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Ultimate Guide To Running Holiday Email Campaign

Email is the most personal business communication medium.

Imagine having access to someone’s home postal box.

Holidays are that magical time of year when customers feel the shopping fever.

Combine email and holidays and you’ve got a powerful force of marketing.

Read on as we demystify the myths of holiday email campaigns and provide you with a complete rundown, from objectives to conversions!

1. Email Tools You Need For Successful Holiday Campaigns

2. Tool #1: The Popups And Widgets

3. Tool #2: The Autoresponder

4. Tool #3: The Email Marketing Platform

5. Email Element #1: The Email Subject Line

6. Email Element #2: The Content

7. Email Element #3: The Special Touches

8. Optimize For Micro-Conversions

9. Go Mobile Or Go Home

10. Final Tips And Tricks

11. Recommended Reading: Articles And Guides


1. The Email Tools You Need For Successful Holiday Campaigns


I’m not an advocate of tools over content or substance. But tools to make life a lot easier and some tools provide better performance than others. The 3 basic tools are the Email Marketing Platforms, the Autoresponder and the popups and widgets.

They all work together to create a trifecta of utility. You gather emails, you automate responses and send newsletters according to your schedule. While there are free tools available, most suffer from limitations and lack of features. For this reason, I am going to recommend a few tools. Not only will you get support, but you’ll be sustaining the ecosystem, allowing developers to push updates and make your marketing life even easier.

I recommend starting small, giving a few similar tools a test and then choosing to purchase them. Since most tools on this list do offer free trials, it’s almost a no-brainer trying them out.

Even though they’re different in the way they function and what purpose they serve, these tools should share a few key features:

– They should be easy to set up and run
– They should integrate well with each other.
– They should provide value right away.
– The first tool on our list provides the foundation of any email list: subscribers.

The first tool on our list provides the foundation of any email list: subscribers.

2. Tool #1: The Popups And Widgets

Getting new subscribers gets harder and harder. You have to use discounts, special offers, work on your copywriting, use great images, implement Exit Intent popups, look at stats and optimize and it goes on and on. Lucky for you, we’ve narrowed down your choices to just 3 tools.

#1 GetSiteControl

GetSite Control Popup tool

While there are no HTML-editing functions, it does offer a lot of pre-made templates. It also includes built-in marketing bars like HelloBar. You get Exit Intent, targeting, color options, A/B testing and much more.

#2 Ninja Popups 

Ninja Pop

Ninja Popups is a strictly WordPress plugin, but since 23% of the web is powered by this platform, we found it to be very relevant. There are pre-built templates and you can also create your own. We also like it because it’s a one-time payment (or 2 times, if you count the Widget addon) and it doesn’t slow down your website.

#3 Engagifire Popup

Engagifire Popups

Engagifire Popups is our final pick. The pricing is a bit sketchy, since there are 2 upsells you don’t know about. Without them, you’re locked out of a few functionalities. The good news is that the basic package is powerful enough to use on its own.

There are tons of templates, desktop and mobile. You can customize just about everything  with a simple drag-and-drop editor.

Support is top notch – within minutes your questions are answered and your problems fixed within hours.

All of these solutions integrate with the majority of Email Marketing Platforms, but also have the option of saving the subscribers into an internal database. You just download that regularly and import it in MailChimp or AWeber or whatever you decide to use.

3. Tool #2: The Autoresponder

Email Autoresponders

While this can be a separate tool, we recommend having it integrated with your primary Email Marketing Platform. MailChimp, GetResponse and Sendy are all great options. The first two offering advanced autoresponding features, while the last one is the most affordable, since you basically only have to pay once for the application.

Since it’s the holidays, you should set up a few basic emails for your subscribers.

– The “Welcome” Email

– The “There are X days until Holiday Y” Email

– The “Holidays aren’t over, more deals on their way” Email

– The “Happy Holidays” Email

– The “It’s your birthday, here’s a special discount” Email

If you set these up early, segmenting and sending should be a breeze. Always keep an eye on your stats. You want to optimize as you go along, especially content that you tend to think of as static, not dynamic.

4. Tool #3: The Email Marketing Platform

Take good care of your EMP and it will treat you well. If you decide to use MailChimp, you do get Automation (Autoresponders), advanced segments, simple newsletter editor with pre-built templates, bounce manager, helpful and responsive support staff and much more.

It’s very easy to get started and since it’s such a popular platform, pretty much anything and everything connects or integrates with it. It means you can rest assured that whatever plugin, app, widget or popup you use, your subscribers will end up in MailChimp. And once they’re here, the Automation can kick in and the emails you’ve created.


It is true that certain EMPs provide better deliverability. Test and test again until you feel you get a good percentage. Ongage, for example, has special technology that allows it to increase its chances of hitting your subscribers’ inboxes. On the other hand, the $499/month (with a yearly contract) is not for everyone.

MailChimp also offers the option of tracking the conversions your website, if you integrate a bit of code in it. That means that once you send a newsletter, you’re not limited to basic opens+clicks statistics. This allows you to go even further than that, much closer to the final conversion point.

