Holiday Email Marketing Do’s and Don’ts

As the end of the year approaches, it makes sense to invest in holiday email marketing. The truth is it’s extremely effective to boost sales now and to generate interest among leads so you can nurture them after the holiday season ends.

But there is a problem with holiday email marketing. Many businesses jump in quickly and make mistakes that can cause the return on their email marketing investment to tank. You don’t want your investments to fail, so it’s important to develop year-end email marketing strategies that prioritize the following do’s and don’ts.

5 Holiday Email Marketing Do’s

There are many ways to improve your email marketing results, but some of the most important holiday email marketing do’s you should focus on include the following priorities:

1. Do Increase Your Sending Volume Slowly to Warm up Your Domain

When you suddenly increase the number of messages you send and how often you send them, email service providers (ESPs) – like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo (i.e., mailbox providers) – will notice that activity and consider it to be unusual behavior. As a result, they’re likely to start sending more of your messages to recipients’ spam folders rather than inboxes, and your domain reputation (also referred to as sender reputation) will go down.

In order to protect your domain reputation so ESPs view you as a good sender (not a spammer) and send your messages to inboxes, you should warm up your domain, which is a process to slowly and methodically increase your sending volume or frequency. Follow the link to learn more about doing a domain warmup, so your holiday messages get to the inbox.

2. Do Create a Plan and a Schedule

Sending one message isn’t enough. You need to create a sequence of messages to move people to action – especially during the holidays when their inboxes are fuller than ever. Therefore, if you want to get the best results, you need to have a holiday email marketing plan. Put together a schedule that outlines when you’ll send messages, who they’ll go to, and what they’ll say. 

To determine the best day and time to send your holiday messages, it’s important to consider recipients’ behaviors. For example, in the Cannabiz Media License Database email tool, you can use the campaign optimization features to find the best day and time to send your campaigns based on when recipients opened your messages in the past. 

It’s a quick and easy way to ensure each person gets your messages at the right times. Follow the link to learn more about holiday email campaign planning and schedules.

3. Do Personalize Your Content for Each Niche Target Audience

The messages you send during the holiday season and throughout the year should be personalized to the recipients so they receive the most relevant content possible. This includes personalizing your messages with first name and using other demographic or behavioral information when possible. 

For example, you can use merge tags in the Cannabiz Media License Database email tool to automatically personalize messages with each recipient’s name, state, and more. In order to personalize your message content, you need to create buyer personas for your best customers, most valuable customers, and so on. Use those buyer personas to segment your email marketing lists and create hyper-relevant content for each segment. Follow the link to learn more about how to create buyer personas.

You can also use data about how recipients engaged with prior email messages that you’ve sent to personalize your message content based on behaviors. What message topics resonated with which audiences? Which contacts have shown the most engagement by opening and clicking links in a lot of the messages that you’ve sent in recent weeks and months? They may be closer to making a purchase decision than someone who hasn’t opened many messages or clicked many links in your messages. 

Knowing recipients’ engagement levels can help you send customized content to help move them to the next stage of the buyer journey.

4. Do Test Your Messages

It’s easier to create a single message and send it to your entire list, but that’s a recipe for poor results. Instead, you should take the time to test every message before you send it to ensure it will deliver the results you want and need. Test the subject line, message content, call-to-action (CTA), images, design, and more to see how different variations affect the open rate and click rate.

You can easily test your campaigns in the Cannabiz Media License Database email tool using the Select First 100 feature and custom tags. Create your list and campaign, use the Select First 100 feature to pick the first 100 people on the list, and give them a custom tag so you know they’re your test group. Send your test message to them and review the results.

You can create as many test groups as you want in order to test different variations of your messages. When you find the best performer, send that message to your full list. Just be sure to exclude the people you’ve already sent the message to during your tests. 

5. Do Make Sure Your Website Can Handle a Traffic Surge

When your holiday email marketing works, you’ll get a surge in traffic to your website. Make sure your website can handle the traffic. You don’t want to invest time and money into creating amazing email marketing holiday promotions only to have recipients who click the links in those messages and visit your website land on a page that can’t load or a website that’s down completely.

Check with your web host before you ramp up your holiday email marketing and make sure your site will be able to handle the additional traffic that will come from all of your holiday campaigns – email and other marketing channels.

