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If you’re just starting to think about email acquisition during the holiday season, I have bad news for you: That boat sailed about nine months ago.

But, I can still get you on board.

The holiday season is about more than just selling. Sure, that’s a big part of it. But, it’s also a new-customer bonanza. This is your prime time to add more customers to your email database. Is your acquisition program up to the challenge?

October is too late to put together a comprehensive acquisition program, but you can do some simple things today to enhance what you’re already doing.

Three tactics to try now 

1. Check your welcome email and acquisition paths.

Is everything working the way it’s supposed to? If nobody ever checks up on it, you could find a link that no longer works, a form that doesn’t pass information over to your database, or a checkbox that doesn’t check out.

Do this before you leave work today:

Using a test address, sign up for email using every acquisition point: web forms, the checkbox on purchase or download, Facebooks signup forms, Twitter cards, search campaign landing pages, links from offline sources – whatever you offer.

See if your data is registering, both on the front end (you get a confirmation email; the welcome email launches) and the back end (the subscribe request gets logged with the proper timestamp; all the data loads correctly, and so on).

After you check system functions, audit the message content for every acquisition-related email you send, including confirmation, welcome and onboarding.

Do you need to refresh the language? Does the message represent the brand correctly – right brand, logo, colors, voice? These messages should reflect changes you make in your regular email templates for a seamless and brand-reinforcing experience. Do this now, before the boss asks you if the email is ready to go. Being on top of your game is a great confidence-builder.

2. Create advocates, not just buyers.

Use email to ask customers to become your advocates to their friends and family.

Although I usually argue against trying new things in the fourth quarter when your eye should be on the holiday ball, a limited trial run of a loyalty-building email program could yield some customer goodwill and new subscribers.

Send an email to buyers three days or so after they receive their goods. (If you decide to go ahead with this, you can test different timings to see which works best.) Thank them for their business and ask whether they would be willing to tell their friends about their experiences. Provide an easy way for them to share their email addresses.

Sounds like yet another refer-a-friend program, right? It isn’t. You’re sending this message only to your biggest advocates, i.e. your recent purchasers – likely your most enthusiastic customers – not to every email in your database.


This email is all about thanking your customer and not selling anything other than the value of your program.

It also addresses one of the main reasons people share content: They get a high from sharing things that will impress their friends.

Your message should reflect your brand voice. If I worked for Woot!, a daily-deal site with an irreverent voice that matches its ecommerce approach, my email would say something like this:

“Hi, and thanks for letting us make your holiday jollier. We hope the crap you bought from us makes you or your friends happy. Speaking of friends, do you have any that would want to know about Woot!? Push this button and we’ll invite them to buy our crap, too.”

Warning! Please don’t send this exact email to your customers. I don’t want some luxury-brand boss calling me up and saying, “Ryan, are you nuts?!” Write it in your own special brand voice.

3. Sell your email program in the transaction email.

Give customers who didn’t opt-in to email during their transactions another chance in your transaction-confirmation email.

Customers who leave the opt-in button unchecked would receive a transaction email that includes a line asking, “Are you sure you don’t want to join our email program?” and a quick benefit statement. Add a link to your registration page, too.

I would phrase Woot!’s message this way: “We have a lot of crap on our site, including the legendary Bag O’ Crap. Join our email program for the best deals every day and your chances to get your hands on one the next time we offer it.”

Reminder: Please reword if you work for anybody but Woot!.

As I said before, I usually don’t advocate making big changes in the fourth quarter. But, if somebody’s already working on your transaction process and it’s an easy fix, why not ask for it? Offer to buy lunch for anybody who could slip it in. (Note: This really does work.)

Holiday sales + acquisitions = big career wins

The holidays aren’t just sales events. They’re a tremendous opportunity to grow your email database. If you can show you brought in new customers as well as increased sales, that’s a great story to take to your executive team. You’d be surprised to find out how much that changes people’s minds about what email can accomplish in your organization.