• December 2018

Drive sales during the holiday season with email marketing

By Matt Paulson

The initial holiday shopping craze of Black Friday has come and gone. Most retailers have already had their best sales day of the year and have a few short weeks left to market to consumers before Christmas. Retailers rely on newspaper inserts, television commercials and direct mail to drive customers to their stores during the holidays. These advertising strategies can be effective, but many businesses fail to take full advantage of all the advertising channels available to them.

Email marketing is one of the advertising channels most under-utilized by small businesses during the holiday season. Online holiday sales totaled $108 billion in 2017 and email marketing was responsible for 28 percent of all 2017 online Black Friday sales, according to Ometria. Yet, some small businesses do not include email marketing as part of their holiday promotions because of the perception that email marketing requires a strong technology background and advanced copywriting skills.

It doesn't have to be that difficult. Consumers already have a strong penchant to purchase during the holiday season and a helpful email reminder from a business that they already know, like and trust can often drive additional sales. If you have an email list of your existing customer base or other people interested in your brand, consider creating a special sales or bonus offer that is only available during the holiday season and sending your audience a series of emails to promote the offer. Make sure that the discount or bonus offer you create is better than any other deal that you offer throughout the year. Consumers are expecting "doorbuster" deals and you should give them one.

When crafting your holiday email marketing campaign, creating a sense of urgency is key. Consumers need a specific reason to buy during the length of your campaign, otherwise they may never get around to purchasing something from you. One way to do this is to have a hard deadline for your holiday offer and tell your customers how much time they have left to take advantage of your deal in each email that you send. You can even use tools like MotionMail to put a visual countdown timer in each email. Another way to create urgency is to offer a free bonus to the first 50 or 100 people that take advantage of a specific offer. By offering a deal to a limited number of people, your customers will be incentivized to act quickly so that they don't miss out on the deal.

Brands sent out more than three billion marketing emails to U.S. consumers during Black Friday weekend in 2017, according to Shopify. Most of these messages were never opened, because they got lost in users' crowded inboxes. The unfortunate reality is that most email inboxes are flooded with dozens, if not hundreds, of new messages each day and consumers won't open most of the messages they receive. For this reason, I often suggest waiting until after the initial Black Friday rush to run your primary holiday campaign. With fewer brands competing for attention in the inbox, your messages are more likely to be read and engaged with. At MarketBeat, our New Year's sale generated three times the amount of revenue that our Black Friday sale generated.

To achieve the best results with your campaign, send your audience multiple emails over the course of four or five days. Marketers are often satisfied if just 15 to 20 percent of recipients open an email from them, so it's important to send multiple emails to your audience over several days so that they can become aware of and act on your holiday campaign offer. On the last day of your campaign, consider sending your audience three or four different emails to create a further sense of urgency to act. You may find that as many as 50 percent of your holiday campaign sales happen on the last day of your sale because of the sense of urgency you create.

If you want an additional sales bounce after your campaign is over, you can send a "one more chance" campaign four or five days after your sale where consumers have one final day to take advantage of your holiday sales offer. You can communicate that there were customers that wanted to take advantage of your sales offer but didn't get a chance to by the campaign deadline for whatever reason. Your "one more chance" campaign will give potential customers who were on the fence a final opportunity to take advantage of your holiday offer. In 2017, our "one more chance" campaign generated 33 percent of the revenue associated with our New Year's campaign. "One more chance" campaigns are often very effective, but they should be used sparingly. If overused, you may inadvertently train your customers that your deadlines don't mean anything or that they can just wait for the next sale.

Crafting a holiday email marketing campaign may seem overwhelming, but the task becomes much more approachable if you just imagine that you are writing one letter to one friend each day and repeating that process for five consecutive days in a row. Holiday email marketing campaigns can be incredibly powerful sales tools, but you must take action, write a sales offer and click the send button.


Matt Paulson is the founder and president of MarketBeat, an Inc. 5000 financial media company that publishes a daily investing email newsletter to more than 750,000 subscribers. Paulson has authored eight entrepreneurship and investing books, including his best-selling email marketing book, Email Marketing Demystified. He serves on the boards of directors for 1 Million Cups, Falls Angel Fund, Sioux Falls Seminary and the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship.

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