12 Days of Christmas: Don’t Stuff the Inbox with Fruitcake

On the third day of Christmas, my subscribers gave to me… 300 spam complaints! Ugh, that’s like getting a lump of coal in your stocking and something you definitely want to avoid this holiday season. An increased complaint rate will negatively affect your sender reputation, resulting in poor inbox placement rates for your email program. So instead of just asking Santa to keep your complaint rates low, take hold of the sleigh’s reins to ensure your subscribers get what they want and don’t put you on their naughty list.

Set clear expectations during the sign-up process. The holiday season usually means lots of holiday parties. A good party planner lets their guests know the details; date, time, place, theme (is it an ugliest sweater party, white elephant exchange, etc.). Invitations are sent sharing such information and guests have the option to decide if they want to attend. Nobody is forced to go, they choose to go.

Set your email “party” up for success by letting your subscribers know exactly what types of emails they are going to receive and how often they can expect to hear from you. Your sign-up process should be easy to access, clearly explain the email choices and allow the subscriber to opt-in to what they want to receive from you. Avoid pre-checked options, assumptions about preferences or using an opt-out subscription method. Doing so increases the risk of complaints because people may not realize what they just signed up to join. Invite subscribers to your party, but let them choose to attend.

Provide email and frequency options. The hustle and bustle of everything that has to get done during the holidays can be overwhelming – sometimes to the point that it takes the fun out of the season. Take a step back and decide what you really want to do. Maybe you attend the company party where you get an iPad (yes, we did last year!), but choose to steer clear of Aunt Marge’s fruit cake extravaganza. The bottom line; you have options.

Typically the frequency and volume of holiday-related emails increase during this season. Kick off your holiday campaign by sending a note about your holiday volume increase and the benefits these special emails will provide your subscribers. Give them options to opt-in to your holiday email campaigns, reduce frequency of special emails or maintain their regular email schedule. Don’t force them to receive emails they don’t want or they are likely to start hitting that spam button. And let’s be honest, people don’t want to receive unwanted email any more than they want fruit cake!

Make the unsubscribe process easy. You try to be a good host, but if someone doesn’t want to stay at the party, then let them leave. If you force them to stay, they will just get disgruntled, start complaining and ruin the party for everyone else. Nobody likes a party-pooper!

Include a one-click unsubscribe option in all emails and honor the unsubscribe request immediately. Don’t risk sending another email to someone that just unsubscribed or they will likely complain. If your complaint rate goes up, your sender reputation goes down and you risk having your mail bulked or blocked and then those that want to receive your mail can’t anymore. At the end of the day you’d much rather have someone unsubscribe from your program than complain about it. Unsubscribes don’t get you blocked – complaints do.

Deliver what you promised. Think of that little bright-eyed kid that can’t wait to open up the new iPhone 4s he asked Santa for. Up at the crack of dawn and full of anticipation you…I mean, “he”… rushes downstairs and tears open the package under the tree only to find… socks.

Avoid disappointing your subscribers and give them what they expect to receive. Stay away from the ‘one size fits all’ mentality and keep your subscribers happy with relevant, targeted emails that deliver what you promised. Your subscribers are your greatest gift – don’t just give them socks.

Don’t send to old, inactive addresses. What would the holidays be without festive cards? We all enjoy the annual catching up with friends and family via the letters and pictures. Have you noticed that if you miss sending them one year, the number of cards you receive the next year dwindles? You’ve become inactive and as a result, removed from their list.

It’s often tempting for marketers to dig into email archives in an attempt to eek out an extra 1% conversion. While the slight increase in holiday sales shows up on the balance sheet, don’t lose sight of the potential damage. Mailing to old, inactive email addresses can result in an increase in complaints, unknown users and spam traps. Happy Holidays! Now you’re blocked or being throttled at the worst possible time. Was that 1% really worth the long-term losses suffered because of the hit on your sender reputation and the work you need to do to correct it?

If people want your email, encourage them to update you on what they want. Maybe it really is socks. And on a personal note, if you forgot to send out your cards last year, redeem yourself and “re-subscribe”

Previous posts in our 12 Days of Christmas series:
Learning from last year
Scrooge Isn’t The Only Complainer At Christmas Time!

We’ve also created a quick tip sheet of the 12 steps you need to take to be more successful this holiday season.

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