The Small Brand’s Guide to Black Friday Email Marketing

The Small Brand’s Guide to Black Friday Email Marketing
Charlene Boutin Charlene Boutin Jan 21, 2024 —  13 min read

It’s coming — and you’ve probably been dreading it.

Yup, Black Friday is just around the corner. Every year it seems like brands offer increasingly ludicrous deals, which makes it tough for smaller businesses to keep up.

That said, you can still leverage effective, low-cost strategies for Black Friday, such as email marketing.

Here’s the thing – you’ll get better results with email marketing if you get started early with your campaigns.

Even if it’s still early in the last quarter, it’s a great time to start.

Keep reading to learn what email marketing strategy you can execute for maximum results.

Feel free to jump right to the part you’re most interested in:

What’s the best way to market a small business during Black Friday?

When ad costs are too high, and deep discounts are unattainable, is it impossible for small businesses to make their mark during the holiday season?

Not necessarily. You can still make bank if you plan accordingly. But it does require more thought and preparation than simply “cutting prices”.

Email marketing is one of the best tools in your arsenal if you want to carve a piece of the Black Friday pie for yourself.

With an email list of loyal subscribers and repeat customers, you can get on your audience’s radar earlier than everyone else — before the noise really starts gearing up.

Why email marketing?

This marketing tool has a plethora of benefits, but let’s focus on why it’s particularly effective during Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

  1. Once someone is on your email list, it’s free to send them an email. So, while growing your list can cost you in ad spend (or time), email marketing is virtually free!

  2. Email gives you an intimate touchpoint with your subscribers. You can nurture your relationship with them if you send them emails they enjoy opening and consuming.

  3. Emails have a higher engagement rate than social media. Moreover, those rates are declining on social media. Instagram engagement rate was 0.47% per post in 2023, which is much lower than the already-low 0.67% from 2021. On the other hand, email open rates for ecommerce were 36.59% while click-through rates were at 7.16%.

Consider the difference in engagement for that last point. Even if you put aside the privacy updates that distort email open rates, the average click-through rate for ecommerce being 7.16% is still staggering compared to the abysmal 0.47% engagement rate of Instagram.

Yes, your email list is likely much smaller than your big-box competitor’s. But a small list can be an advantage if you know how to leverage it.

How to execute a Black Friday email strategy

Feeling overwhelmed with getting started? Follow this step-by-step Black Friday email marketing strategy tailored for ecommerce brands with smaller budgets.

1. Double down on list-building at least one month ahead

Even if you’re already building your email list, it’s time to double down on your efforts — at LEAST one month before Black Friday. The earlier you can ramp up your efforts, the better.

For example, you can revamp your email opt-in forms with community-driven offers, like a VIP-only promo code:

 Email opt-in popup offering access to VIP community in exchange for subscription

For a few weeks before Black Friday, you can even tweak the copy on your opt-in forms to feature your upcoming BF sale and create a bigger incentive to join your email list.

(This opt-in form is designed in Getsitecontrol)

Increase your ad budget to capture more leads

If you’re running ads to acquire new customers or grow your email list, you can consider increasing your budget during this period, too.

You’re better off spending twice as much before Black Friday and turning off your ads during the peak of these events. By doing this, you’ll avoid peak ad cost surges and still add potential buyers to your list.

For example, you can host a flash sale via ads to try to get a higher click-through rate, or exchange discount codes for emails:

Everlasting Candles running a flash sale to collect emails before Black Friday

Because the cost for ads before Black Friday will be lower, you’ll get to acquire customers at a cheaper rate. Then, when Black Friday rolls around, you’ll have these existing customers you can promote to via email.

Ramp up your organic social media activity

What if you’re not running ads? Then you’ll need to spend time instead of money. Hopefully, you’ve already started growing an organic audience on social media — if not, it might be difficult to pull off just a month or two in advance.

Ecommerce brands have been getting good traction with TikTok. But whichever social media platform you’re on, consider ramping up your activity or running a flash sale to get people to join your list.

Krave Beauty is a great example of a brand posting amazing educational content to build an organic audience on TikTok.

