Quick Fixes for Your Holiday E-Mail Program

  |  December 10, 2009   |  Comments

Polish up your e-mail marketing campaigns in time for the holiday season.

With only two weeks left for the holiday season, you still have time to polish your e-mail marketing campaigns, especially if you're worried about reaching your revenue goals.

Pay Attention to Deliverability

Message volume is way up for the holidays. Black Friday and Cyber Monday set retail e-mail volume records this year with 69 percent of major online retailers sending at least one promotional e-mail on Black Friday, up from 59 percent in 2008 according to The Retail Email Blog.

For the four days (Black Friday through Cyber Monday), 12 percent mailed every day, and 7 percent mailed more than four times in four days. No wonder Pivotal Veracity found that nearly 25 percent of e-mails were blocked or bulked by the time Cyber Monday rolled around.

Resist the temptation to over mail. You'll end up on Santa's naughty list.

Deal of the Day

The "deal of the day" e-mail is the hot e-tailing format this season, but if you do it -- do it right. Don't start flooding your subscribers with new messages or they'll rebel by unsubscribing, clicking the spam-complaint button, or ignoring you. Target active subscribers. Allow them to opt out of this tactic, without opting out of your entire program.

Fire up Your Social Networking Channels

If you have a Facebook or Twitter presence, use those channels to promote a deal or special message of the day. Promote this new channel in your regular e-mail messages and on your Web site, and be sure that your Facebook page and Twitter home page promote your e-mail program as well.

If your audience on Twitter or Facebook is still small, but loyal, try some quick offer testing that you might later use in a scheduled e-mail. (See these articles for more resources on Facebook and Twitter integration with e-mail.)

Help Time-Pressed Subscribers Find and Act on Your Messages

Your subscribers are being bombarded with higher e-mail volumes screaming for attention when they have the least amount of attention to give. Help your subscribers to find and act on your messages by following these time-honored best practices:

  • Make sure the subject line answers this unspoken question: "What's in it for me?"

  • Be clear about what you want your subscribers to do. Keep your copy short, action-oriented, and to the point, and put your key points in text so they show up even if the reader doesn't download images.

Take Extra Care With Subject Lines and Preheader

Treat your subject line and preheader like a mini e-mail message. If you have crucial information, such as a shipping deadline or offer expiration, put it right in the subject line so that your reader doesn't have to open the message or display images to know the deal.

Take a few extra minutes to write a subject line that differentiates you from the rest while still delivering the information a reader needs to decide whether to open or discard the e-mail.

Focus on Service and Convenience

Instead of just selling to customers, use e-mail to help customers meet seasonal deadlines to act on short-term offers, get products shipped at standard or expedited rates, qualify for in-store pickup, or redeem gift cards purchased throughout the year.

  • A countdown calendar adds a visual element to your e-mail messages.

  • List store locations and highlight extended hours if you offer them.

  • Focus a message on how to reach your customer support, or make your contact information more prominent.

Create Secondary Offers to Give Your Subscribers More Choices

A single-offer e-mail invites subscribers to delete it if they aren't interested. Give them more reasons to open: a secondary offer, a list of gift suggestions, or the aforementioned summary of deadlines or customer service options.

Review your E-Mail Design and Functionality

You still have time to tweak your e-mail's design and navigation to be sure it works for readers and provides a good bridge to your Web site. Do images render properly? Does your key content appear in the top quarter or half of your message?

Study your click tracks. Do some links get more clicks even though they aren't prominently featured? Your readers are telling you they value these links more than you do. See if you can give them prominent play.

Boost Relevance With Basic Segmentation

No, this isn't the time of year to introduce a complicated segmentation strategy. But you can begin to refine the process simply by marketing differently to people who do open and act on your e-mails.

Divide your next campaign into two segments: those who opened or clicked on your messages and those who didn't. Send your buyers or active browsers a special thank you for their business over the past year, and send your regular campaign with a subject line inviting readers to come back and shop.

If this gives you an incentive to try more segmentation in 2010, I invite you to check out my other columns that show how to incorporate segmentation into your e-mail strategy and why it matters.

Monitor the Competition

If you don't normally obsess about the competition, do so now. The economy has made many non-promotional marketers promotional. Tight times mean more customers shop around. Understand what they see with tools like The Retail Email Blog and Email Analyst.

I hope that you all prosper in the final weeks of the year. See you next year!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Henrich

Ed Henrich is vice president of professional services for Responsys, leading the company's creative, campaign development, strategy, and analytics teams to produce award-winning and profitable client e-mail marketing programs. Ed is a pioneer in the e-mail marketing industry, having joined Post Communications (now Yesmail) in 1997 when it was a five-person startup. For eight years, he was the company's vice president of client services, then president. Before that, Ed was a venture capitalist at Internet Capital Group and a senior consultant with McKinsey & Company. A former Fulbright Scholar to Australia in Control Systems Engineering, Ed holds a PhD and an MS from UCLA and a BS from Drexel University. Follow him at his blog, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

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