Christmas In July: How to Get a Head Start on Holiday Email Marketing

By EJ McGowan, Campaigner

It's the middle of summer, but savvy marketers are already thinking about fall and winter - Black Friday and other holiday retail events, that is. 

The holiday season provides many retailers with a much needed opportunity to get in the black before the year comes to a close, and with so much riding on the season's success, proper business preparation should start months in advance. Yet last August, 38 percent of Internet retailers reported to us that they were unprepared for the upcoming holiday shopping season. 

Read on for best practices that you should start implementing now to get a strategic jumpstart on your holiday email marketing strategy and an advantage over your competition.

Build Pre-Holiday Excitement

Build pre-holiday excitement for your brand and gain insights into what offers will resonate most with your recipients for Christmas and Black Friday by creating a series of email campaigns leading up to the actual holiday promotions themselves.

In these campaigns, remind subscribers that the holidays are around the corner, ask them for their preferences via survey, and even see if they would like to be part of a focus group to determine which promotions you should use come November.

At first, offer these opportunities as perks to your most engaged contacts, and ladder it down to other engagement levels as needed.

Not only will these pre-engagement campaigns plant your brands' seed among your contacts before the holidays hit, but you'll also glean useful data to leverage once you start to roll out the actual holiday promotions and messages.

Focus on Pre-Holiday Prep

Ideally, you would send out these pre-engagement campaigns in September and October, meaning that all your planning and preparation should be done in July and August.

Take advantage of the slow summer months by using this time to put together your Q3 and Q4 email marketing calendars, build and clean up subscriber lists, spread your social presence and send reactivation campaigns.

For reactivation campaigns, remind unengaged customers what they purchased from you in the past and offer them promotions on similar or complementary items. This strategy will remind them why they love your brand and will ensure you're already top of mind for them before the holidays roll around. Then, clean up contact lists by removing any recipients who don't respond to these reactivation campaigns so that your lists are immaculate for the start of the September campaigns.

Once you've removed unresponsive contacts, work on growing your lists with new, high-quality contacts. One essential way to go about this is through social media integration. Make sure that all your emails include social buttons at the bottom, so that recipients can easily visit your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram pages. By interacting with your brand on social media, email contacts spread the word about you throughout their entire social networks, which in time can lead to new email contacts.

In addition to social buttons, be sure to start including direct buy buttons in your emails so that contacts can easily make purchases from their email screen. To optimize this feature for mobile devices, implement mobile-responsive design templates over the summer if you haven't done so already. 

Execute with Ease

By spending the summer planning and preparing, execution will come easy. Implement three to five pre-engagement campaigns in September and October so that by November you can launch informed and efficient holiday email campaigns that will make the season a little merrier for you and your marketing team.

EJ McGowan, general manager of Campaigner, has more than 25 years' experience in the software industry with expertise in building highly available, scalable SaaS-based solutions.