If you think the only time you should be sending holiday emails is during the months of November and December, you might be missing out on a powerful email strategy. Holiday email marketing allows you to create timely, targeted emails about topics your audience cares about.
There are dozens of holidays throughout the year you can use to create unique, targeted emails and newsletters.
Here is what you need to know to prepare your email strategy for every holiday.
Note: For more planning tips, check out How to Plan Your Posts.
1. Create a Yearly Holiday Email Calendar Spreadsheet
You might roll your eyes at the thought of creating a spreadsheet, but they can be incredibly useful for keeping you organized and on track.
Running a small or medium-sized organization requires wearing many different hats. You might be managing email, but also fielding sales calls, writing content, or even preparing orders yourself. With so much on your plate, planning out email campaigns for the holidays can fall through the cracks. Which is a huge mistake!
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to build a relationship with your audience and drive traffic to your website or store throughout the entire year. Failure to plan can cause you to miss out on all the benefits of email marketing.
Ideally, you should be planning holiday emails out a few weeks in advance. One way to make sure you get this done is by creating and maintaining a holiday calendar so you know, at a glance, what holidays are coming up. Here is how to create a holiday email calendar.
- Create an email holiday calendar spreadsheet. I suggest using a program like Google Drive or Trello, so that multiple people can access it. List all the months out for the next year.
- Next, add all the important holidays for your audience to each month. This list from Hubspot has tons of holidays for inspiration, and I’ve also included some popular holidays below.
- Don’t forget to look for less-popular holidays (and even international days) your audience might care about. You may be able to reach a greater portion of your audience on days where other brands aren’t sending emails.
- Make a note for holidays in the previous month. For example, in early January you should be working on Valentine’s Day emails, so mark that in your calendar. Working ahead will keep you from missing out on opportunities and keep organized.
Not sure which holidays to add to your calendar? Here is a list of U.S. holidays to consider.
- New Year’s Day
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- Civil Rights Day (Arizona, New Hampshire)
- National Freedom Day
- Groundhog Day
- Super Bowl
- Chinese New Year
- Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday
- Valentine’s Day
- President’s Day
- Employee Appreciation Day
- Mardi Gras
- Ash Wednesday
- St. Patrick’s Day
- Spring Equinox
- National Vietnam Veterans Day
- Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday
- Tax Day
- Administrative Professionals Day
- Arbor Day
- Kentucky Derby
- Cinco De Mayo
- Mother’s Day
- Memorial Day
- Flag Day
- Father’s Day
- Summer Solstice
- Independence Day (July 4th)
- Bastille Day
- Purple Heart Day
- Women’s Equality Day
- Senior Citizen’s Day
- Labor Day
- National Grandparents Day
- Rosh Hashanah
- Fall Equinox
- Yom Kippur
- Columbus Day
- Indigenous People’s Day
- Sweetest Day
- All Saint’s Day
- Veterans Day
- Lincoln’s Birthday
- Black Friday
- Rosa Parks Day
- Cyber Monday
- Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
- St Nicholas Day
- Christmas Eve/Day
- George Washington’s Birthday
- New Year’s Eve
Keep in mind, this is far from an exhaustive list. There may be other holidays that are important to your audience based on the country they live in, their religion, or their stage in life. Consider adding events such as back to school, summer break, or college football training season if it makes sense for your audience.
Bonus tip: Make sure to share holiday-related content from other platforms, such as gift guides from your blog or holiday related-giveaways on Instagram.
2. Schedule Your Emails in Advance
Waiting to the last minute to write, design, and schedule your emails is a recipe for disaster. If you’re like me, you might not do your best work at the last minute, and emails are no exception.
The good news is, once you’ve planned out a holiday calendar you are well on your way to creating an email marketing plan. The next step is to schedule your emails out in advance. I suggest working a month ahead. That way you have a little wiggle room if you get busy or an idea falls through.
Here are a few ideas for emails to schedule in advance:
- Emails the day before the holiday, particularly if you are planning a sale.
- Create an autoresponder series leading up to the holiday with tips or tricks your audience would find useful. For example, tips for cooking burgers the day before the Super Bowl or stuffing recipes the day before Thanksgiving.
- Send out product recommendations related to the upcoming holiday. For example, Valentine gift ideas two weeks before the holiday or green fashion items a few weeks before St. Patrick’s day.
- Send out reminders before a sale ends. In addition to telling your audience when a sale is going to start, make sure to let them know before your sale ends. You can create a sense of urgency, which can be effective at increasing conversions.
- Don’t forget to send cart reminders! If you have an e-commerce site, a cart reminder can nudge on-the-fence buyers to make that purchase.
3. Get Creative With Your Design
An estimated 281 billion emails are sent every day. To put that number into perspective, 281 seconds equals 9,000 years. There is no question that people are sorting through mountains of emails every day.
So, how do you make sure your emails stand out on holidays? Here are a few ways:
Use Holiday-Specific Images and Colors
Adding a little holiday cheer to your emails can make your messages stand out. Look for holiday-themed stock photos or use colors related to the holiday or season. For example, use greens around St. Patrick’s Day, pastels in the spring, and red, browns, and yellows in the fall.
It is a small adjustment, but it can help bring a little holiday cheer to your audience’s inbox.
Looking for places to find holiday-themed images? Here are a few places to start:
- Unsplash (free images)
- Pixabay (free)
- Death to Stock ($12 per month for unique images)
- Creative Market (Cost varies per image)
Get Creative With Email Subject Lines
Your email subject heading is the first thing receivers see in their inbox. Essentially, it serves as your email’s first impression. If your email subject line is boring, they may never even open your message. Are you making the most of that space?
Here are a few best practices for your holiday email subject headings:
- Most email clients preview between 40 and 60 characters for email headings, so make the most of that space! Don’t short change yourself.
- Consider using holiday-related emoticons to stand out.
- Create a sense of urgency or FOMO to encourage clicks.
- Avoid spam trigger words that might cause your message to get caught in spam filters.
- Lead with a benefit–are you having a sale, offering free shipping, or did you write a holiday-related blog post?
- Personalize the subject heading by using the receiver’s name.
Create a Unique Holiday-Related Offer
People love to feel like they are apart of something special. Make your audience feel exclusive by offering a holiday-related promo code or a sneak peek just for subscribers. This will give them a reason to care about the holiday and a reason to open your next email!
4. Track What Works For Next Year
Tracking email month over month is easy enough; you likely have email software that does this for you. It can be more difficult to track what works for holidays, particularly since holidays don’t always fall on the same day of the year.
Remember that holiday calendar spreadsheet you created earlier? Add a tab for tracking what works and what doesn’t. For example, did a certain email subject line increase opens? Did an offer for free shipping increase conversions? Did a particular blog post get a large number of reads?
Write down what worked well and what didn’t work, that way next year you aren’t starting from scratch when it comes time to create emails for each holiday. You will have a whole list of strategies so you can focus on what works well. Just don’t forget to test!
Bonus tip: Keep an inspiration file of holiday emails from other brands or organizations you like. That way, when you go to create your holiday email for next year, you’ll have plenty of ideas to draw on.
Follow These Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Emails
When you are busy running a business, holiday email might get pushed down in your to-do list. By following the tips in this post, you can plan your holiday emails in advance, which means you can reap the benefits of email marketing with less stress.
Lastly, for more tips on how to plan ahead, check out Top 5 Time-Saving Tips for Creating Email Newsletter Content.
Do you send holiday-themed emails? Which holiday is the most popular with your audience? Share your thoughts in the comments below!