Holiday Marketing Tip: Don’t Send Pointless Greetings!

Can sending a “Happy New Year” or “Merry Christmas” greeting hurt your email deliverability?

Earlier this week, I was talking with Tom (our founder) about the holiday marketing tips we posted recently, and we got to talking about the email habits of both publishers and subscribers around this time of year.

There’s something that thousands of businesses (and in my experience, especially small businesses) do on holidays that brings you little benefit while making it harder to get your email through. Plus it potentially hurts other areas of your email marketing and your business as a whole.

So what is it?

Sending Email on Major Holidays

Now, you may think:

“What’s so bad about sending a holiday greeting email? It’s a great opportunity to show the ‘human’ side of my business and build some subscriber loyalty. Plus I can even make a special post-holiday offer and up my sales.”

Sounds good in theory, right?

But Here’s The Problem With That Logic

You’re assuming that your subscribers are going to see your greeting, stop and read it, see that you care enough about them to wish them well, and get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

See, I don’t think that’s what really happens. To show you why, let’s play a little game called “count the holiday emails in our hypothetical inbox.”

The Clogged Holiday Inbox

Let’s say we get holiday emails from:

So far, only about 15 emails, which might not seem too bad.

But now, let’s say we’re subscribed to oh, 20 different mailing lists/newsletters, and they all send out a holiday email. Now we’re at 35 greetings. (And by the way, if this seems unlikely to you, consider that the two days when AWeber users send the most email are December 25 and January 1.)

Now, throw in the fact that we probably haven’t been at our computer as much over the holidays, so the other emails coming in over that time are piling up, too.

Are We Really Going To Read All of Those?

Especially when they all have a similar subject line? It’s not like “Happy New Year!” leaves us wondering what surprises await in the body of the email.

Now, consider that first day back. We’ve just been relaxing with family, and now it’s back to the grindstone. And the first thing we see? We have a big old stack of emails that we have to go through. Hooray.

Think anybody uses the “spam” button to clear a lot of that stuff out of the inbox? You betcha.

So complaint rates spike. And ISPs react. And deliverability drops.

Other Reasons Not To Send Holiday Greetings

The Long and Short Of It…

There are plenty of good holiday marketing ideas that you can take advantage of. Don’t resort to the tired “Happy _________” greeting.

Justin Premick is the former Director of Educational Products at AWeber.

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  1. Very interesting post and I think it makes a lot of sense!

    11/28/2007 1:41 pm
  2. Justin:
    Your blog posts are too long, i hate having to open the link from the RSS reader I use.

    11/28/2007 3:49 pm
  3. Hi Aaron,

    Thanks for the feedback… guess I have a lot on my mind at times :)

    Out of curiosity, would you find my posts so long if you could read them in full in your RSS reader?

    11/28/2007 4:40 pm | Follow me on Twitter
  4. Justin, hi,

    Very interesting post! I was a holiday greetings sender, but I’ll definitely review that now – what you’ve said above a) makes a lot of sense and b) was echoed earlier this week by some posters on the Warrior Forum.


    11/28/2007 6:39 pm
  5. Good points. Another reason not to send out holiday emails? There are several companies that send me Merry Christmas cards. Well, I know a good portion of my clientle are Muslim. Or Buddhist. Or Jewish.

    OK, not everyone sends out Merry Christmas cards. But a Happy Holidays with a christmas tree on it, or a baby in a manger, or…. It is hard to get a truly non-denominational card out.

    So we resort to coupons. And recipes. Who can turn down a good batch of fudge? ;)

    Justin – one thing I’d like to see a discussion on is what constitutes a bad spam rate. For example, I’ve been here a year or so, and in that time, 35 people have marked me as spam on a double opt-in list. I have a subscription of more than 1,000 members. So….is that bad? If I hit 50 over five years, is that bad? If I hit 50 in a day, is that bad?

    11/28/2007 7:04 pm
  6. Thanks for the clear view and giving better options for christmas Greetings i think we do send out to much postcards is better if some one else do it for me.


    11/28/2007 8:09 pm
  7. Justin,

    I too would like a post about what is considered a "bad" spam it a percentage…a certain number..per day or per month or ???…how and when is the spam rate considered bad?

    While you are at it, what is a "normal" unsubscribe rate? IF you have good content, and IF you do all the rest right, what percentage might one expect for people unsubscribing? As it stands now, I don’t know if mine is too high or OK…can you help?

    Thank You

    11/28/2007 8:12 pm
  8. Lori and Steve,

    Great point to bring up – how many complaints are too many?

    At any point, your complaint rate should be below .1%, meaning that you do not receive more than one spam complaint per 1000 messages sent.

