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:
- Why email is your best marketing channel during Black Friday
- How to execute a Black Friday email marketing strategy:
- Double-down on email list building starting October
- Re-engage past customers with an email sequence
- Send a newsletter to build a waitlist
- Continue nurturing your audience
- Host a live sale event
- Come up with your own date for Black Friday
- Add upsells and cross-sells to your promos
- Show a range of price slashes
- Sprinkle elements of urgency
- Build a cart abandonment email campaign
- Launch a Small Business Saturday promo
- Get personal with video in your emails
- Offer gifts instead of discounts
- Showcase your favorites
- Try pattern-interrupt emails
- What your Black Friday email schedule should look like
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:
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!
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.
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:
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:
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.
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
- Inspirational content
- Announcements and new product features
Here’s an example of Scrub Daddy using memes and humor to showcase their brand:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
This limited-time promo email got sent out on November 5 – a full 20 days before Black Friday 2022.
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.
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
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:
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.
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 👇
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.
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!
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:
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:
They also suggest holiday bundles for anyone who’s looking for gift ideas:
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:
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 25||Re-engage past buyers, invite them to your waitlist|
|October 27||Send a waitlist offer in your regular newsletter|
|October 29||Send a waitlist reminder in your newsletter|
|October 31||Halloween flash sale|
|November 2||Helpful newsletter with a tip related to your products — announce this is a 3-part series. Call to action to join the waitlist|
|November 3||Part 2 of your helpful newsletter series. Call to action to join the waitlist.|
|November 4||Part 3 of your helpful newsletter series. Call to action to join the waitlist.|
|November 6||Announce a live sale for waitlist VIP members|
|November 7||Reminder for the live sale for waitlist VIP members|
|November 8||Product spotlight|
|November 10||Tease the early Black Friday event for waitlisters|
|November 11||Tease the early Black Friday event for waitlisters — give a different benefit|
|November 13||Announce your latest product launch|
|November 15||Remind all waitlisters that the early Black Friday event — specifically for them – is in 3 days|
|November 17||Remind all waitlisters that tomorrow is the early Black Friday event – specifically for them|
|November 18||Announce the early Black Friday event starts today (for VIP waitlisters only)|
|November 19||Reminder for VIP-only early Black Friday event: announce which items are low in stock|
|November 20||Showcase your favorite products to help people who are overwhelmed + remind them that the sale is ending soon|
|November 22||Product spotlight|
|November 23||Let people know about your Small Business Saturday event|
(Black Friday in 2023)
|Thank you email to show gratitude towards your subscribers (and give them a change of pace)|
(Small Business Saturday in 2023)
|Promotional event for Small Business Saturday|
|Send a pattern interrupt email to remind people that the sale is ending|
(One day after Cyber Monday in 2023)
|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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