Moving holiday email campaigns over the finish line

Email Marketing

I have a great career because I get to play in different sandboxes. This week, for example, I got to meet with a client in financial services, one that has little to do with the holiday retail onslaught that’s beginning to descend on us from every marketing channel.

As I presented on industry trends, I said, “We’re in the fourth quarter, and that means retailers are going to flood inboxes. Take that into consideration when doing your email campaigns. Everybody’s going to be overwhelmed by the sale of the minute.”

How different it is, I reflected later, to be working for a client that doesn’t do holiday email marketing and for marketers who don’t know the feeling you get in mid-December when it’s fourth down and 20 yards from the goal line with the clock running out. 

After all the years I put in working on retail email, I can tell you what it’s like: You’re just trying to find the energy to get that touchdown. And daydreaming how nice it would be to have someone ring your bell hard enough that Coach pulls you out of the game so someone else can finish. 

Many marketers find this time of year invigorating. And it is – at the start. But, after a few weeks, I would struggle to get motivated enough to head into the office and work on holiday email 24/7.

My goal here is to help you find that motivation and gear up to survive the slog. 

1. Find your motivation from within

If you’re the only person at your company working on email, the best source for inspiration can come from beyond your department. Ask for a meeting with your company founders, if they’re still around, and find out what motivated them to stick with the company in its early days.

Don’t ask why they started the company (you’ve probably heard that story a million times). Interview them with questions nobody has asked yet. What was the weather like when they started the company? How scared were they? What makes them get up and go to work every day?

Take inspiration from their motivation to power yourself. Try to get as excited as they were when they founded the company.

2. Gear up for the big game

If you’re part of a team, take your team out for drinks. Sports teams meet before the big game to learn strategy, hear inspiring speeches and get each other fired up. There’s no better way for marketers to do that than through a group dinner or drinks.

Talk with your team about their lives and what motivates them. Help your team members create bonds. Talk about work and ask what excites everybody. Draw inspiration from that excitement. Waylay any fear or concerns by reinforcing team spirit.

The best holiday season I spent – either as a consultant or on the front lines of email – was being part of a connected team that had a goal in mind.  

3. Put your personal touch on something

Don’t be just a cog in the wheel of your organization’s deployment of campaigns to make a buck. Be the wheel, the one that drives the gears that move your program forward. Try to find one campaign a week to put your mark on.

How can you do this? 

Look for a trigger where you can change the text to reflect the season. Or consider an automation that you’ve always wanted to do. The goal is to choose a campaign that can give you a good sense of impact thanks to high seasonal traffic.

4. Schedule a mid-season pick-me-up …. now

I stress this whenever I’m coaching marketers. Always start a big project by taking a moment for yourself and your team to be sure you’re all starting at the right place. That’s when you take your team out for drinks or dinner or some other team event.

Halfway through the season, do it again. Schedule a group meeting now, because if you don’t, you’ll forget. You might have to reschedule it to accommodate business needs, but at least you have it on the calendar and it’s something to look forward to in the middle of the madness.

Motivation at the midpoint of the holiday season is as important as motivation at the beginning. You can’t wilt when you’re on second down and inches from the goal.  

Wrapping up

I’m not going to tell you what kind of new trigger program to try. If you don’t have it in place by now, you’re too late. This isn’t the time to strategize. It’s execution time. 

Now is the time to buckle up and be ready. The only way I know to do this successfully is to stick together as a team and dig deep.

If the going gets tough, just remember what somebody smarter than I once said: “It’s just an email. We aren’t saving babies or curing cancer.”

More about retail for the winter holidays


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Ryan Phelan is co-founder of Origin Email and brings nearly two decades of worldwide online marketing and email experience. Ryan is a respected thought leader and nationally distinguished speaker with a history of experience from Adestra, Acxiom, BlueHornet, Sears Holdings, Responsys and infoUSA. In 2013 he was named one of the top 30 strategists in online marketing and is the Chairman Emeritus of the EEC Advisory Board. Ryan also works with start-up companies as an advisor, board member and investor.

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