Is email marketing part of your holiday marketing plans?

If you’ve never thought about sending anything more than an annual holiday letter out to your email contacts, now’s the time to rethink that plan. When done right, email marketing can have a major impact on your holiday sales and end-of-year donations.

Not sure how to fit email into your holiday marketing plans?

We’ve got you covered!

Not only are we going to cover how to get ready and how to strategize your holiday email marketing campaigns but we’re also going to provide some great ideas and examples to get you started.

Get ready for your holiday email marketing

We all know how busy the holiday season is and that it can get really hectic really fast. That’s why it’s so important to get all your ducks in a row before the season starts — so you can rise above the seasonal chaos and come out on top.

To make that happen, you first need to do a little preparation.

Organize your contacts

If you’re currently using email marketing, and we hope you are, you likely already have a list of email contacts that you send to on a regular basis. But, if you have only one list, you’re not using your list to its full potential.

Now’s the time to go through your list and organize it into different groups of contacts. That’s right, we’re talking about segmenting your email list — something you should be doing year-round.

Let’s be honest, people often hesitate to start segmenting their email lists because they believe that sending out more than one email to their subscribers will cost them more time — a precious commodity when you’re a small business owner. The misconception here is that each email, to each segment, has to be completely different. But that’s just not so.

Targeting the different audiences within your email list is easier, and faster, than you may think.

A lot of times, it just takes small changes —  like inserting personalization, slight subject line tweaks, or audience-specific email content. By changing your email campaigns slightly, you can speak more directly to your different target audiences. And, sending more targeted messages will improve the effectiveness of your emails and can have a significant impact on email open rates.

For the holidays there are two segments you should definitely add:

  1. Those who shop early – or act on your offer early
  2. Those who shop at the last minute – or who don’t act on your offer early

With these two segments created in advance, it will be easy to separate your customers into these two segments by checking your reports. Then, you can send the early adopters a special thank you and a gentle reminder to those who may be procrastinating.

Prepare to build your list

The holidays are the perfect time to grow your email list. This is especially true for businesses and organizations that rely on the increased traffic around the holidays to reach their goals for the year.

To help, there are a number of tools you can use to grow your list in-person and online.

For some businesses, a simple email sign-up sheet will be an easy way to encourage people to join your list. There are also other sign-up tools that may be good options for your business. Such as text-to-join, QR codes, sign-up landing pages, and Listbuilder apps. And, if you have a website, be sure to add an email sign-up form where it’s easy for visitors to opt-in quickly.

A great way to build your list during the holidays is to create a holiday offer for new subscribers. Of course, this needs to be in line with your particular business but think along the lines of a coupon, a free consultation, a whitepaper, or free shipping. 

Strategize your holiday email marketing

While getting ready for your holiday marketing is your first step, making an email marketing plan is your next one. Here’s how:

1. Choose your important dates

There are a lot of holidays during the holiday season and while most everyone hits the top holidays like Christmas, there are a lot of other holidays that can be forgotten in the Christmas chaos. This gives you the perfect opportunity to stand out from the crowd by celebrating other holidays along the way. So, take a little time, do some online research, and figure out what holidays suit your business best.

2. Plot your plan on a calendar

For this, I suggest starting by downloading our online marketing calendar and printing off the pages from September through January. Why so many months? Because it’s important to plan your marketing strategy 60 days ahead, if you can, and by planning all the way through January you’ll be able to take the time you save in January to start planning out, and setting up, your marketing for the new year. Smart, right?

3. Set your automation

As you’re growing your email list, you’ll also want to think about how you can follow up with new subscribers.

A great way to do that is with email automation

Set up a welcome series to automatically welcome new subscribers when they’re added to the list. Then, set up drip campaigns that will automatically send new emails to targeted subscribers based on how they interact with your emails.

Using your welcome email, along with an autoresponder series, is a great way to follow up with new subscribers during the holidays and into the New Year. You can use your autoresponder series to follow up after a sale or event, or if you are a nonprofit, use it as a way to stay in touch with donors and volunteers.

4. Create and schedule your email campaigns

If you have an email service provider, like Constant Contact, take a few minutes to copy your hand-written marketing calendar over to the one in your account. This will make it easier to keep track of what campaigns you’ve completed and scheduled vs what still needs to be completed.

Now, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get creative. 

Holiday email marketing ideas with examples

After you’ve had your head in the logistics side of email marketing, it can be difficult to transition over to the creative side of things. But really, creating email campaigns can be a lot of fun!

So, to get you started, here are 28 holiday email marketing ideas and examples of how email marketing can work for your small business or organization this year.

1. Holiday Announcement

Send a quick note to customers letting them know when new products arrive.