    If you find that your complaint rate is above that point for a message, you should try to determine why that is.

    We’ll be fleshing this out in more detail in a blog post, but for now, take a look at this discussion of complaint rates in our Knowledge Base.

    11/29/2007 8:56 am | Follow me on Twitter
  9. Great advice…I’ve been getting so many emails that I’m mostly just hitting the delete button without reading them so had just decided that I’d send out the regular newsletter which included a gift to subscribers (a time-limited offer for a big discount on my Goddess Quiz) and woke this morning to discover my inbox full of mail from subscribers saying that the password I’d given them in the newsletter doesn’t work.

    As it turns out the problem is at our server. It’s now requiring that any one arriving at any page at the site is getting a "username and password required to see this page" message.

    So I’ve had to broadcast an email letting everyone know it’s broken and I’ll broadcast them again when it’s fixed! Planned to send one email only and now it’s three. Aaaargh!

    Will be interesting to see how many unsubscribes and abuse-complaints I get out of this one.

    11/29/2007 10:27 am
  10. Justin–

    Amen to this! I went on vacation the week of the US Thanksgiving and came back to an inbox clogged with Thanksgiving greetings — saying nothing more than they’re thankful for me being a client/being on their list. I deliberately chose NOT to send out a similar greeting because I thought, "What’s the point?"

    I realized if I really wanted to send a meaningful thank you, I’d buy a card and write them a note..:) I haven’t yet done that, but that kind of "thank you" would actually be much more meaningful to me than an email.

    Glad I’m not alone in thinking this..:)

    11/29/2007 10:27 am
  11. Donna,

    Exactly – I use what I call the "phone call or card" rule for sending holiday wishes. As in, "am I close enough to this person that I’m willing to call them on the phone, or buy/address/send a physical card, for the holiday?"

    If the answer to that question is "no," then I don’t send them a holiday greeting at all.

    11/29/2007 10:47 am | Follow me on Twitter
  12. I agree and disagree :)

    I say it depends on your business and your relationship with your list.

    90% of my own subscribed to lists I do NOT want a holiday message. I would consider them as only business motivated. And, at Christmas, it’s not what I want!

    10% I welcome the greeting.

    2 examples of Greetings I would read…
    Jim Edwards
    Rosalind Gardner

    11/29/2007 11:00 am
  13. Hmm, now I know that I did the right thing by not sending my subscribers a ‘happy thanksgiving day’ greeting. Well I had already too many similiar messages in my inbox that day, so I could feel what my subscribers might be going through. ;) Like you said, I deleted them all without even opening them!

    Another not-so-obvious reason for NOT sending a holiday greeting is that if you want to stand out among the crowd, you shouldn’t do stuff that everyone else is doing. So, if everyone else is sending a ‘Happy New Year’ greeting, you shouldn’t do that or you will come across as a ‘one among the herd’ marketer.

    The only exception to this rule is when I send out an email to my subscribers on my birthday – with gifts of course!

    I see that some marketers don’t even spare the public holidays for sending out their regular marketing stuff- buy this, buy that, etc. Too bad! Hey, give your subscribers a break! ;)

    Very good points Justin.

    11/29/2007 11:03 am
  14. I got a one page hand written thank you letter from a prospect after a visit he made to us. Now thats a warm fuzzy feeling. E-mail thank yous are really loosing a lot of credibility

    11/29/2007 11:38 am
  15. TonyEdward

    Ahhh…Yes! Thank you. Aweber finally said what I was feeling. I could not believe how many pointless happy thanksgiving emails I got last week. 15…20…25 Some even sent their email two or three days later. Doh!

    The only exception to this is that I really appreciated the exceptionally high quality gifts that were attached to a very small handful of the emails. The best by far were from John Delavera, Ethiccash, and Wealthy Affiliate.

    The worst were ones that said nothing or something about their families. I’m sorry but unless you have bonded with me as a customer lets just keep our emails B2B. Worse yet were emails that offered a free gift that was a meaty blog post? or a free gift if you purchase my product! Shameless pitching on Thanksgiving.

    11/29/2007 1:48 pm
  16. Thanks for the interesting post and discussion. I just wish it had been a little sooner!

    For the 1st time ever, I sent out a Thanksgiving greeting. I won’t make the same mistake with a Christmas or Holiday greeting!

    I’m thinking the place for these types of greetings might be a couple of sentences within my newsletter!

    Thanks all!

    11/29/2007 3:19 pm
  17. Betty,

    Great idea – if you feel the need to express holiday wishes, a little blurb within a message that you’re already going to be sending near the holidays is a perfectly fine place for it. No need to dedicate a separate message to the greeting itself.

