If you’re like a lot of small businesses, email marketing will play an important role in your promotion plan this holiday season.
With email marketing you can create a series of timely messages to announce your holiday plans, remind people about important dates and deadlines, and thank people for shopping small during the holiday season.
You can connect with potential customers across their different devices, and reach them in the place they are going every day — the inbox.
As you start to plan your holiday email marketing, you’ll want to think of ways to make your emails stand out during this busy season.
To help you get started, we compiled a list of 30 creative holiday email ideas:
1. Holiday preview sale
Give your audience the chance to beat the holiday rush — bring people into your store early with a holiday preview sale! You can encourage current customers to bring their friends, and even offer additional discounts for helping you spread the word about the event.
La Provence, Rockport, Massachusetts
Bonus tip: When hosting a sale early in the season, make sure to offer a convenient way for new customers to sign up for your email list. Let them know you’ll be following up with more updates about holiday offers later in the season.
2. Cyber Monday offer
If there’s an e-commerce side to your business, make sure to participate in the annual online shopping event, Cyber Monday. You can send a series of emails leading up to Cyber Monday letting people know about special discounts, and send a final reminder when the big day finally arrives.
This year Cyber Monday takes place on Novemer 28!
Door County Coffee, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
3. Free shipping
There are small things you can do to add value this holiday season. One of the easiest ways to add value is to offer free shipping leading up to the December holidays. You can encourage people to shop online or provide details so that customers can call to place an order.
The Bead Shop Scotland, Haddington, East Lothian, United Kingdom
4. Gift card bonus
In addition to traditional discounts, you can also look for ways to reward people for shopping small by adding a bonus prize, like a gift card or gift certificate.
Offering a gift card as a bonus can increase sales during the holiday season, and can also help introduce you to new customers in the process.
Wine Station, Ottawa, Ontario
5. Holiday gift guide
Help your customers find the perfect gift with a holiday gift guide.
You can send a general mailing to your entire list, or create separate lists for different audiences and come up with different gift ideas for all of your different audiences (gifts for moms, gifts for your husband, gifts for your grandkids, etc).
Fairy Dogparents, Duxbury, Massachusetts
Bonus tip: Constant Contact makes it easy to segment your mailing list based on interest, location, and other relevant criteria. Visit our Contact Management Resource page to learn more.
6. Holiday coupon
Coupons can be used in a variety of different ways throughout the holiday season. You can use them as the focus of your email, or add a coupon to your regularly scheduled email newsletter as an extra bonus for your readers.
EZ Orchards, Salem, Oregon
7. Sample sale
Showcase some of the different products you offer with a holiday sample sale. For a business like Sugaree’s Bakery, a sample sale lets customers experience their different recipes and share with holiday guests.
Think of ways you can let people sample your products and services this holiday season.
Sugaree’s Bakery, New Albany, Mississippi
8. End-of-year update
One of the best ways to celebrate the holidays is to reflect on all that you’ve accomplished in the previous year. As a small business, you share a special connection with your customers and they’ll be happy to hear about all of your success.
Use the holidays to say thanks to your loyal customers and give them something to look forward to in the New Year.
Ipswich Ale Brewery, Ipswich, Massachusetts
9. Extended holiday hours
Keep customers up-to-date about any changes in your schedule throughout the holiday season. Customers will be thankful for the reminder, and will be more likely to fit you into their holiday shopping plans.
Fed by Threads, Tucson, Arizona
10. Early pricing
A successful holiday season can help you end the year on a positive note, and can also set you up for success in the New Year.
Don’t wait for the holidays to be over to start planning for next year. Look for opportunities to offer discounts and special offers to get people to schedule services or sign up for appointments in advance.
Bicycle Adventures, Issaquah, Washington
11. Naughty or Nice
With so many businesses vying for your customers’ attention during the holidays, you’ll need to come up with creative ideas to get your emails noticed. Boston-based burrito restaurant Boloco, uses humor to make a lasting impression, while also promoting their holiday special.
Boloco, Boston, Massachusetts
12. Say thanks
What is your business thankful for? The holidays are a great time to let people know that you appreciate their support. Saying thanks can humanize your business and help build the trust you need to build customer relationships.
Property Minder, San Jose, California
13. Holiday announcement
A successful holiday email promotional plan will include a mix of announcements, reminders, and thank you emails.
Think about the big things you’re promoting this season. For some businesses it may be an annual holiday sale or event, or it could be a new line of products for the holidays.
You can use a holiday announcement to get the word out early, and start the season off on the right foot.
Gourmet Coffee Service, Van Nuys, California
14. Holiday video
Add some personality to your holiday emails with a special holiday video.
You can use video to go behind the scenes and let people know how you’re preparing for the holiday season. You can also showcase your employees or just use the video to say thanks for a great year.