Krave Beauty is posting educational content on TikTok to increase audience engagement

To start warming up your audience and growing your email list, you can post the following types of content:

  • Memes and trends featuring your product
  • User-generated content (UGC)
  • Interesting ways to use your products
  • Testimonials and case studies
  • Giveaways
  • Inspirational content
  • Announcements and new product features

Here’s an example of Scrub Daddy using memes and humor to showcase their brand:

Scrub Daddy using humor to boost audience engagement on their TikTok account

Then, to funnel people to your email list, post about your special offer from time to time. Whether it’s a coupon or a limited-edition product, give a reason for your audience to become customers or subscribers sooner rather than later.

For instance, Crocs announced a collab collection and made it clear that the stock would be limited.

Crocs announcing a limited-edition product on TikTok

Additionally, you can use your social media platforms to get people hyped up for what you’ve got planned during the holiday season. Give them hints on what’s to come so they have more reasons to join your email list.

Example of a brand creating anticipation before the sale on Instagram

2. Re-engage past customers with a win-back email sequence

Do you have people on your list who made a purchase in the past, but who haven’t bought from your store or engaged with your emails in a while?

If so, it’s time to write and send a win-back email sequence.

Win-back emails are exactly what they sound like — their purpose is to win back existing customers and get them to purchase new products.

Your past customers are some of your biggest assets. It’s fully worth the time and effort to reach out to them and try to win them back.

Example of a win-back email that can be sent during the black Friday preparation campaign

In addition to telling your old customers about new products or promos, you can let them know you’re preparing a special VIP-only event for Black Friday — and that they’re the first ones to know about it.

If you have a small buyer’s list, consider customizing each win-back email. Additionally, you can automatically customize this email if you have the existing data in your email marketing tool.

For example, if you know what products they’ve purchased, you can make an offer based on their purchase history.

Let’s say, for instance, that you sell training equipment and have customers who have purchased resistance bands. You can send an email to these people to promote different levels of resistance bands that they don’t have – or other products that would round out their workout routine, like a jump rope or foam roller.

3. Send a newsletter with a waitlist offer to build a VIP group

Now that you’ve re-engaged your previous buyers, it’s time to tell the rest of your email list about your VIP Black Friday Event.

Let them know only people on the waitlist will get access to this event.

Early bird Black Friday email discount

Why host a VIP-only Black Friday event?

First, people love exclusivity. They’ll be happier about being a part of a VIP group if that group actually gets unique deals.

But catering to a smaller group also allows you to send more personalized content and keep your promo event smaller. You can follow up based on how people engage with your emails and give your campaign a human touch.

You’ll also get better email marketing metrics with a smaller group. A more engaged segment means more people will open your emails – and this makes you less likely to end up in promo or spam folders.

4. Send valuable content in your nurture emails

Want to warm up your subscribers and get them ready to buy? You don’t have to send a promotional newsletter every day. Instead, add some nurture emails into the mix.

Some examples of nurturing emails can include:

  • New ways to use your products
  • Behind the scenes on the creation of your products
  • Education about a cause that’s important to your brand and your audience
  • Explaining why purchasing from you is a better decision than buying from your competitors (product lasts longer, made with care, handmade, more sustainable, etc)
  • The story behind a product launch

For example, here’s a company update newsletter from Yarnable, which they sent out on November 1 last year – just before the Black Friday rush.

Nurturing email from Yarnable sent to re-engage subscribers before the Black Friday rush

At the end of each nurture email, you can remind people to sign up for the waitlist. This means your subscribers will have additional chances to join, even if they missed your previous emails.

5. Host a live sale event

Live sales are unique events that are ideal to nurture a sense of community with your customers.

Remember the VIP list you built previously? Now it’s time to execute on your promise and surprise them with a fun, unique event they can attend live.

Shiseido runs a live sale event to warm up the audience before Black Friday

It’s up to you whether you want to make your live sale your main Black Friday marketing event or not. For example, you can host this promotion as a bonus to reward your loyal VIP customers. This will prove that it does mean something to be part of an exclusive group.

