Avoid 'Ho-Ho-Hum' holiday e-mails and deliver campaigns that jingle all the way

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'Tis the peak shopping season, when retail marketers send a flurry of e-mails to drive both online and offline holiday shopping. At this time of year, you will achieve the biggest growth in your lists and the highest ROI. Your marketing efforts can literally mean Christmas bonuses or winter blues.

Here are five quick tips to improve your e-tail campaigns.

1. Light up your subject line. Present a unique value proposition for why consumers should shop with you and create a sense of urgency. Avoid "Free Shipping," the phrase that's decorating way too many subject lines and could get your e-mail deleted with the rest of the crowd. Before you hit send, confirm your subject line's originality by checking out the Subjectivity Scanner, a daily digest of e-mail subject lines from a variety of retailers at www.retailemail.blogspot.com .

2. Don't be a Scrooge. Do the math for your customers. Saying, "Save up to 50 percent off," just isn't enough. Show the beginning price and the ending price. Then spell out exactly how much money is being saved in dollars and as a percentage. Make it crystal clear why this is a great deal.

3. Say it with words. Make sure your call to action and your key offer are spelled out in text, not just highlighted in a graphic. Some Internet service providers automatically block all images, so relying on pictures alone could replace your ROI with a lump of coal.

4. Add holiday cheer to your new subscriber message. You probably haven't given your auto-responder messages much thought lately. But since you're adding a significant chunk of your new subscribers at this time, leverage this additional touch point. Update your messages with special offers for first-time shoppers and shipping information, such as cut-off dates for Christmas delivery.

5. Check your links twice and make sure service is nice. No matter how rushed you are, take three minutes to test all of your links, including the ones you never test. Start with your unsubscribe link, because if you keep marketing to unwilling subscribers, their ISPs will be the Grinch who steals next Christmas. Test every link on your landing pages to ensure seamless shopping. Finally, make sure your feedback link works, and also add a live phone number to your email. Give customers several ways to reach you.

Now go spread enough e-mail goodwill to carry sales through for the rest of the year.

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