Boost holiday email marketing success, part one

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By the time the calendar turns to November, b-to-c marketers are typically well into the holiday selling season, supporting their efforts with cross-channel marketing such as weekly, if not daily, email blasts. Traditionally, the holiday season hasn't affected b-to-b marketers in the same way, with most opting to downplay or even ignore it. It shouldn't be this way, though, said Sara Ezrin, senior director-strategic services at Experian CheetahMail. “For b-to-b marketers, it should be a time to put themselves in their customers' shoes and think about how, as a business, you can help them meet their end-of-year business goals,” she said. “The holidays are a good time to engage with customers whether you are b-to-b or b-to-c.” There are some elements of the season, however, that make it more challenging for marketers. For instance, Experian CheetahMail has tracked email volume year-over-year and found that volume increases “significantly” across the board at this time. “Last year, we saw a 20% increase week-over-week, and this year, we're already seeing additional incremental change in volume,” Ezrin said. “This makes it even more challenging for b-to-b marketers to get through to their end users who are already seeing an influx of extra messages.” To combat this uptick in emails, Ezrin suggested adjusting the time that messages are sent out, moving mailings to later in the day. Since the majority of marketers are deploying messages before 9 a.m., b-to-b marketers can cut through the clutter by choosing to send later in the day. “We see a 15% increase in open and click-through rates if messages are deployed between noon and 8 p.m.,” she said. “The reason for those higher rates is likely due to less volume.” Frequency of messaging also increases during the holidays, with some marketers employing a daily deals strategy to get people purchasing more often and to boost company awareness. “You see it in retail—a 30-day-of-holidays program,” Ezrin said. While this strategy may not work for all b-to-b marketers, you can employ elements of such a program with good success, she said. The trick is to make sure customers and prospects have opted in to such a program—or get them to opt in. “We don't tend to recommend that a marketer explicitly tell people that they are going to increase frequency unless you've got a program being created especially for the holidays,” she said. “In the case of b-to-b, what makes sense is to remind clients they can customize the emails they receive through your preference center and make sure you provide an "opt-down' option that, if it makes sense, can be a seasonal opt-down so they can select receiving just your weekly or monthly communications.” Also, most holiday messages offer discounts—a percentage off, free shipping or gift-with-purchase deals. In fact, according to Experian CheetahMail research, percentage-off messaging has already increased year-over-year. Last year, 27% of messages that went out during the holiday season were percentage-off. This year, 32% of emails contained such offers. “Percentage-off offers do tend to perform better as we get into the holiday season, which we define as Sept. 30 through the end of the year,” she said. “It's worth looking into.” Next week: Ezrin provides seven tips to help boost holiday email marketing success.
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