It’s crept up on us again, hasn’t it? Scarves have been broken out of the closet, supermarket shelves are stocked with Halloween candy. The holiday season is right around the corner.

For many marketers, the pressure is on. The holiday inbox is like a corn maze with shiny promotions at every corner. Competition for your customers’ attention is not much unlike the pressure to outdo your neighbor’s Halloween decor with a bigger, scarier haunted house on your front lawn (strobe lights, fog machine and all). Where and how do you even start planning email strategy that works?

Start by envisioning the bigger picture and work your way backwards. Think about the top goals you’d like to see accomplished by the end of the year and then work out an actionable plan towards it. In the process, you’ll find the questions of “who should I target?”, “what should I talk about?”, “how should I present my content?” will answer themselves. Here are some questions to ask as you try to define your objectives for the season. To plan, execute and score.

What are my overall business goals?

First things first, we’ll zoom out to take a look at the bigger “big picture” – overall company goals. With only a few months left until the end of the year, marketing can help highlight areas that are performing well or push the additional sales, sign ups, or traffic needed to meet year-end targets. Depending on where your business is in the growth stage, these goals can vary.

Startup goals

If you’re a newly formed business, you’ll likely want to look to increase your brand awareness and build up your prospect base. Make it a habit of creating consistent, fresh content, demonstrating your value-add and how you differ from competitors. Win the hearts and minds of your potential customers – nurture them into brand ambassadors who will organically spread your message. Use tools like Google Alerts or Mention to track traffic flows, influencers and referral channels..

SME goals

As your business grows to be more established, you will potentially be more heavily financially driven. Some email marketing goals you can consider setting for this holiday season include converting consumers up the pricing funnel, x percent growth in new sign ups, x percent growth in sales and/or a set number of thought leadership articles placed in publications.

Enterprise goals

Larger businesses can afford to concentrate on an mix of the mentioned startups and SMEs goals. You have greater resources, a bigger budget perhaps. It’s also easier for customer data to get lost between teams in larger corporations. Be sure to open the channels of communication to understand where business currently stands, which products are of focus and who your users are.

Where do we stand right now?

Use tools like Campaign Comparison to analyze your historical email data from previous holiday seasons – compare your previous campaigns and identify your best performers. Identify who your current audience is, what type of content they engage with and how. What subject line formats gave the best open rates? Which call-to-actions drove the highest click throughs? Knowing where your average KPIs currently stand and how your audience is engaging will allow you to map out reachable goals and realistic stretch goals.

Another valuable source of information you have to help recognize your target market is by looking at your current customer base. If you’re already trading and have a set of customers and prospects, then look at the data you have collected on them. Where are they based? What category of items or services are most popular? What’s the average sales size?

By identifying these variables you will be in a better position to see if your goals should be: 1) Increasing each transaction by upselling. 2) Customizing your content to suit each demographic. 3) Put further focus on your core product or service and try putting an offer on your items or services that are not doing so well.

campaign comparison

What are our priorities?

Now that you have laid out your greater business goals and current marketing KPIs, you’re ready to start jotting down a list of holiday goals. But it’s likely you have a long wish list of to-dos for the season! Where do you start? When looking to prioritize goals, it’s helpful to think about two things: resources and importance. Looking to balance between both, choose two to three to move forward with as this quarter’s goals, and categorize the rest as reach goals to be revisited in the new year.

Is this realistic?

Aiming high is always a great way to push your team to new heights, but a reality check can be helpful to make sure you don’t get too carried away. Before setting down your goals, think about how long it will take to accomplish them and what your resources look like. If it isn’t possible this season, take a look at where it falls on your priority list and tuck it away for next year.

How will we measure this?

Translating your goals into numbers will not only turn these abstract ideas into real, concrete concepts, it also keeps you accountable. Jot down these goals in a spreadsheet and track your progress over the course of the holiday period or print them out and put them up somewhere so that the finish line is always in sight.

Summing it up

By now you should have a good idea of which direction you want to go into set your goals, who prospects are and what type of content they respond to the most. Let’s put all this great information we’ve accumulated to set realistic targets and goals you could be aiming for this holiday season.

Depending on your type of business, pick 2 to 3 goals and prioritize them. Execute your email program and track your results closely. This way you can tweak your email campaigns throughout the season to make sure you’re generating optimal results before the holidays are over!

What goals will you be setting for your email marketing strategy this holiday season?