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Five Black Friday email ideas for you to think about now


If you haven’t started your holiday planning yet, it’s time to push the panic button.

Email marketers often don’t get pulled into the planning process until the end and then it’s often an afterthought or emergency: “Yeah, just send another email.” When email is the afterthought instead of the engine, you’re set up to fail.

Don’t sit on the sidelines and wait for the coach to send you in. Develop your own plan, including copy and contact strategies.

It should fit into the overall brand strategy, but it needs to be your design because you have your own revenue and goals to meet.

Develop your Black Friday strategy now

Although many consumers have already started shopping, Black Friday is still the official kickoff for the season. Locking down your strategy now gives you time to test it and have it in place. You’ll be ready to start building your base of subscribers from the fresh supply of customers that the holiday shopping season can deliver.

That’s not your only challenge, of course. All of those new customers are also fielding messages from every other business they’re browsing or buying from. Optimizing send times and writing snazzy subject lines help, but your strategy needs to go deeper than that if you want your customers to pounce on your emails when they show up in the inbox.

Five Black Friday email ideas

If you start now, you can test and tweak these approaches. By the time Black Friday rolls around, you’ll be ready to go:

  1. Give your best customers the VIP treatment.

Put your revenue-producing customers at the virtual head of the line. These are the people who know your brand, act on your emails and have bought from you before.

Everybody likes to go to the head of the line. Use dynamic content modules that let your VIP list know ahead of time about special shopping events. Offer loyalty discounts and early access to upgrades, new products, etc.

  1. Use segmenting and testing with your Black Friday emails.

Everybody is looking for a sale on Black Friday. You have to be able to dial it in perfectly and know what your customers want to see. This means testing on both individual and cohort levels.

Test on emails that lead up to your Black Friday messaging. Also, test while you’re sending so you can change content or offers on the fly as needed. Your Black Friday strategy should include fallback content or offers that you can switch on as needed.

  1. Send the email again.

Segment out those who didn’t open and click on your message or who clicked but didn’t buy, and send them your email again.

Maybe they saw your message first thing in the morning but couldn’t act on it because they were waiting for a store to open. Or, they didn’t scroll down far enough in the inbox to find it.

This is a good strategy to test now. On Black Friday your customers will likely be occupied elsewhere. If you send in the morning, try a resend later in the afternoon.

Resending is an “occasional use” strategy, one that can give customers a second chance to engage but must be used sparingly. It gets annoying if you use it all of the time. Save it for your best customers or your best promotions.

  1. Say “Oops!” (even if you didn’t really mess up).

Every other email your customers see in the run-up to Black Friday, or on the day itself, will have a subject line with some variation on “Black Friday deals start NOW!” or “Free shipping and 20% off!” subject lines. How can you stand out? Say “Oops!”

Send an apology email even though you (presumably) did nothing wrong. We know people love to open “oops” emails because they want to see how you messed up. So, say something like “We apologize for the long lines in our stores. Why not just stay in today and shop these online-exclusive deals?”

Caveat: This is a “break glass in case of emergency” tactic. The apology email works once and only once. So, choose wisely when you look for opportunities to capitalize on it.

  1. Consider a “leak” email.

When you have a time-sensitive offer (discount, in-store event, limited merchandise availability, limited shopping window), send your VIPs an advance notice.

If you want to have a little fun with this message, make the email look as if you accidentally sent it early. Design it to look like a test message (copy markups and all) and a subject line like “PROOF – Do not send until 10 a.m.”

This is another one-time-only tactic. You’ll also need to clear this with people who have higher titles than you because you need to coordinate with all of the departments that could be affected and test to be sure it works.

If you’re running a Black Friday preview on Thursday, for example, make sure the products included in the sale are loaded into the eCommerce system and the system recognizes the link in your email.

The last thing you want to do is send out an email that doesn’t work. This time you’ll have to send a real apology email. Plus, you’ll lose revenue; and you’ll look foolish to your best customers.

Creativity pushes you to the front

The holiday shopping season is the big league, when all the time you’ve spent this year nurturing relations with your customers and subscribers pays off in the inbox.

Your holiday email plan, one that fits in with your brand strategy, means you can send smart, strategic emails and resist the call to “just send another email.”

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