5. Email Element #1: The Email Subject Line

If there’s one thing you should invest in, besides your Email Marketing Platform, it’s a good copywriter who understands the web, email and the latest digital marketing trends.

The subject line makes you or breaks you. Say something stupid and you’ll be ignored. Say something great and you’ll be rewarded with amazing open rates and fantastic click-throughs (if your Call To Action is as expertly composed as your Subject Line).

Here are 5 basic tips of influencing subscribers to open your newsletters during the holidays:

– Use emojis.A fairly recent addition to Subject Lines, emojis make your email stand out, are colorful and display emotion.

– Make your first line complete your Subject Line.Since most email apps show the Subject Line AND the first line of the email, make that first line be a continuation.

– Implement Power Words.Landing Pages and Email Newsletters have a lot in common. One of which being the importance of using few words to convey a lot. Usually, FREE and YOU work best.

– Insert deadlines.The holidays (and the deals) don’t last forever. Insert tight deadlines in your Subject Line to inspire urgency and provoke action.

– Shape your Subject Line in the form of a question.Test using a question in your Subject Line, so that it appeals to human nature to evoke a response.

If the subscriber has clicked on your email – congratulations! He will know get to see your content.

6. Email Element #2: The Content

The Subject Line is there to make the subscriber notice and open your email. The Content is there for one purpose and one purpose only: drive traffic to your website or landing page. That means that if you’ve got a deal on one product, have at most 2 Call To Action buttons.

When you go above 3, you’re giving the user too many options. Emails should be simple, he should know what to click on right away. A good way of testing your designs is to use the blur test to check if your CTA is still visible.

In terms of the actual design, it helps to have elements that relate to the specific holiday. But there’s no need to go overboard. After all, design isn’t just the surface, it should provide functionality and a good experience.

Single column designs tend to work best, since you’re starting with a mobile-first mentality. But that isn’t because it’s a phase or a trend. It’s due to the way consumers nowadays consume information and use the internet. They’re sharper, quicker, rely more on reviews and look for testimonials.

Your Customer Persona helps you shape your content to match your audience, leading to personalized emails that drive conversions.

Nothing beats a good story, that’s why text-only emails have really caught on lately. It’s stripping all the content to its barebones. Neville Medhora paints a very vivid picture of stories winning over thought-out design. Just because everyone else is using these over-designed newsletters to try and sell, doesn’t mean you should too.

Keep in touch with competition and outwit them using newsletter spy/search services like Notablist. They make it incredibly easy to get a baseline for what they’ve done in the past and what the general feel for them is.

Of course, you could also go the manual route and subscribe to each and everyone of those newsletters. But make sure to use filters and labels, to not clog up your main inbox.

Check out this infographic below by Lyris Marketing Team in which they have shared five types of live email content for your next email campaign!

types of live email content for your next email campaign

7. Email Element #3: The Special Touches

You want your emails to stand out. So what better way of doing that than employing the latest trends in email marketing?

1. Animated .GIFs

 Use them wisely – craft tutorials, create a quick photo-shoot, show benefits, explain how to use a discount. And if all else fails, use a cat .GIF or two. Those never fail.

2. Image And Video Personalization

Systems like DirectSmile allow marketers to personalize both images and videos with any text they desire. Imagine creating personalized greeting cards or invitation videos. All looking tailored made for each individual subscriber. Expect surprise and delight.

3. Countdown Timers

Counters in email

This is another one of those features that you assume email marketers will use all the time, and yet they don’t. Apps and plugins like MotionMail and OuttaTimr make it easy to create your countdown timer and insert it into your newsletter. And the best part about them is that they work properly on almost all email apps and operating systems (Android, iOS, Gmail, Outlook, etc.)

4. Retargeting Emails For Abandoned Carts

Even though this is something that should be the norm, it’s still not as widely used as you’d think. And you’re missing a big opportunity if you’re not deploying retargeting emails. Cart completions goes up 26% when this tactic is used.

5. Behaviorally-Targeted Emails

Behaviorally targted emails for engagement

The holy grail for marketers is here. MailChimp Automation and most other top-tier EMPs are now integrating with your landing pages. This makes it possible to send your subscribers email, based on their activity on your website.

8. Optimize For Micro-Conversions

It would be amazing if all your emails would get opened and all your subscribers clicked on the CTA button and bought something right away. Unfortunately, the real marketing world doesn’t work like that.

For those reasons, you should establish a clear way of judging your sucess. Think in terms of indicators, rather than objectives. That means focusing more on Opens and Clicks and less on Conversions. It might sound counter-intuitive, since you’re sending email newsletters in order to sell.

The idea behind this is that you’re building trust with your audience, you’re engaging with your customers and you’re trying to create a pleasant shopping experience for them. Sometimes that means sending just an informational email. Other times, it might be a newsletter that only has a single product, hugely discounted.

