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Lucy Literado
Lucy Literado
VP of Marketing
5 months ago

How to Know If Your Holiday Emails Are Too Much [Updated]


Remember that moment from Harry Potter? Well, that’s exactly how my inbox looks like before every single holiday :)

What’s more surprising is that most of the emails came from just a couple of companies that wanted to get my attention to their holiday offers soooo badly. I’ve seen it before and as far as I can see, there’s more to come.

© Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

That’s how I came up with my own personal UN-checklist for holiday marketing that we could use at Reply and share with those in need.

So, here’s the story…

Once, there was a time when holiday marketing meant a quick radio ad or a banner on the front of a shopping mall, but I can’t seem to remember it.

Neither do you, I guess.

What I do remember, is a time when most holiday offers were still worth your time and attention.

Rumor Statistics has it, they aren’t like that anymore. All you see is an endless flow of special offers, gifts, giveaways, discounts, lotteries and prize-winning promos that seem to never ever stop.

No wonder holiday marketing is often being mistreated these days. We’re so overloaded with all kinds of special offers that we are doomed to become ad-blind long before we even earn money to buy what is being sold to us.

Nowadays, people are not sensitive to discounts less than 30-40% and cannot care less about anything in the world other than gift cards.

I’m sure you can spot that big sale on Amazon or those Christmas deals on Ebay, but can you think of an SMB company that really captures your attention with a nice holiday offer? And, what’s even more important, how can you become one of those companies whose holiday deals are really anticipated and valued?

There’s no magic pill (there never is).

But, here is my UN-checklist for any holiday marketing you can think of.

If you’re doing at least one of these things, you really should stop before you totally ruin your relationship with your customers and lose them for good.

Bombarding your subscribers with emails

Seems obvious, right?

The reason I decided to focus on this one is because this Thanksgiving I received 46 emails. From a single company.

During one week.


Fourty Six. No joke.

And no mercy to those who have to relentlessly clean their inbox instead of getting ready to celebrate.

I don’t usually mark marketing emails as spam, but after the first 15 messages this company sent me in only two days, I was sooo ready to do it. Eventually, I decided to “make lemonade” and share my story hoping that it would encourage at least some holiday abusers to reconsider their strategy.

One thing I know, I will never buy from this company.

Ignoring deal expiration


Not only can it be bad for sales, that one can be really bad for your client relationship building strategy. If you promote your offer like something limited, unique, worth hurrying up to seize the moment, you’re in trouble.

Big trouble.

While you might think that extending your holiday deal might seem like a sign of good will to your customers, they are likely to disagree with you.

You should never forget that you’re talking to people, not businesses, even if you’re a pure B2B company. A person will read (or ignore) your email, a person will or will not learn about your product or service, a person (not company!) will decide whether to buy from you.

Adding just a couple of more days may be a really nice idea appreciated by those who didn’t have the time or availability to take a closer look. On the other hand, having one deal with many faces that seem to never end is not an option.

It makes your customers feel deceived and mistreated. What is even worse, it changes their core attitude towards your holiday marketing to “always ignore” mode.

Don’t say it’s my “last chance” to know this brand-new information followed by another 5, 10, 15 last chances. If you don’t respect me enough to presume I’m not that stupid, then we’re done before we even start our conversation.

Even if you do think Thanksgiving is immediately followed by Christmas Eve, take a pause and give your leads a chance to get some rest before you start another campaign. This will make them if not anticipate your new deal, at least pay their attention to what you have this time.

Forgetting about existing customers

The last, but not the least thing in my UN-checklist for holiday emails is preferring new customers over existing ones. Even now, when everyone knows the huge power of upselling, lots of companies come up with shiny deals for new clients completely forgetting about those who have been with them “all those years”.

And like in every relationship, this is the beginning of the end.

The Breakup.

It may seem small to you, but when your customer sees dozens and dozens of discount offers that are only meant for newbies, they feel underrated and disrespected, almost “betrayed”. And getting to know about those deals from an email (not a public page on your website or promo banner) makes them feel even worse because it means you don’t care about their feelings.

Like, at all.


With such things on their mind, they can easily leave you for one of your competitors — one that pays more attention to the art of retention and encourages customer loyalty on a regular basis.

To avoid this sad and lonely scenario you only need to make sure you have these three things done:

  • Segmenting your email database so that your contacts only receive offers intended for them.
  • Make sure most of your deals are available to both existing and potential customers.
  • Put effort into keeping your clients happy and showing you really care about them (a special offer for customers that have been with your company for XX months is a nice plan to begin with).

As long as you keep them happy, don’t hover with an excessive number of emails and keep your deadline promise, you’re safe.

Destroying your brand for the holidays


Branding is a powerful tool for businesses, one that can form a USP that helps them stand out from their competitors.

Yet, when the holidays roll around, often a company will throw out all their effort and hard work, sounding like every other company clogging up your inbox.

