By Paul Turnbull
Using email marketing campaigns during the holiday selling season is fast becoming a time-honored tradition right alongside decorating the Christmas tree. Fortunately for retailers working to increase their percentage of the estimated $873 to $877 billion in total holiday sales, setting up email marketing for holiday shoppers takes less time than it does to untangle the lights and unpack the ornaments.
With the right email marketing service, putting together a profitable email requires no graphic arts schooling. And forget about learning HTML. Using an email service built for all levels of expertise in mind enables retailers to create professional email marketing campaigns in less than 15 minutes.
While there are services available that replace anxiety with simplicity and flexibility when building an email campaign, it is smart to have a general idea of what’s behind a good seasonal email program.
Investing time up front will dramatically improve the performance of your email marketing campaigns. Build an email marketing plan for the season by mapping out promotions, topics and campaigns against the calendar, using major holidays as milestones.
Special dates include: Black Friday (November 25) and Cyber Monday (November 28), as well as Saturday, December 17. That’s the week before Christmas and there will be a sense of urgency for shoppers who want their gifts shipped. Don’t leave out the day after Christmas (December 26) either. Shoppers are returning what doesn’t fit or work and looking for the deep discounted items to pick up instead.
And, don’t forget about Hanukkah. The Festival of Lights is an eight day holiday that starts on December 20 this year. Gifts, both big and small, are shared each night. While laying out your email plan, work in a series of emails to promote gift ideas for each night.
It is important to create an email template that reflects your image. Branding combines naming, logo development, messaging and taglines to provide a simple way for customers to quickly grasp what your business value is. A good brand runs through all communications your company has with prospects and clients, right down to your email marketing.
As long as you don’t go overboard, consider bringing some bling to your holiday email template. Your graphics can portray your brand and still bring some festivities to the campaign. For instance, a fine jewelry store could add a photo of a golden wreath into the email while a sporting goods retailer could have some fun with a rendition of Santa traversing the slopes on his new skis.
With a good email program, you don’t even need to worry about pulling together graphics. Look for a service that provides holiday email template options and graphic choices that allow you to personalize your campaigns. Make sure your email service also allows you to import your own pictures.
If you’re new to this type of marketing, make sure you use an email marketing service that includes integrated editing capabilities along with the ability to easily modify colors and layout of an email even after content is added. This cuts out the need for additional graphics programs and HTML coding that can be expensive and hard to use.
Give the gift of gratifying content
Relevance is the golden rule when it comes to email marketing. If you aren’t providing relevant information, your customers simply aren’t going to open your email. Both your subject line and the content within your email need to be as compelling as possible to your audience. A good way to check what is compelling to your readers is to review reports for offers that worked well in the past. Leverage the successful verbiage and material as you create new copy for emails.
Subject lines need to be bold. They should be personalized, specific and valuable. Incite your recipients to open your message with a call to action in the subject line. A generic header such as “Gift ideas for the holidays” doesn’t provoke opening an email immediately as something like “Special 10% off your holiday gifts if you purchase within 5 days.” Just be sure you don’t use words like “free,” “limited time offer,” or “amazing” anywhere in your subject line. These are red flags for spam and will cause your unopened email to go directly into the trash folder.
Take your sleigh for a test-run before the big night
Also keep in mind that this is not a science. Continue to test your subject lines as you move forward with your email campaigns and review the reports that tell you what is opened more often. Over time you will have enough information to know which subjects work best and a compilation of what not to do.
Just as your subject line should cause someone to want to read on, the copy within your campaign should also be compelling. Watch what the trends are and make sure you include what’s hot this holiday season, both nationally and within your own store. Take advantage of recommendations from customers about your products and service. These can help influence a lurker to become a paying customer.
While you build the body of your email, remember to share information for impulse buys. For someone looking to buy a day spa package as a holiday gift, include a list of purchases they can add for under $25 for example. And for those looking to save some money without compromising on the joy of giving, promote five products under $50 one week and another five under $75 the next.
Finally, make sure your holiday email program has a long-term return on investment for your business. Your service should offer report statistics including open emails, clicks, bounces, and opt-outs. Track your sales based on your promotions included in emails using Google Analytics parameters in your links, for example. This will give you a great head start on next year’s email program.
Paul Turnbull is the Product Marketing Manager for Campaigner® Email Marketing and is responsible for product design and ensuring this solution meets the email marketing needs of SMB customers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.