How to Create a Successful Holiday Email Marketing Campaign

December 2, 2015 Brad Shorr

holiday email marketing campaign

Holidays present a great opportunity to jump-start sales — or annoy the heck out of your email subscribers. Success or failure boils down to how you handle the offer, follow-through, and timing.

The offer

The good news is people are in a buying mood during holidays. The bad news is every marketer knows this. As a result, holidays generate a lot of marketing noise and make standing out from the crowd challenging. You need a strong offer to get the attention of consumers and businesses alike.

What are the elements of a strong offer?

  • Broad appeal
  • Substantial benefit(s)
  • Limited time to make the purchase
  • Limited availability
  • Clever, or not clever, tie-in to the holiday

The holiday tie-in – the name of the promotion along with the email content – is what gets the subscriber’s attention. For some holidays, you don’t need to be clever to be noticed. A subject line like “Black Friday Special” or “Cyber Monday Special” or “Holiday Special” should be enough since companies are expected to have deals on these holidays.

However, if you run a promotion on April Fool’s Day or Labor Day, you may need a little pizzazz to arouse the subscriber’s curiosity. Consider subject lines such as “Don’t Be a Fool: Check out Our April 1st Deals” or “Cool accessories to rock your Labor Day picnic!”

Of course, if you can be creative on Boxing Day and other mega-popular promotional holidays, so much the better. However, don’t let creativity obscure your message. In the end, subscribers want to quickly know what you’re offering; entertainment is secondary. For a quick rundown of best practices for email design, click here.


One-and-done is not enough to ensure email conversions. Not only should you cue up an offer email, but also one or two or even three follow-up emails to remind subscribers that the clock is ticking.

Email marketers sometimes shy away from follow-up emails because they don’t want to annoy subscribers. However, if your offer has great value (which it should), subscribers won’t be offended by a reminder that they can save a ton of money or try a fabulous new product.

Your reminder emails should be written in a tone and with an intensity that is appropriate for your business. A car dealer, for instance, can be a lot wilder in its follow-up email than a mortuary. Use common sense! If your business normally communicates in a polished, professional tone, don’t stray from it. If you do, you will confuse your subscribers or make them skeptical.

A good reminder email is short and recaps the key details, benefits and expiration date of the offer. Add a brief testimonial from a subscriber(s) who took advantage of your offer, incorporating an image if possible. Testimonials are far more persuasive than even the best sales copy.


If you send your email too early, it will seem irrelevant; if you send it too late, subscribers won’t have enough time to act. Since people are hard to predict, split testing is the best way to determine what timing is right for your email list. In email marketing, companies routinely test subject lines and offers, but how many test delivery dates and delivery times of day? Not as many! Test your timing and you stand to earn a big edge over your competitors.

The timing of follow-up emails can be just as tricky. Obviously, you need to give subscribers time to act. But how much time? For B2B companies, waiting a few days or even a week is usually appropriate; subscribers may need to involve others in the decision or do research, both of which take time. In B2C, follow-up emails may proceed in a day or two after the initial blast. As a rule of thumb, the better the offer, the more aggressive you can be in your follow-up. But the only way to know for sure what timing is best is (you guessed it) running split tests.

Over to you

What techniques do you use to make your holiday email campaigns successful? Share them in the comments!

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About the Author

Brad Shorr

Brad Shorr is Director of B2B Marketing for Straight North, an Internet marketing agency headquartered in Chicago. He is an experienced content strategist, respected blogger, and SEO copywriter. Connect with him on Twitter @bradshorr.

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