12 key dates for your email calendar

Say the words “awareness days” in company and you’ll no doubt hear a groan or two - and for good reason. The list of “celebrated events” on our calendars is no longer confined to the likes of Christmas, birthdays and New Year. After all, how boring would life be if we didn’t celebrate British Tomato Week in May, Sewing Machine Day in June, or Don’t Step On A Bee Day in July?

(We scoff, but we’ll make an exception for the likes of National Beer Day and National Doughnut Week…)

While many of these national days, weeks and months seem ridiculous, they can prove beneficial to businesses that have a connection to these occasions - especially when it comes to email marketing. Calendar days shouldn’t be ignored when planning your marketing strategy but, as with everything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Let’s take a whistlestop tour through the calendar year for some ideas.

Date: January 1st - New Year’s Day

Why? Because the New Year not only signals a fresh start, but also one of the year’s biggest sales periods: your customers and prospects will be in shopping mode, and they’ll be looking out for a bargain.

Tips: For B2C campaigns, be sure to think about timing - which will all depend on the purpose of your campaign. If your sale begins on December 27th, then send out your email either on the day or the day before. If you’re sending a “New Year, new start” type email, then New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day is perfect. Either way, it makes sense to get Christmas out the way first.

For B2B campaigns, timing is also important when planning a New Year campaign. Since many offices close for weeks around Christmas, think about when you’ll get the chance to put the campaign together - and when your subscribers will have a chance to read it. Creating your campaign early and scheduling for a set date and time will save you a lot of hassle during this busy time of year.

Date: February 14th - Valentine’s Day

Why? Because there are some easy wins, even if you’re not a chocolatier, greetings card retailer or florist.

Tips: Segment, segment, segment. Blanket emailing your entire database with exactly the same message could lead to more unsubscribes than interest. It’s likely that men and women will respond better to differing subject lines, content and design at this time of year, while a couple in their sixties will (on the whole) celebrate the occasion in a very different way to a couple of university students.

Valentine’s Day marketing for B2B brands isn’t as tenuous as it sounds either. There’s plenty you can do to tie in with the occasion: showing the love in the form of a charity donation and sharing the news, sending ecards to your customers to show your appreciation (or to prospects to say how much you’d love to work with them), or even a “spread the love” referral campaign to tout for new business.

Of course, you should love your customers all year round, as we explain in this Valentine’s Day piece...

Date: March - National Puppy Day

Why? Because it’s a way to stand out from the crowd. Because the Internet is obsessed with dogs. Because, unless you’re in a dog-related business, chances are it’s a slow news day, so take advantage!

Tips: While many of the “awareness days” we read about are… somewhat spurious, this can be a positive for businesses. The “big” holidays - Christmas, Valentine’s Day and others - will see customers’ inboxes deluged with emails linked to the occasion, but celebrating lesser-known days like these means you can stand out from the competition, and show your fun side. Content-wise, try humanising your business by sharing photos of employees with their pooches, or making a donation to a local dog shelter and sharing the news with your subscribers - ideas appropriate for B2B and B2C firms alike.

Date: April 22nd - Earth Day

Why? The mission of Earth Day Network is to “diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide”. It’s your chance to show your business’ environmental credentials.

Tips: Don’t boast. Simply listing out all of the ways that your business contributes to helping the environment will simply sound like bragging. Soften the message, offer value to your readers, just like usual.

One option is to focus your campaign on education. Consider explaining what Earth Day is and why it’s important; you could even tie it in with how consumers can use your products in an environmentally friendly way. An office supply company could talk about recycling printer ink cartridges, a food company could talk of the best way to dispose of cooking oil… there’s a potential environmental message to everyone’s work.

From a B2B angle, you could talk up a change that you’re making to celebrate this year’s Earth Day - or again, humanisation could come in, by asking employees to make pledges to change one thing, which you share with your customers.

Date: May - National Share-A-Story Month

Why? Because storytelling should be at the heart of your marketing efforts.

Tips: Although National Share-A-Story Month focuses on connecting kids with stories each May, there’s no reason why adults shouldn’t get involved too. Both B2B and B2C brands can leverage this date as an opportunity to tell your own brand stories: let customers know about you and your brand in more detail. Listen to their stories, too: ask them how your product/service has made a difference to their lives, or run a short story competition where entries need to feature your brand.

Date: June - The Big Lunch

Why? Because it’s all about networking.

Tips: The Big Lunch, funded by the National Lottery, is all about getting neighbours together to share meals, whether big or small, casual or packed full of activities.

For a business, it’s a chance to get involved and to get to know your own neighbours and local customers; which is another way of saying “a segmented marketing campaign.” Consider hosting your own Big Lunch as a chance for customers to see where the magic happens, to enjoy a meal and for them to get to know you better - and vice versa. Invitation management can all be done via email, as can sharing news of the event itself.

Consider inviting other local businesses who aren’t on your mailing list too, and offer incentives (apart from the free lunch) such as a goodie bag. It’s a day of the year that many businesses won’t think to take advantage of; one that can deepen the relationships between you and your customers, and give you plenty of content for your newsletters and website post-event too.

Date: July - Tour de France

Why? Because it’s a major event on the sporting calendar.

Tips: While the Grand Depart no longer takes place in the UK, the Tour is still popular in this country. Like the summer itself, it’s long and drawn out: email marketing at this time of year can be a challenge for B2B and B2C businesses alike. A large part of your subscriber list are likely to be ignoring their emails and enjoying the sunshine - either at home or abroad.

