Five Ways You Can Be An Email Hero This Holiday Season

This is a guest post by April Mullen, the Director of Strategic Insights at Sparkpost, an email delivery SaaS for developers and enterprises.

It’s coming quickly: the peak holiday season that affects all commercial email senders, retail or otherwise, this time of year. As marketers, we often get caught up in the laser-focused tasks of working through the sheer volume of campaigns that we have to deploy to hit aggressive revenue targets. We tend to run out of time to get everything done, so proactive tasks often fall to the wayside as we stay in firefighting mode.

What if putting a little time in proactively, though, could save you hours of pain when the peak season hits? As someone that has been in your shoes, I’d like to share some valuable audits and operational tasks that I’ve found to be tried and true to prevent issues during the most critical time of year. The good news is that these recommendations aren’t terribly time consuming and are possible to squeeze in now before Black Friday.

1. Prevent Deliverability Issues Before They Happen

Email marketers everywhere understand the importance of deliverability. During holiday, though, the inbox is a maddeningly crowded place for consumers and the ISPs have to manage a larger volume of incoming mail to determine if it will reach the inbox. This season creates a perfect storm for deliverability issues. Even a day of problems reaching the inbox can cause thousands of dollars in lost revenue. What can you do to be as proactive as possible to reach the inbox?

  • A rule of thumb for good deliverability is to ensure you’re sending to active email recipients. If a user on your list hasn’t had an open or click in some time (9-12 months) or during the last holiday season, then don’t try to re-engage them at this point, as it’s too close to holiday. Instead, set them aside and create a plan to reach these consumers after the peak season ends with a solid re-engagement strategy. By tightening up your list to engaged people, it will reduce the chances of hitting spam traps and generating spam complaints from consumers.
  • Make sure your deployment volumes aren’t much higher than they normally are. Major increases in send volumes can set off spam filters. Instead, throttle over several hours if you’re sending to an especially higher number than normal.
  • Don’t make any significant changes, such as new IP addresses or testing quirky “from” names or email addresses.
  • Reference deliverability metrics daily or even multiple times per day to ensure you’re not piling onto any existing problems, should one arise.

Remember that you’re only as good as your last send. Even if you’ve had stellar deliverability all year, one bad turn can lead to problems. Stay vigilant.

2. Perform an Acquisition Audit

I imagine you’ve worked very hard to build out many paths for potential new customers to sign up for your emails. Now is the time to go through the process of signing up via all of your sources. Was the link to your privacy policy the most up-to-date one? Did your record get added to your ESP? Was all the data captured accurately from the sign up forms? Did you receive a welcome email in the time frame it was expected?

This recommendation might seem a bit unnecessary, but as a serial email subscriber (I love email! What can I say?), I find a lot of broken acquisition experiences. Given that many subscribers sign up for email to get a discount for their first purchase, it’s critical that anyone wanting to engage more closely with your brand have a good experience in giving you their valuable information. Make sure your welcome mat is rolled out and ready to invite people onto your list.

3. Ensure of Your Integrations Are Working as Expected

Similar to point #2, this recommendation is to ensure that any integrations you have set up are functional and working as expected. It’s not just ensuring the integrations are intact, but that they’re performing without latency. This includes any integration into and out of your ESP, connecting it to valuable systems in your tech ecosystem. While you’re at it, make sure all webhooks or logs are reading out accurate information with a quick record spot check.

4. Check on Your Templates

Hopefully, you’re using templates to make your life easier when it comes to campaign execution and to maintain branding consistency and accuracy. Have you added some holiday sparkle to your template header? Made room for mission critical messages like shipping cutoff dates? Do the header and footer links work? Is your template still rendering properly across all environments--especially mobile? Checking on all of this now, will make your QA process easier once you’re cranking out campaigns by the dozens in a couple weeks.

5. Get a Backup Campaign Ready

I’m sure you have a solid email plan in place to ensure you hit revenue targets. What if you get to the first week of December and numbers are far off projections? Go ahead and create a lucrative offer now that has buy-in from your executives, lawyers that normally have to approve offer conditions and get the creative and target list ready now. Having buy-in now on an emergency lever that you can pull later will ensure you don’t have to pull an all-nighter in a panic. This is especially important if you work for a bureaucratic organization that struggles to be nimble. Work ahead on this and hopefully, you won’t even need it.

I hope that by performing some of these last-minute tasks, your holiday season can be focused on driving revenue, increasing the satisfaction of your customers and making you shine as an email marketing hero at your company. Not all heroes wear capes. We see you, hard working email marketers! Cheers to a great end to Q4.