Over Labor Day weekend, my brother-in-law got married. Despite the fact that he had what is considered a "small" Serbian Orthodox wedding (a mere 350 guests), I think I put more effort into his wedding than I did my own, when I had nearly 1,000 attendees. Why? First, my husband, all three of our kids, and I were in the wedding; that's a management feat in and of itself. Also, we hosted the Skup (wedding pre-party) at our house the morning of the wedding, for about 150 people.
It took months of advanced planning for this one family holiday to go off without a hitch. And looking back on all of it, I followed a process for the wedding that was similar to one I would use to plan very large email programs. Did I borrow from my professional experience to drive a personal process or vice versa? I suppose it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that the holiday messaging season is fast approaching and if you don't have a plan for those big email programs, now is the time for you to say "I do."
Step 1: Set Your Goals and Objectives
The first step in prepping for most anything is to fully envision what you want to achieve. This may seem obvious, but it's often overlooked. In the case of last week's wedding, my brother-in-law's goal was to have a memorable event that honored his once-in-a-lifetime moment. My goal was to make sure everybody had a great time (and to maintain my sanity). When planning your holiday email goals and objectives, recognize that yours may be slightly different than those of others within your organization - or even than others on your team. That's OK, as long as everybody has visibility and all goals are in alignment.
Step 2: Create a Timeline of Events
Next, create a schedule or timeline of events so that you can identify any potential conflicts before they become an issue. This was critical for me on wedding day. We had hair and makeup, food delivery and setup, getting the family dressed and ready for 150 people to come to our house - plus, I had to find time to get to the bride's house all before 11:00 a.m. It was a tight schedule. Chances are good that your holiday messaging schedule will be tight too, but developing a proper timeline of events now can help to drive success throughout the holiday season.
Step 3: Plan for the Worst
It's impossible to think through every possible scenario that might put your holiday email plans in jeopardy, but you can certainly devise contingencies for the most common ones. For example, on the day of my brother-in-law's wedding, it rained. We planned for the possibility of it, even though the weather forecast showed blue skies. Blips email marketers can and should plan for include issues with: site functionality, coupon codes, message content, or inventory fulfillment. These are all potential problems that should have contingency plans in place because into each life some rain must fall.
Step 4: Talk With Your ESP
OK, so I didn't have to talk to my email service provider (ESP) for the wedding, but I did have to coordinate with key partners, including the caterer, the salon, the party rental company, etc. Similarly, you should coordinate with your partners to best ensure successes this holiday season. Share your sending plan, including days, times, etc., so they can proactively identify any conflicts that may exist, allowing time to adjust accordingly to accommodate your specific needs. They should already be anticipating your heightened need for support this holiday season, but it is always helpful to have shared insight into your plan.
Step 5: Execute, Execute, Execute
On the day of the wedding, I was like a drill sergeant; swap the peach-colored taffeta for a little camo, and I would have been set. But the key to any plan is succinct execution, so remain on high alert about what's going on during this critical time of the year. If your holiday messaging gets off track, it's your job to get it back in line fast - make it drop down and give you 20!
While the wedding spanned two full days (yes…I had another 50 people at my house the next day…sigh) your holiday messaging schedule will likely span many weeks. So the planning must be diligent and detailed, but you will survive it. And when you do, successfully, because you've planned and executed effectively, you can give yourself a big pat on the back. Maybe even a trip to the spa…that's what I plan to do!
Image on home page via Shutterstock.
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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!
A 12-year email marketing veteran, Kara has been actively involved in programmatic email development, execution, and strategy in a variety of senior positions on the client, agency, and provider side. Most recently, Kara was founder and principal of The Email Advisor, a respected email marketing consultancy focusing on email strategy and channel optimization. Prior to launching The Email Advisor, Kara led strategic services for the email division of Premiere Global Services, where she worked with global organizations structuring a variety of custom email education programs, conceptualizing and implementing new and innovative email programs, optimizing contact strategies, and developing staffing and budget plans.
March 19, 2014