‘Tis the season…for harried shoppers, dubious door-busters and incessant advertising. It’s the holidays! What does a small business have to do to stand out at this time of the year?

Email marketing, for one thing. Here are three tips for making sure your emails shine brightly in readers’ inboxes, and some holiday email inspiration to help shape your own campaigns.

1. Be mobile-friendly

We say this a lot, and with good reason. Since more than half of all emails are opened on mobile devices, everything you send to your readers needs to be easily viewable on a small screen. Fortunately, VerticalResponse makes this a snap — all our email templates are designed to be mobile-responsive.

2. Time your email messages for maximum impact

Everyone is bombarded at the holidays. Work parties, family obligations, travel schedules and ceaseless advertising constantly vie for our attention. Create your campaigns with an eye toward the busy reader. Send announcements about your seasonal specials early, and then send reminders as they approach. Take a look at your past campaigns and see when your readers tend to open your emails most frequently; then time your campaigns to go out during those same days and hours.

Scheduling your email messages is never a chore when you incorporate Email Automation. This way you create your campaigns ahead of time, and then schedule them to go out when you want them to. That frees you up to tend to other holiday-related business matters.

3. Send discounts or coupons

Everyone loves a good deal, and never more so than during the holidays. Make your emails — and your business — irresistible by advertising exclusive discounts or by inserting coupons into your messages. Amplify the savings even more with social media posts. Don’t hesitate to set up Landing Pages that provide more details about the deals or specials, or simply to collect visitors’ contact information.

Some of our favorite holiday emails


Subject line: Explore holiday deals before Black Friday

Offering early access to holiday deals, this email from Amazon starts the countdown to Black Friday by offering new limited-time deals every day until the big event. Why wait for Black Friday, Amazon asks its customers, when you can get seasonal specials now? This is a time-honored retail tactic that your small business can easily take advantage of.

Todays Amazon Black Friday specials


Subject line: Spoiler Alert: You’ll save REALLY big on these holiday deals.

Similar to Amazon, Dell offers early holiday deals to its subscribers. Here, bold colors and eye-catching imagery drive home the seasonal feeling while keeping readers scrolling down to see the deals.

Dell holiday deals

Blick Art Materials

Subject line: Two words: Holiday Sale!

This venerable art supply retailer goes with a teaser approach for one of its initial holiday emails. The short and punchy subject line grabs the reader’s attention, and the body of the email is equally to the point. Using very few words and striking graphics, it tells subscribers to stay tuned for more details on the upcoming holiday sale. The sale dates are listed, there’s an invitation to watch the inbox for more, and then a can’t-miss-it store finder and one quick mention of Blick’s long history. Holiday emails don’t get much more straightforward (or easier to replicate with your own business) than this.

Blick holiday teaser

Williams Sonoma

Subject line: Up to 40% Off—Get a Head Start on Holiday Baking!

At the other end of the spectrum is Williams Sonoma, the California-based cookware retailer. Unlike Blick’s minimalist approach, Williams Sonoma opts to load up this holiday email with discounts and helpful content. Right off the bat, the subject line promises a sale and a way to get a leg up on the holidays, and immediately the body of the email announces a limited-time discount ending that day.

Williams Sonoma holiday email coupon

Scroll a little further, and the retailer offers “Thanksgiving Baking Essentials,” i.e., items that the reader absolutely needs to have to make Thanksgiving a success. Williams Sonoma is generous with its discounts — nearly everything appears to be at a reduced price — and there’s a wealth of photography to make the items pop.

Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving essentials

Williams Sonoma isn’t finished just yet. Near the bottom of the email, the reader arrives at the Guide to Pie, which promises to teach everything one needs to know to bake “the perfect pie this holiday season.”

Williams Sonoma Pie Guide

Although many could argue that Williams Sonoma’s email is overly long and overly busy, the retailer was able to squeeze multiple discounts, a sense of urgency and helpful content into one hardworking email. When creating your own holiday campaigns, feel free to try this approach or to separate these types of messages into several shorter emails.

As you can see from these examples, there’s no one right way to make your emails stand out this holiday season. See what works with your readers.