EEC Coaching Clinic Round-up Holiday Email Strategies: Staying Off The Naughty List

Last month, the Email Experience Council (EEC) hosted a holiday coaching clinic, featuring advice from myself and Ken Pfeiffer of Sailthru. We shared tips and tricks for staying off the naughty list during the holidays. It was a lively discussion that included Q&A from the audience. Don’t worry if you missed the live session – you can find the essential tips we shared below.

First, understand the landscape.

Pfeiffer first helped to illustrate the email ecosystem during the holidays, noting that while it’s always the number one goal of ISPs is to protect users’ inboxes, these efforts become even more critical during the holiday season. He explains, “During this time, ISPs are experiencing substantially higher than normal volumes across the board. What’s more, they have only a few milliseconds to see if email should go to the inbox, bulk folder or get blocked.” Due to these conditions, hazards for Senders can increase too – particularly for those using new or creative solutions to meet holiday Marketing goals.

Then, chart your strategy.

First and foremost, it is imperative to have a plan. If your Email Marketing goals for the holiday season includes any major changes to your existing strategy, it’s important to realistically acknowledge the risks that could stem from each initiative. Types of initiatives that I’ve typically flagged with unintentionally results in programmatic risk include, but are not limited to, significant increases in volume, new or uncharacteristic changes to mailing frequency and/or atypical segmentation (i.e. reaching beyond your engaged subscriber base).

Pfeiffer coached the audience on how to break these sometimes-complicated matters down into several basic questions, with planned increases in volume as the example: “Ask yourself:

  1. At what volumes am I currently sending?
  2. How much do I want to increase during the holidays?
  3. Am I targeting any new or aged segments in particular?”

Once the answers to these questions are fleshed out, we advised starting slow and early. Begin carefully opening engagement buckets or gradually increasing sending cadence weeks or even months (depending on your specific circumstances) before your intended target date (i.e. Cyber Week). We agreed that it’s important to test, monitor and adjust so you are best prepped for crucial sending times and sales.

And, expect to adapt.

A favorite mantra of mine is that deliverability is not “set it, and forget it.” This is especially apparent during the holiday season when stakes are high. A key element to monitor in accordance with this is subscriber response. This can take the form of reaction, for instance, subscribers hitting the spam button, or inaction, such as lack of engagement. Think about your subscriber’s email journey, put yourself in the subscriber’s shoes and ask yourself: “Would I be surprised with daily emails wherein I once received less frequent or different communications?”

But, get creative.

Sending the same subject lines, content or offers over and over is likely to result in subscriber fatigue, particularly with increases in campaign frequency. In this situation, there is lesser likelihood of opens and clicks. Create some intrigue and cement engagement by testing and implementing playful, thematic content. I have coached senders towards satisfying subscriber curiosity and email-specific brand engagement with the following concepts:

  1. A seasonal series allows for connected content which lends to increased engagement. This technique also effectively foreshadows and sets expectations for subsequent messaging.
  2. Integrating live content adds a bit of holiday sparkle to your campaigns, and can charm subscribers to interact with your content and look out for future email communications.
  3. Pebbling in evergreen campaigns to your messaging mix gives your subscribers a break from the heaps of promotions arriving in their inboxes, and allows them to make a different, completer connection with your brand.

Though, keep in mind that it’s important to balance imaginative models with relevancy and subscriber sensitivity in campaign development. If ever a question remains, don’t hesitate to reach out to your friendly neighborhood Deliverability representative to get their take.

Happy Holidays and Happy Sending!

Kelly Hogan, Senior Deliverability Consultant at Adobe