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Increase Your Holiday E-Mail Frequency

  |  August 12, 2009   |  Comments

Tactics for improving your holiday e-mail strategy and increasing your mailing frequency -- without losing subscribers.

Have you started planning your holiday-themed e-mail campaigns yet? Now is a good time to develop strategies that deal with perennial issues that crop up during this busy quarter, especially the age-old frequency question.

You've probably heard the usual advice against increasing e-mail frequency for fear of irritating your subscribers so much that they unsubscribe, click the "report spam" button, or start ignoring your mailings. It's good advice, because these actions can hurt your list metrics and deliverability and reduce your return.

Still, it probably won't stop your sales manager from insisting that you squeeze out more mailings to make as much money as possible. Nor does it always serve either your e-mail program needs or the interests of highly engaged segments of your mailing list. If you start planning now and proceed strategically, you can find effective ways to increase frequency that should satisfy both your boss and your subscribers.

Beware! This isn't a license to pound your list into oblivion. You need to follow these two tactics to help you increase frequency without burning out your subscribers or crippling your e-mail performance.

Segment Active Promoters

First, segment your list to find subscribers who would respond to higher frequency. You should be able to divide your subscribers into three segments according to their activity on your list:

  • Active promoters. These people are your core audience. They act on most of the messages you send: forwarding your newsletters, sharing your content on their social networks, clicking on your offers, posting product reviews or customer experiences, and buying more often than other segments of your list.

  • New and engaged. These people, although active when they first subscribe, tire quickly from excessive frequency. They might respond to every third or fourth e-mail if it catches their interest.

  • Inactives. These people have stopped responding to your e-mails for one reason or another but haven't bothered to unsubscribe. My e-mail colleague Dela Quist calls them the "unemotionally subscribed."

Develop Frequency Strategies

Next, develop frequency strategies that reflect activity level:

  • Active promoters are least likely to complain about frequency increases. Reward these most valuable customers for their loyalty and activity with special offers and incentives not available to other segments. However, monitor this group for "subscriber revolt" metrics (complaints, unsubscribes, reduced activity). These are the subscribers you must not lose.

  • New and engaged subscribers might respond better to short-term opt-in programs that offer highly focused content, such as a deal of the day or gift suggestion offers. Promote these in your regular e-mails. State the terms clearly: starting and ending dates, frequency, content, and the ability to opt out at will.

  • Inactives depress your list metrics and waste e-mail resources, especially if you increase general mailing frequency in the holiday quarter. However, don't just write off inactives. Shift the focus of e-mails targeted to this segment from holiday offers and incentives to "win back" incentives that can return them to active status or help them exit your list without generating spam complaints.

Your success with these tactics rests on your subscription process and the expectations you set at sign-up. Giving subscribers more choices about message content and frequency will help you create better segments and, thus, more targeted messaging.

More Holiday Planning Advice

Along with frequency planning, a good holiday e-mail strategy also includes these steps:

  • Review or develop the lifecycle messages. During the holiday period, you can increase e-mail frequency with lifecycle messages generated from Web site actions. These take at least two forms and require close integration of your e-mail and Web analytics vendors:
    • Browse campaigns. Your subscriber or registered site visitor shops a category on your site that doesn't match recorded preferences. A visit that doesn't end in a purchase would generate a subtle e-mail three or four days later with popular products or incentives focused on that category.

    • Abandoned shopping cart campaigns: The subscriber exits your site without buying the items he placed in a shopping cart. This generates an e-mail gently reminding the customer to come back and buy the items. You might also promote items in the registered user's wish list. If a user has placed an item in the wish list and left it there for several weeks, consider dedicating an e-mail highlighting this item.
  • Review transactional messages. Your transactional messages may hold opportunities to increase cross-promotion and up-selling and drive traffic back to your site. The transactional message's primary purpose must remain central in the e-mail, but you can design the message to add a promotional feature below or to the side of the main message that can boost holiday traffic without significantly increasing frequency.

    Possibilities include most popular items in the same or similar categories, accessories, upgrades, and product ratings and reviews (in e-mails after the product has been received and paid for). Also, take time now to test and optimize message design for rendering and deliverability.

  • Upgrade your subscription forms. Frequency and permission go hand in hand when developing your mailing strategy. Your opt-in form must give subscribers clear and meaningful choices to give them control and to help you collect the information you need to build relevancy and to create segments to control frequency.

Until next time, keep on deliverin'!

Deliverability has always been a concern for e-mail marketers, but the constantly changing landscape makes it harder to ensure great delivery of your e-mail campaigns. Join us on Tuesday, August 18, at 1 p.m., for a free Webinar on getting your e-mail delivered.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stefan Pollard

Stefan Pollard, who started his career in online marketing in 1999, was considered a selfless mentor and champion of best practices in e-mail marketing. He held the position of senior strategic consultant at Responsys where he was responsible for developing e-mail marketing and lifecycle messaging strategies to increase clients' ROI. Before that, Stefan led the e-mail consulting program for Lyris clients, frequently speaking at industry events on best practices. Prior to that, he managed the audit process and consulted with clients to improve their e-mail delivery challenges for Habeas. As an e-mail marketer, he spent several years building and executing acquisition and retention campaigns at E-Loan and Cybergold.com. He died May 14, 2010.

In Memoriam: Stefan Pollard
E-mail marketing community mourns the loss of a marketing pro dedicated to helping his peers and clients and working to improve an industry. Here are their tributes celebrating his life.

E-mail Marketing Expert Stefan Pollard Dies
An expert in deliverability is remembered as a champion of best practices and someone who selflessly gave of his time to others.

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