Rewarding customers who commit early on will encourage them to do the same every time you launch a new promotion. You’re showing them that it’s worth it to open your emails and click on your links… which will help you generate more revenue for your future Black Friday events.

6. Launch a promotional email campaign earlier

If you don’t want to compete against everyone else during Black Friday, then don’t. Launch your own Black Friday event before the actual Friday.

You can launch your campaign several weeks in advance, as long as you take enough time to warm people up first.

The earlier you launch your campaign, the easier it’ll be to stand out — but too early may also not gather as much interest. After all, people use Black Friday to do some holiday shopping — and there’s no urgency to shop for the holidays in the middle of August.

For instance, Click and Grow ran their Black Friday sale in early November last year:

Click and Grow picked their own date for a Black Friday sale in the beginning of November

This limited-time promo email got sent out on November 5 – over 3 weeks before Black Friday.

Another option is to host a sale just a few days early. If you’re using this strategy, make sure to maximize your VIP list beforehand.

Black Friday email campaign announcing a closed VIP sale

In the screenshot above, you can see how this brand added a ton of value for their members. Their instructions are crystal clear — only members get access to the website during the early-bird phase of their Black Friday event.

7. Add upsells and cross-sells

To maximize the revenue you’ll make even with a small list, you need to boost your average order value. You can pull this off by adding upsells and cross-sells to your most popular items.

Example of an email promoting an upgrade

Purchase upgrades make it easy for your customers to improve the quality of their order while they’re already in the mood to shop. You can set these up once and automatically increase your AOV for every single order.

8. Show a range of price slashes

As a small business, you might not be able to afford to discount everything in your store at 70% + off. But if you have a few items with a larger discount, consider announcing a range of discounts instead of a single number.

For instance, this email from Coco Village announces a promo ranging from 30-70% off everything on their site:

How to announce a range of discounts instead of a single discount via email on Black Friday

You can keep the higher discounts for clearance items or products with higher margins.

9. Sprinkle elements of urgency into your campaigns

Every time you promote a sales event to your email list, remind your subscribers of the time they have to take advantage of the offer.

Black Friday email newsletter reminding subscribers when to take advantage of the promo

One way to add urgency directly inside your emails is with a countdown timer.

Some email marketing platforms allow you to do that without any special knowledge. For example, in Getsitecontrol, you can add a countdown timer and adjust it to match the style of your email 👇

Getsitecontrol allows for creating a sense of urgency in emails with countdown timers

Countdown timers are especially effective with short-lived sales. There’s not much urgency to a timer that’s set to expire 7 days from now.

10. Use cart abandonment sequences to convert more customers

If you don’t have abandoned cart emails set up yet, Black Friday season is the perfect time to do so.

Your customers will have a ton of distractions fighting for their attention. So it’s highly likely they’ll get distracted before they can complete their purchase on your website.

Win back the sale by sending them a sequence of emails that remind them to complete their purchase.

Shopping cart abandoned emails should be a part of your Black Friday email strategy

Make your cart abandonment emails fun and playful — or play around with another tone that fits with your brand. Remember people will get bombarded with emails during this time of the year, so it’s worth the effort to stand out in the inbox. That’s why I love Whisky Loot’s example above!

11. Launch a Small Business Saturday promo

Have you heard about Small Business Saturday?

Lodged right in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday is a sales event specifically meant for small businesses.

If you have small business supporters in your email list, you have an advantage with them compared to larger brands. You can let your subscribers know you’ll run a promo for Small Business Saturday instead of Black Friday.

To switch things up, try offering something different than a discount. For instance, you can offer additional points on your loyalty program for all purchases made during the event. Or you can double (or even triple) the referral bonus you give your subscribers if you have such a program!

Email from Surreal promoting a referral program to its subscribers

12. Get personal with video in your emails

One of the benefits of having a small email list is the ability to get more personal with everyone.

Here’s one last tactic to try with your VIP list — depending on the size of the list, consider making a custom video for those who haven’t purchased yet.

You can customize the video based on the previous purchase history and pair it with a tailored promotion. For example, you can offer an additional 15% off fall boots to customers who purchased footwear from you last year.

Feel free to get creative depending on the way you’ve segmented your email list.

