It’s that time of year when “my hasn’t this year flown” becomes a popular topic of conversation; a new academic year has started and the nights are drawing in (for us in the northern hemisphere at least). Whether you love it or loathe it, before long the high street will be ramping up ready for Christmas.
However, it’s not just bricks-and-mortar retailers who can benefit from harnessing the spending power of the holiday season. Any company can benefit from increasing their marketing efforts in the run up to Christmas; and email marketing is of course no exception.
Planning a big email campaign with multiple instalments is no mean feat at any time of year; but with the festive season looming, marketing can sometimes get left on the back burner. However, with proper planning and by working slightly ahead of time, an excellent festive email campaign is totally possible.
Though Christmas is around the corner, for the sake of inclusivity we’ve kept this advice practical for all holidays and events. The advice here assumes that you’ll be sending more than one email throughout your festive campaign, but there’s still some valuable tips for one-shot campaigns too.
- Plan at least a month in advance of the first email going out
Remember that all planning, analysis and execution takes time; and to do a job properly usually means not to rush. Start brainstorming ideas and working out timescales well in advance of the first email going out. As we’ll be discussing below, there’s a lot of work to put in before you even start constructing your campaign, so be generous with time estimations – you don’t want to be flying by the seat of your pants at the last minute!
- Pinpoint important dates
Think carefully about the exciting buildup to the main event. Are there any particular dates that jump out at you in relation to the holiday? As an example, important marketing dates running up to Christmas might include Black Friday, the first day of December, and perhaps a 3, 2 and 1 week countdown to the big day. Remember to factor in practical elements like delivery cut-off times and when/if your staff break for any holiday-related leave. Knowing these dates will help you formulate when to send marketing email and may even help you work out what offers you want to advertise.
- Identify the nature of a successful campaign
You can read blog posts and case studies extolling the virtues of best practice until the cows come home, but what’s successful for others may not be successful for you. Thoroughly analyze your previous efforts to find out what has worked previously and indeed what a successful campaign means to your company. Look at all analytical tools possible around previous email, social and web campaigns to see what your audience react best to. What have you had success with in the past; helpful advisory content? Friendly reminders? The dreaded “hard sell?” Work with what has proven to be successful previously. Additionally, if you only seem to receive minimal returns on email campaigns compared to other methods, maybe it’s worth focusing your efforts on avenues that typically bring you more success.
- Identify objectives and desired customer actions
Once you have a good idea of what works for you, it helps to identify the ideal outcomes you expect from each instalment of the campaign, and indeed the campaign as a whole. Each email should have a specific goal in mind. How does each instalment play into the big picture of what you want to achieve with the whole campaign? Also consider what the customer will be seeing – is there a way you can communicate the most desired action you would like the customer to take? This will help you craft a comprehensive call-to-action for each email.
- Don’t leave the spring clean until spring
Before you embark on any big email campaign, it pays to tidy up your subscriber lists. Analyze your existing subscribers and make contact with any leads that have gone particularly cold. Investigate all recent email bounces and amend or remove serial bouncers. While you’re at it, remember to tidy up and update any web content relating to subscription sign-ups, such as landing pages and pop-over screens. You may want to tie this amended web content into the nature of your upcoming campaign.
- Construct your campaign!
Once you’ve got all of your strategy, timing and ideas together, it’s time to construct your email campaigns and begin drafting all textual and graphical content for each email. If there are any differences in content delivered depending on customer action, plan for all eventualities of variable behaviour and create content as necessary. Before your campaign goes live, don’t forget to spruce up your additional bulk email content, such as subscription confirmations, auto responders and re-engagement reminders. Remember to focus on creating attractive subject lines – they’re the bits that most people see whether they click or not, so use them well to attract attention and encourage a click-through. However don’t make any grand, dishonest promises to get people to click, this will always reflect badly on you. Go through all content with a fine-tooth comb – you don’t want any pesky typos! Copying any text into a word processing program or printing it off displays your text differently, and may help you identify any errors with greater ease than using the same screen you’ve been working on all day.
And one last little tip for afterwards – always remember to analyze the campaign’s success afterwards to see how your goals matched up to reality, and to identify what worked and what didn’t. Keep this data safe so you can refer to it next year!