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The art of the short (holiday) email

Holiday Email
Try short emails that your audience can read on a smart phone.

As a savvy marketer, you know how important it is to send targeted, relevant emails, especially as the holidays approach. You know that a well-timed email alert to that new product line or sale can really drive your numbers. (It's not called "Black Friday" for nothing.) And no matter what your business or organization specializes in, you know how important it is to stay in front of your audience toward the end of the year.

Luckily, you also see the other side of the story because you're a consumer, too. Even as the daylight hours grow shorter and your to-do list grows longer, you're still likely interested in hearing from your favorite brands. (And you might even be planning to pay attention to the sale emails to assist you with the holiday mall stampede crawl.)

Still, the fact remains: Toward the end of the year, you're a little too busy to give the same amount of attention you normally would to each email in your inbox. Perhaps making a special, non-fat, gluten-free, vegan pumpkin pie for your picky sister-in-law is taking precedence over the shoe sale or non-profit request calling from your inbox. And your own email marketing audience is facing similar challenges.

So what to do? You embrace the art of the short, mobile-friendly email, that's what. Create a campaign that's easy to read on-the-go.

Here's how.

  • Keep your message simple. One large, obvious call-to-action will do better than multiple, smaller links.
  • Keep your message short — ideally, with no scrolling. It's a challenge, but it will be far more effective with busy recipients who only pay attention to your email for a few seconds before choosing how to proceed.
  • Keep your message narrow. If you have some flexibility, try keeping your campaigns no wider than 600px.

If you want to get fancy, consider fitting your campaign within the general mobile phone screen ratios. For example, the iPhone has dimensions of 2:3 width to height, the early Droid is 3:4, and some blackberries are 1:1. What does that mean for you? Don't make the height of the campaign much longer than the width (if at all), and make the font legible on a small screen.

One last trick is to give your subscribers a chance to tell you, "Thanks, but not right now." Email has a distinct advantage over some other marketing channels because you can respond to exactly what your subscribers ask for. Add a button to the campaign that says "remind me in three days," and use the list of clicks on that link to send a follow-up reminder.

Good luck reaching those busy consumers this holiday season (and even better luck finding that pumpkin pie recipe).