    11/29/2007 4:58 pm | Follow me on Twitter
  18. Thanks for the tips! It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who gets way too many emails and become desensitized to a post like Happy____. Why read it? The subject line has already made it obvious!

    On the other hand I still want my subscribers to know the ‘human’ side of my business. So I like the idea of a "snail-mail" greetin card.

    Thanks again and have a "Happy______!" ;)


    11/30/2007 8:21 am
  19. A holiday greeting is fine, but not by e-mail. Every business I own sends out a Holiday card and usually without any special promotions included. The resulting effect is increased referrals all the time, without exception. People love to be noticed and a holiday greeting does help any kind of business.
    By the way, I send out actual Christmas cards and not holiday cards only. if i know a client is Jewish I send out a holiday card but otherwise we know if clients are Christians or Jews or Muslims and send out the appropriate cards.

    12/1/2007 1:25 am
  20. Oh Justin – you are a genius!

    Can you please publish this as an article – *everywhere*? As a business coach I’m constantly telling my clients that there needs to be a point and a call to action in every communication, or don’t do it.

    It also annoys me a little when I meet someone networking and they email me with ‘great to meet you’ and no point!

    Thank you very much. Tying a promotion to a holiday is one thing, but pointless emails are just that. I like the ‘card or call’ qualification – perfect.

    12/3/2007 5:06 pm
  21. I have to say that I find the same with newsletters. Unless they have a point then I don’t read them! I’ve just had a clear out and I’m down to about 4 newsletters now. I’m pleased to say that the majority of these are sent through AWeber… (must say something)

    12/4/2007 3:04 am
  22. Just read what Aaron posted. Anyone got a view on how long a blog post should be? My target is around 500 words. It seems difficult to get a message across in much less?

    12/4/2007 3:08 am
  23. Rob,

    I don’t have a specific length that I shoot for, and I find that among the blogs I read that post length varies widely.

    If you’re looking for more viewpoints, Darren at Problogger addresses this in a couple of posts.

    12/4/2007 8:33 am | Follow me on Twitter
  24. Hi Justin,

    I can’t believe I’m just discovering this blog now, after being a customer for all this time. Great stuff! You make a very valid point about clogging people’s inboxes. This is why I FREQUENTLY recommend to my audience that they set up an alternate email address meant for ezines, e-courses and other "recreational" pursuits.

    I know it’s an unpopular suggestion – everyone wants the primary email address of their future clients and customers. But, my feeling is that when the prospect is finally serious about working with us, we’ll have earned the right to their work email and we won’t have to ask for it.

    I myself sign up for other people’s mails using a Yahoo address. Email marketers fear that their mails are less likely to be opened and read in this case, but it’s not true. I habitually check mine nearly every day. It’s my "wind-down ritual." As a result, my work email is far more manageable, and I’m far less stressed.

    I also get the joy of having my "leisure reading material" all in one place. That means I’m less impulsive about which lists I subscribe to.

    If we really want our readers to be happy and to give our mails a welcome reception when they come in, then I say that the new trend in email marketing is to suggest to your audience, as I have, that they open a new account reserved for this purpose.

    I don’t want my subscribers feeling harried and aggravated when they get my mails. I want them to feel relaxed and ready to settle in with some good, quality reading.

    How about you?

    12/4/2007 10:37 am
  25. Bruce Rayner

    Thanks for the tips Justin, certainly makes sense. A quick related question: I am almost ready to launch a free subscription, 1 email each 4 days.
    Each email has information continuing on from the previous.
    Considering it will very close to Christmas when this starts am I better to hold off until say end of first week January 08?

    12/4/2007 7:17 pm
  26. Bruce,

    I think that probably depends on how you’re going to promote it and who is going to be getting that information.

    What I mean is, if you’re going to be promoting it as related/value-added content to current subscribers, by letting them know about it via email, then you may want to wait until after the holidays, when their inboxes are a bit less "noisy."

    If on the other hand you’re expecting a significant portion of your subscribers to this to be new ones (not on another campaign/list currently), then I wouldn’t consider the holidays to be (in and of themselves) a good reason to delay the campaign, especially if people are going to be able to sign up at any time after you launch (not just during a fixed/finite number of days).

    If someone is coming and seeking you out/signing up for the first time, that’s when their interest level is highest and when they’re going to be most likely to open/read/engage with your emails. In my opinion, the holidays wouldn’t affect that quite so much.

    12/5/2007 10:59 am | Follow me on Twitter
  27. Andrew


    First time here.

