Each year around this time, I make a plan for the coming year.

I cross off goals that I accomplished in the previous year and circle the ones I didn’t. 

Sometimes the circled goals make it back onto the coming year’s list for a second attempt.

Other times I just accept the fact that I’m never going to quit eating sugar, so instead I bite the head off my last snowman cookie with a mixed sense of defiance and defeat.

Let’s face it: most people have a hard time sticking to a plan.

Research shows that only a small percent of people feel they are successful in achieving their New Year’s Resolutions.  

And when it comes to putting in the time needed to create an email marketing plan for your business or organization, it’s all too easy to get sidetracked by pressing day-to-day responsibilities. But don’t waste that valuable email address list you’ve worked to build over time.

Here are some of the reasons small business and nonprofit email marketing plans fail:

  • You don’t take the time to create an email marketing plan in the first place.
  • Creating a year-long email marketing plan seems too time-consuming and complex, so you start the process and then give up part-way through forgetting how impactful it could be for your business and your customer retention.
  • You create a full plan, but then abandon it after a few months when your overall marketing strategy or business priorities change.

Sound familiar?

Then allow me to show you how to get started creating your own email marketing plan.

Limit yourself to 15 minutes

As with most things, the anticipation of getting started is more daunting than the actual task of starting to bring shape to your email marketing strategy. Take control of your tendency to procrastinate by limiting the time you’ll commit to your marketing plan to 15 minutes at a time.

Download this simple email marketing calendar template in our email marketing guide and take 15 minutes to jot down dates and events that are important for your business or organization (and potential customers) throughout the year.

Do you have an annual fundraiser? Do you participate in a community sidewalk sale each year? Whatever it is, write down the major events that you’ll be involved in during the year ahead so you can use them across all of your content marketing initiatives.

Here’s an example of what your strategic plan might look like:


Once you fill in these initial dates, take a break. Come back to your plan when you’re fresh and have another 15 minutes to spare.

Aim for consistency

While you’ll likely have times in the year when you’re busier than others, your goal should be to communicate with your audience on a regular basis.  

If you’re noticing gaps in certain months when you have less going on, select standard and non-traditional holidays that you can incorporate into your email marketing plan to ensure you’re consistently reaching your subscribers. These can be great ways to engage both your email newsletter subscribers and your social media followers.

You don’t have to hash out the details here. You can tackle that as those months approach.

To achieve even better consistency and set up a plan you will stick to, use Constant Contact’s marketing calendar. This will help ensure you get the most out of our email marketing services.

Write your plan down

Research proves that you’re more likely to reach a goal if you write it down.

Whether you use an online calendar or have a calendar hanging up by your desk, take the time to plot out when you’ll send emails during individual months.

Tip: If need a calendar to work with, you can download and print our free Online Marketing Calendar in our email marketing guide.

Now, use your email marketing planning template to begin filling out your calendar. Starting with the event or sale date you want to promote, work backward from there to plan out your marketing campaigns. Planning ahead can boost the conversion rate of your sales!

For example:

  • Send your Last Chance email 1-2 days before your event/sale.
  • Send your Reminder email a week before the event/sale.
  • Send your Announcement email two weeks before the event/sale.  

Here’s what your calendar might look like if you’re running a Valentine’s Day Sale at your store:

Updated feb calendar

Again, don’t try to do this all in one sitting unless you can spare the time.  

Just take 15 minutes at a time to fill out as many months as you can. The idea here is to break up the planning of all your email campaigns so it’s less daunting.

Focus on what matters most – sales/donations

As we move deeper into the year, it’s likely that your plans will change. Don’t let these changes derail the marketing plan you’ve laid out.

Once you’ve created your plan in full, take a fresh look and make sure all your campaigns are aligning with your major business goals.

Whether you’re looking to drive sales, increase donations, or boost event registration, consider your bottom line! Make sure you are feeding these goals when you reach out to your email list because boosting click-through rates from your target audience is a great way to hit your goals.

Create an email marketing plan you can stand (and stick to)

So there you have it — an easy-to-follow formula that will help you create an email marketing plan that you can actually stick to this year.

Make this year the year you finally make a plan instead of winging it and hoping for the best. Take control of your email marketing efforts so your business or nonprofit can succeed this year and every year after as this becomes part of your New Year’s tradition.