’Tis the season for e-mail marketing

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Holiday promotions might seem like the exclusive realm of consumer marketers, but b-to-b e-mail marketers can also take advantage of the holiday selling season.

“While the timelines of retailers are different compared to b-to-b, you can still reach out and influence the buying cycle with holiday marketing,” said Huw Griffiths, director of marketing with e-mail marketing solutions provider Campaigner Email Marketing, which on Nov. 4 will co-sponsor with the American Marketing Association a webinar titled “The Final Stretch: E-mail Marketing Tips to Ramp Up Holiday Revenue.”

“If you’re not reaching out, you can assume all your competitors will be,” he added. “Holiday marketing is not the sole domain of the retail world.”

Griffiths provided these tips to help you jump-start your own holiday marketing program.

̶ Take the opportunity to say thanks. Those companies with longer buying cycles that can’t offer special holiday promotions can still take advantage of the season, Griffiths said. “You can say thanks for the business to existing customers and send best greetings for the season to prospects,” he said.

It’s also a smart time to reach out and ask customers and prospects for more information, such as demographic and purchasing data, and ask what both groups think about your products and services.

̶ Capture the “use-it-or-lose-it” crowd. Those companies that have already allocated money for 2008 spending but haven’t made purchases will be itching to spend what they have left. That’s why a promotion with a Dec. 31 expiration date may help shake dollars out of their pockets and into yours, Griffiths said.

̶ Give e-mail recipients your update. You probably get them every year: holiday cards that detail a friend’s or relative’s activities during the past 12 months. Companies can do this, too, and improve usage of other marketing vehicles such as blogs or other social media offerings. “It’s a great way to point people in the direction and create trust,” Griffiths said.

You can ask people to comment on your company and point them to a product review page where they can post their thoughts. You could also highlight a recent blog and provide a link so people can comment on that, he said. “Don’t think of social media as an alternative or something that’s in competition with your e-mail marketing,” he said. “It’s just one of the segments in the overall marketing channel.”

̶ Ask recipients to update their preferences. The end of the year often means new goals and a new business focus. In this business climate, someone may be putting off a purchase until the second or third quarter of 2009. They should be able to stay on your e-mail list but receive better targeted messages. Asking everyone to update their preferences and select variables such as frequency and interests can help them do just that, Griffiths said. “Unless you do this, you’re just shooting in the dark,” he said.

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