Here are three questions to ask yourself before you send your next campaign.

In my work with marketers, I emphasize strategy over tactics in managing email programs. It’s important to understand the “why” before the “how.”

The “how” question is easy. It’s the tactical aspect of your program. Everybody knows how to pull lists, create segments, put an email together and push the big red “send” button.

“Why” is the bigger, tougher question. Strategy is your “why.” Why are we sending this email? Why does it matter, and what do we want from it?

Strategy is the top layer in your digital campaign’s construction. Tactics are the bottom layer. Between strategy and tactics is another layer you probably don’t think about enough – your brand equity.

Getting a handle on brand equity

You might think it’s an amorphous concept, hard to put your finger on. Not at all. It’s a concrete thought that you must keep in mind whenever you work on brand communications.

Brand equity is what your audiences think of your brand – your customers and prospects plus people who encounter your brand out in the world even without buying. Think of it like your brand’s bank account.

Whenever you send a communication about your brand – an email message, a TV commercial, a contact from your customer service department – you deposit a little amount in your brand equity bank account.

A message that detracts from your audiences’ conception of your brand is like a withdrawal from the brand equity bank account. Mess with their concept too often and you can overdraw your account.

What affects brand equity?

Violations can destroy brand equity. That’s why you have to consider the potential impact on your brand equity when you build an email campaign and choose copy and images.

Some violations won’t harm your brand equity too much. If you mess up a customer’s order, that can cause a ding. Your customer is angry, but if you resolve the problem satisfactorily, your brand equity probably won’t suffer long-term harm.

When Nike put a controversial figure like Colin Kaepernick in TV commercials and ads, that move cost it some brand equity among some customer groups, but clearly not all. Did Nike’s decision destroy the brand? No, because the brand is bigger than one person, choice or commercial.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sometimes go out on a limb. Just understand how it could affect your brand equity. Do you have enough in your brand bank account to cover a major withdrawal?

Email marketers are on the front lines

I don’t mean to add more stress to your job. But, you must know your brand equity, understand its power and how it can be lost or gained.

Why? Because, whether you send hundreds, thousands or millions of emails, when you push that big red button, any mistake you make could dramatically help or hurt your company’s brand equity.

Go to the top to get clarity

If you’re working to define your company’s brand equity, tap into a resource that you might have overlooked: whoever is ultimately responsible for it, such as your CMO or your CEO.

Schedule time to speak with this person and bring in a list of thoughtful questions to guide the discussion or clarify your understanding. Ask for their perception of the brand equity and what you should try to communicate to build it up. What are the rules? What should you avoid?

Some brands have written guidelines, like mission, vision and values statements. Ask your company executive for their take. You also can bring your exec up to date on things you and your team want to try and emphasize that you want to know where the boundaries are.

This direct conversation will help you understand your brand equity, but it also gives you the opportunity to communicate the value of your email program and the efficacy with which you carry it out daily. That’s crucial for your operations.

3 questions to ask yourself before you send your next campaign

These questions can clarify your grasp of brand equity and guide your decisions so that your emails build it up, not tear it down:

1. Will this make my boss freak out?

Whenever I was working on campaigns or working on projects for a company, the question uppermost in my mind was “Will my boss think this is crazy?” As long as the answer is “no,” you’re good. If it’s “maybe,” then pause and think about it (that’s your gut talking).

2. Will this make my customers freak out?

Every email marketer should know and be able to recite the company’s brand equity, the building blocks on which the company is founded. They can be your company’s mission, vision and values. You have to know this because you are the company to every person on your email list.

How you manage, create and send your emails has a huge impact on your brand equity. You must know your customers as well as you understand their perceptions of your brand. When you know who your customers are in concert with your company’s brand equity, you can use that knowledge in creating copy and selecting images that reinforce your brand equity.

3. Will this make my gut freak out?

Whenever I made a mistake in a campaign or marketing tactic, it usually happened because I ignored my gut feeling, my inner voice that connected me to my customers and my bosses. That inner voice said, “Wait just a minute,” but I was in too much of a hurry or got outvoted and I didn’t try hard enough to acknowledge my doubt.

When your gut says, “This isn’t right,” you must pause and think. Get a second opinion. Let the work sit for a day if you can.

You might say, “Fine for you, Ryan. But I have a deal that I have to get out today.” My answer: Go ahead. But, what if you send that campaign, and it turns out to be dead wrong?

A brand equity fail in my inbox

Just this week, I received an email from a B2B brand that annoyed me and lowered my opinion about that brand. In conversations with other marketers, I discovered I wasn’t the only one who reacted that way. Some brand equity was lost, and the marketer who sent the email probably never knew it.

As an email marketer, you must learn where the lines are. Further, you must document these boundaries. Every team has churn. People join and leave your team all the time. You are the gatekeeper, the police and the gut for what works and what will damage your brand equity.

It’s worth your time to figure all this out and document it. You don’t want to rush ahead and hit that big red button and then discover it’s the last thing you did as an employee.