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March 12, 2019

Using Slickplan to manage email production workflows

Slickplan was conceived for planning websites but works very well for email production too, saving you headaches and time.

When you receive a newsletter in an inbox that is nicely put together you have little appreciation about the amount of work someone has put in to make it happen.

Similarly, managers signing off EDM (email) campaigns often wonder why they take so long to produce. It’s only an email, right?

It may come as a surprise to many but email production isn’t easy. There are many moving parts, a lot of testing involved, deliverability to worry about and you have to be sure you are reaching an audience that has opted in your communication – GDPR-style.

Email production workflow

I’ll cover this in more detail in a separate post; for now bear in mind that email campaigns can be as a simple as a single ‘blast’ to a list or a complex beast spanning multiple communications and channels.

My 10,000ft my process looks like this:

  • Planning – listing every communication, channel and how it all fits together (and the timings for each step).
  • Data Prep – making sure that the right people are being targeted and that accurate information exists for each
  • Production – Setting up the required email templates, landing pages, database fields, link tagging, etc…
  • Testing – internally, at first, and then getting sign off from the client.
  • Pre-flight Check – Aka… the ‘paranoia check’. Checking everything again against the original brief
  • Broadcast – Clicking ‘Send’ and hide under a table
  • Review – looking at the usual email KPIs and the more significant ones related to ROI

I’ve stuck to the above approach for several years now, streamlining the process by modularising as much of it as possible. For example, using mjml for coding custom templates, building out snippets for each content element as build blocks for different layouts. That said, I stick to ActiveCampaign’s email builder as much as possible.

Using Slickplan to manage the email production process

I stumbled across Slickplan when advising a client on PM tools to use for her forthcoming website re-design and figured that I could manage my email workflow.

More specifically:

1. Sitemap Builder

I only use this for more complex projects where I’m building micro-sites that are central to a campaign, so featuring multiple pages. In one occasion it was useful to build a site map and have branches representing multiple variations of the same email (to build out using conditional content).


2. Diagram Maker

I was using LucidChart, which I rate very highly (and still use for a lot of things), and found that Diagram Maker worked just as well to represent the campaign flow. I don’t require a sophisticated tool for drafting these and the minute they look complicated I know that the campaign design needs to be simpler.


3. Content Planner

I use this Slickplan tool for in two ways:

Project Management – This is a bit of a hack but it works for me. Looking at the email production workflow above, I use WordPress pages to share the following: A brief, a plan timeline and a pre-flight check list. For more complex pieces I complement this with Teamwork, and you can read up about how I’ve used Teamwork in the past here.

Content Gathering – the most time consuming step given clients have a tendency to forget about their content development tasks. One of the most useful features is being able to export content as Microsoft Word, as much as I prefer to keep everything online.


4. Design Mockups

Slickplan doesn’t offer a mock up design tool per se, but a way to display and share creative, from the initial low-fi wireframes to the final designs. Clients can leave feedback for each.


Concluding thoughts

Slickplan is a solid too for website design projects and works well for email too. Its main weakness is that it’s not a PM tool. Email production is very granular and deadline-driven, so a simple task management function where tasks can be associated to items across the various tools would help simplify my process even more. That said, Slickplan does integrate with a number of third party PM tools and to be fair, their focus is helping web designers streamline their builds.

A special mention for the Content Planner as it can help you save a ton of time by facilitating, on the client side, the development and review of content.

For more information ahout Sickplan check out their website via this non-affiliated link –

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I've spent half my career building and managing website and the other half marketing them, and have been working in the data-driven marketing space since 2011.