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Tis the Season to Email?

CTCT Employee

Halloween is just around the corner, which means the holiday season is about to trick or treat its way into high gear. People are already getting ready for awkward family dinners at Thanksgiving, heartwarmingly garish sweaters knitted by Grandma, and the general adrenaline rush of not knowing what to get a loved one for a gift.


Given all the purchases that will be made between now and New Year's, this is a great time for special deals, discounts, and packages, but the big question is how you should communicate them to your customers. If you get too enthusiastic and send 12 emails a week, a subscriber’s “report spam” finger can get a little itchy.


So how often should you send those holiday emails and how different should they be? We took the topic to our managing editor, Martin Lieberman, and senior content developer, Dave Charest.


Bottom line: Should small businesses and organizations send emails more frequently during the holiday season? Why or why not?


Dave: I would say it’s okay to send more frequently during the holiday season. But you still want to be sure those emails have stand-alone value for your subscribers. The holidays aren’t a license to go on a self-serving promotion spree. Keep your subscribers’ needs in mind.


Martin: I'd actually say no, mostly because there's already a glut of email at this time of year. Instead, beef up how active you are on social media. Just make sure it doesn’t get too sales-y.  Continue posting the same kind of engaging content you've already been sharing. I will say this, though: If you decide to increase your email frequency, it's a good idea to tell your subscribers that they should expect to hear from you more often. After all, if they've signed up for a monthly communication and you start sending weekly emails, they may not like that.


What’s the most important thing for people to remember when they’re creating their holiday email campaigns?


Dave: The holidays are a very noisy email time because everyone is bumping up their send rates, hoping to get some of those holiday bucks. You may actually set yourself apart by creating helpful resources for your subscribers rather than sticking to promotions.


Martin: The first thing is that they shouldn't be just email campaigns. They should be campaigns that include email marketing and social media. But aside from that, I think the most important thing to remember is that just about everyone is selling and offering discounts at this time of year. To really stand out, you should provide value through information, like Dave said. Shopping tips, gift-giving advice, and entertaining content can help you stand out from the multitude of 20% off and free shipping offers.


How far in advance should holiday-specific emails be sent?


Dave: I usually like to build up to a specific promotion. I generally like to do that with a 4- to 6-week lead time. You know, start talking about problems that a product solves and maybe some of its features, but don’t directly sell it for the first few weeks.


Martin: We all cringe when holiday merchandise is already out at various stores before Halloween has even passed, so you don't want to start too early with the holiday messaging. That said, while lots of people wait till the last minute to shop for holiday gifts (myself included), I think it's safe to say that people prefer to be prepared as early as possible. I'd start beating the holiday drum soon after Halloween — but tone down the specific holiday messages and themes until around Thanksgiving.


B2C businesses can use emails to offer coupons and specials, but what kinds of holiday-related value can B2B and nonprofits offer?


Dave: Across the board, it’s good to partner with other businesses for the holidays to add value to what you already offer, while reaching new audiences. This could also help organizations gain a little more exposure during the season.


Martin: At holiday time, everyone's in a giving frame of mind. So nonprofits can appeal to that side of people's natures by sharing successes from the past year and goals for the year ahead. B2B businesses can help people get through the holidays with advice like watching your budget, gift wrapping, rewarding employees, and creative promotional ideas. Everyone can get into the holiday spirit, no matter what type of business or organization you have.


There’s always a delicate balance between value content (i.e. articles, news stories, events, advice) and sales-related content in newsletters. Should that balance shift during the holiday season?


Dave: The simple answer is that it should shift as appropriate. If you plan accordingly, a good ratio could be something like four helpful or entertaining emails to every full-on promotion.


Martin: Not at all. As I've said already, everyone is selling at holiday time. The more you can NOT sell, the more it will help you to stand out from your competition. Like Dave says, an 80/20 balance of non-sales to sales messages is always a good idea.


What do you think? Do you increase your email and/or social media frequency at the holiday time? Weigh in here or on our Facebook Page.


I'm interested in all things content marketing, especially how they relate to good writing. I'm an author at heart and I think that the internet and quality books and articles have a healthy future together.