In-Depth

2020 Holiday Email Marketing Guide

Congratulations! You have made it nearly all the way through 2020, a year like none other! The holidays are now upon us and, you know what that means: turkey, gifts, and overflowing inboxes. As you prepare your year-end marketing, here are some tips on how Direct Mail can help you break through a crowded inbox, boost sales, and grow your customer base.

1. Check out our holiday-themed templates

Direct Mail comes ready to go with a number of holiday-themed templates. They look super-sharp on mobile devices and large screens, and are easy to customize (like all our templates).

You can find these templates in Direct Mail by clicking the “Choose Template” button and searching for Glimmer, Merry Pines, Slopes, or Quattro—or browse the other options available in the template gallery.

2. Stay on top of your holiday calendar

The end of the year is chock full of special occasions and opportunities to celebrate—more than just Thanksgiving and Christmas. Consider theming additional email campaigns around these upcoming holidays in November and December:

  • November 10: Marine Corps Birthday
  • November 11: Veterans Day
  • November 11: Remembrance Day 🇬🇧🇨🇦🇦🇺
  • November 11: Singles Day (i.e. World Shopping Day) 🇨🇳
  • November 13: World Kindness Day
  • November 19: International Men’s Day
  • November 19: Women’s Entrepreneurship Day
  • November 20: World Children’s Day
  • November 21: National Adoption Day
  • November 26: Thanksgiving
  • November 27: Black Friday
  • November 28: Small Business Saturday
  • November 30: Cyber Monday
  • December 1: Giving Tuesday
  • December 15: Free Shipping Day
  • December 22: First Day of Winter
  • December 24: Christmas Eve
  • December 25: Christmas Day
  • December 26: Boxing Day 🇬🇧🇨🇦🇦🇺
  • December 31: New Years Eve
When should I start my campaigns?

Consider starting your campaigns a week in advance (or earlier, if your customers average time to purchase is longer) with a follow-up scheduled for the day of. You might also consider sending a thank you email post-holiday.

How much is too much?

It is possible to send too much email. Bombarding your subscribers can lead to unsubscribes or even spam complaints. A good rule of thumb is to not increase your typical email frequency by more than 3× during the holidays.

3. Write subject lines that are irresistible

It’s going to be a crowded inbox, so stay away from bland, generic (or spammy) subject lines. Here are some ideas:

Personalize

Adding a personal touch to the subject line almost always improves your open rate. Direct Mail makes this easy. If you want to include your recipient’s first name in the subject, just include the mail-merge tag “[first name]”. Like this:

You’re not limited to first names, of course. It can be any piece of information that you have stored in Direct Mail for a contact (e.g. occupation, city, last purchase, etc.)

Don’t get carried away

Aim for a ten words or less in your subject line, and limit the number of punctuation or special characters so it doesn’t appear spammy. Using an emoji can help, but try and stick to just one. Also, note that some devices can’t display emoji, so it’s best to use emoji as an enhancement, instead of a replacement for words.

Ask a question

Questions are naturally engaging. Consider using a question as the subject line in order to draw your subscribers into the content.

State your offer loud and clear

Featuring your offer prominently in the subject line can be a good way to stand out in a crowded inbox. According to NRF and IPC, online shoppers top considerations are:

  1. Free shipping, or clear shipping charges prior to purchase
  2. Simple, reliable, free returns
  3. Rapid response customer service
Try these on for size…

Here are some subject line examples for your inspiration:

  • Warm up to winter with us this Saturday 🔥
  • Our ultimate winter packing list
  • [first name], spread some cheer with us — open house sale!
  • We’re thankful for our customers: Coupon Inside!
  • Stuff yourself with savings 🍗
  • Early access to Black Friday deals
  • Celebrate Small Biz Sat with us: BOGO sale 🎉
  • See you on Small Business Saturday?
  • Ho Ho Ho (Spend Less Dough)
  • You’re Getting Warmer – Packages from $59
  • Meow-y Christmas! 5 holiday treats safe for your cat
  • We Like You a Latke!
  • Challah for These Chanukkah Deals
  • Let’s start this year right. 10% off throughout January
  • The holidays may be over, but the savings aren’t!
  • …check out more examples here

4. Include a “[Do It] Now” button

The easier you can make it for your subscribers to purchase (or take some kind of action), the better. After all, the holidays are just as busy for them as they are for you. Make your call-to-action prominent and easy to find. Direct Mail’s built-in buttons work great for this, and are available in a number of styles.

Here are some sample calls to action you might consider (and some interesting psychology behind it):

  • Shop now
  • Get it now
  • Act now
  • Subscribe now
  • Sign up now
  • Receive it now
  • Get access now
  • Do it now
  • Get your code now
  • Start spending now
  • Browse now

5. Get inspired!

Struggling to come up with ideas for your email campaigns? Get some inspiration from this gallery and the suggestions below.

