The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Emails Jessica Lunk For many small businesses, the holiday season is the most lucrative of the year. According to the National Retail Federation, brands can sell as much as 30 percent of their total annual income coming during November and December alone, and year-over-year sales are generally increasing across the board. So how can you stay on top of it? Email marketing is one of the most efficient tactics here. It’s a busy time of year for everyone—including your customers—so trying to catch their attention with banner ads or content marketing might not work, since they have less attention to give. Emails, at least, get delivered straight to them, popping up on their phones and in their inboxes with your message. Since everyone’s scrambling to find a good present anyway, it’s a great time to surprise them with a way out of their problems. So how can you optimize your email strategy to bring in the best results this holiday season? Step 1: Cut Through the Spam Headlines are always the trickiest to nail down, and that’s why we encourage A/B testing them as often as possible. But during the holiday season in particular, you’ll need to cut through the inbox spam with personality and personalization. Try personal references, clever lines, emojis or blunt offers in your headlines. Think about a problem your ideal customer might be facing and how you can solve it. Put yourself in their shoes and consider the language that would be most appropriate—something comforting, encouraging or clear. At the same time, while you’re vying for attention in the inbox, resist the urge to use clickbait that fails to deliver on the promise of your subject line. Keep it relevant – not misleading. Need a few ideas? One of my favorite places to go is the “Promotions” tab in Gmail to see what type of headlines jump out at me in a sea of offers. We’ve also written a primer on email headlines that’s timeless and full of great ideas. Step 2: Offer Something Valuable Whether it’s a gift guide, referral rewards or last-minute tips, your campaign should revolve around something prominent and worthwhile. Holiday guides are always a good bet, because many businesses are trying to capitalize on the holiday season. Often businesses have a difficult time differentiating themselves from the masses—and that’s where you come in. You can break down your guides by industry, focus and skill level so you can reach prospects of all types. This is also a great time of year to spread around referrals, which slot perfectly into the “season for giving” mentality. People are primed to spend money, but are also expecting better-than-ever deals; offering discounts to referrals via friends or family is a surefire way to spread the holiday spirit and draw attention to your brand. You can offer free consultations, shared discount codes or anything else that makes sense for your company. If all else fails, of course, you have one last hail Mary: the last-minute deal. Nothing answers a worried shopper’s prayer quite like receiving an email that says “Last chance to get your gift by Dec. 24!” If it’s getting down to the wire, now is the time to entice your customers by easing their worries. Step 3: Design for the Season Now is not the time to overload customers with new information. Now is the time for clarity. Find your objective, write your headline and design your email in the clearest way possible. Remember, you’re trying to make life easier for your customers. Use clear language and a design that streamlines your offer. Follow it up with an obvious call to action that leads directly to a landing or purchase page. It doesn’t make sense to send people to your homepage when you’re advertising a specific service—they’ll get confused and probably (understandably) leave. Step 4: Don’t Let it End with the Season Isn’t it such a relief when the holiday season is over? Your customers feel it, too. And since January is such a notoriously low spending month for businesses (everyone’s shopped-out from December), that’s the time to let go of some real discounts and offers. Now that the dust has settled, it’s a perfect time to also reach out with a questionnaire, feedback survey or follow-up email. Remember, the holiday season is one of the most emotional shopping experiences people endure. There’s a good chance your offerings, attentive customer service and outreach could have genuinely relieved them of stress and helped them set the new year off on the right foot. If that’s the case, you’ll want to hear about it. After all, a healthy dose of good cheer is what the holiday season is all about.