12 Tips to Get a Head Start on Holiday Email Marketing

‘Tis the season — to prepare your email marketing strategy for the holidays, that is. The online shopping season begins with a boom on Black Friday and expands even more on Cyber Monday (the most popular American online shopping day, with nearly $2.3 billion USD spent on online purchases). From then on, marketers must carefully correlate web promotions, social media, and emails leading up to the end of December.

Take a lesson from all those last-minute shoppers and don’t wait to plan your email marketing strategy. We combined our years of email expertise with some specialized tips from our friends at MailChimp, and came out with a twelve-step recipe for holiday marketing magic.

Example: Need Supply


1. Manage Your Lists

Begin with the basics to create a solid foundation for your campaign. Decide whether you’re better off dividing contacts into multiple lists, or one list with multiple groups — here’s a handy how-to guide for streamlining your contacts. Ensure you’re sending to a clean, permission-based list.

2. Make an “Advent Calendar”

Coordinate your holiday promotion on a calendar accessible to everyone on your marketing team. Match your email content to various holiday promotions, and don’t forget to note related social media posts and staff deliverables by date. HubSpot offers a detailed calendar example here.

3. Optimize for Mobile

Send your email to your mobile test list to ensure that all images and code load cleanly on a mobile device. Remember to reduce your image file sizes, and ensure your CTAs are large enough to easily access on a handheld device.

4. Determine Demographics

MailChimp Social Pro Add-on
Map specific holiday-related messaging to demographics — your offers should be customized for gender, age range, and location/time zone. Pro tools like MailChimp’s Predicted Demographics use subscriber data to predict your list’s user stats.

5. Use Social for More Subscribers

Around the holidays, everyone’s looking for that great deal — so offer incentives to encourage users to sign up for email communication. Offering 10% off purchases or free shipping after newsletter sign-up is a great reward. Tools like Facebook signup forms or Twitter Lead Generation cards can streamline the process.

6. Perfect That Subject Line

To stand out in an influx of seasonal emails, your subject line needs to be snappy, not sappy. Keep your subject line short but informative, mention important promotions directly, and don’t forget to use merge tags to personalize with the user’s name or city name.

7. Send by Time Zone

Analyze previous open rates to determine the most successful times for users to receive your emails — you may consider segmenting your list by past time of open if there’s a clear increase in one time slot. Tools like MailChimp’s Send Time Optimization can also automate the process.

8. Boost Your Branding

Ensure your holiday style is on point by reviewing your style guide to coordinate all fonts and logos— or consider a special seasonal refresh. Confirm an on-brand tone for spreading holiday cheer (professional, humorous, personal), and refine your copy for both email and social.

Example: Nest

9. Give Product Recommendations

Example: Dollar Shave Club
Further personalize your emails through product recommendations. These can be determined by your customer’s purchase history — through eCommerce link tracking and subscribers’ purchase data, MailChimp’s Product Recommendations identify top picks for each user.

10. Perform A/B Tests

A/B Testing

Source: MailChimp

Put your past messaging to the test by determining the click rate, open rate, or purchase rate of two or more emails. This will help decipher which subject lines and promotions are performing the best, and you can use this data to improve your future efforts.

11. Remove Inactive Subscribers

Use that same data to prune your list of inactive subscribers. These users may require a different re-engagement campaign, rather than a steady stream of promotions. You can also use Low Member Ratings to help identify these users.

12. Foster Customer Loyalty

Example: Whittl
Equally, it’s important to reward your most loyal customers. Consider offering special holiday discounts, early access to post-New Year promotions, or new product “sneak peeks” to your repeat customers. Spread that holiday cheer!

As content marketing consultants and MailChimp Experts, we’ve led many promotional campaigns, specializing in MailChimp’s platform (and several other ESPs). If you’re seeking email marketing help as the season approaches, contact us for an expert take on holiday campaigns.

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