  • Cyber Monday sale
  • Free shipping now available!
  • Gift card bonus (e.g. buy $100 in gift cards, get a bonus $25 for free!)
  • Holiday gift guide
  • Special coupon code
  • End-of-year update
  • Year-in-review or celebration of the year’s achievements
  • Holiday hours or holiday schedule update
  • Pre-sale or early-bird discount
  • Thank you for being our customer (and optionally include a referral code)
  • New product or service announcements
  • Share a holiday video
  • Promote a social media contest (e.g. photo contest)
  • Black Friday offers
  • Looking ahead to what’s coming in the new year
  • Last-minute deals or reminders
  • Shipping or ordering deadlines
  • Special gift packages
  • Small Business Saturday (it’s not just for brick and mortar!)
  • Share a story about how you celebrate the holidays
  • Giving Tuesday
  • Post-holiday specials

6. Check out these Direct Mail tech tips

Now that you’re ready to rock your campaigns, it’s time to put Direct Mail to work for you! Here are a couple of how-to articles to level-up your Direct Mail skills:

Sending Your Email Campaign at the Perfect Time. Learn how to schedule your campaigns to send even when your computer (or you!) are asleep, so that they arrive in your recipient’s inbox at the perfect time.

Search and Segment Like a Pro. Learn how to find and segment portions of your mailing list so that you an send targeted campaigns, or perform bulk editing operations.

Going beyond open and click rates

One of the traditional ways to measure the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign is to look at open and click-through rates. In this blog post, however, we take a look at another performance measurement that you might not have considered before: conversion rate.

What is a conversion rate?

When we talk here about conversion rates, we are talking about what percentage of your email subscribers have taken some kind of action that (1) can be tracked and (2) goes beyond opening or clicking a link in your email. Common examples might include:

  • what percentage of your email subscribers purchased something from your website, or
  • filled out a form or survey on your website, or
  • downloaded something from your website, or
  • scheduled an appointment with you, or
  • signed up for your event online

When one of those actions takes place, we say that the person has converted. You may have noticed that the above examples are all actions that take place on your website. If you use a website analytics service (like Google Analytics) you can collect data on how many of your visitors convert, and learn what brought those visitors to your site. By combining Direct Mail’s email reporting with your website analytics, you can find out how effective your email campaigns are at driving conversions on your website—in other words, what your email campaign’s conversion rate is.

Using Google Analytics

The rest of this blog will make two assumptions:

  1. You are using Google Analytics on your website
  2. You have already set up one or more conversion “goals” on your website that you’d like Google Analytics to track

If you haven’t done those things yet, we recommend taking a look at one of these great Intro to Google Analytics courses:

Tagging your campaigns

Let’s say one of your email campaign goals is to get subscribers to click on a link in your email that takes them to your website. Once they’ve landed on your website, one of your goals may be for them to take an action that will convert them into a paying customer (or a repeat customer). Google Analytics can show you what percentage of your website visitors have converted, and, with an extra 5 seconds of work on your part, it can also show you which email campaigns those website visitors came from.

To get these extra insights, you need to tell Direct Mail to “tag” the links in your email campaign. This is done by checking the “Tag for Google Analytics” checkbox that appears when you send a campaign. You can also optionally enter a custom campaign name (e.g. “Fall 2018”). If you do not enter a campaign name, it defaults to the subject line of your message. The campaign name will be shown in Google Analytics—it is not visible to your recipients.

 

When you send your message, Direct Mail appends some extra information to the links in your email. When someone clicks a link in your email, this extra information tells Google Analytics that the visitor came from your email campaign. This is what allows Google Analytics to attribute that visitor’s conversion (if they convert) to your email campaign.

Viewing the results in Google Analytics

After you have sent your email campaign, you can view open and click reports in Direct Mail like normal. To access the extra Google Analytics conversion data, you’ll want to sign in to your Google Analytics account in your browser.

Once you’ve signed in, click on the “Acquisition” link on the left-hand side, then click “Campaigns”, then click “All Campaigns”

You will see a list of all of the campaigns that Google Analytics is tracking. These campaigns include not only email campaigns sent by Direct Mail, but also other ad campaigns that you may be running to drive traffic to your site (like Google AdWords, Facebook ads, etc.). Find and click on the email campaign that you sent with Direct Mail—remember to look for the “campaign name” that you used above when clicking the “Tag for Google Analytics” button.

Viewing the columns left-to-right, you can see the metrics that Google Analytics is tracking: number of users, bounce rate, session duration, etc. The right-most group of columns may be the most interesting. These columns show the performance for the selected goal.