Awesome Merchandise, Wellington Bridge, Leeds
Bonus tip: Smartphones make it easy to create professional-looking videos on a budget. Here are 6 examples of videos you can create without spending a dime.
15. Tie in social media
Offer people multiple ways to connect with you this holiday season.
In addition to traditional methods like phone or email, you can also encourage people to connect with you on social media.
The Basketry, Luling, Louisiana
Bonus tip: Even if you don’t have an e-commerce side to your business, you can still use social networks like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook to showcase your different gift ideas. Consider creating a special board of gift ideas on Pinterest and promoting it to your email list.
16. Black Friday offer
Black Friday isn’t just for the big-name retailers. As a small business, you can create a special Black Friday offer and take advantage of the rush around the holiday shopping weekend.
This year Black Friday takes place on November 25!
Cape Fear Aesthetics, Fayetteville, North Carolina
Bonus Offer: Constant Contact’s holiday email templates make it easy to promote your Black Friday offer. You can customize the email to fit your brand and quickly add details about your deal.
17. Look ahead to the New Year
If you don’t have a lot going on during the holidays but have big plans for 2015, you can use the holidays to promote your upcoming activities. Use online registration to make it easy for people to sign up in advance.
Bisque Imports, Belmont, North Carolina
18. Last minute reminders
Don’t forget to factor your last-minute email reminders into your holiday planning. You can come up with a list of last-minute gift ideas and promote them in the days leading up to the December holidays. Or help customers find last-minute decorations for their holiday parties.
Floral & Hardy of Skippack, Skippack, Pennsylvania
19. Gift certificates
Don’t forget to offer gift certificates as a gift idea this holiday season. This can be especially effective later in the season when people are looking to pick up last-minute gifts.
Cotton Clouds, Safford, Arizona
20. Celebrate your success
Were there certain projects or achievements that really stood out for your business in 2015?
For a nonprofit organization like Build it Green! NYC, showing their different successes allows them to tell their story and motivate supporters, donors, and volunteers.
Build it Green! NYC, Astoria, New York
21. Holiday event
Hosting a holiday party is the perfect way to thank employees and customers for their continued support all year long. After all, they are the backbone of your business and you want them to know just how much you care.
Galuppi’s, Pompano Beach, Florida
22. Gift packages
Put a holiday wrapping around some of your products and services to create special gift packages.
You can create packages that are unique to your different audiences, and add value without adding a discount.
Treetop Yoga Studio, Gloucester, Massachusetts
23. Early bird offer
Plan a special offer for “early bird” shoppers and promote it to your email list. Here’s an example of how 3 Kittens Needle Arts promotes Small Business Saturday shopping to their subscribers.
3 Kittens Needle Arts, Mendota Heights, Minnesota
24. Share a story
The holidays are a great time to make a more personal connection with the people who support your business. Share a story about how your family celebrates the holidays.
Adding a personal touch to their holiday newsletter resulted in Second Bloom Design’s biggest order of the holiday season.
Second Bloom Design, Dorchester, Ontario
25. Shipping deadlines
People need all the help they can get when it comes to keeping track of important dates and deadlines during the holiday season. Email is one of the most reliable tools you can use to notify your audience about any important deadlines.
Taza Chocolate, Somerville, Massachusetts
26. Affordable gift ideas
Help people find the perfect gift on a budget with an email that shows off some of your affordable gift ideas. This is a great way to bring people into your store so that you can show off all the other great products you have to offer.
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire
27. Local gift ideas
There are a number of benefits of shopping small during the holiday season. Use these benefits to your advantage. Show off the personal touch your business offers, and encourage people to “beat the crowds” by shopping small.
Nashoba Valley Winery, Bolton, Massachusetts
28. Photo contest
Contests are a great way to celebrate the holidays with your biggest fans. Boston-based burger restaurant Tasty Burger, created a fun “12 Days of Ugly Sweater” contest, and encouraged people to share their best photos on social media. This is a great way to engage your audience and have some fun during this busy time of year.
Tasty Burger, Boston, Massachusetts
29. Fundraising campaign
Celebrate the “Season of Giving” by supporting one of your favorite organizations. You can donate a portion of your sales, or come up with different ways that encourage people to interact with your business and donate.
The Avenue Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia
30. Giving Tuesday
Giving Tuesday is a national day of giving, following the busy holiday shopping weekend.
This year, Giving Tuesday is on November 29!
If you’re a nonprofit, you can take advantage of this important day by running a fundraising campaign.
Gorilla Doctors, Davis, California
Hopefully, these 30 ideas will get you inspired to plan your own holiday email:
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2014 and has been updated for relevancy and accuracy.