Using e-mail to drive ROI from seasonal campaigns

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Michael Goldberg
Michael Goldberg

As soon as the Christmas holiday ended, advertisers replaced images of Santa Claus and snowflakes with Cupid and hearts. Advertisers are always thinking about the next big holiday even before customers finish celebrating the previous one. Valentine's Day is just one of the seasonal holidays that marketers aggressively promote with themed campaigns.

And, of all the channels used to leverage the holiday shopping rush, e-mail or “inbox marketing” as it might be more aptly described, is the best media channel for reaching consumers with targeted and event-specific promotions. Whether you deliver seasonal messages as standalone e-mails, within branded newsletters and/or as cross and up-sell components of transactional notifications, the chance to increase conversions goes up with seasonally themed ads.

Why? Statistics released earlier this month by Nielsen Net Ratings, a leading Internet measurement service, showed that online ads seeking to capitalize on Valentine's Day began running as early as January 16. In addition, traffic patterns indicated success in stimulating visits to some sites selling gift certificates, flowers and lingerie, which showed increases in audiences ranging from 63.1% to 123.1% from the corresponding period a week before.

Datran Media works with several marketers that benefit from the increased interest in the Valentine's Day holiday. Throughout 2007, from leading dating portals to dieting sites and gift retailers, Datran has seen increased conversions in these categories for the first six weeks of the year, thanks in part to the highly targeted nature of e-mail and the ability to craft personalized and holiday-themed messages. In some cases the conversions have increased by as much as 28% in the first two months of the year.

Online dating & e-mail: A match made in heaven

When it comes to finding love, a click of the mouse may work better than a shot from Cupid's arrow. As Datran Media's own statistics prove, January marks the busiest and most profitable month for online dating services, with singles going online in record numbers to find soulmates or dates for Valentine's Day. Hitwise, which tracks Internet traffic, found that more singles visited dating sites in January 2007 than in any other month that year, mostly due to New Year's resolutions. 

Online dating and relationship sites are all competing for the same eyeballs. Since e-mail is the predominant channel for this sector, and it is a much faster conduit for messaging than direct mail, dating networks must rapidly devise, test and execute deeply personalized, relevant, compelling campaigns to their members at precisely the right time. Campaigns must also be uniquely differentiated from the competition, reflect the value of their brand and include a compelling call to action. There is no time allotted for assumptions when executing e-mail campaigns. A/B splits, analytics and random samples must be integrated into campaign deployment. Results, whether tied to a visibility or lead generation campaign, must also be immediately available and then feed back into the business intelligence systems. This data flow enables online dating networks to power successively higher performing campaigns as their information-rich models mature.

So, how do they do it? The good news is most of the techniques that dating sites employ are available to marketers across verticals since they are integrated within inbox marketing tools.

Targeting, for instance, is a very effective method employed by relationship portals that should be used in your e-mail marketing initiatives. Over the past five years, dating portal members have grown accustomed to receiving highly targeted e-mails that are aligned with their preferences. In fact, they expect them. The ability to target based on unique demographic and psychographic data reduces assumption and human error and frees marketing resources to focus on content, branding and strategy versus campaign operations. All businesses should integrate data across e-mail marketing and take advantage of triggered messaging. It is efficient and effective.

Holidays from A to Z: Everyone can leverage seasonality

Before you know it, Valentine's Day will have come and gone and consumers will soon be seeing green as advertisers will be looking toward St. Patrick's Day, the next big marketable holiday. Almost every holiday can be leveraged with a targeted themed campaign. Consumer awareness can be piqued around the holidays with familiar themes and colors and ultimately tied back to a product or service. Whether advertisers craft promotions featuring the founding fathers, the Easter bunny or Santa Claus, inbox marketing seems to work extraordinarily well when it's wrapped around a specific time for buying products and services. So, take heed, especially if your New Year's resolution was to make your marketing programs more profitable.

Michael Goldberg is associate director of marketing at Datran Media. Reach him at mgoldberg@datranmedia.com.

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