“Why is it going to take 3 days to send out this simple email to my prospect list?”
Most campaign managers and specialists have experienced pushback on the amount of time it takes to produce an email campaign at one point or another. Some folks wonder why they can send an email to their coworker in 15 minutes, yet you cannot send out their promotional email to 10,000+ prospects tomorrow.
Regardless of whether it’s a single email, a more in-depth lead nurture, or a complex multi-channel program, one of the first questions clients always ask is, “How long will it take to build out and execute this campaign?”
That’s why I preach the importance of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) — not only to set expectations with the client (both internal and external), but also to establish predictable, repeatable process flows.
For those who don’t fully understand the marketing automation process, an SLA spells out the entire process from start to finish, along with timeframes associated with each step:
This is a sample SLA that I share during new project kickoffs to help set expectations. Let’s take a look at each of these areas in a little more detail:
Basic List Upload (up to 24 hours)
Yes, your list upload can count as part of the campaign build. If your targeted campaign doesn’t reach the right audience, you may as well have never sent it at all. Your list upload can also be its own, separate request (e.g., taking a cleaned-up lead list from an event, uploading it to your marketing automation platform, and syncing it to your CRM platform). After that, you can either save the list for a rainy day or use it for a specific email send.
Campaign Production (up to 2-5 business days)
This part of the process is typically where most of the confusion exists. Depending on the complexity of the campaign, it can take 2-5 business days from the client’s initial request before hitting send. Here’s what happens during that time.
- Initial request review: Once we receive a campaign request, a campaign manager reviews it to make sure we have everything the client wants to include in their campaign and everything we need to get production started (e.g., list, copy, images, hyperlinks, downloadable content assets, form fields, and so on).
- Campaign build: Once we’ve confirmed we have everything we need, a campaign specialist gets started on the build. This can take a few hours or longer, depending on what goes into it and if we have to go back to the client. Obviously, a content- and image-heavy email newsletter filled to the brim with hyperlinks, or a campaign that contains multiple emails, a landing page, and a form, will require more time to put together than a simple, one-off email.
- Internal QA: Almost every campaign manager has experienced an “oh, no” moment early on in their careers (or were scared straight after hearing about someone else’s traumatic email send). That’s why QA is a critical, never-to-be-skipped step in any campaign. We always send a newly built campaign to another team member for review. That fresh pair of eyes may catch something someone else missed. They’ll also do a rendering check to make sure your email will look the same to your recipients as it does to you, regardless of which email platform or device they’re using. Additionally, this step builds in some time for us to provide any recommendations based on our experience managing campaigns for hundreds of other organizations.
- Final client review: Once our own internal QA has been completed, we’ll send everything to the client for final review. The client should always be the last set of eyes before deploying the campaign to ensure everything is just how they want it. As a campaign manager, I’ve made it a rule for my team that no email can go out unless the client has provided final approval. I also ensure each and every one of our clients understands we share responsibility for the success of their campaign, so nothing goes out without their final signoff.
- Deployment: Once my team has final approval from the client, either my team or the client’s will schedule the email based on the decision made during the initial onboarding process.
New Asset Template (up to 9-10 business days)
Templates always require additional time to design, build, test, and approve. An email developer must meet with the client to gather information and discuss the approved layout. Whether it’s a new template for an email, newsletter, landing page, or something else, both form and function take priority. In addition to everything working properly, the new templates must meet brand requirements and pass reviews by multiple stakeholders.
An invaluable tool for the campaign manager
Once I explain the entire process of everything that goes into producing their campaign, project stakeholders typically understand (and appreciate) the level of effort and attention to detail that’s involved in producing a campaign that everyone can be proud of — and also doesn’t require sending out an “Oops email” afterward because of an incorrect date, broken link, or wonky form.
Using an SLA in tandem with a campaign calendar (such as Monday.com, Google Calendar, Asana, and Kapost) is invaluable. I can easily see what campaigns are in the pipeline and work with the client to structure SLAs around upcoming campaigns. It makes it much simpler to not only establish and meet deadlines, but also to work backward from a launch date to determine when an initial campaign request should be submitted in order to stay on schedule. In addition to helping with time management, it helps me — and my colleagues — stay on top of all projects so we know where something is at any given moment in time.
As a marketing campaign manager whose team is responsible for executing flawless client campaigns, an SLA helps orchestrate the entire process. It’s also extremely helpful when it comes to setting client expectations so you can dedicate your focus to the campaigns, instead of providing continual updates and explanations.
Want to see flawless campaign execution in action? We’ve helped hundreds of B2B marketing teams produce and deploy successful campaigns. Learn more about our Campaign Execution Services and let us share with you how we can help your team do the same.
Cara Ferguson is a Campaign Manager within our Demand Gen Group. She is passionate about helping our clients develop successful campaign strategies and ensuring flawless execution. Her extensive background in marketing automation, email marketing development, and content creation makes her an invaluable asset on our Campaign Execution Services Team.