13. Offer a gift

If you can’t pull off the huge price slashes in the 70% range, why not add value instead of making your products cheaper?

You can do this by offering a gift with qualifying orders in addition to any special prices.

For example, Wool and the Gang offered 30% off their entire store last year. 70% reductions don’t make sense for a business that sells high-quality yarn.

However, they did offer a free scarf pattern for anyone who bought a bundle:

Wool and the Gang offering a gift to anyone who purchases a bundle

The free gift works well because it complements the purchase – it adds value to it. Customers can use the free pattern to create something awesome using their yarn bundle!

14. Showcase your favorites

Black Friday sales can be overwhelming.

You mean, EVERYTHING is on sale? What should I even buy?

I like how Four Sigmatic called this out directly in their promo email. Not only do they call it out, but they offer a solution by showcasing some of their favorites as a suggestion:

Four Sigmatic sends a Black Friday promo email recommending their favorite products on sale

They also suggest holiday bundles for anyone who’s looking for gift ideas:

Four Sigmatic sends a promo Black Friday email recommending stock stuffers

This means that in a single email, the brand can serve people looking to shop for themselves and to buy gifts – all without being too overwhelming.

15. Try a pattern interrupt email

One of my favorite ways to close off an email marketing sales sequence is the pattern interrupt email.

As the name suggests, this type of email differs from the rest of the sequence in some way. It’s designed to stand out not only from competitors, but also from your own emails!

For example, Knix sent out several regular promo emails about their Cyber Monday sale. But during the evening, they sent out this last email:

Example of a pattern-interrupt email from Knix

This email feels different for several reasons:

  • It’s text-based instead of relying on graphics and designs
  • It’s signed off by a real person instead of being from the brand itself
  • It’s super short and to-the-point, making it easy to take action

So don’t be afraid to try something different and interrupt the pattern your subscribers are used to.

How often should I email about Black Friday?

Not sure what your email schedule should look like? Here’s a sample email promotional plan you can try out.

October 25Re-engage past buyers, invite them to your waitlist
October 27Send a waitlist offer in your regular newsletter
October 29Send a waitlist reminder in your newsletter
October 31Halloween flash sale
November 7Helpful newsletter with a tip related to your products — announce this is a 3-part series. Call to action to join the waitlist
November 8Part 2 of your helpful newsletter series. Call to action to join the waitlist.
November 9Part 3 of your helpful newsletter series. Call to action to join the waitlist.
November 11Announce a live sale for waitlist VIP members
November 12Reminder for the live sale for waitlist VIP members
November 13Product spotlight
November 15Tease the early Black Friday event for waitlisters
November 16Tease the early Black Friday event for waitlisters — give a different benefit
November 18Announce your latest product launch
November 20Remind all waitlisters that the early Black Friday event — specifically for them – is in 3 days
November 22Remind all waitlisters that tomorrow is the early Black Friday event – specifically for them
November 23Announce the early Black Friday event starts today (for VIP waitlisters only)
November 24Reminder for VIP-only early Black Friday event: announce which items are low in stock
November 25Showcase your favorite products to help people who are overwhelmed + remind them that the sale is ending soon
November 27Product spotlight
November 28Let people know about your Small Business Saturday event
November 29
(Black Friday in 2024)
Thank you email to show gratitude towards your subscribers (and give them a change of pace)
November 30
(Small Business Saturday in 2024)
Promotional event for Small Business Saturday
November 30
Send a pattern interrupt email to remind people that the sale is ending
December 3
(One day after Cyber Monday in 2024)
Announce your post-BFCM promo for VIP only

Feel free to play around with the dates and events in this sample Black Friday schedule. Make it 100% yours.

Make the most out of Black Friday with email marketing

Black Friday is a cutthroat competition between brands of all sizes. But if you can double down on community-building and leverage your small list, you can still come out of the holiday season in the black.

Charlene Boutin is a freelance content writer & email marketing strategist for hire specializing in helping Ecommerce and SaaS businesses increase conversions by growing authentic relationships with their audience. She loves helping business owners tell their unique stories to capture the hearts of more customers.

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