How to Create Your Perfect Holiday Email Campaign

How to Create Your Perfect Holiday Email Campaign

Many businesses and organizations are already planning their holiday email campaigns, so it’s time for you to start thinking about it, too. After all, there are only a few weeks left until it’s here.

But maybe you’re asking yourself, “How can I stand out from the noise in my customers’ inboxes? If everyone is sending holiday emails, will mine even matter?”

First of all: Yes, your email campaigns matter. You’ve worked hard to build up a list of people who want to hear from you—so don’t worry about that part.

But the part about everyone sending holiday emails is true. Constant Contact noted that 2014 was its biggest year for holiday email campaigns yet…with more than 365M emails sent.

So yes, you will be competing for your customers’ attention. But here are some tips on how you can create the perfect holiday email campaign that will make you stand out from everyone else.

Focus On a Single Objective

The first thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that distractions within your email are your biggest enemy. You want your reader to focus on one thing. That thing might be:

  • A single item that’s your best-seller
  • A coupon code
  • A blog post you wrote
  • A donate button

Emails that include many links to a lot of different external locations can be distracting, and can make it so that readers can’t decide what to do—so they do nothing at all. Instead of promoting many things, focus on the one item that’s most important—and ditch everything else.

Once you’ve decided on what your single objective will be, work on the design elements and supporting copy that drive a reader to act on that objective.

Design for Simplicity

Emails that use flashy templates or that are visually cluttered can easily overwhelm your reader, which means they will likely head to the trash. If you want your email to stand out, keep your design elements simple, clean, and use whitespace to let text and images breathe.

Here’s a great example from a café called Fika.

See how clean and easy to read this email is? The image is fantastic, the message is simple and compelling, and the objective is clear (visit the website.)

Rather than trying to create a gallery of products within your email or sharing the various events you’re hosting this month, opt for simplicity—and remember, stick with one objective.

Write Like a Human

The last element to consider is your writing voice for your holiday email. While everyone else is screaming, “BUY MY THINGS! SHOP THIS BLOWOUT SALE!” you can make your message stand out by writing like a human.

A few pointers for writing like human:

Write like you talk. Use a conversational tone and example scenarios to add an element of reality for the reader. For example: You know, the holidays are busier than ever. Doesn’t it seem like everyone is rushing around from store to store, pushing through crowded aisles, and waiting in endless checkout lines?

Use first names. If you have the ability to insert an email subscriber’s first name—do it! It adds an element of personalization that makes it sound more human-like.

Don’t use jargon. Ditch the sales language or business terms and pretend you’re writing a letter to your best friend. No overly formal tone necessary.

If you can write an email that is enjoyable to read, your email subscribers will almost want to cry in relief. (We can only take so many screaming sales emails, you know?)

Start Now

Now that you have some basic pointers on how to build your holiday email campaign, it’s time to start working on it. Right now. No, seriously—you need to start today.  You’ll want some time to try out different versions and get feedback from a small sample of people, so don’t waste another minute.

Need more tips? Read my post on holiday email campaigns I wrote for Entrepreneur Magazine.

 

How to Create a Social Media Content Calendar

How to Create a Social Media Content Calendar

Ever had one of those days where you log in to your social media accounts and think, “I have no idea what to post today?”

The struggle to come up with fresh, interesting content on a regular basis is very real.

Think about it: If you were only posting on Facebook once per day, five days a week, that’s 260 posts you have to come up with over the course of a year!

Creating a social media content calendar removes stress from the equation and allows you to see your strategy from a big picture viewpoint. Let’s talk about how to come up with your plan.

Publishing Dates

Figuring out which dates to post on is a good starting place so you know how many ideas you need to come up with each month.

Each audience is unique, so you’ll want to dive into your social media accounts to find out which days your audience has historically interacted most with your content. Look for patterns to see if there are certain days of the week that seem to do better than others, and write those down.

For Facebook, go to Insights>Reach and pull up your last month of activity.

For Twitter, go to Analytics>View All Tweet Activity to automatically see your last 28 days of activity.

Once you’ve noted which days seem to be most active, decide how often you want to post content. Some studies suggest posting on Twitter 5-10 times per day and on Facebook 3-10 times per week for optimal reach. Pick a posting schedule that fits with your availability.

Content Types

You want variety in your social media content, so start by creating a list of things you’d like to see shared. Think about all of the pieces of info you’d want a potential customer or supporter to know about your brand. That might be:

  • Upcoming events
  • New releases/Sales
  • Fun facts
  • Team introductions
  • Product features
  • Company History

Many people view social media content calendars like an editorial calendar—so having a theme tie a month’s worth of content can be another way to bring cohesiveness to your posts. Brainstorm some themes that resonate with your organization and your target audience and go from there.

Best Practices

You shouldn’t always be trying to make a hard sell or ask on social media (in fact, some swear by the 80/20 rule—share valuable, free stuff 80% of the time, sell 20% of the time) so be sure to mix in plenty of non-promotional items as well.

