Conventional wisdom says that business-to-business (B2B) sales emails are the most effective when sent during work hours, because that's when customers check emails the most. Conventional wisdom also says that customers don't like being interrupted when they're not at work; therefore emails sent during off-hours are likely to create resentment.

Conventional wisdom is wrong. Emails that arrive during work hours--especially from sources with whom the customer isn't immediately familiar--tend to get lost in the shuffle. By contrast, emails that arrive during off-hours are actually more likely to be opened, read, and (most important) get a response.

This is especially true during the holiday season. According to a study conducted in 2010 (back before everyone had a smartphone), 59 percent of Americans were checking their work emails over the holidays. That percentage is undoubtedly much higher today. So emailing over the holidays--even on the holiday itself--is actually a good strategy.

As with all sales and marketing emails, those sent during the holiday must be short, sweet, and relevant. The subject line plus the teaser (the first 10 words or so of the email's body) must be intriguing enough that the customer opens the email. The contents should be a couple of sentences at most (providing a reason to respond), and there should be a clear and concise call to action.

It's in the call to action that most sales and marketing emails fail the worst. The purpose of a sales and marketing email is to get a response that leads to a conversation. (Note: I'm talking about B2B emails, not "buy this now" consumer stuff.) To get into a conversation, you need a call to action that has a low "response barrier," i.e., entails as small a commitment as possible and as little effort as possible.

My go-to call to action is some variety of:

  • "Does this interest you?"

That call to action has a very low response barrier because 1) it's not attempting to get the customer to commit any time or effort, and 2) all it requires is three thumb taps to execute.

This call to action doesn't work during the holidays, though, because it's intended to open an online conversation right then and there (more or less). While customers may be intrigued, chances are they don't want to interrupt their vacation or holiday to trade emails with you.

Because of this, I recommend something like this for a call to action during the holidays:

  • "Would you like me to get in touch after the holidays?"

As with "Does this interest you?" there's a low response barrier. It doesn't ask for a commitment, and executing the call to action only requires the same three thumb taps: <reply. A "Y" response also provides "permission to sell," which means you can email or call that customer several times without seeming like a pest.


SUBJECT: Upcoming New Orleans Event


Experience shows that keeping conference attendees engaged is more difficult in cities that are popular holiday destinations.

Our company has an app that sets automatic reminders so that attendees get to the sessions that interest them most, even if they're offsite for part of the day.

I realize that it's the holidays, but I figured you might be thinking about this issue more seriously when you return to work.

Would you like me to get back in touch on, say, January 5th?