Navigating the Holiday Rush: How to Increase Content, Not Complaints
During the winter holidays, there is a fierce competition for attention in the inbox. Many marketers' first inclination is to increase their sending frequency in order to outmuscle other brands for mindshare, but is that the best option?
While this tactic can increase your presence in the inbox, it also can harm your email program by annoying your customers. Turning off prospective buyers isn't the biggest risk, either; generating more complaints can signal to mailbox providers that your messages are unwelcome, pushing them to reevaluate your sending reputation and potentially delivering your email to the spam folder.
Marketers who choose to increase their volume should mitigate this risk by doing more than simply sending a lot of mail. These ideas can help you stand out in the inbox during the holiday season, deliver more messages to your audience, and keep your seasonal program from damaging customer relationships during the rest of the year:
Unsurprise Your Audience
Increasing your sending volume suddenly can upset even the most loyal customer, and suddenly ramping up frequency without any warning can often lead to a rise in complaints and blacklistings. In a recent study, Return Path observed that 49 percent of blacklisting events occur during the holiday season. This is a terrible time to find yourself unable to get messages to consumers. To avoid surprising your subscribers, ask them for permission to send more. Even when they don't respond, they have advance notice that your messages will come more often. By asking customers to opt in to higher holiday frequency you lower the negative impact and stand out from competitors that who didn't bother to seek permission.
Tie Frequency to Benefits
If you offer clear value to receiving additional messages, your customers are more likely to appreciate them. Similar to the way you laid out program benefits during your initial signup process, you need to explain the benefits that increased holiday frequency will offer. Will the additional messages contain coupons? Personalized gift ideas? When asking permission to send more, make sure to offer more.
Make sure to provide details on what the frequency increase will be and how long it will last. Exactly how often can subscribers expect a message? Daily? More? When can they expect the volume to drop back to normal levels? Consumers—your customers—are actively seeking offers during the holiday season; sending more of them during a time when they're interested is often welcome, especially if they trust you to send less when their interest dips.
Keep Your Promises
Plans change and tactics shift, and especially when your best opportunity to monetize your email relationships lasts only a few weeks it's tempting to redouble holiday efforts and beg for forgiveness in the New Year. Please don't give in to this temptation. You can't apologize to people you can't communicate with. Once they've unsubscribed, you've either lost them forever or you'll have to pay to reacquire them.
Tom Sather is Return Path’s senior director of email research. Tom uses his knowledge of ISPs, spam filters and deliverability rules to advise marketers on how to get their email delivered to the inbox. He began his Return Path career as an email deliverability consultant working with top-brand clients like eBay, MySpace, IBM and Twitter. Tom’s previous experience includes roles with email service provider Experian and on the abuse desks for AOL, Bellsouth, AT&T and GTE.