Unless you run a pumpkin farm, chances are autumn brings a dip in business along with the drop in temperature. Many consumers take a spending breather after the expenses of summer vacations and back-to-school season, and before the traditional holiday cash hemorrhage begins.

The good news is that many of your competitors will likely take a bit of a marketing break, too. They’ll reserve their creativity, zest, and drive for the upcoming holiday season. That means you’ll have less competition to catch consumers’ interest with your stand-out autumn marketing tactics!

Here are 10 clever autumnal email marketing subject lines, themes, topics, and tips to help your small business reap the lion’s share of the harvest this fall:

  1. Create and promote your own pre-holidays holiday. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa will soon grab all the attention. Before the traditional holiday frenzy hits, cook up your own promotional holiday. For example, a florist or nursery could stage a “First Mums of the Season” event. Clothing stores could sponsor a winter clothing sale and dub it “Sweater Weather Week.” Have a hardware store? Present a “Before the First Snowflake Falls” sale on must-have items like shovels and driveway salt. Promote your special events with great email subject lines.
  2. Invite customers to “rake in” the savings with a contest. Autumn leaves look lovely on trees — not so much on your lawn and driveway. People are going to be out there raking away, so why not invite them to rake in the savings, too? Send out an email announcing a contest in which participants enter by submitting a photo of themselves raking leaves. Offer prizes for categories like the prettiest, funniest, and hardest working. Sweeten the deal by offering an email coupon for a discount or freebie to everyone who enters.
  3. Personalize Thanksgiving with a personal thanks. Thanksgiving seems to straddle the border between fall and winter, but whatever season you assign it to, it’s a great time to show your customers you appreciate their business. The week before Thanksgiving week (because no one really works or looks at email the week of Thanksgiving), send out personalized thank you emails. If possible, go beyond simply inserting the customer’s name in your subject line and greeting. For important customers, it would be worth it to specifically mention something you’re grateful for — “Your purchase of 500 cases of premium widgets helped make our summer great and we’re thankful for your business!” Or, try segmenting your email marketing list based on spending patterns and send customers emails with discount codes or coupons relevant to their purchasing habits.
  4. Ask customers to help you celebrate your small self! Small Business Saturday falls on Nov. 26 this year. The annual day celebrates the contributions small businesses like yours make to the national economy and local communities. Celebrate the day with a sale and ask customers to stop in and say hello. Send an email encouraging them to like the Small Business Saturday Facebook page.
  5. Stage a fall premiere costume contest. TV devotees find fall an exciting time as many of their favorite shows return for new seasons and new programs join network lineups. Use email to announce a costume contest, and invite customers to dress up as characters from their favorite fall premiere shows. Set up a portal on your website where participants can submit photos of themselves in costumes and site visitors can vote on the best one.
  6. Get involved in politics — safely! Taking a stand in politics can be risky business, but promoting greater participation in the democratic process can be a win for your small company. It’s as simple as sending out an email before election day letting people know that anyone who comes into your store wearing an “I voted” sticker on Nov. 8 will receive a gift. It could be a small token with your business name on it, such as a stress ball (and after the 2016 election, lots of people will need to relieve stress), or a coupon for savings on a future purchase.
  7. Help out with “how-to’s.” Autumn brings a lot of questions for people. What’s the best type of backpack for my kindergartener? How do I know how much turkey I’ll need for my Thanksgiving dinner party? What’s the safest way to shovel snow and not hurt my back? How do I winterize my house, boat, or car? Depending on your type of business, chances are you can help answer some of those questions. Send out informational emails with “how-to” explanations for topics that relate to your business. For example, a restaurant could offer advice on how to roast (and reheat) the perfect turkey. A spirits seller could offer advice on how to pair wine perfectly with favorite holiday foods. A pest-control company could provide information on keeping mice and other critters out of your home during cold weather.
  8. Promote “You’re Welcome Day.” Practically everyone will have a Black Friday promotion (you probably will, too), but you can also roll out something different by celebrating “You’re Welcome Day,” which is observed nationally the day after Thanksgiving. After everyone has said “thanks,” it seems only polite to respond: “You’re welcome.” Use email to announce the warm welcome you’ll give Black Friday shoppers — in the form of discounts, coupons, free in-store refreshments, giveaways, and more.
  9. Score with a football-related promo. Fall is the season that marks the return of football — both live-action and fantasy. You can do your own version of a fantasy football league by adorning emails, your Facebook page, or your blog with a link that takes users to a web page where they can enter their email addresses, pick their favorite teams, make score predictions, and more. In addition to the pride of competition, sweeten the deal by offering rewards for customers who make accurate predictions.
  10. Tease them with what’s ahead. To quote Game of Thrones House Stark, “winter is coming.” Smart small business owners plan their holiday promotions well in advance. Why not send out an email that teases customers with tidbits of information about upcoming sales, promotions, events, and celebrations? It’s a way to build excitement among your customer base for the holiday season!

Autumn promotions can be just as hot for business as spring and summer email marketing efforts. All you need is some creativity and a great email list.