect email, and 29 of the most common (and critical) checkpoints—all in one place.

Read on to learn:

What is an email checklist?

An email checklist is a list of items to review before hitting send, used as a reminder and aid to help reduce errors.

The purpose of an email campaign checklist is simple: to help marketers avoid common mistakes. An effective checklist contains a list of crucial components to check. They cover—and consider—the most essential parts of an email.

Why you should check your emails before you send them

Have you ever opened an email to find that …

  •  A link isn’t working?
  •  Images aren’t loading?
  •  Personalization is wrong? 

These email mistakes are just skimming the surface of all the potential mishaps that can happen. With email client updates happening an average of every 1.2 days, there are a lot of factors that can impact your email displaying exactly as you had planned.

Broken emails lead to a poor subscriber experience; they have the potential to damage your brand and significantly drive down the performance of your emails. That’s why it’s important to find a way to get ahead of them. By taking the time to review your email campaigns against a checklist, you’ll reduce the risk of common errors and mistakes.

Let’s take a look at the six phases to review before deploying your email marketing campaigns.

Phase #1: Planning and strategy

First thing’s first: long before your email goes into production you need to define your goals and audience. This includes determining:

  • What is the goal of your campaign?
  • How will you measure success?
  • What is your audience/segment?

Let’s dive into each of these.

Determine the goal of your campaign

Step one is—and should always be—to determine the goal of your campaign. At the start of your planning phase, ask: what is the goal? Is it to educate your audience, encourage sign ups, or winback your subscribers

Some ideas include:

  • Education
  • Sign ups
  • Referrals
  • Purchases
  • Registrations
  • Customer re-engagement

Determine how you’ll measure your success

Next, determine how you’ll measure success—aka, your KPIs. For example:

  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Deliverability rate or inbox placement rate
  • Subscriber lifetime value (LTV)
  • Return on investment (ROI)
  • Email list size or growth rate
  • Conversion rate (CVR)
  • Email read rate/read time
  • Spam complaint rate
  • Revenue per email (RPE)
  • Revenue per subscriber (RPS)
  • Churn rate
  • Subscriber acquisition cost
  • Email production time

💡 If you’ve determined your KPI to be open rate, you should consider the impacts of Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) inflating opens on Apple devices for those who’ve opted in. Our Email Analytics Survival Guide covers all the alternate KPIs you can use to measure success, aside from the open rates.

Segment your audience to maximize results

Then, you’ll need to specify your target audience. These can be based on prospects vs. customers, geolocation, engagement activity, etc. Ensure all suppression or exclusion email lists have been applied.

Phase #2: Craft your content

After you’ve determined your plan and email strategy, you’ll need to create the content of your email. This next phase requires you to think about email copy, email design, and email development—and what the scope of work looks like. Consider:

  • Personalization. How will you be delivering content relevant to your subscribers?
  • Your calls-to-action (CTAs). Are they strong and compelling?
  • Your subject line, sender name, and preview text. Do they work together to encourage subscribers to open?

Here’s a tip from Jaina Mistry, Litmus’ Director of Email Marketing:

“Your subject line, sender name, and preview text all work hand-in-hand. Think of your preview text as an extension to your subject line. Craft subject lines and preview text that work together and make sense when read together. And avoid repeating your sender name in your subject line or preview text.”

—Jaina Mistry, Director of Email Marketing at Litmus


Phase #3: Enhance your inbox view

Your inbox view is what subscribers see from your brand or business in their inbox. It will look a little something like this:

And includes your:

It’s one of the first things your subscribers see, so you’ll want to make a good impression. Here are some specific things to check:

  • Use a recognizable and consistent “from” name and address. 
  • Verify that your reply-to address is friendly and active (i.e., not [email protected]).
  • Optimize your preview text: Use our preview text hack in cases where copy is too long or short.

Phase #4: Optimize your email design

Well-designed emails are essential for engaging your audience and driving results. Consider double-checking these points to ensure your emails are beautiful, actionable—and optimized.

  • Check that your email renders correctly across mobile, desktop, and webmail environments. 
  • Make sure your plain-text version is visually attractive and has working links.
  • Use retina images to ensure images load and are not blurry. 
  • Test dynamic content and personalization—and ensure you have fallbacks in place.
  • Confirm that no images are broken and ALT text is in place.
  • Test in Dark Mode to make sure your colors aren’t inverted.
  • Confirm merge tags work as intended and have fallbacks.
  • Check your load time: try to keep under two or three seconds.
  • Ensure your email file size is less than 102KB (the size at which Gmail will clip your email).
  • Ensure your email is accessible to screen readers and those with visual impairments. 

Phase #5: Prepare your insights

In order to analyze your insights, you’ll need to make sure they’re set up properly, and that you’ve confirmed the following:

  • Check your links to ensure they’re working and being tracked appropriately (e.g. UTM parameters, if applicable)
  • Add an analytics code to your campaign and ensure it’s activated.

Phase #6: Email deliverability

Email deliverability is all about getting your email into your subscriber’s inbox (and not spam). Here are some checkpoints to consider:

  • Verify your subscribers have explicit opt-in.
  • Follow all applicable spam laws for the countries where your subscribers reside (this varies by country and region).
  • Include company contact information, including a physical mailing address, to avoid spam filters. 
  • Check for spelling and grammar errors.
  • Include a working unsubscribe link.
  • Get a reputation check of your IP addresses and domain names.
  • Run a Spam Filter Test to ensure email authentication records are in place.

Dive deeper into email deliverability in our Ultimate Guide to Email Deliverability. →

Download Litmus’ Email Marketing Checklist! 

There’s more to deploying an email than hitting send. A lot needs to happen before hitting “send” and as detail oriented you may be, mistakes happen.

Having a pre-send checklist on hand is your key to reducing errors and mistakes—and ultimately, creating a memorable subscriber experience.

Want all of these checkpoints in one place? Download your free checklist today.


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