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December 20, 2013
7 Tips for Sending Successful Holiday Marketing Emails
The holiday email frenzy is in full swing as Black Friday offers clog everyone’s inbox. Email is becoming increasingly formulaic as marketers test, learn, and apply lessons learned from responders.
This is troubling to some creative types who don’t want to be confined by research or constrained by conventions developed by left-brain analytical wonks. But the reason email is so widely accepted, used, and effective is because we have shared learnings collectively and continuously found new creative ways to illustrate our offers and craft our language.
Here are seven new findings from Marketo, MailChimp, Pamorama, MarketingSherpa, and the Center for Media Research who looked at billions of emails to help make holiday email more effective at engaging and converting customers.
1. Visuals matter. 65 percent of people are visual learners, so communicating with images is critical. People scan email. They don’t read it. This explains the explosion of infographics. Maybe this is why video on landing pages increases conversion by 86%. Email should be visually stimulating and telegraphic.
2. Add social sharing buttons. They increase click-thru rates by 158%. People mix and match their media and share things broadly. If you make sharing easy, consumers will reward you with pass-along impressions.
3. Personalization counts. But surprisingly the use of both first and last name is 3.5 times more effective in driving open rates than first name only and twice as effective as using just the surname. Psychologically we are less casual than we think we are. People bridle at brands or strangers addressing them in too familiar a way.
4. Freebie tops free in subject lines for prompting more opens. The difference in value perception drives more than 10X more opens. Free is abused, overused, and burned out in medical, retail, and travel sectors.
5. Urgency matters but threats of loss don’t fly. Words like urgent, breaking, important, and alert resulted in open rates way above normal. Invitations and announcements (and all the variations of these words) still trigger curiosity opens. But consumers hate being told they are missing something or it’s their last chance. These messages yield widespread ambivalence and opt-outs.
6. Thanking drives extraordinary response. Asking them to sign up has the opposite effect. Aggressive opt-in requests are counterproductive. Similarly asking for donations and charitable actions fall on deaf ears. Aggressive fundraising language is a turn off.
Email marketing is a hard working tool for all marketers. Almost half of consumers cite email as their preferred form of communication with brands. Applying lessons from on-going research insures that consumers will continue to rely on email for ideas, offers, and purchases.
7. Forget Weekends. Email response is the least on Sunday and Saturday. Consumers aren’t glued to email on weekends. They actually do real stuff. Midweek — Tuesday and Wednesday — are your best bet for optimizing opens and clicks. The jury is out on the best time of day, though there are several vocal advocates for 6am to set the day’s agenda.
Almost half of consumers cite email as their preferred communications mode with brands. Applying the lessons from our collective research will maintain and expand that preference.

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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