As a kid, I always got sick during the weeks leading to Christmas. I don’t like surprises, and the uncertainty of the holidays, which is fun for most kids, stressed me out. As an adult, not a whole lot has changed. I am not stressed per se, but that is because I am in charge of the entire gift buying, decorating, and planning process. I am a planner, and I start thinking about (and buying for) the holidays months before most people do. For those of you who may plan ahead like me, think about applying your preparedness to your holiday email sending as well. Use data to drive your holiday sending The majority of marketers tout that they are data driven. As the holidays are approaching, now is the time to put that belief into practice in your email program. While the notion of data driven marketing has been around for many years, the playing field has become more complex. With users checking email on various devices, and with various forms of communications, your subscribers are expecting more this holiday season. They expect you to send the message they want to receive, in the right medium, at the exact right moment. I admit that doing marketing correctly, particularly around the holidays, can be a daunting task. How do you know which holidays your subscribers are celebrating? How do you find out if they are a procrastinator who is waiting to buy until the last minute or a control freak like me who starts buying for the holidays in July? I have written countless blog posts about segmenting your lists and sending email based on the information you have about your subscribers. But, what if you are just getting started? Can you really do data driven marketing when you are starting with zero data? Test into your campaigns I recommend starting with a test that can drive your sending for the rest of the holiday season and for years to come. The example below from Zulily is a perfect way to test the waters with your subscribers. Zulily is an e-commerce site with products focused on moms, kids, and babies. They sent me this email with Christmas pajamas shown as one of the many offers in the email. The subject line of the email is: Get cozy! Pajamas for Christmas morning. The great thing about an email like this is that they can test the subject line against another “non” holiday message to see if an email focused on the holidays resonates with their audience. Furthermore, they can now take buyer information for that pajama offer, along with other holiday promotions to see if they are successful or if the other general offers for fall/winter items work best in October. As they get closer to the more traditional holiday sending timeframe, they can start to be more aggressive in how many of their subscribers receive the holiday message. Starting out, you won’t know what delights your subscribers or what gives them anxiety. Start slow, ease into it, and test what works for your different segments to really put data in the driver’s seat of your holiday email program. As for me, I’ll be sipping my morning coffee well before Thanksgiving morning in my new Christmas pajamas. If you’re interested in more holiday sending tips, check our our Holiday Sending Hacks SlideShare.