Nail Your Holiday Email Sending Practices NOW

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santa hat plus sunglasses‘Tis the season…to prepare for the Season. We are heading for the busiest time of the year, and whether you scale your email marketing up during the holidays or not, the fact is that the email environment will be more competitive and you’ll have to fight harder for inbox real estate.

For those of you who do scale up your sending: You know that heavy (or careless) email sending during the holiday season can hurt your sending reputation and put a serious dent in your sales. You’ll need to monitor and manage your sending more closely than ever. We’re not that far out from the holidays now; if you haven’t begun planning for the season, I strongly encourage you to get started now.

The heavy sending in the holiday season is predictable and understandable. Most B2C marketers make a big chunk of their annual sales at this time. B2B marketers want to close out all pending sales and round out the year’s revenue. These drivers usually (too often) result in most marketers ramping up their email programs, which taken all together has the potential to cause some major deliverability and email reputation issues.

You probably can’t avoid boosting your sending. But remember: the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) aren’t going to ignore blacklists or stop causing challenging obstacles – and these issues are compounded when they all collide at holiday time. However, none of this means that you can’t be smart about how you manage your email through the high-stress holidays – and lower your chances of being negatively noticed.

Best practices for holiday email sending

gingerbread holiday ornamentOver the years, I’ve collected best practices that work for both B2B and B2C senders; I’m going to share them with you.

Before I get started – have you already started receiving holiday prep emails? I have. In fact, there were some retailers giving Black Friday deals in July. As a deliverability specialist, I was a little scared – but it made sense. The busiest time of year is only a couple of months away and if you haven’t started preparing your email recipients for what is to come by now, then you really might be sliding behind the eight ball. Review the below best practices to make sure you are ahead of the game and fully prepared to succeed.

Number 1: Setup a holiday email sending team and project plan

Marketing in the holiday season needs to be well planned out and methodical. You are not the only one out there trying to get your product seen or competing to get to the inbox. This race is definitely to the swift – and the smart. Develop a team of two or three employees and setup meetings on a weekly basis. This team needs to be cognizant of what did and didn’t work in past years, and ideally was responsible for it. The team should also own the responsibility of setting goals for this holiday season, choosing audiences segments, and developing the content to be sent. This team should help to set all expectations coming down the pipeline. It should go without saying (but unfortunately does not) that your company should be able to handle the extra demand.

Make sure you know what services/products you are wanting to market as well as ensure you are aware of any and all events that could help drive the plan in place.

Number 2: Set the proper expectations

holiday peace dove Untitled-1Yes, you’ve heard me say this in the past, but it really is crucial to the success of any email marketing plan. Let your (opted-in, of course) email recipients know what to expect. This will reduce the amount of unsubscribes and spam complaints that you get. Develop an email that makes the coming changes clear. One strategy you could use is to allow your customers the opportunity to pull back on frequency if they don’t want to be emailed as much. Happy customers equal happy companies.

If you plan a huge spike in the number of emails you’ll send, let your email service provider know what to expect. Having a “no surprises” policy is good all the way around.

Number 3: Increase list sizes in a realistic fashion

It is very common for email marketers to go to their database teams and tell them “I need everyone in our database ASAP.” First of all, if you read my blog about holiday sending last year, you’ll remember that this practice could cause a lot more issues than any benefits you might get. If emailing every single address you have is the approach you are going to take, then once again be methodical about it. You should break your lists up into several groups, such as listed below.

  • Engaged Recipients – openers and clickers in the last 6-12 months
  • Unengaged Recipients – non-openers and non- clickers in the last 6-12 months
  • Database Recipients – recipients not currently in your email lists, but in your database – no more than 24 months back

Engaged recipients should be always be isolated and sent to before any other list above. Send to the engaged group, wait two to three hours, then send the unengaged recipients. This strategy gives the ISPs time to notice that people are opening your emails and engaging with them, which allows the best possibility for inbox placement for your engaged recipients and sets the stage for a warm reception for your unengaged recipients.

As for the database recipient list, this should first be sent to a list cleansing and validation company, such as ImpressionWise or LeadSpend. As you have not been sending to them, you need to make sure they are still valid email addresses and generate a low amount of risk. Remember: ANY increase in metrics in the wrong direction could cause long-term damaging affects to your overall email plan for the season. Issues can be corrected, but you want to try to avoid them as much as possible. You only get a couple of chances, and every slip burns valuable time.

Number 4: Email rendering is key to success

holiday snowflake Untitled-1As many of you know (especially those who use a lot of mobile email), emails should be able to be easily read on a mobile device. According to Litmus, more emails are opened on a mobile device than a desktop, which means that you are definitely going to run into issues if your emails are not designed to fit a mobile device.

The easiest and best way to make sure your emails are hitting every device appropriately is to use responsive design. This ensures that no matter which device or email client that your email is opened up on, it renders correctly.

Number 5: Make sure your emails are relevant and create a sense of urgency

As part of Number 2 listed above, as you prepare your customers for the frequency and content coming to them in the next couple of months, you need to make sure you stay true. ISPs are now paying more attention to the relevancy of emails, regardless of what time of year you’re sending. The sooner you can master this skill the better all of your email campaigns will turn out. As for a sense of urgency, content and subject lines should all push clients to take action and move quickly. Use this next month to test content and subject lines to help identify what phrases/terms work best with your various audiences, so you can have those decision about content made and ready to roll when it’s time.

Overall, the five best practices listed above should help your project team make all the necessary changes and updates to your marketing program to be successful during such the coming busy season. Once again, take the next couple of weeks to build out your plan. Your competition’s marketers are already starting, so you should begin your planning as soon as possible.

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