Promotional email tips for Black Friday, Small Biz Saturday, and more

Awesome sales, happy customers

It’s that time of year.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are a great fit for every business — awesome sales and happy customers! Not only does sending a timely promotional email help your contacts take advantage of your limited deals, but it reminds them they can avoid trampling and deal-crazed fans by clicking your links and buying online.

I’ve researched the most successful campaigns (based on click-through rate) to give you some tips on how to maximize your promotional email marketing results this holiday season.

Keep your subject lines short, sweet, and relevant

Looking at the subject lines of the most successful campaigns, one thing is clear: it’s not very clear. There doesn’t seem to be a common thread, but it does look like simply having “Black Friday,” “Cyber Monday,” or “Holiday Sale” helps. That being said, it’s always best to try and stand out from the standard, “Check out my Black Friday Deals,” so try to spice it up a little. Remember that your readers’ inboxes will be full of holiday promotional emails.

Use subject lines to stand out from the standard.


A couple of my favorites were:

  • “Let’s sweeten the Black Friday Deals with …”
  • “Are you taking time for YOU this Black Friday?”

The first suggests an extra incentive for opening the mail, which is always a great attention grabber, and the second suggests taking time out for everyone’s favorite person: yourself.

Please note: Many senders used a lot of CAPS and exclamation marks in their subject lines. I don’t recommend this, as it can get your mail flagged as spam and filtered. Better: keep it short, sweet and relevant.

Strategize your link location

It’s always best to place your most important links near the top of your promotional email. One thing I noticed quite consistently is the drop-off in click rates as I scrolled down emails. Most readers will spend less than 20 seconds looking at your promotional email, so this makes sense. Put your best foot forward when you have their attention!

Carefully format your calls to action

Keep it simple! Just adding a linked phrase like “Shop Now” can do the trick.

Make your links noticeable. I noticed that the most clicked links have slightly larger text or are in CAPS, with a different color than the rest of the text (I’m not talking flashing lights here, but just a tweak can really help). Try using red.

Using just one link will help draw attention to it and will keep your promotion simple and clutter-free. Since 50 percent of emails are now opened on phones, it’s important to bear simplicity in mind.

You could also try using a linked image. It immediately catches the eye and can be used to incite a call to action. The example below (an awesomely laid out email) features a clickable image that yielded the lion’s share of the clicks.

Promotional Email Craftsy

I particularly like this promotion as it has an eye-catching, rich (but uncluttered) banner and a humorous opening that reminds customers of the hassle they can avoid by snatching up her deals from the comfort of … wherever they happen to be. The clickable image includes a “shop now” call to action and the phrase “holiday sale.” It communicates the sale details with noiseless clarity and November colors.

Offer an exclusive coupon code

A study by shows that 74 percent of frequent shoppers watch for coupon codes.

Many successful promotional emails include a coupon code (a.k.a. a promo code) to offer customers a discount.


It lends to the sense of exclusivity and makes your loyal customers feel appreciated. Some successful campaigns also use “VIP” in their subject line. It’s simple — your customers/fans are the reason for your company’s success. Let them know they’re special, and you’ll both benefit.

Here’s an example that uses a coupon code and got some great click-through rates:

Promotional Email Black Friday Sale

I also picked this one as it illustrates an awesome, festive banner and another example of a highly clicked image.

So … paint your banners, chain those links and make sure you’re battle hardened and fully prepared to make the most of this awesomely busy weekend ahead.

Check out our free checklist, “How to sell more this holiday season” for more tips

Macdara Bracken
Macdara Bracken is a contributor to the former Mad Mimi blog, writing about email marketing for businesses and individuals. GoDaddy joined forces with Mad Mimi in 2014 to give small business owners, freelancers, moonlighters and more a simple, beautiful and powerful way to use email marketing to accomplish their goals. Want to email all your customers before your first cup of coffee? Check out GoDaddy Email Marketing.