For many organizations, creating holiday email marketing campaigns has become as common as heading to grandma’s for the annual Thanksgiving dinner, or dressing up the old Christmas tree in the family room. Black Friday 2011 alone was a huge occasion, and several businesses took advantage with email marketing.

Responsys recently published an article showing that the activity for promotional emails increased significantly over the course of the five-day Thanksgiving weekend. What I found interesting about this particular research effort is its focus on how marketers approached inactive segments with their holiday email campaigns. According to the company’s findings, 54% of retailers sent promotional messages to their subscribers, despite those subscribers being active. It noted that retailers who continue to target subscribers who are not opening their emails increase the chances of those messages landing in a spam folder where they will never be seen.

The data complied by Responsys just goes to show that having success this time of year is much more than bombarding your subscribers with promotional messages, no matter how punchy the subject lines or how enticing the offers. On that note, here are few pointers that will help you do holiday email marketing the right way:

Make It Worth Their While

As you can see, several marketers view the holidays as a time to ramp up frequency. After all, consumers are generally in full-on shopping mode, and their gift buying quest is the perfect excuse to quench their thirst with something they might need. There is nothing wrong with increasing your frequency as long as you justify it with value. For instance, borrowing the Groupon concept and sending your subscribers a new deal each day could be an effective way to boost engagement to the point where they actually look forward to receiving your promotional emails throughout the holiday season.

Lend a Helping Hand

Offering subscribers a different deal every day, or even every week may be out of the question. Even when this is the case, you can still make an impact with your holiday email marketing efforts by making yourself useful to the subscriber. One way to do this is by aiding the consumer in their shopping missions. With so many people to shop for this year, your audience may love a list of the hottest gift ideas, or some tips on where they can shop to save money. Something like this could keep your brand on their minds when the subscriber is ready to spend.

Encourage Action

If you’re going to do holiday email marketing, you might as well go all in and do it to the fullest.

Don’t just put your offers out there. Be aggressive with your promotions and encourage the subscriber to take action. Whether it is enjoying cost savings, getting that free download or simply free shipping on their order, let your subscribers know that they need to act fast in order to reap the benefits. Your ability to effectively guide them through the purchase process could be the difference in whether or not they take the actions you need them to take to be successful, or do nothing.

Almost all email marketers are revving up their email frequency during the holiday season in hopes of getting the consumer to bite. While a few will succeed, several will fail and be left wondering where it all went wrong. There is more than enough competition to contend with in the inbox, so either bring your A-game or accept the dreaded gift of disappointment.


by Francis Santos

Francis Santos is based in the LA area and is the Search Marketing Manager for Benchmark Email. He graduated from Cal State Long Beach and holds a degree in Journalism. In addition, he is also the executive editor for separate popular news blogs.