In this screenshot, we can see that the “Fall 2018” campaign resulted in 27 conversions for “Goal 1: Purchase”. This means that 27 people who received my “Fall 2018” email campaign clicked a link in the email and eventually went on to purchase something from my website—either right away or several days later. I originally sent this email campaign to 950 subscribers, so that makes my conversion rate 27 ÷ 950 = 2.8%. Nice!

If you want to see the combined conversion rate for all of your Direct Mail campaigns (instead of just one of them), click on “Acquisition”, then “Campaigns”, then “All Campaigns”, then click on “Source”. A list of all the campaign sources will appear—look for the one labeled “directmailmac”.

Conclusion

Open and click-through rates are not the only way to track campaign performance. Taking a look at conversion rates can yield additional insight. Direct Mail’s “Tag for Google Analytics” feature can help you uncover additional insights into how effective your campaigns are at converting leads into customers. If you have any questions about anything discussed in this blog post, or want to give feedback, please let us know!

Tips for a Bigger, Better Email List

Everyone knows that the bigger their email list, the better, but when it comes to email marketing, the quality of that list is just as important. What do we mean by quality? Engagement. The best mailing lists are filled with subscribers that open and act on the emails that they receive. Our friends at Return Path recently compiled a list of tips for building a larger, more engaged email list. You can check out the entire guide here, but we’ve highlighted some of our favorite tips below.

Before we begin, don’t forget that Direct Mail makes managing your email list sign-up process easy! You can create a subscribe form in Direct Mail, connect it to your website or Facebook page, and even integrate it into the other services and apps your company already uses.

Experience Your Customer’s Point of View

Take a step back and view your mailing list sign-up process through the eyes of your customers. For example:

  • Is your email list sign-up form easy to find locate on your website?
  • What about on a mobile device?
  • Have you clearly spelled out the benefits to signing up for your list?
  • Have you set the right expectations for how frequently you will email them?
  • Have you removed as much friction from the process as possible? For example, if you have a lot of required fields on your subscribe form, consider making some of them optional.

Get Your Relationship Started on the Right Foot

What do your subscribers see after they’ve signed up for your list? Creating a custom “thanks for subscribing” page or a welcome email can help get the relationship started off on the right foot. See this help article for how to configure Direct Mail to send a welcome email to your new subscribers. Or click here to learn how to set up a custom web page that new subscribers will see after they sign up.

Also, it’s great to entice new subscribers with promises of special discounts, exclusive content, early access, etc.—just be sure you follow through. Be sure that your email newsletter delivers on any promises you may have made during the sign-up process.

Promote Your List

Don’t be satisfied to let your sign-up form hide away in the footer of your website. There are lots of places you can promote your mailing list:

  • Make signing up for your list part of your online store. You can use our Zapier integration to connect Direct Mail to Shopify, Magento, Gumroad, and other online stores. Check our API for building custom integrations.
  • Do you send out email receipts or other transactional email? Consider including a link to your email list sign-up form in those emails, too!
  • Include an email sign-up form on your Facebook page. Direct Mail makes it easy.
  • If you have a physical retail location, use our iOS app to turn any iPad into a email list sign-up kiosk.

Leverage Social Media

You can give your email list a boost by promoting it from other social media channels that you may already operate. For example:

  • On occasion, promote the benefits of your email list to your followers on Facebook or Twitter and include a link to sign up
  • Purchase a “promoted tweet” that advertises the benefits of your email list and includes a sign-up call-to-action button
  • Annotate your YouTube videos so that viewers can click-through to your website or email list sign-up form
  • Purchase a sponsored post on Instagram that entices your followers to sign up

Here We Grow!

If you found some of the above tips useful, we encourage you to check out Return Path’s full guide of 50+ tips at this link. These suggestions can help you grow the size of your email list and improve subscriber engagement, building the foundation for a powerful email marketing channel. If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch and tell us what you think. We love to hear from you!

Smarter Mail-Merge Tags

Using mail-merge tags is an easy way to personalize your message for each recipient. You can personalize your emails with information like the recipient’s name, company name, or up to 15 other fields of your choosing. However, long-time and first-time users of Direct Mail may not be aware of some of the more powerful mail-merge features that were added in Direct Mail 3. In this blog post, we’ll talk about two ways to make your emails more dynamic and more personal.

Fallback Values

Let’s start with a simple example. Here’s a mail-merge tag being used in the greeting of a message:

The "[first name]" mail-merge tag being used in a greeting
The “[first name]” mail-merge tag being used in a greeting.
 

But what if your mailing list doesn’t contain a first name for every recipient? That would mean that some people would see “Hello” and then just blank space where the name was supposed to go. We can use fallback values to remedy this situation. Try this instead:

Use the "fallback" feature of a mail-merge tag to provide default values when merging.
Use the “fallback” feature of a mail-merge tag to provide default values when merging.

