Experts Share 9 Email Marketing Strategies for the Holidays

Amy Brueckman    By under Email Funnels.

Is it too early to start thinking about Christmas? When it comes to marketing, it's never too early.

It pays off to get ahead of the game and start planning for Black Friday sales months ahead of time. It's the only time of year when customers expect to be bombarded with emails and are even looking forward to them. But how do you make sure they keep clicking on them? This month we asked the experts:

What are your best tips for planning your holiday email marketing campaign?

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Segment, segment, segment. The holidays are the craziest time of year for all of our inboxes, for good and for bad. If you'll be offering multiple promotions, discounts, and offers, you have one chance and once chance only to get a customer's attention. Along with an eye-catching subject line (but you should have that already, right?), making sure that each and every contact on your list receives what they've expressed the most interest in over time is key.

Do you have customers who have purchased product X but not Y? Go for the up/cross sell and give them a promotion they can't refuse for product Y. Have customers who open your emails but have never purchased? Send them a bigger discount! Properly segmenting out your customer base to group those with similar interests and sending them content that most closely resembles what they would convert on is your key to great success this holiday season.

Alexandra Marin, CodeCrew

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The best way to plan holiday email marketing campaigns is to first think of what your goals are for the campaigns. Once you know this, then you can properly plan topics, audiences, product focus, etc.

I also like to use data from the previous years to see what worked, what did not work, and where there is room for improvement. Look at sales to see what products had the most abandoned carts, which ones had the most, and where the leads came from etc. and then fine-tune your campaign to address all of the areas that will help your campaign work the best.

Audra Hamlin, The Gift Firm

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The secret is targeting different buyer personas in each email. People are motivated by different things, and by tapping into the power of certain emotions, you hit their "buying buttons" accordingly. Tapping into emotions like fear, value, belonging, instant gratification, and competition are critical... this type of email sequence lets you tap into multiple angles.

Here's an example of a 4 day sequence which can be highly effective:  

  1. Impulse - spontaneous buyer, quick announcement to draw excitement
  2. Methodical - those who want all the details, FAQ based email
  3. Connection - feels empathetic tie to company and others (casestudies/testimonials)
  4. Deadline Dancers - last chance, play up urgency to act now (scarcity)

Jack Petry, Cigna

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One of the best and yet underappreciated tips for planning a holiday email marketing campaign involves a little thinking outside of the box; don't forget about people who aren't celebrating that mainstream holiday.

For instance, few businesses miss an opportunity to cash in on celebrations like Christmas and Chanukah, but other minority faith holidays that may be going on at or around the same time (or at other times) are very commonly overlooked, other than by business that specifically serves that niche of buyers.

Including and even specially targeting these demographics tends to be very profitable, and leads to a high level of brand loyalty and positive perception amongst those prospects too, particularly if they're commonly overlooked by other competitors.

Additionally and in a related vein, targeting prospects who don't celebrate a holiday at all when the majority do is another potentially lucrative revenue stream that can result in a high level of uptake in terms of your ratio of pitches to conversions.

For instance, if your business is open when the majority of others won't be (like many movie theaters on Christmas day) push that angle hard at demographics that don't celebrate Christmas or actively avoid holiday participation.

Finally, and a general tip regardless of who you're targeting and what with; everyone's mailbox gets snowed with seasonal promotions in holiday season, and so those generic email headers and greetings just won't stand out from the crowd.

Make your message unique, eye-catching, polarizing, engaging, or otherwise come at things from a new angle in order to increase your open rates and so, engagements.

Polly Kay, English Blinds

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Many people think that they can write up a message, send it out to everyone who signed up for the newsletter and just wait for the results to pour in. But, it's a bit more nuanced than that.

First, you'll want to ensure that the tone of your email reflects on your intended recipients. Make things look professional, which means foregoing any emojis or slang terminology. Next, get right to the point with the subject line, and omit words that could trigger a spam filter, such as anything that might resemble clickbait.

It's also important to send your email as a 'series..' Your first email can be an announcement of the upcoming sale, and the next can include the details of the sale, including some of the deals they can expect. This builds anticipation, which is always a good thing!"

Tom Buchok, Mailcharts

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The holidays are the one time of year when people tend to be forgiving about email frequency, so take advantage of it. Potential customers are hunting for gift ideas, deals, and promotions that allow them to get everyone something they will like without breaking the bank.

Email marketing becomes a tool of potential inspiration instead of just a marketing tool. Most marketers know about this interest and will ramp up their email output to match.

Under normal circumstances, sending daily emails is the fasted way to get flagged for the spam folder, and ruining your open rates and engagement metrics. However, shortly before Black Friday through Christmas, daily emails may be the only way to stay top of mind. Be aware, if starting this push leading up to Black Friday, expect fewer conversions initially, as everyone is waiting for the deals to come.

Paul Larsen, Red Olive

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A business can use any special holiday, be it Labor Day, Independence Day, New Year's, etc to run a promotion.

I would say that the biggest tip to increase sales is to have a specific deadline and scarcity in mind to force people to take action. It could be a discount that ends on a specific day, an extra bonus, or a buy 1, get 1 offer for example.

However, the crucial point is to make sure you make the end deadline clear and email a few times before the deadline to remind people to buy. I find that more than 50% of my sales from promotions come on the last day of the sale, so neglecting to remind your email subscribers about your promotion ending can effectively cut your sales in half. Don't neglect the reminder email.

Björgvin Benediktsson, Bbenediktsson

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I am a big fan of e-mail marketing.   It is a cost-efficient way to build your brand and deepen your relationships through ongoing communication.  In my experience, here is what makes e-mail work today:

Compelling subject line that gets opened - Test with your target to see which does best, don't guess which works.

Make mobile friendly - The world is moving to mobile-only, fewer people accessing e-mail on big screens so tailor your message and content accordingly.

More video & rich content - In a mobile-first world, you have less time to grab people, attention spans are shorter than ever so video will be used even more, show don't tell for maximum impact, rich content drives e-mail engagement.

Content rules, quality over quantity - Peers command higher trust, original content is at a premium, consumers continue to trust content more than ads.

You can call me old fashioned but the best communications tool for me is still e-mail.  E-mails are a great way to build relationships over time and keep the conversation going with your clients and customers.  It is just so much easier now. You do not need to be a big multinational company to have the tools at your disposal anymore.  It is fast, convenient, cheap and effective.

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls


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My best tip for planning a successful holiday email marketing campaign, is to start early! Start planning your holiday campaigns at the beginning of the year if you can. If you're just starting to plan now, all is not lost, you'll just need to hustle. Strategize your timing.

How many of us are bombarded by emails the week of Black Friday? If you want to stand out from the pack, consider sending your emails on a different week, and always do A/B testing. Whether you A/B test your subject lines or email copy, or images, or a combination, just do remember to test, so that you can rest assured that your highest converting email version is getting into your customers' inboxes.

Kristien Matelski, Vizion Interactive