1 Holiday Announcement new product arrival email
Send an announcement as new, or seasonal, product arrives.

A simple announcement of what’s new for the holidays will often spur those early shoppers to buy early so they can be sure to get some of your limited holiday stock.

2. Black Friday Sale

Now that we’ve all seen the increase in online shopping, if you haven’t added an online store to your shopping options, now is the time.

2 Black Friday sale email campaign
Online shopping for Black Friday is bigger than ever.

Make sure that your online store is up and running smoothly and then let your customers know about it. Then, encourage people to shop small this Black Friday by promoting your online holiday offers with a Black Friday email.

3. Early Bird Offer

Plan a special offer for “early bird” shoppers and promote it to your email list.

Remember how we mentioned creating an email segment just for “early shoppers?” You’ll want to add the customers who take advantage of this offer to that segment.

4. Free Shipping

Drive orders on big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday by offering free shipping.

4 Free Shipping email campaign
Example of an email campaign featuring free shipping

Free shipping is a big thing. Especially around the holidays when people are trying to squeeze the most out of their holiday budget. Likely, you can’t afford to ship everything for free but check your budget and see if you can swing offering free shipping for orders over a certain price point. Not only will this make your customers happy but it will also encourage a little extra spending — to meet that “free shipping” threshold.

5. Holiday Freebie

Encourage people to shop small during the holidays with a special holiday giveaway.

5 holiday freebie email campaign example
Example of a holiday freebie email campaign

FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing. Not only will a campaign like this appeal to your “early shoppers” — who usually shop early to make sure they don’t miss out — but the right offer may be just the thing to motivate those procrastinators into action as well.

6. Weekend Sale

Get involved in all of the big holiday shopping days by hosting a weekend-long holiday sale.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to send out separate email campaigns for each day of “the big weekend” — Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday — do a long weekend sale that extends through Cyber Monday. Three birds, one stone. As our Bostonian brethren would say, “That’s wicked smaht!”

7. Holiday Invitation

Use email to promote your holiday events and in-store activities.

Whether you’ll be offering supervised holiday ornament making for the kids — while parents shop — or hosting a full-blown holiday event, be sure to let your contacts know about it well in advance so they can make their holiday plans accordingly. Then, send follow-up reminders. Remember what we said about automation?

8. Holiday Video

Celebrate the season with a special holiday video with you and your staff.

Don’t be camera shy this holiday season. A video of you and your staff getting ready for the holidays, or saying thank you for a great year goes a long way in connecting with your customers — especially if you have customers who may never have the chance to visit your place of business in person.

9. Preview Sale

Encourage people to get their shopping done early by promoting a holiday preview sale.

9 preview sale email example
La Provence, Rockport, Massachusetts
(redesign of Constant Contact customer’s email campaign)

Going a step beyond the “holiday announcement,” this rewards the early shoppers on your contact list and encourages the late shoppers to shop now, rather than “waiting for a sale.”

10. Price Point Discounts

Give options for people to save on their holiday shopping.

10 price point discounts example
Let your customers decided on how much they’ll save

This type of sale gives everyone something to celebrate. It rewards those who buy more with a larger discount and encourages shoppers to perhaps get “just one more thing” in order to reach a higher discount tier.

11. Giving Tuesday Fundraiser

Use email to connect with supporters on Giving Tuesday, a celebrated global day of giving.

You don’t have to be a nonprofit to take part in Giving Tuesday. As a matter of fact, this is the perfect opportunity to partner with a local nonprofit and encourage your subscribers to donate by offering to put up a matching donation. This will not only extend your donation to do more good but it will also let your customers know what’s important to you and to your community.

12. Cyber Monday Promotion

Create a one-day-only offer to drive online sales for Cyber Monday.

For Cyber Monday, think about offering  “available online only” or “limited edition” merchandise with a special “one day only” discount.

Cyber Monday is the perfect day to announce a new online store or new store offering!

13. Customer Appreciation

Show your appreciation this holiday season by rewarding loyal customers with a special discount.

Hopefully, you have a segmented list of loyal customers — those who tend to buy from your shop, use your services, or recommend you to their friends, frequently. The holiday season is a great time to send them a special “thank you” for their loyalty.

14. Holiday Party Ideas

Show customers how you can make their lives easier during the holiday season.

If you offer ANYTHING that can make someone’s life easier during the holidays, now is the time to let them know. Whether it’s a list of great stocking stuffers, party planning, decorations, pre-cooked meals, shipping, local delivery, or partnering with a massage therapist to work in a corner of your store — to give shoppers some relief — think about what you can do to make things easier for your customers and then shout it to the rooftops. Believe me, we want to know.

15. Local Event

The holidays are a great time to connect with people who live and work in your community. Plan a special event for local shoppers.

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, there’s nothing better than offering something fun for your local customers that can take some of the stress out of the shopping season.

