Marketing departments often find themselves in a frenzy during the holiday season as teams are tasked to get the most ROI out of all marketing channels. And this time of year can be highly profitable as consumers’ pocketbooks are wide open.

However, some email strategies and tactics often go overlooked that can damage your sending reputation for the upcoming year. Below are 5 strategies that ensure you get the most of your holiday sends and don’t risk unwanted negative consequences for holiday sending once your sending frequency normalizes in the new year.

1. Ring the bell early with a teaser of what you have planned

Previewing or teasing out what you’ll be offering before the holidays arrive in the fall helps generate engagement with holiday emails. Once the holiday emails start arriving in subscribers’ inboxes, your great offer will be much more likely to be engaged with if the recipient is already excited and expecting your emails.

2. Ring in Black Friday by bucking the trends

Pick a time to send that is an “off” time. Most email senders will choose to send their emails on the hour, 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 30 minutes after the hour, or simply at a time that ends in 5 or 0.

Think of this like email rush hour traffic– you don’t want to jump on the highway right in the middle of rush hour.

When possible, schedule your sending for an ‘off’ time like 13 minutes after the hour or some other arbitrary time that is not likely to be as popular of a send time.

This will help you avoid the busiest times and possible email delays at the receiving servers and allows your emails to be delivered in a timely fashion. For more strategies on perfecting your send time, check out Send Time: When Should I Send My Email? 

3. (w)Ring out your list

While it is tempting to use the holiday sending frenzy to try to reach every address on your list, doing so can actually harm your ability to get those valuable messages to your recipients who are engaging with your emails.

Sending to old email addresses or addresses that haven’t engaged with your email recently can increase the likelihood of delivery to spam trap addresses, increased spam complaints, delivery to unengaged addresses that are a negative signal to inbox providers, or all of the above.

Inbox providers can view these negative signals and decide to filter your emails more heavily (or be blocked entirely). If these signals occur enough, your IP or email domain may even become blacklisted. These are all very expensive problems to have during this important sending season.

Ensure that the recipients you are sending to are ones that are opening and clicking your messages. We suggest never sending to an email address that has not opened or clicked a message of yours in the past 12 months. Quite often, it is best to only send to addresses that have positively engaged in the last 6 months.

If you must send to less engaged emails, I suggest doing so at a reduced frequency and considering segmenting those sends to a different IP group and subdomain/domain combination than your engaged recipients.

4. If they like it, put a ring on it…your best subscribers, that is

All of your subscribers are important. However, it is good to acknowledge that there is likely a portion of your list that is more engaged with your emails than others. Isolate those very engaged subscribers and treat them differently.

Think of these addresses like your VIP list. For example, you might choose to segment subscribers that have opened more than 10 messages in the past 30 days.

Consider sending your most engaged users holiday emails a couple of hours prior to sending to the remainder of your list.

This helps make sure that subscribers that are most likely to positively engage don’t see delivery interruptions that might crop up due to your higher volume sending afterwards. The positive engagement that these subscribers are likely to demonstrate can help pave the way to success for your higher volume sending.

If you want to get really advanced with this strategy, you can also offer your subscribers the ability to further opt in to this “VIP” list by sending them a campaign that asks them to confirm they want special treatment. For those that opt in, you could send them the early access to deals, better discounts, or other special content that takes advantage of their love for your brand.

5. Ring in the New Year without the hangover

The holiday season is often the time of year that senders see their list grow most rapidly. This is especially the case for senders who offer discounts and sales during this busy shopping time. Great, right!?

Well, it depends…

While list growth is common during the holiday season, list hangover is also common once the holidays are over.

While we’d love it if every subscriber that signed up for your great deals in November still loved your brand and emails in January, that’s often not the case.

Quite often, people sign up JUST for the deals and JUST for holiday shopping. Once January rolls around, those people may not be as interested in receiving your emails.

With this in mind, there are a few tactics you could consider to help prevent these recipients from becoming unengaged and/or starting to report your messages as spam just because they do not want them.

First, consider segmenting your list by signup date and/or source so that you can quickly identify cohorts of your list that signed up during the holiday season. This will allow you to monitor the open rates and click rates for those holiday signups to identify any drops in engagement after the holidays are over.

Next, if you begin to see your engagement metrics drop after the holidays, or if spam complaints are increasing, consider:

  • Reducing your frequency to those subscribers
  • Sending a targeted series of campaigns that sells your value and re-establishes why they want to continue receiving your mail
  • Sending those subscribers a targeted campaign that asks them to take action, like click a link, to continue receiving your emails–This can help eliminate those who are uninterested in your mail but not willing to take steps to opt out from your list, and thus help protect your sending reputation
  • Establish a tighter sunset policy for those email addresses that suppresses them after 30-60 days of non-engagement

Finally, along with the 5 strategies above, there’s no time like the present to dig in and make sure all aspects of your email program are working properly and set up for success. A great tool that SendGrid makes available to our clients is our Expert Services Team that provides access to delivery and onboarding experts that will work with you to fine-tune your email program and work with you to get the success you need.



Will Boyd
Will has spent the last 5 years in the email delivery world helping senders get their messages to the folks that want them. Having spent most of his life in his home state of Tennessee, Will is loving the ‘real’ mountains of Colorado and lack of humidity. When he’s not thinking about email delivery, Will is an avid blues music fan and amateur blues historian. "