The Small Brand’s Guide to Black Friday Email Marketing

The Small Brand’s Guide to Black Friday Email Marketing
Charlene Boutin
Charlene Boutin Nov 11, 2022 — 11 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.

Keep reading to learn what to watch for this coming Black Friday season and what email marketing strategy you can execute for maximum results.

The challenges of attracting customers on Black Friday

Ecommerce and retail brands love using Black Friday to acquire customers at scale just before the holidays.

However, if you’re a small or medium-sized ecommerce business, you may struggle to compete against the largest brands that have more resources available.

Here is why 👇

Challenge #1: Ad costs skyrocket

You can try paid ads, but brands who are doing social media ads during Black Friday and Cyber Monday for the first time are in for a shock. Ad prices always skyrocket during this period.

In 2021, ad pricing went up an average of 16% during pre-holiday November and 28% for Thanksgiving. The cost went up another 8% on Black Friday.

Large brands can take a hit like this. But smaller brands — especially those with thinner margins — can’t always keep up. So it’s important to understand this phenomenon before you waltz into the season with high expectations from your ad campaigns.

Challenge #2: It gets noisy

What happens when every brand is screaming for their customers’ attention? The Ecommerce landscape becomes overwhelmed with noise — and so do customers. Amidst this chaos, those who scream loudest are the only ones who get heard.

Challenge #3: Customers’ expectations get high

Finally, brands have continually upped the ante with expectations for Black Friday as the years have gone by. Major retailers like Best Buy, Target, Wayfair, and Amazon go all out with huge discounts their consumers can’t resist.

Examples of irresistible discounts from large brands on Black Friday

Brands that move a smaller volume of products can’t afford the same price slashes. But there are other ways you can entice your customers to buy from you.

Let’s get into it!

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”.

We may be biased, but 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 0.67% per post in 2021 (which is a 30% decline from 2020) while email open rates for Ecommerce were 15.68% with 2.01% click-through rates.

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 (even on a smaller budget)

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 opt-in popups 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. Here is an example, powered by Getsitecontrol – an easy-to-use website popup builder 👇

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

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

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.

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.

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

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 event your main Black Friday happening 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.

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.

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 stylized email countdown timer. (By the way, if you’re using Getsitecontrol to create email opt-in forms, you can embed countdown timers to the emails you send to your new subscribers, just like that 👇

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% on fall boots to customers who purchased footwear from you last year.

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 previous buyers to 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: Blah
  • November 15: Remind all waitlisters that the early Black Friday event — specifically for them – is happening 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 if applicable
  • November 20: Last call to participate for the early Black Friday event for VIPs
  • November 22: Product spotlight
  • November 24: Let people know about your Small Business Saturday event
  • November 25 (Black Friday in 2022): Thank you email to show gratitude towards your subscribers (and give them a change of pace)
  • November 26 (Small Business Saturday in 2022): Promotional event for Small Business Saturday
  • November 29 (One day after Cyber Monday in 2022): Announce an email-list only post-Cyber-Monday promotion

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.

Getsitecontrol simplifies your list-building process with beautiful and easily customizable popups. Try it out for free before Black Friday rolls around.

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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