The pumpkins have hit the stores, which can only mean one thing; it’s fall time and October is nearly upon us! (Whoa, where has this year gone?!)
It is also that time of year when the lockdown for your holiday email marketing plans is just around the corner. If you’re like most marketers in the retail space, you’ve been thinking about your holiday efforts since about the time you took the Easter bunny off your messages.
Before you throw the switch on your fourth-quarter marketing plan (including your Halloween, Thanksgiving and Black Friday campaigns), take a few minutes to make sure you’ve covered three essential basics that could make the difference between a great quarter and just-okay results.
1. Read your latest email on your phone
Look at it the way your customers might. Does it open easily or take forever to open all the images and modules? Can you navigate through the message easily? How well does the message adjust to your screen size? Do you have to think hard about the “ask,” or is it clear?
Then, when you have time, use your phone to visit every stop on your eCommerce journey. Check the landing pages. Open transactional and triggered emails. Use both your smartphone and your tablet (each one delivers a different experience). Do this even if you use the mobile simulator on your ESP’s email editor.
Finally, ask someone on another team, or a non-email buddy to do the same thing. (Just don’t ask your mom, because she’ll say, “Oh, honey, it looks just fine. I’m so proud of you!”)
You’re looking for independent verification, outside the echo chamber of your own marketing department, that your email looks good and works correctly on mobile.
After that, pat yourself on the back because you’ve tackled the mobile challenge, which many of your inbox competitors haven’t.
2. Create a daily email schedule
During the holiday season, you need one information source that shows you at a glance what you’re sending every day from November 15 to January 2. It should list the emails you’re sending plus what’s in each message (the products or services being featured, reminders and deadlines, etc.), the message category and the content marketing plan that runs alongside your promotional plan.
If you’ve lived through at least one holiday email season, you know people will ask you almost every day when a specific email is scheduled to drop. You lose points if you say, “Um-m-m-m …” or pull out a bar napkin and try to figure out what you wrote down three months ago.
Instead of creating just another Word or Excel doc, go visual. Set up a Gantt chart that you can color-code for different message types, product categories departments, audiences – whatever your variables are. Get out your poster board, ruler and markers, and make something for your wall, or set up one online using Excel.
Here’s what a Gantt chart looks like:
Creating a schedule now will come in handy in December when somebody looks at sales and pleads with (or orders) you to “just send another email”.
3. Say “thank you”
What will you do with your email program after your shipping deadlines and before you start reminding people to cash in their gift cards? No matter what your email plan calls for, find a day to send a thoughtful thank-you card to your customers.
That’s one of the great things about email: People like getting warm fuzzies and not just another hard sell, especially during the holidays.
That’s the unavoidable down side of the holiday season. We drown our customers with one offer after another, asking them to buy, to sign up, to download and to buy again and again. No wonder people find email annoying!
Take time now to brainstorm an attractive email message that simply thanks the recipient for being your customer in the most authentic way possible. Turn your creative people loose on this one. You could send a photo from your company picnic, a class picture of your customer-support staff, a clever graphic, a holiday animation – whatever stands out from your regular messages, yet is immediately identifiable as a message from your brand.
From now until the end of the holiday season next January, you’re going to hear lots of “must-do” advice. Why should you pay attention to mine? Because I’m suggesting easy but ultimately rewarding things you can do today to save time and reduce stress down the road.
The holidays are stressful enough for everybody. Invest in yourself and your program now and may the marketing force be with you!