Holiday Email Marketing – Are You Prepared?
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…in every store you go…la lala la la…
Oh, come on, it’s only October. Start planning for the holidays now? Really? YES!
Actually, this post is about a month late. Most industries that rely on a robust holiday shopping season are already going gangbusters and have their holiday email campaigns started, and for good reason. Last year, a Google report for the 2010 holiday season called for a 15%-20% increase in email overall volume. You have to get out there are go elbow-to-elbow with the other email marketers vying for the same consumer dollars.
Since several of our eCommerce sites, like PatrickSmithOnline.com, sell items that are very popular as Christmas presents, we began our email campaigns the beginning of September.
A bit of a backstory…
We didn’t put much thought into our holiday emails when we first started, I really didn’t quite understand the importance of my products as holiday gifts. I also feared they would get tired of too many emails and I would lose them through unsubscribing.
All of that changed in 2009 when Kim went to a conference and came back with a well thought out and organized holiday marketing campaign. It took a lot of work to implement it that first year but she was motivated. We had cut the cord from one of our largest video clients because they consumed too much of our time during the fall, and we needed to make up for that loss of income.
I’m happy to say that we not only made up the income but we quadrupled our sales! This happened in the heart of the recession as well. We also saw LESS unsubscribes and LESS spam reports. (I’ve discovered why that happens which I’ll talk about in next week’s post. Sign up to the right and you’ll be notified when that posts.)
Now, having 30+ years experience in direct marketing, I knew that one of the key things you need to realize is that one email is not enough. One key to success in email marketing is the same as advertising – repetition, repetition, repetition.
You need to get in front of your customers at least 6 to 7 times before you may make a sale. In the world of email, that number has probably increased to 20 or so. You have to realize that many of your email recipients won’t open you first email, or your second or third, but somewhere along the line they’ll open it and perhaps respond. Others will either respond, delete it or unsubscribe.
So If you feel your customers would be interested in giving your video or other products for Christmas gifts, then what are you waiting for? Your competitors have had their plans in the works for weeks now. Here are a few ideas to help get you started:
- Sit down with your calendar and plan out your email content and the frequency of your emails to your list. Start sending your campaign by the beginning of November.
- Sign up with an email marketing service such as the one we use, Constant Contact. Or if you use a shopping cart like the one we use, you are able to email your list and customers from within that. Whatever you do, don’t use your personal email account for mass emails or will likely get banned. These services also make it easy to import and organize your prospect and customer lists, set up all your emails at one time and give you statistics or reports.
- Send your email consistently but keep an eye out for list fatigue. There is a lot of extra competition at this time of year, and a lot more clutter in the in-box, so you may have to make multiple efforts just to get noticed.
- As your holiday sales start picking up, you’re going to be too busy to craft enticing email messages. So do that now and use the autoresponder system in Constant Contact or your shopping cart that allows you to upload all of your messages now and set them for later delivery dates.
- Invest in a toll-free customer service phone number. (We use and recommend RingCentral.) Some shoppers are leery of purchasing online anyway and during the holiday rush they are concerned that their gifts won’t arrive on time. Phone service has gotten incredibly cheap, but I still recommend a toll-free number. A toll-free number is inexpensive and in my personal opinion, it send the message that you are a large company and are willing to spend the extra dime to support your customers.
- Look at your shipping service and be sure to let your list know about holiday mailing deadlines. Make sure you give yourself a few days buffer. We usually include holiday shipping deadlines in all of our emails throughout the holiday season. This is also an incentive for customers to make a buying decision early and not put it off.
- Make every email meaningful. There is so much competition at this time of year, don’t waste your customers time with promotions that are irrelevant to their wants.
- If you can, segment your mailing list based on what your customers purchased last year so you can personalize holiday gift suggestions. We segment ours into past customers and new prospects and you may segment yours further. Here’s where having more than one product or title is a good thing. If you only have one title, consider complementary items you can offer to your list and sign up to be affiliates of retail outlets that offer those. For example, if you are an Amazon Associate, there are many items you can promote that would interest your customer who buys your DVD. We do this with our Car Detailing DVD…customers who buy that will also need car wash supplies.
- Offer free shipping whenever possible. That’s a promotion that most on-line shoppers have just come to expect. What we like to do is to offer shipping on a minimum dollar amount of sale – Get free shipping on all orders over $20, for example. We set the price point so that they have to buy more than one item.
- Include a “count down” in each and every email so shoppers know the shipping deadline for their holiday purchases.
- Take excellent notes of all the activities and outcomes of your holiday campaign to make it that much easier next year. Do this while it is fresh in your mind. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of each email’s response rate and effectiveness. Constant Contact and Marketer’s Choice saves all my old emails with these statistics so now all I have to do is go back to a similar one, copy and tweak it, then resend this year.
Creating a holiday email campaign requires some planning – so get started now! Expect to spend at least several hours designing your plan, crafting and testing each individual message.
Once the holidays are in full swing, you’ll be singing too! La lala la la…
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