Think about what you’d appreciate as a customer then, take a look around your shop and see what you can do for your local customers. Maybe a kids’ craft table, free hot chocolate and cookies, or a “locals only” sale.

16. Gift Certificate

Send a special offer on gift certificates to loyal customers and encourage them to share it with a friend.

16 gift certificate special offer email example
This buy-one-get-something-for-yourself deal is always a good deal for the savvy shopper.

Gift certificates are great gifts year-round, so offer a special deal on gift certificates that can be used anytime.

17. Holiday Reminder

The holidays are a busy time for you and your customers. Be a helpful resource during the holidays by sending timely reminders.

If you offer something that can help your customers, be sure to offer it to them before they need it, then follow up with timely reminders so they don’t miss any important order deadlines or shipping dates.

18. Holiday Services

What are the unique services your business offers during the holidays? Get the word out early with an email reminder.

Whether you offer a party venue or a house cleaning service, be sure to let your customers know that they need to book early. Then send reminders as your schedule fills up so they know that bookings for the season are closing fast.

A great way to do this is to set up an automated email series that links back to a landing page — where you keep your appointments up to date — or better yet, link directly to your booking page so they can check your schedule and book an appointment at the same time.

19. Last-Minute Offer

Help your last-minute shoppers find the perfect gift with a special last-minute offer. (And don’t be afraid to have some fun!)

This is another one that can be automated to specifically go out to those on your “late shoppers” list!

20. Daily Specials

Come up with a collection of daily or weekly specials that you can promote throughout the holiday season.

20 daily specials email example
Example of holiday-themed daily special email

This is a great use of email automation. You can set up an entire holiday season’s worth of emails and schedule them to send when you want them to. No drip campaign required. Just some forethought and some time spent upfront — so you don’t have to scramble on your holiday email marketing during the holiday rush.

21. Give Thanks

Tell customers what you and your staff are thankful for this holiday season.

There are certain things, and people, that you couldn’t do business without. Be sure to let them know what they do for you and how much you appreciate them as you wrap up the year.

22. Winter Deals

Think about the products and services your customers can use after the holidays are over. Highlight these items in a seasonal email.

22 winter deals email example
Example of special deals for the winter, not just the holidays

While the holidays are all about sales, specials, and decorations, you don’t have a business without selling nonholiday-related items. So, think about putting together an email that highlights items for the season to send out for an “after Christmas” email sale.

23. Monthly Specials

Generate sales throughout the season by offering monthly specials to your loyal customers.

If you don’t want to focus on a certain holiday, or in addition to well-planned holiday promotions, send out an email highlighting something that will be available to your customers for an entire month.

24. Limited Edition

Give email subscribers a sneak peek at your limited edition holiday items.

I know we mentioned it before, but FOMO can’t be mentioned enough. Limited edition items will go fast so make sure you let your readers know when they arrive, when they’re running low, and when they’re gone for the season.

25. Seasons Greetings

Even if the holidays aren’t an especially busy time for your company, you can still celebrate the season with your customers.

25 seasons greetings email example
Giving your readers an opportunity to pre-order will help you decide how much inventory you need to order for your store, like with this example from vicki lee’s.

You don’t have to wait until you’re well into the holiday season to wish your customers “Happy Holidays.” Instead, think about sending out a holiday email ahead of the holiday season to remind them that the holidays are coming, that you want to wish them joy before the chaos hits, or to give them an opportunity to place their holiday orders early.

26. Product Reviews

Help customers make the right choice this holiday season by sharing product reviews and testimonials.

When shoppers may be hesitant to your product or service over another, honest customer reviews can tip the scales in your direction. So, when you’re getting great feedback and reviews from your customers, share that — especially if it highlights something special for the holidays.

27. Holiday Photo Contest

Get your audience involved with a holiday photo contest. Promote the contest with email and expand it by taking it to social media.

While this type of contest easily lends itself to Halloween costumes, it can be a lot of fun for everything from highlighting holiday decorations to best cookie recipes. 

Get the most mileage out of your contest by challenging your customers to share their best decorations — using a particular item that you carry — on social media with branded hashtags. And, do more for your community by, letting people vote on a winner by donating a dollar to a local charity that you work with.

28. Happy New Year!

Start the New Year off on the right foot by sending a message to your email audience. Show how you can help with their resolutions.

28 new year email example

As with pretty much all of your holiday email marketing campaigns, this is one that you can, and should, create in advance and pre-schedule to go out. That way you can give your customers something to look forward to in the new year, and still enjoy your New Year’s Day and bask in the glory of surviving another holiday season.

Start your holiday email marketing today!

Constant Contact’s email templates make it easy to get your email marketing done — fast. We have holiday email templates, customized for the big days like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday.



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