At it’s most obvious, branding incorporates the physical appearances; factors like font, colours and imagery.

Let’s say you use cool blue colours, traditional Times New Roman font, and sleek modern photos.

Those are part of your brand.

That means when Christmas rolls around, you don’t suddenly change to warm red colours, Comic Sans font*, and cartoons of jolly ol’ St. Nick.

You stay on brand.

Powerful brands are about more than appearance though, and at their best are entwined in the company’s ‘why,’ revolving around their mission and positioning in the market.

So if part of your brand is top range, high cost luxury goods, then promoting cheap kitsch products may do more harm than good.

If you normally use a formal, understated voice in your communication, screaming out about ‘OMG massive holiday sales!!!’ will confuse your audience.

Sometimes that’ll mean not running any promotion at all.

For example, retailer of infuriating self-assembly furniture Ikea didn’t put on any promotions over black friday.

Emily Birkin, their head of sales for UK and Ireland, explained why:

“Low price is the cornerstone of the IKEA vision and we will always remain focused on providing a range of home furnishing products that are affordable to as many people as possible.

“Each year we look at how we can invest in reducing our prices even further, from design and production to more efficient packaging and transport. Our ambition is to offer everyday low prices all year round, which is why we don’t take part in temporary discounting events.”

Notice how she refers to the ‘cornerstone of the IKEA vision’ being behind their decision. That’s what being onbrand means.

In line with their unique brand, the company behind the incredibly politically incorrect game Cards Against Humanity have a history of pulling outrageous stunts on Black Friday.

My favourite is where they literally sold nothing, for $5 a pop, and ended up raising $71,145.

Every piece of content you produce, every page on your website, and every email you send should consistently reflect your brand.

That means even over the holidays.

When you look at your holiday campaign, is it instantly recognizable as an email from your company? Or is it indistinguishable from every other email.

*Pro Tip: Comic Sans should never be part of your brand, period.

Make it a one day thing


While we wouldn’t want to bombard the customer (see above), that doesn’t give us an excuse to forget about our campaign until the last minute.

If your Independence Day campaign only went out on July 4th, I have bad news.

When Experian analyzed emails over the Independence Day holiday they found that 79 percent of them were sent within two weeks of the Fourth of July, and 76 percent of revenue was received in the week of the holiday.

Some companies continued their promotions into the following week, but these weren’t as strong: overall revenue halved from $0.10 per email to only $0.05.

In short, while you may make some additional income by sending a single independence day email on July 4th, by creating a campaign that spans a couple of weeks you can maximise your returns.

Experian’s post suggests that other holidays may have a longer warmup period, where searches relating to the holiday start up to four weeks in advance.

Remember, sending a series of emails does not mean bombarding the customer.

However, a series of well spaced out emails leading up to the holiday will yield the better results.

Ignore mobile devices


The chances are your email will be opened on a mobile device.

If you’re not optimizing your emails for mobile then you’re going to be missing out, but this is especially important for your holiday email.

Many promotional emails are stuffed full of poorly optimized imagery, endless pages of details and offers too small to see.

Guess how that goes down with your potential customers.

At best they feel frustrated, at worst they never even see your email.

Either way, the results aren’t pretty.

To get around this often involves thinking about the whole structure of the email; making sure it works as a bitesize blast, rather than a complete catalogue of every product or service you offer.

Make it as easy as possible for your mobile customers to receive and read your email, and give them one clear call to action.

Making it all about sales


When thinking about holiday emails, it’s easy to think it’s just about the big sales event.

Go big or go home.

But this are a golden opportunity to engage with your audience, to make a stronger connection.

What does the holiday mean to you?

Do you have a holiday related story to share?

If you can converse in a genuine way with your customers, you’ll make much more of an impact than just another promotional email.

I’m not going to lie, this is easier said than done.

I’ve lost track of the amount of ‘thank you’ emails from marketers last Thanksgiving, most of which came across as heartfelt as a rock.

But if you can inject a personal touch to those emails, if you can convey your message honestly, then you’ll stand out in the sea of sales.

Now, just because I’m suggesting that your holiday emails doesn’t have to be promoting a sale, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be sent without purpose.

Rather, be aware that there are purposes other than direct sales.

You could direct people to connect with you on social media to share the festivities, or encourage them to respond to the email, building relationships.

Every email you send should have a purpose, whatever the time of year, so decide on yours before you start writing your next holiday email.

Special holidays are a great opportunity to connect and engage with your customers, as well as promote any sales.

However, it’s all too easy to fall short, either by being lost among the rest of the promotional emails flooding inboxes, or by driving your customers to the unsubscribe link.

Instead, make sure you uncheck all the items in this list, and you can make the most of the holidays.

Give your email campaigns the best chance of success anytime of the year by using Reply’s powerful email automation features.


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Lucy Literado

VP of Marketing at Reply
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