You can repackage existing materials, too. If you have a brochure, break out little pieces of information from it and turn them into “fun facts.” If you have some great old photos from when your company/organization began, use those for “Throwback Thursday.”

Once you have a nice mix of material, supplement with some more general items—holiday postings, industry news, and things like inspirational quotes that line up with your core values.

Self-Edit

Now that you have a nice big list of ideas, it’s time to go through and find the best ones. It’s a good idea to post less frequently with strong content rather than trying to share a bunch of mediocre content that doesn’t really get traction.

Rule of thumb: Don’t post for posting’s sake. Every update should be part of a bigger strategy.

Plan for Implementation

Take your edited list and work up a few sample posts to get an idea of how long it takes for you to create a post. You’ll want to leave time to play with different wording and to create your images—especially if they require editing, reformatting, or overlaid text.

Once you know how much lead time you need to create content, you can better plan for time-sensitive content and for posts that require a bit more work. No one likes to be scrambling at the last minute—so put those time-intensive pieces of content in a place on your content calendar that works with your schedule.

Craft Your Calendar

Finally, it’s time to map our your ideas for a 3-6 month stretch. Having a plan in place for this length of time means you never have to scramble for ideas. Instead, you’ve carefully considered each and every update ahead of time—thanks to your trusty content calendar.

Using tools like Hubspot, Hootsuite, or even the built-in scheduling tool (on Facebook), you can slate content to publish at a later date. This frees you up to do more moderation and engagement work rather than always being on the defensive, struggling to come up with ideas for posts.

Have more questions about creating your content calendar? Tweet us at @wearelumen.

4 Things You Must Have on Your LinkedIn Profile

4 Things You Must Have on Your LinkedIn Profile

Many professionals I speak with have a LinkedIn profile, but they haven’t done much with it lately.

It just sits there, gathering dust on the Internet.

That’s bad news.

LinkedIn is a flourishing professional network with 380M users, and when you give up the opportunity to interact with your business connections online—you miss out potential clients, references, referrals, and more.

Today, I’m wanted to go over 4 things you must have on your personal LinkedIn account to help get the most out of what this platform has to offer.

1. Start Asking for More Recommendations

Recommendations from past clients, co-workers, and supervisors add an element of social proof to your LinkedIn account that you can’t earn any other way.

Think of them as testimonials for your personal brand, and make a conscious effort to grow the number of recommendations you have by at least one per month.

How to ask for a recommendation: Reach out to people you’ve had a good working relationship with (past or present) and personally ask them to recommend you. Be sure to touch on:

  • What project you worked on together
  • Successful results you helped produce
  • How you would be honored to have their name associated with yours

You want the best parts of your working relationship to be top of mind when you make a request, so don’t leave out hard numbers and highlights of your partnership that they can draw from in their recommendation.

If the recommendation comes back less than desirable or has grammar spelling errors, leave it off. You don’t have to put every recommendation on your public profile (and LinkedIn won’t notify the recommender if it’s not published.)

2. Showcase Your Work

One of the benefits that LinkedIn has over the traditional resume is that it allows you to include your best examples of work—almost like a mini portfolio.

If you have a guide, a video, an article you’re really proud of—even a podcast interview—those are things you should highlight on your LinkedIn profile.

Providing real examples of your work and knowledge allows profile viewers to see your deliverables first hand and to realize your expertise all on their own.

Just be sure that the image LinkedIn pulls from the referenced website is displaying correctly: Any time you get a wonky image, you’ll want to leave that off (as it clutters your profile and makes you look unprofessional.)

3. Add Bullet Points

Listing a few bullet points under each job makes it quick and easy to summarize what you accomplished and accommodates scanning readers. Start by thinking of your three proudest accomplishments and then tie in some hard numbers that really drive the point home.

For example: Reduced marketing expenses by 15% in first year while increasing website traffic by 20%.

Bullet points make your profile more succinct and break up wordy summaries that get glazed over. Keep things short and sweet.

4. Original Posts

When LinkedIn opened the doors for all users to author content on their platform, they created a whole new way for you to showcase your expertise.

When you publish a post on your LinkedIn profile, all of your connections get a notification and are invited to read. Therefore, the more connections you have, the greater reach you’ll have.

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Writing a great post on LinkedIn that addresses the pain points of your target audience and teaches the reader something is an easy way to provide value. Over time, these posts build your authority on the subject—and more people begin to associate your name with that specific industry.

A great post on LinkedIn wraps up with a strong call to action, which might be: Visit my website, buy my guide, join my e-newsletter, ask me a question, etc.

Make Your LinkedIn Profile the Ultimate Resume

If you have these 4 elements on your LinkedIn profile, you can create validation, build trust, and grow your influence within your industry.

Not to mention, it's a great resource when looking for a new job.

A few small changes can make a big, big difference.

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