Holiday Email Strategy

If you're like the Email Diva, the last thing you want to think about on this lovely July day is the H word. But, as Wikipedia points out, "Strategy is differentiated from tactics.... by its nature of being extensively premeditated.... Strategies are used to make the problem easier to understand and solve." In the name of making life easier, despite our seasonal aversion, let's roll up our sleeves and start planning. I give you the Email Diva's guide to a successful holiday email strategy.


Our first step is to understand the entire company holiday effort -- and your contribution to its success.

Plan to deliver a consistent message. While we all agree that the customer should get a consistent brand message across all touch points, in practice we just want to do our own thing. When all efforts -- online and off -- are working together, a synergy is created that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. If your company does not have a plan to share holiday plans among business units and divisions, seek them out yourself. You will get brownie points for being a team player and big thinker, and the customer will get a consistent brand message.

Plan to develop a consistent look & feel. Since most media have a longer production process than email, chances are you will have to work from the look & feel developed elsewhere. The customer experience is more important than your creative freedom, so stop whining and make it work. Understand the production schedules for other efforts, so you'll know when you will have access to the final graphic assets created for them.

Get the inside story. Talk to the buyers who selected the products you will promote via email. What are they excited about for the holiday season? Why did they choose them? What is special about them? How do they stack up to the competition? Set up meetings with buyers and promotion planners so you can get the sizzle to help you sell the steak. (Sorry, it's got to be face-to-face; you won't find it in a PowerPoint deck.)

Define goals & metrics. As Lewis Carroll wrote, if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. Understand how the email effort will be evaluated in terms of the overall effort. Looking at your current average metrics, can you reach your goals? If not, what do you need to do to get there: improve response, increase your list, cut the dead wood? Know exactly what you'll be tracking and develop your plan to monitor progress -- and make mid-course corrections -- along the way.


The next step is to take advantage of all the intelligence at hand. Immerse yourself in email response data, competitors' efforts and best practices.

Delve into your data. Now is the time to become one with your data, both current and from previous holiday seasons. Ommm. There is no short-cut; you need to sort, chart and ponder until you can unlock the secrets within. Start with previous holiday trends. Which mailings were the most and least successful? Which were shared with friends most often? Which had high opt-out rates? Summarize the outcome of any tests you've done, holiday or otherwise, that you haven't had time to pause and consider.

Evaluate competitors' efforts. This is when the Email Analyst tool is invaluable (and no, I am not on the EDS payroll). Review competitors and others whose work you admire from the previous holiday season. What can you learn from their approach and execution? Were there missed opportunities that will help you stand out from the crowd?

Research best practices. There is no shortage of advice, information and case studies out there. Search, read, highlight, summarize and be thankful for all the great sites that provide a free holiday email MBA.

In the next installment, I'll discuss creating a great customer experience and ensuring that your production process functions like a well-oiled machine during the critical holiday period. But for now, it's back to the beach for the Email Diva. Wear your sunscreen and...

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld



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