    Thanx a millionĀ for your great tips
    Yourcompany email for an AWeber test-drive was a blessing in disguise, and it came just when I was about to send out thankyou and Happy …….messages to my top insurance customers.

    It’s a good thing that I decided to visit your blog for ideas after reading the email.

    Now I know why nobodybothered to call me last Christmas.

    Best wishes to you and all your readers in their marketing campaigns.during the hollidays and beyond.

    12/5/2007 2:34 pm
  28. Justin,

    I’m SO glad that someone finally made this point!

    Call me cynical, but most of those holiday greetings seem to be sent as just another opportunity to get product exposure.

    I believe that if you’re doing email marketing correctly, holiday greetings and other messages of appreciation can and should be included with your regular (weekly) newsletter.

    12/5/2007 4:00 pm
  29. I’ve been guilty of this once before. ;)

    Thanks for the tip. Great suggestion.

    12/11/2007 7:32 pm
  30. Justin,

    Holiday greetings with a thank you for being a subscriber or customer are not so bad occasionally. Thank you emails can be offered at other times though to avoid offending anyone who doesn’t recognize the holiday.I do dislike the thinly disguised holiday greetings that are an obvious pitch though.Thanks for pointing out that something even with good intentions, if not done with thought, can backfire.

    12/30/2007 4:44 pm
  31. Oma

    As Betty Byrnes and Rosalind Gardner have said, I’m in favour of doing your greetings inside any newsletters you normally send. And since I know my readers are most likely busy at holiday times I make holiday newsletters shorter.

    It’s always a good idea to offer a gift at festive times. But a real gift, not a sales pitch in disguise! Some marketers I know make a sales pitch of everything- their kids’ birthdays, a family bereavement (!)

    I’m glad I read this post as I thought I didn’t look good for not sending seperate holiday greetings. Thanks!

    12/31/2009 9:49 pm
  32. I know this is WAY late.

    But I just came across this while looking at some solutions for my emails, and I just wanted to say thanks for these tips ? much appreciated!

    My inbox gets clogged very easily, with emails from my work colleagues, my family and friends. Definitely need to improve things!

    9/24/2010 12:40 pm
  33. Angela

    Great Post! I don’t normally send out holiday greetings to my customers. After reading a previous post about it I felt kind of bad about not sending out holiday greetings by email.

    Anyway, I do send greeting cards to some of my customers. The reason for this is because I don’t know for sure if some celebrate Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanzaa. Now I’m feeling much better about not sending out greeting emails. Thanks!

    11/4/2010 11:13 am
  34. Regarding the length of a blog? Certainly it needs to be concise, but the length of any post will vary by the topic or information delivered.

    For the person who commented about his rss feed, I like the igoogle page, to display the titles of the feeds I follow. If he is thinking a blog is a twit..its not. Its more substantive and meant to share information, not twits I mean tweets,

    I think we need to be careful that we are not communicating in sound bites and contributing to the overall “NOISE” level, prevalent in the growth of FB, Twitter, iphone apps. I like REAL CONTENT!

    Thanks for the great post. Frankly I go pretty silent between thanksgiving and the new year. Its kinda like being on a dating site just before valentines day…”no thanks” If it takes a millions of dollars in advertising campaigns to have a hallmark moment….then Its not for me.

    Happy Holidays to those of you who read this far…you’ve earned it
    Blessings on your way!

    12/17/2010 8:54 pm
  35. That was to the point. I was wondering what to send out two days before Christmas and still would have if I had heard something else from this article. But your article was so right, it made a great deal of sense and I feel I just would have been wasting my time.


    12/23/2011 2:53 pm
  36. This article and all the great comments MADE MY DAY! As new owners of a 3-prong business in a small, quirky community, I knew for sure that we should acknowledge our customers and business partners during the holiday season. Eliminating the email option freed me from worrying about the technology issues – design, import, export, email services or Outlook. Argh! Now we will just buy some cards, print the list and truly show our gratitude in thoughtful words to our valued customers and business partners. I have already composed a custom global greeting that we will personalize as we work through the list. THANK YOU, Justin for your insightful thoughts on this subject. Season’s greetings and good health to your and yours!

    12/11/2013 3:29 pm
  37. Great article and yes I’ve received a million holiday e-mails in my inbox. I wanted to share this article on FB and it didn’t post for some reason?

    12/22/2013 7:28 am
  38. Rachel Acquaviva

    Hi Martha,

    Glad you enjoyed this article and want to share it on Facebook! You can just copy and paste the URL – that’s the easiest way to share it. Happy holidays!

    12/23/2013 8:25 am