It's Time to Target Those Holiday Shoppers. Ramp Up Your Email Marketing Efforts Now to Maximize Your Profits This Season. Is your email marketing ready for the busiest shopping season? Take these five simple steps to set yourself up for success and increase email ROI during the holidays.

By Liviu Tanase

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

People spent $1.14 trillion online and $270 billion in the U.S. during last year's holiday season. For businesses like yours, the coming months have the highest sales potential — and for that, you need a reliable strategy.

Email marketing is competitive 365 days a year, but the last quarter? It all comes to a head. With so many companies fighting for attention and dollars, you can't afford to have anything go wrong.

From figuring out the right offers to preparing your email list, here are five steps you can take today to get better holiday email marketing results.

Related: 8 Simple Email Marketing Tips to Improve Your Open and Click Through Rates

1. Create different offers for each audience segment

Your customers' journey with your company can be wildly different. For instance, a repeat customer will have different needs compared to a prospect who just created an account on your website. So, when you and your team brainstorm holiday email campaigns, you must take these details into account and segment your audience.

If the effort of splitting your list intimidates you, stay focused on the benefits. Open rates are 14% higher for segmented campaigns, which means you'll have higher chances to convert.

2. Verify your customers' email addresses

Now that you're clear on the offers for each customer segment, it's time to check the health of your email lists. Looking at your most recent email marketing reports is a good place to start. For instance, if your bounce rate exceeds 2%, you know it's time to run your databases through an email verifier. Otherwise, your email deliverability will suffer. This is not a time when you can risk having your emails go to spam.

After verifying more than six billion email addresses in a year, ZeroBounce found that only 57% of them were valid and safe to keep. Your email list decays monthly, so remove obsolete data and also check every new address you gather.

Related: 11 Common Email Marketing Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)

3. Run an email blacklist check

Have you noticed a steep decline in your open rates and clicks in the past few months? Your IP or domain could be blacklisted. Mailbox providers (like Yahoo or Gmail) and anti-spam organizations maintain email blacklists to block senders with a history of spam-sending. However, even senders with good intentions can land on a blacklist if they don't maintain healthy email lists and follow best practices. In most cases, emails from blocked senders never make it to their recipients.

Email blacklists are updated in real-time. The best way to find out if your IP or domain is flagged is to use a blacklist checker. Such tools run tests against hundreds of blacklists and alert you if there's trouble.

4. Part with subscribers who never click

Every email list has its devoted fans, who open every email, and subscribers who rarely or never click. While these email addresses don't bounce, their lack of interaction sends Internet service providers (ISPs) the wrong message about you. If a large segment of your list doesn't open your emails, are you relevant enough to be in the inbox? Unengaged subscribers may cause your campaigns to go to spam, so if you haven't removed them in more than six months, now is the time.

You may be nervous about reducing your email list right before the holidays, but you'll enjoy more engagement. Since they haven't opened any of your emails in months, those subscribers weren't likely to convert anyway.

5. Send a gift to boost engagement

To increase engagement ahead of the holidays, start warming up your prospects a few weeks before launching your campaigns. An effective tactic is to create a series of educational emails to relieve some of your customers' pain points. Whether you run a B2B or a retail business, think of free content offers to create your emails around. A free e-book, infographic or useful video can go a long way in building trust and standing out in people's inboxes.

Remember: healthy engagement feeds your email deliverability, showing ISPs that your content is relevant. Nurture your audience with outstanding emails before you go for the hard sell.

Related: 5 Things You Can Do Now to Improve Email Marketing

Bonus tip: keep sending those great emails

Aside from sending compelling content, sending it regularly is what helps your email marketing the most. If throughout the year you've been inconsistent, now you want to gradually ramp up volume. You'll build a stronger connection to your customers, and your email deliverability will benefit.

Avoid sudden and drastic volume increases, as ISPs can flag that behavior as suspicious. The more predictable you are, the better chance you have of getting your email campaigns in the inbox.

Liviu Tanase

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder & CEO of ZeroBounce

Liviu Tanase is a serial entrepreneur and telecommunication executive with extensive experience in the creation, growth and sale of novel technologies. He is currently the CEO of ZeroBounce, an email validation and deliverability platform.

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