Optimize email for microconversion

Most modern email marketing platforms offer reports that show you data like: how many people opened the newsletter, what devices they used, what they clicked on, whether they forwarded the email to someone else, if they shared it on social media with their friends, etc.

Adding a bit of code to your website helps your EMP decipher the entire customer journey, from email open to bought product.

Don’t feel disappointed if email doesn’t provide the sales you were expecting. After all, it’s just one communication medium. As marketing channels go, there are others, like AdWords, Facebook Ads, Blogs, Social Media and so on.

Take the time to gauge subscriber’s interests, gather more data, learn about A/B testing, play around with Subject Lines and improve your copywriting skills.

Since micro-conversions are the tiny actions that subscribers take leading up to an actual money-based conversion, you won’t be making a mistake focusing on those. After all, those micro-conversions are steps towards your actual objective.

It’s the same with Content Marketing. You use it to increase trust, generate brand awareness and steer people towards the Buy button. But if you’re constantly pushing your audience to a conversion, you’ll forget what Content Marketing’s main purpose is: to educate, to entertain, to delight your customers.

So optimize your emails for micro-conversions and you’ll reap the rewards further down the line.

9. Go Mobile Or Go Home

There were 27% more online sales coming from mobile in the final holiday season of 2014, compared to the same period in 2013. It’s much easier for customers to pick up their phone and make a purchase. And if you website is mobile optimized, there’s a greater incentive for them to start their shopping journey there.

Most beginners assume that if they see “mobile responsive email template”, their email newsletters will adapt to any screen size. Alas, that is unfortunately not the case. As developers will testify, there is quite a bit of work to do for your email content to show up as beautiful on mobile as it does on desktop.


A good starting point is Foundation for Emails. Basically, you’ll want your developers to think in terms of having all your requests in the same HTML file. Otherwise, you’ll end up with something that just scales to your mobile browser, instead of adapting to it. Designers should start with a mobile view of the newsletter and scale up, NOT the other way around. Thumbzone is a great resource to check mobile designs.

MailChimp and other similar EMPs have built-in responsive templates, that you can use right away. As with everything, testing goes a long way. Make yourself the customer and get out a few Android phones, a few iPhones and check a few basic holiday things:

– Is the Call To Action easy to reach with only one finger?
– Is the main benefit/offer in the first screen, above the fold?
– Do you place other menu (links to sections, social media icons) items at the top?
– Can the discount code (if available) be copied or applied easily on a mobile device?
– Do you mention free shipping, return policy on the first screen to entice users to take an action?

Finally, in terms of measuring conversions from mobile versions of your newsletter, you might get confusing data. Since users are re-reading or re-interacting with the newsletter on desktops as well, they might start their journey on mobile, but convert on desktop.

10. Final Tips And Tricks

1. Improve your transactional emails. A service Receiptful makes it easy to customize your transactional emails. Since open rates on those tend to be almost three times higher than for regular emails, you’ll definitely want to pay attention to them. Add cross-sells and up-sells, think about adding social media buttons and sharing the deal with a friend via email.

2. Personalize your emails, not just your Subject Line.Use the data you’ve gathered to create a more customized email experience for your subscriber. The most basic step is to automatically add his name in the email. This feature is called Merge Tags in MailChimp.

3. Analyze last year’s holiday performance.There’s no need to start from scratch. Make your decisions based on what worked last year. If your customer base is not much different, past performance is a good indicator of future success.

4. Thank your most loyal customers.Remember the people who come back often and spend a lot of money in your shop. Provide them with a heartfelt message and a unique VIP discount code or free shipping (where you normally wouldn’t). Underline the fact that they’re the only ones getting that – make them feel special.

5. Re-send and test your emails.Wait a few days before re-sending people who haven’t opened the first email another one. Also use A/B testing to figure out which design, offer and Subject Line combination works best.

5. Use FOMO in the Subject Line.Fear Of Missing Out is a powerful motivator, especially for younger generations. Use phrases like “6245 customers have seen this deal – have you?” or “This discount is just for you – do you want 60% off?”

7. Don’t forget about your Landing Pages.Your emails are responsive, which is a great start. But don’t forget about where your subscribers end up. Make sure your Landing Pages are optimized for mobile devices, blazingly fast and clean. Also, since you’re sending traffic from an email newsletter, disable any subscribe popups/widgets for those people.

Not everything is going to work all at once. Make a point of not just looking at your stats, but also understanding what the story beneath them is.

11. Recommended Reading: Articles And Guides

11.1 Articles

Holiday email marketing trends, dates, and tips you need to know

How Important Is A Mobile-Optimized Email Newsletter?

10 Creative Ideas to Boost Your Holiday Email Campaigns

The Secret to the Perfect Holiday Email Campaign

7 Holiday Email Marketing Tips To Avoid Common Mistakes

11.2 Guides

The Ultimate Holiday Email Marketing + Landing Page Guide

The Complete Guide to Holiday Email Marketing

2015 Christmas Email Marketing Lookbook

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