How the Grinch Stole Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaign

Something about How the Grinch Stole Christmas doesn’t quite add up. Did The Grinch really rob Whoville of their holiday spirit just because his heart was too small? I’m no doctor, neither medical nor Seuss, but surely no Who with a heart defect would scale a mountain just to heave his holiday haul into oblivion.

A more likely culprit? Bad holiday email campaigns. It’s pretty obvious the Grinch was driven over the edge by redundant emails, broken emails, and better-left-unspoken emails. In 2015, one-fifth of holiday shopping was driven by email marketing, and many marketers are attempting to capitalize on this with counterproductive campaigns emphasizing quantity over quality. As a result, Q4 email volume spiked 29% while open rates declined 13%.

When bad marketers are filling holiday inboxes like they’re the trash chute to Mount Crumpit, it’s important to make your emails stand out. Here are ten tips to save your holiday email marketing campaign, and maybe even Christmas itself.

1. Consider the volume of email you’re sending. 53% of people already say that brands send them too much email, and cranking it up to eleven might just be what pushes your audience to ignore, unsubscribe, or mark as spam. As fun as a “holiday blast” might sound to most Whovians, sending a few engaging emails that make it into the inbox may be better than risking your deliverability with an onslaught of email. Inbox providers look at a variety of signals to determine inbox placement, and a sender who suddenly blasts a ton of email during the holidays may look shady in the eyes of spam filters.

2. Rethink your subject line. Odds are you’re probably not the only one offering a great deal right now, and when every subject line looks the same, it’s easy for readers to overlook your sweet deal. Get to the point quickly, mix it up by offering a discount with a number that’s not a multiple of 5 or 0, or do something out of left field that grabs your reader’s attention. You could try using your email preview text to give recipients additional messaging that might persuade them to open your email, perhaps in Seussian rhyme. Most importantly, cool it with the clickbait. Believe it or not, screaming superlatives at your subscribers doesn’t actually work. Go figure.

3. Don’t kill your audience’s holiday spirit with sales pitches. Take it from Cindy Lou Who: things are commercial enough out there already. That one-fifth of shopping that comes from email marketing dwarfs the 1.8% spurred on by social media. Email is the preferred channel for consumers to receive brand communication, which means people already open their inboxes looking for deals, so there’s no need to send them into an existential spiral with the hard sell.

4. Pay attention to when you send your emails. On average, companies don’t actually offer higher discounts during Black Friday; they just start sending much more mail. No matter your deal, sending at a less popular time may help you to stand out in the inbox. For instance, while the holiday email assault seems to go nonstop from Halloween straight through to the New Year, there’s actually a lull in email volume on Christmas Day. Catching your audience while they’re opening presents might just influence how they spend that gift card money.

5. Make sure your emails are mobile-optimized56% of emails are viewed on a mobile device, but only 40% of them are mobile-friendly. The holidays are a time for goodwill and giving, and turning a cold shoulder to mobile users may work them into an anti-holiday frenzy that causes them to steal Christmas cheer from an entire town. Or at the very least, delete your email.

6. Give your audience the gift of beautiful emails. After opening an email the first time, readers often return to an email later when they’re ready to convert, and a memorable email may increase your chances. This might be with an eye-catching design or even just a well-placed, funny GIF. After all, when it’s time to open presents, the ones that get opened first are always the best-looking gifts (or is it jifts?).

7. Update your automated email strategy.  While you’re lighting the house, trimming the tree, and putting antlers on your car, it may be a good time to dress up your automated email program too. Spruce up welcome emails with seasonal promotions, add a holiday theme to re-engagement emails, or temporarily decrease the time between automated emails to capitalize on holiday urgency.

8. Add a personalized touch. A real one. Personalized emails have 29% higher open rates, but 70% of consumers believe that simplistic personalization efforts are insincere. Just slapping their name on it isn’t enough; unlike the office gift exchange, you have to make sure what’s inside is actually relevant too. Targeting emails to a subscriber’s location or viewing history ensures that the message is timely, the content is clickable, and that you’re not sending emails with picturesque holiday snow scenes to subscribers who are still in shorts and flip flops. It’s…it’s just rude.

9. Give your audience options by sending a preference email. You’re excited about your holiday email campaign, but some may choose to celebrate a sparse inbox instead. Respect their belief in Less Email by pointing them towards a preference center where they can opt-out of holiday communication. Allowing subscribers to stay subscribed without suffering through unwanted holiday emails might just save your email list, if not the holidays themselves. Need inspiration for your preference center design? We’ve got a few preference center examples here.

10. Don’t forget the CTA! The most important part of the email is the call to action, so make sure you get the CTA right. What makes a good call to action? It’s brief, it’s catchy, and it encourages your reader to do something specific. It’s the perfect remedy for an email program whose heart (and revenue) is two sizes too small.

So fear not: it’s not too late to shake things up if your holiday email campaign still looks like the beginning of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Or even if it’s more like The Cat in the Hat: making messes in inboxes and leaving horrified people to quickly remove all evidence you were ever there. With a few adjustments and a bit of holiday cheer, you can close out 2018 with a holiday email marketing campaign that’s more like Oh, the Places You’ll Go: so good, it gets read aloud at graduation ceremonies.

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