For B2C businesses, try enticing them in with tour-related offers: restaurants could offer discounts for customers arriving by bike, department stores could promote offers on cycling gear, health and wellbeing brands could shout about the benefits of cycling.

If you’re operating in the B2B arena, consider using the Tour de France to inspire content that helps your customer base. Maybe a piece on how cycle races are all about marginal gains - small improvements in both technology and performance that can create a winner. It’s the same for businesses… and so on.

Date: August 19th - World Photo Day

Why? Because photography can be a powerful marketing medium - and because it’s great for crowdsourcing content.

Tips: “Photography is a powerful method of communication that we can use to uplift, inspire and initiate change in our world” says Korske Ara, the founder of World Photo Day. The day’s about getting people to “share their world with the world” via photography… and putting a campaign together around this day can have numerous benefits for email marketers.

There’s no denying the power of visuals in marketing: in 2016, 42% of B2C marketers ranked visual content as the most important form of content for their business, while 51% of B2B marketers said that creating visual content was one of their top priorities.

A competition where subscribers submit a photo of how your product or service fits into their day-to-day lives can not only initiate engagement with both B2B and B2C brands, but give you insight into how your offering is really used.  Sharing your brand’s photos on social media and encouraging subscribers to follow these accounts can help to create cohesion in your marketing efforts.

Date: September - Back to school

Why? Because the return to school after the summer offers fantastic opportunities to market to the needs of parents and their children alike.

Tips: Think laterally. It’s not just suppliers of stationery, school uniforms and laptops that can benefit from a back to school email marketing campaign. Think about mums now having more time to themselves, teachers needing to stock up on teaching aids, and consumers who are neither parents nor teachers, but who may enjoy a good old fashioned dose of school nostalgia (or who are simply glad that there are no longer hordes of kids around on week days).

Don’t forget about university students at the end of the month; they benefit from all sorts of sales campaigns, from tenants’ insurance to toilet cleaner. Depending on who you’re targeting, you may wish to run multiple campaigns to catch those who shop at the start of the summer holidays to be organised, and those who leave everything until a few days before the schools go back.

In the B2B world - especially for those providing services, rather than products, the “back to school” theme can be used as the backbone for content focused on going back to basics for maximum profitability.

Date: October 31st - Halloween

Why? Because it’s a chance to share some FRIGHTENINGLY good content with your subscribers, to TREAT them to an exclusive discount, and to BOOst your statistics...

Tips: Combine email and social media. Halloween is perfect for crowdsourcing content: photo competitions for the best Halloween costume or spooky party food, asking customers for ideas of how to use your products to celebrate the occasion… there’s loads you can do. Start your campaign early to capture these ideas, and share results in early November too.

Think beyond the subject line. While an eye-catching, Halloween-themed starting point will grab attention, you need to back it up with great content. Whether this is a trick or treat game which will offer some customers a discount code, crowdsourced costume ideas from your customers or showcasing products that tie in with the Halloween theme, there needs to be both style AND substance.

On the subject of Halloween, here’s a little piece we wrote that compares email marketing campaigns to different monsters, demonstrating how varied your spooky content can be. Campaigns like this are perfect for brands who, like us, operate in the B2B arena.

Date: November - Movember

Why? The combination of moustache-based fun and charitable giving can work wonders for your brand image.

Tips: For companies such as razor manufacturers and shaving cream producers, a Movember email marketing campaign is a no-brainer: it’s the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of their products, and even for them to consider a charitable donation.

You don’t have to be in this sector to make the most of this month-long endeavour, though. Want to encourage more subscribers to open your weekly emails? Share progress photos of those in the office who are taking part. Consider awarding a prize to subscribers in various moustache categories at the end of the month: length, style, most bizarre hair growth pattern… you get the idea. It’s a great way to inject some humour and personality into your brand.

On a more serious note, Movember’s all about striking that balance between fun and fundraising. It’s the perfect time for B2B and B2C brands  to show their charitable side: consider hosting fundraising events, sharing details of the sponsorship money raised by those in the office who are taking part, or even donating a percentage of November’s profits to cancer charities and sharing the news with your subscribers - it builds rapport and positive brand equity, and may make them more likely to buy.

Date: December 25th - Christmas

Why? Because...well, because it’s Christmas! Who ignores Christmas?!

Tips: Much like Valentine’s Day, the advent (see what we did there?) of Christmas will see consumers’ inboxes becoming fuller than Santa’s sack. They’ll be promised offers, discounts and gift ideas galore - so how do you make yours stand out?

Effective targeting is a good starting point: lavish Christmas bonuses on loyal customers, and “we miss you” emails on those who are MIA. Consider advent calendar competitions with a prize each day, encouraging subscribers to open, click through, and move on in the customer journey.

The gifts angle works well for B2B brands too. Here, it’s important to think about how Christmas ties in with your offering, getting a little creative if needed. Law firms could talk about Santa’s employment law requirements for his elves, hotel chains targeting corporates could encourage early booking to avoid a “no room at the inn” situation. It’s a time of year when people are expecting a little fun.

That said, don’t sweat the Christmas angle if it’s not right for your business. If you’re trying to flog weedkiller or engine oil, trying to position it as “a great stocking filler” will likely do more harm than good.

The important thing to remember is not to shoehorn a date into your email marketing efforts if you actually have nothing to say - or if it goes against what your business does. If you’re a meat producer, for example, trying to create a campaign around World Vegan Day in November may not be a great idea.

There are all sorts of weird and wonderful days to celebrate throughout the year, and adding seasonality to your email marketing campaign, when done the right way, can really boost your stats. When done wrong, though, you may be better off celebrating National Quiet Day the whole year round...