5 Holiday Email Marketing Don’ts

What should you not do in holiday email marketing? Here are some of the key don’ts to avoid:

1. Don’t Send Generic Messages to Bulk Lists (or Many Small Lists)

Sending generic messages to large lists (or many small lists) will lead ESPs to think you’re a spammer and more of your messages will end up in spam folders due to a lack of recipient engagement. 

But that’s not all! Generic messages sent to large lists will also lead to poor results among people who actually do receive those messages in their inboxes.

The reason is simple, a lack of engagement with your messages tells ESPs you’re not sending messages that people want. To stay out of spam, you need to segment your lists and send personalized, relevant content to each highly-targeted audience. This is also the only way to get great results from your email marketing investments. Follow the link to learn more about email marketing list segmentation.

2. Don’t Send Spammy Messages

ESPs’ spam algorithms include thousands of criteria to determine whether senders are sending messages people actually want or they’re sending unwanted or blatantly spammy messages. Every time you send a message, their algorithms are updated, so your sending history plays a critical role in helping ESPs direct your messages to the inbox or spam folder.

The key to staying out of the spam folder and making it to the inbox is to avoid including elements in your messages or using tactics that are known spam triggers. Also, make sure you’re segmenting your lists and sending relevant, personalized content to increase engagement and show ESPs you’re truly sending messages people want.

For example, don’t send messages that include more images then text, and don’t send messages that include embedded forms, videos, or attachments. The list of known spam flags goes on and on. Follow the link to learn more about email marketing deliverability and spam triggers.

3. Don’t Just Send Sales Messages

Yes, your holiday email marketing messages should include special promotions, but that doesn’t mean you should only send self-promotional messages during the holiday season. It’s essential that you send useful content as well or you could look like a spammer. You don’t want people to mark your messages as spam, which will hurt your future email deliverability, meaning more of your messages will go to spam and fewer will go to the inbox.

As you create your holiday email marketing plan and schedule, strategize where useful content vs. promotional content fits in the sequences of messages you send to each niche target audience.

Also, don’t keep sending the same promotional messages to everyone or to the same people over and over. Not only could this hurt your future deliverability (if engagement with the message is low or someone marks it as spam), but if the message didn’t work the first one, two, three, or more times, it’s unlikely it will ever work. And of course, no one wants to get the same promotional message (or a similar message) multiple times.

4. Don’t Send Messages that Aren’t Mobile-Friendly

About 50% of all email messages are opened on mobile devices today, so it’s crucial that your holiday email marketing messages (and all of your email marketing messages for that matter) load quickly and correctly on mobile devices.

That means you need to test each message you send to ensure it renders exactly how you want it to on both desktop and mobile devices before you send it. This is easy to do using the preview and test features in the email marketing tool of the Cannabiz Media License Database.

5. Don’t Skip Tracking Results

If you don’t track your holiday email marketing results, you can’t improve your strategy and results for future holiday campaigns. Therefore, you should track who opens your messages, what links they click on, what they do when they get to your website or complete the call-to-action in your messages, and more.

In order to track and analyze your key performance indicators (KPIs), you may have to do some setup before you start sending your holiday messages. For example, you can set up UTM codes to track the links people click that send them to your website and follow what they do after they get to your site.

If you use the Cannabiz Media License Database, you can automatically track who opens your messages and what links they click from within your campaign performance data. This crucial data is available for every campaign you send.

When these campaign metrics are combined with the website-level data you can get from UTM codes and Google Analytics, you can drill deep and determine which campaigns worked best, which need to be tweaked for the next holiday, and which need to be scrapped entirely. You can follow the link to learn more about tracking email marketing results.

Key Takeaways about Holiday Email Marketing Do’s and Don’ts

Holiday email marketing can make a significant difference in a cannabis or cannabis-related company’s brand awareness, brand loyalty, and revenue. However, you need a plan, a schedule, segmented lists, hyper-relevant and non-spammy content, and an understanding of what to avoid in order for your campaigns to be successful and drive the return on investment that you want and need.

Want to see how the Cannabiz Media License Database can help you connect with cannabis and hemp license holders for targeted email marketing during the holidays and throughout the year? Schedule a demo!

Originally published 11/24/20. Updated 11/19/21.

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