 

Now regardless of whether or not you have first name data for all the recipients in your list, the results will look great. Your recipients will either see “Hello Jonathan” (if that’s what you had listed as their first name in your mailing list) or “Hello Friend” (if you didn’t have their first name in your mailing list).

This technique works with all the mail-merge tags available in Direct Mail. We recommend using the Preview window to see ahead of time what your final, merged message will look like for each recipient in your list.

Conditionals

Conditionals take mail-merge tags one step further. They allow you to use if-else logic to create messages whose content changes depending on the recipient. For example, let’s imagine that I am sending out a reminder for an upcoming event where lunch will be served. I have already collected meal preferences for everyone on my mailing list and stored them in my mailing list under the column Custom 1. Here’s how I could use conditionals to include a special paragraph in my email for only those folks that prefer vegetarian meals:

We use conditional mail-merge tags to include a paragraph only for our vegetarian subscribers.
We use conditional mail-merge tags to include a paragraph only for our vegetarian subscribers.

 

Now only the recipients that have the word “Vegetarian” in the Custom 1 column in your mailing list will see the paragraph about the vegetarian meals. If you need even more advanced logic, you can use if/else-if logic as well as other equality operators (=, !=, >=, <=, >, and <). Please see our support article for more information.

Conditional mail-merge tags are available under the “Conditionals” section of the mail-merge tag menu. As with fallback values, we recommend using the Preview window to see what the results of your mail-merge will look like for each recipient in your list.

Conclusion

We hope the above examples have been helpful in understanding how mail-merge tag fallback values and conditionals can improve your emails. We have found that email campaigns that are personalized to the recipient tend to have far better open and click rates. For more information, please see the following two support articles:

How do I personalize my message with mail-merge tags?

How do I personalize my message with if/else logic?

Year in Review

One of things that I look forward to every December is the parade of year-in-review specials that pop up on TV. It’s always fun to see where we have been and to look forward to where are going. In that spirit, here’s a brief look at some of the 2012 highlights for us here at e3 Software.

Direct Mail 3

Beautiful Templates

January was an exciting month for us as we launched our all-new Direct Mail version 3. The result of nearly a year’s worth of intense development, it packed over 100 new enhancements, including a beautiful template editor, in-depth email campaign reports, and blazing-fast performance. Even better, we launched all-new pricing plans to deliver great value for all types of senders. We said goodbye to our old website and launched a fresh, usable, and fast redesign. To help keep our awesome customers in the loop, we started this blog and brought back our monthly newsletter.

Stamps

Our next milestone was the launch of our iPhone application, Stamps, in May! Stamps makes it easy to keep tabs on your email campaign reports while you are away from your Mac. We had a blast putting together our first mobile application and have continued to improve the app in response to your feedback!

Design Testing

Thumbnail view gives you an easy way to preview your message in over 30 of the most popular email clients, including mobile, web, and Windows clients.

July saw the release of a great update to Direct Mail. We introduced retina-quality graphics to make sure Direct Mail looked stunning on the new MacBook Pro that Apple had just unveiled one month prior (and now the new 13-inch model). We also unveiled a new Design Testing feature for viewing full-size screenshots of your email in over 30 different email clients. This has become a most-loved feature, with thousands of design tests processed thus far.

Social Sharing, Notifications, and More!

We welcomed fall with round of updates to Direct Mail and Stamps in September that brought some awesome new features:

  • Live mobile previews of your email pushed to your iPhone
  • One-click publishing of your subscribe form to your Facebook page
  • Email campaign sharing on Facebook and Twitter
  • Delivery status notifications on your iPhone and Mac
  • An ever-expanding template library

Stamps Comes to iPad!

Stamps comes to iPad

We didn’t want to coast into the end of the year (plus we were having so much fun delivering great new features), so we pushed hard to finish 2012 with a bang. November brought our iOS app, Stamps, to the iPad. While we were at it, we added support for a handy subscribe form kiosk mode on the iPad, making it easy to collect new signups for your mailing lists on the go.

Finishing Strong

We finished up this year by introducing fantastic new integration with Marketcircle’s Daylite 4 application. We were very happy to deliver this feature, as it had become one of our most-requested enhancements. We also introduced a new web-based API that opens the door for Direct Mail integration with a host of other web-based products. Lastly, we shipped a Forward to a Friend feature that is the easiest-to-use and best-looking feature of its kind that I’ve ever seen.

Thank You!

It’s been a tremendous year for us and we owe it all to our amazing customers. Thank you for allowing us to serve you. We are very grateful for your support and look forward to surprising and delighting you with a series of new improvements in 2013!

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