Deploying E-Mail Over the Holidays

If you’re like me, the Christmas season has snuck up on you again. As of this writing, it’s just two weeks away and I’m scrambling to find the time to buy the perfect gift for a bunch of folks on my list. The thought of trekking down to the local mall and fighting for a parking spot definitely won’t keep me in the holiday spirit. Waiting in line with fellow last-minute shoppers isn’t a pretty picture. I promised myself this year would be different; I’d find the time to shop early and avoid the hassle. Yet again, life and business got in the way. Now I’m struggling to find the time and patience.

Over the next two weeks, the Internet will once again become the best way to shop and buy last-minute gifts for friends and family. Effective e-mail communications will be center stage. As marketers, we know the last-minute online shopping period holds great opportunity to generate incremental sales and profits, as well as to generate a tremendous amount of goodwill for customers and prospects. Providing help in finding the right gift for Uncle Charley is invaluable and can further solidify a relationship with the customer.

Yet most marketers are ill-prepared to provide such counsel and support during a time when their customers and prospects most need the help. Now’s the time for your company to leverage its customer data to provide helpful, relevant guidance in gift ideas and suggestions based on their purchase history. I imagine many companies I purchase from year round have a sense of the type of products I’m interested in. I hope they realize that due to the range of products, some I bought for me, some I bought as gifts. Perhaps they could have asked during the year. “We notice you’ve purchased a wide range of products from us. Are you buying for others as well as for yourself? Would you like to receive gift recommendations?”

Missed opportunity. I’ve never received a message like that.

Provide your customers with some help. You know my profile. You know what I buy. Help with last-minute recommendations. Package them in tightly constructed, relevant e-mail messages and send them to me. Make suggestions. Send incredible offers promising guaranteed shipping by Christmas. Right now, I love that stuff. Remind me time and again how much you care about my business. Tell me you hope your suggestions help with my last-minute shopping. Be kind to the millions of us who haven’t had the time to shop and are panicking. We’ll tell stories about companies that helped us out of a jam. Use e-mail’s immediacy to have an incredibly timely, relevant, and useful dialogue with me. I need you now.

Over the next two weeks, I want to hear from all the retailers with which I have relationships. I’m desperate for them to help with last-minute shopping. Price is no longer a critical issue in my gift-shopping process. Now I need guaranteed delivery. I don’t mind them increasing their shipping rates and prices on products so long as I can be sure the gift will be under the tree by Christmas.

After you satisfy my last-minute mania, send an e-mail wishing me and my family the best for a happy New Year. In the final days of the year, these are the messages I’ll remember.

Think these simple acts don’t pay dividends? After reading my “No Thanks” column around Thanksgiving, a reader wrote to tell me he sent a simple thank-you e-mail to his customers (with no commercial messaging at all). Within hours, he’d generated over 80 incremental orders at an average order size of $120. And he sent an e-mail just last week indicating this act of appreciation was now the source of over 315 new orders!

Just do it.

I hope 2008 will be a year in which you’ll once again examine the way in which you can leverage e-mail as part of an integrated, customer-driven communications plan.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you and your families. I hope the New Year brings you much success and happiness.

Al D.

Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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