The holiday season is here – a time for free shipping and 20% off everything!
At least that’s what a bulk of the major retailers out there tend to focus on this time of year. For many of us – regardless of the holiday(s) we each celebrate – the focus of this holiday season is on family and friends, on creating memories and sharing traditions, on expressing gratitude and love. It is a season of goodwill and giving.
As a business, are you focusing on the steep rise in sales you can expect over the next two months or on the emotional aspects that impact so many this time of year? What do you think your customers are focusing on? Are the two one in the same?
These are questions that we need to ask ourselves as marketers, particularly in the medium of email marketing. With the barrage of emails that your customers are already receiving, how can you differentiate your email campaigns from all the competition – both in your industry and out? The following suggestions should help you start thinking of ways to make your email marketing efforts be more meaningful – and more successful – this holiday season.
1. Beware of Overkill
Over the last week, I have received at least one email each day from a major toy retailer. I expect that average to increase significantly over the coming weeks. When I initially signed up on the retailer’s mailing list, I read each email. Now, however, I honestly can’t remember the last time I opened an email from this retailer; if they don’t automatically filter to my junk mail, these emails are sent to my trash before I open anything I actually want to open and read.
This is classic email fatigue. When consumers receive emails with irrelevant content or too many emails in quick succession, they develop email fatigue. During the holidays, many retailers think that sending emails more frequently is a good thing; it keeps customers aware of sales, contests and other events. But consider that every other business is also amping up the number of emails they send, and eventually consumers just stop reading them. Fewer, highly targeted emails are more likely to give you the successful results you’re looking for than emailing every update to your entire distribution list.
2. “When” Matters
Are you planning to send out an email campaign on Cyber Monday (the first Monday after American Thanksgiving)? Several reports have estimated that consumers spent well over $1 Billion online on Cyber Monday in 2010. With such augmented consumer spending, it comes as no surprise that email marketing efforts increase significantly that one day each year. So perhaps it is a day you should avoid. Consider sending out any Cyber Monday promotions in advance to avoid getting lost in the glut of emails your customer will receive the day of.
Also, if you’re planning on sending out a holiday greeting to your customers (if not, you should), avoid sending it out on the actual holiday. Most of your customers won’t check their email inboxes on major holidays, increasing the odds of your greeting being read days after the holiday, if it gets read at all.
3. Go for the Open
The subject line is one of the most important aspects of your email marketing campaigns – in fact, it is the one single factor that most often determines whether or not your email gets opened. When email inboxes are full of ads and offers from countless businesses, you need to ensure your email’s stand out. A good subject line is the best way to catch your customer’s eye. Use personalization and humor. Appeal to your customers’ emotions. Brainstorming as a team is one of the best ways to develop solid subject lines, so don’t be afraid to run them past your coworkers. Use small A/B test groups from your database to see what works best. And be sure to use catchy header text to ensure your customers want to keep reading the email once it’s been opened.
4. Get Social
Remember all those “overkill” emails you’re not sending anymore? All that content is still vital to your holiday marketing; it just takes on a different form. Research reports are indicating that in the last year, social networks have surpassed search engines as the most visited batch of websites. Instead of creating new emails for each new promotion or event update, get social. Not only are social media sites like Facebook and Twitter great ways to reach large groups of customers, those posts can be shared and re-tweeted, increasing your visibility in ways that emails can never do.
Social platforms are also great ways to encourage involvement from your customers. An auto dealership in Texas that we work with is sending out an email campaign encouraging its loyalty club members to post their favorite cookie recipe on the dealership’s Facebook page. The members will not only receive loyalty club points, but this dealership will assemble each recipe into a cookbook that members will be able to download after the submission period closes. This is just one great example of using social media to engage your customers – and it’s something this dealership’s customers will not soon forget.
5. Don’t Sell
If every other retailer is offering free shipping and 20% off coupons, then you need to go against the flow. Find ways to differentiate your business from all the others out there competing for your customers’ attention – and purchases. Offer more than simple discounts and savings. The more unique your emails are, the more they’ll distinguish your business and the more likely they are to be shared with others.
We encourage our clients each year to significantly downplay sales and promotions this time of year, and we’re not the only ones. Constant Contact managing editor Martin Lieberman says, “Everyone is selling at holiday time. The more you can NOT sell, the more it will help you stand out from your competition. Shopping tips, gift-giving advice and entertaining content” are perfect examples of email content you can use to help differentiate your business from others. Many of our clients’ members wait anxiously for the email distributed right before Thanksgiving; these campaigns receive some of the highest open rates and best positive customer feedback. What are they sending? A recipe.
6. Be Meaningful
The holiday season is packed with emotion for many of your customers. Are you appealing to that emotion with your email campaigns? Express your thanks to your customers for their business and support during the past year. Share with your customers what you hope to accomplish in coming new year. Actively participate in local charities. Start your own annual food and toy drive. Most importantly, don’t ignore the significance that this season has to so many of your customers. Make your marketing efforts meaningful – and memorable. Give them a reason to share your business with everyone else they know.