Email marketing for Black Friday: simple strategies for small businesses

How you ‘do’ Black Friday email marketing in a small business will vary wildly depending on the type of business you run, so here are some simple strategies to help you get started.. Or if you work with small business clients who do Black Friday discounts, perhaps it will give you some ideas to pass on to them.

Should you even do Black Friday?

Actually, you might choose to not do Black Friday at all. Here’s why:

  • Does Black Friday fit with your brand? If you have an audience of hardcore bargain hunters then that’s a yes, but if your brand is against rampant consumption, probably not. Although could you run an anti-Black Friday campaign instead?
  • Don’t offer discounts just for the sake of it. It’s not likely to get you much mileage of you’re doing Black Friday just for visibility because your customers will be bombarded with sales messages that week. It’s only worth the effort (and taking this hit to your profits) if you’re going to get a clear, measurable business benefit from it.  
  • You don’t even have to call it Black Friday or do an event on the Friday. You could do Cyber Monday, Wicked Wednesday or any other event you like.
shopper holding bags with 'black Friday' and 'sale' tags.

Planning your campaigns

There isn’t much time left before Black Friday, but you do have a few weeks to steer away from just emailing a knee-jerk discount code on the actual Friday. So it’s best to sit down with your planner of choice and work out what you are going to send in the period around the day. I like Trello for this, but any planner – digital or paper – will work.

Your offer

If you’re not sure of what your audience wants in terms of a Black Friday deal, there’s still enough time to do some surveys, just ask around your customers or check your sales data from previous sales periods to see what’s likely to work best.


You’ll need to plan out an email marketing campaign aligned with your other sales and marketing activities in the Black Friday period. Start with your goals – what do you want to achieve? Here are some examples:

  • Encourage new buyers – in this case you could design an inexpensive, tempting offer to convert subscribers of your newsletter or people who are social media followers into buyers.
  • Clear out old stock – obviously this needs to be done carefully so that your subscribers don’t feel bombarded or that old stock is being pushed on them.
  • Reach new audiences – for this you would need to create a share-worthy offer and encourage others to share it for you.

Content ideas

Now is a good time to sign up for some emails from other businesses – either in your industry or in a completely different one – to see if you can pick up fresh ideas. Or perhaps you can stand out by doing the complete opposite to them!


Choose if and/or how you will segment your list. You don’t have to send the same email to everyone, you could send different offers to different segments (groups) based on their purchase history or things they have expressed an interest in (ie clicked on, opted into or downloaded).

Growing your list

You may want to plan out and implement some list-growing activities in the run-up to Black Friday so you have a bigger list to work with on the day.


Decide how much scheduling and automation you want to do – do you want all your emails automated and scheduled ahead of time? Just some of them? Do you want to switch off some existing automations over the Black Friday period so subscribers don’t get too many emails?

How will you know if it worked?

Decide what success looks like before you begin. Are you aiming for a certain number of sales, subscribers on your mailing list, profit or something else? How will you measure this and what do you need to have in place to do that? Youe email marketing platform might do that for you, but you might also need Google Analytics or other tools.

clock with sign saying 'black Friday sale'

What to send and when

Before Black Friday

Send out teaser content to let subscribers know what to look out for on the day.

On black Friday

Send out the main offer.

After Black Friday

Send out emails to remind your audience that there’s still time to take advantage of your offer and the date/time it expires. E.g. ‘Sale ends in x hours’ , ‘last chance to grab…’.

…and then we’re into the run up to Christmas so make sure you have a similar plan for that!

The content of your emails

Craft eye-catching emails that align with your business branding. Your subscribers will be bombarded with emails at this time, so do your best to make yours stand out. Email marketing platforms now have very good template builders which mean it’s unlikely you’ll need to hire someone to code the entire email in HTML, although you can use photographers or graphic designers for the content if you choose to.

Make sure your calls to action are clear, tempting and stand out against the background. Check all ‘buy now’ buttons and links work and link to the correct sales page.

Your subject line will also need to do some heavy-lifting to stand out in a crowded inbox at this time of year. Most email marketing platforms now have a subject line tester or generator feature (here’s more about Mailerlite’s) so it’s worth giving these a try.

And finally…

There isn’t that much time left before Black Friday, so think about what you can realistically achieve with the time and resources you have. As a small business you aren’t going to be able to compete with big brands on deep discounts or volume sold, so choose your goals carefully and craft a campaign that has clear, measurable outcomes.

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