You know the holidays are approaching when your inbox fills up with red and green messages from businesses all over.

As a small business owner, how can you make your email messages stand out from the crowd?

Well-designed emails will always stand out (in a good way), but over the holiday season, it’s especially important to pay attention to design basics so that your emails get the results you’re aiming for.

Today’s post will provide you with five design rules to help you plan and implement a successful holiday email campaign.

Rule 1: Subtle is best

Don’t go overboard with holiday colors.

When everyone else is painting their emails red, green, and gold, don’t be afraid to pick a different color palette. You want your promotion to stand out, not blend in with everything else in your reader’s inbox.

You also want your email to look like it’s coming from your business. So stick to your brand colors and fonts, and simply incorporate holiday imagery that makes sense for your product or service (more on images below).

Rule 2: Make your messages clear and easy to read

Use good email design practices to create easy-to-read messages.

But don’t stop there.

Decide what you’ll emphasize in each message. Will it be price? Selection? What solution does your product or service offer? Know your emphasis ahead of time so you can use design to highlight your main message.

Your main image should communicate benefits, not features. If you’re selling wood stoves, for example, don’t show an image of a stove at the top of your email — show people basking in the warmth of a stove. That’s selling the benefit of the stove.

Rule 3: Let your website do the heavy lifting

Your email should entice and engage, and your website should help them buy.

The holidays are a very busy time of year, and your readers have less time than ever to process the messages in their inbox. Help them by creating and sending lean, concise emails.

Don’t stuff your message full of all your offers: give readers just enough to motivate them to click through to your site to place their orders.

TIP: To make your holiday emails short and sweet, keep your email to one point only. In the body of your email use; a single image, an appropriate header, brief copy, and a clear call-to-action button. Your readers will thank you.

Rule 4: Use good marketing principles, and use design to highlight them

Design can help you make the sale if you use it to highlight the right things.

Urgency and scarcity motivate people to place an order. So if your sale ends on a specific date, or quantities truly are limited, highlight this information by making it larger, bolder, brighter.

Rule 5: Pick a style and stick to it

Once you’ve established a look for your holiday emails, don’t deviate in the middle of the campaign.

People are dealing with more messages than usual during this time of year. Don’t confuse them by sending messages with completely different visual styles.

Pick a look that works for you, and is versatile enough to see you through the whole holiday season, then use it consistently until your holiday promotions are finished.

Follow the rules…

And, you’ll have beautiful promotional emails that will stand out this holiday season.