With all of the hard work you put into creating the merriest holiday email campaigns, you want nothing more than to see them succeed. (If only Santa’s workshop included a team that could help you write, design and send holiday emails…)

But with all of the other holiday promotions flooding your subscribers’ inboxes, it can become discouraging to see lack of engagement due to low open rates.

So how can you make sure your emails stand out from the rest?

We took a look at what makes some emails more effective then others, and added them to this checklist below. To ensure you have a merry and successful holiday season, here are some best practices to keep in mind.

Offer exclusive holiday promotions

To keep up with the competition, you’ll want to make sure you’re sending holiday emails with content your subscribers want this time of year, like great deals on your products. After all, people expect to spend money this time of year – but they also hope to save some along the way.

Don’t have a physical product to offer? This is the perfect time to provide discounts on intangible gifts like online courses, ebooks, checklists, templates and more.

Last December, crafter and small business coach Lain Ehmann held multiple holiday promotions for her subscribers. This included a “12 Deals of Christmas Gift Guide,” as well as a discount on her online crafting event that kicked off in January.

By doing so, Lain was able to create gifts out of both educational content and physical products.

Be specific in your subject line

According to a report pulled by our team of data analysts, the top 100 words that generated the highest email open rates specifically related to the content within the email.

If a professional photographer included the word “photographs” in their subject line, for example, that would have a higher open rate than a subject line that included more generic terms.

While being descriptive and specific can up your open rates, you’ll also need a unique angle to make your emails stand out from the rest.

For example, if you plan on featuring a 50 percent discount on an online course, make sure you mention the course in your subject line. Only including “50% off!” might not convince your audience that your email is worth opening, especially if they find an offer on something else they want.

By sharing more specific details around the promotion, however, you give your readers more of a reason to open your email.

Check out this Thanksgiving-themed subject line from kitchenware retailer Sur La Table:

“Thanksgiving Stuff-a-Tote Event – Free Tote + 20% Off Everything Inside”

By referencing “Thanksgiving” and the discount, Sur La Table describes the content of the email as well as the benefits of the deal:


To give your emails this extra edge, use words in your subject line that clearly convey the main benefit of your email.

Create a sense of urgency by referencing dates and times

The more you can emphasize the urgency or importance of buying now, the more you can influence subscribers to take action.

So how can you get your audience to feel this way?

By referencing dates, times, or season.

In the report mentioned above, our data analysts also found that the top 100 pairs of words with the highest open rates were related to time (e.g., Week 1, December newsletter). So by referencing the idea that either the holidays are quickly approaching or a specific sale is ending, you can motivate your subscribers to take action.

Crafting retailer, Michaels, recently sent out an email promoting an early Black Friday sale, which included the following subject line:

“1-Day Online – 70% Off Pre-Black Friday Deals”

By including the deadline for the sale, buyers knew they only had a short amount of time to get the discount – which then motivated them to take advantage of it.

Get festive with your email design

To pump up the holiday energy in your message, consider using a holiday email template or including design elements that convey a festive vibe.

Check out this merry message from the clothing company Talbots:


By bringing in holiday-themed colors and images (can’t get enough of those rainbow string lights!), Talbots is able to add a festive flair that accompanies the content.

The best part of all? They do so in a way that doesn’t feel like a complete departure from their brand – both the header and footer in the email maintain the standard Talbots look and feel.

To replicate this for your own emails, consider using color schemes (e.g., red, green, white, gray), templates, and images (e.g., snow, holiday lights and decor) that convey a seasonal spirit.

Be consistent

During the holidays, there are a variety of types of consumers: early shoppers, last-minute shoppers, Black Friday shoppers and so on. As a result, you want to make sure you have an email promotion for everyone.

This will also help keep your brand top of mind, which is more important than ever during such a competitive time of year.

How can you maintain that consistency? Let’s dive into our next tip…

Create a holiday email calendar

Keeping track of all the holidays (e.g., Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Hanukkah, the New Year) can quickly become overwhelming. Creating an email editorial calendar can really help organize the mayhem.

If you already have a calendar, make sure it’s up to date with your holiday campaigns. You’ll be sending a lot of emails this time of year, so planning everything out in advance will help you meet your deadlines and create content your subscribers will love.

A calendar can also help you accommodate for the rest of your team’s time, which comes in handy if they’re helping with tasks like design, writing or scheduling the message.

Start spreading holiday cheer

While you may already have a holiday email campaign in motion, it’s never too late to make tweaks along the way. The more you can make your emails stand out from the rest this time of year, the merrier the season will be for you and your business.

Have ideas on how to make your emails pop in the inbox? I’d love to hear about it below in the comments!

Can’t get enough info on holiday email campaigns? Neither can we. Download the 2016 Holiday Email Marketing Report today!