You know what doesn't make the stressful holiday season any better? People yelling. Even worse is when they are yelling in your direction. The good news is that year after year, the screams typically originate from the same sources, so there's no need to be caught off guard as long as you think ahead. Marketers spend the majority of the year prepping their best and brightest campaigns for the holiday season, so it only makes sense to anticipate not only what could go wrong, but also the triggers that can cause a cross-team Scrooge-fest. Let's put some holiday cheer around what I'm calling "Scrooge's Greatest Hits" that you should anticipate hearing in the upcoming months and how you can best prepare and respond.
"Just Send More, Dammit!"
Like "It's a Wonderful Life," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" and all of those versions of "A Christmas Carol" featuring none other than Ebenezer Scrooge, "Just send more, dammit!" is a classic you know will show up at some point during the holiday season. Those who haven't shown much interest in email throughout the year suddenly become overly concerned email marketing gurus with the deeply ingrained belief that sending more means selling more with no risks or larger impact. While it's difficult to tell a toddler that eating all the candy in the store will give him a stomachache and make his teeth rot, you need to be the grownup in this situation. Accept the fact that the kid will eventually wear you down and eat the candy just like you will be worn down and end up mailing more.
But what can you do to make the best of this situation? Go into the season with a clear understanding of the engagement spectrum of your subscriber list, both in the long and short terms. One can be an analog for the other, which can help you make better informed decisions when last-minute changes come up, leading to more control and less chaos. Know why your consistent openers keep opening and what makes a non-opener suddenly wake up and check out your emails. If you are forced, or should I say "highly encouraged," to mail more, then remailing to specific segments of your subscriber list can help your bottom line and avoid some of the risks such as abuse complaints and potential deliverability issues that come with an inflated email cadence.
"We Are Not Standing Out in the Inbox!"
You probably keep track of your competition's email programs throughout the year. You know when they knock it out of the park and probably enjoy a little chuckle when they fall flat. Be prepared to hear quite a bit about how your competitors are doing things better than you are during the holidays. This is usually under the guise of "helpful feedback" or just sheer panic. While you could focus on the overlap between your program and the competition - perhaps you have similar products, price points, or visual vibe - use the early season to build a foundation of familiarity about why your brand is unique. The level of noise from overstuffed inboxes, last-minute sales, and quickly approaching shipping deadlines will only amplify as the season progresses. A pre-season plan of dedicating emails to reinforce brand awareness, loyalty programs, shopping tools (like wish lists and in-store pickup), and ongoing offers like free shipping and free returns will position your brand to stand out more in the inbox once the blizzard hits. These distinguishing features can be resurrected later in the season to complement specific promotions and reinforce the value of shopping with your brand during the season.
"Why Did We Get Blocked?"
Delivery issues are like lumps of coal in your stocking. You work so hard throughout the year to be a good email marketer, yet many of us will end up on the naughty list during the holidays. There's no way to accurately predict what will trigger specific delivery issues during the holidays but there's a heck of a lot you can do before the fever pitch of the holidays to decrease these risks. Taking proactive measures like list cleaning and moving to a dedicated IP range can help decrease the duration and impact of a block when dealing with various Internet service providers. Additionally, use caution when targeting inactive segments in the thick of the holidays. These emails can tip abuse complaint ratios out of your favor and impact your mailings to more engaged groups.
A bit of Scrooge-deflection prep can go a long way when the holiday stress factor overtakes you like a nor'easter. Hopefully these tips will help you keep the peace and keep your extended team informed and cheery throughout the holidays. If all else fails, I recommend printing out a photo of Grumpy Cat, gluing it to a stick, and flashing it at any of the bah-humbugs who stop by your desk. This approach could be the most effective way to defuse the situation and keep the Scrooges at bay.
Image on home page via Shutterstock.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
As an expert in email, mobile, and social strategies, Jim Davidson brings over 13 years of experience in online marketing, managing email and cross-channel programs for top retail clients. From strategic vision to implementation, Jim has led clients to successfully meet aggressive revenue and performance goals. As Bronto's manager of marketing research, he regularly publishes industry-focused white papers, research reports, and contributes to the Bronto Blog. Jim's articles frequently appear in leading retail, e-commerce, and marketing publications.
March 19, 2014