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Nov. 20, 2020

Email Promotions You Can Immediately Use During Black Friday with Chris Schelzi

Email Promotions You Can Immediately Use During Black Friday with Chris Schelzi
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Looking for more ideas for this year's Black Friday email promotions?

In this episode, Andy is joined by Chris Schelzi of Inbox Heroes to discuss mistakes and best-practices when it comes to your Black Friday email promotions.

Stay tuned to the entire episode to listen to Chris outline a simple, but effective Black Friday email funnel.

For those interested, you can contact Chris by emailing him at or within the Make Each Click Count Facebook Group.


Andy Splichal is the World's Foremost Expert on Ecommerce Growth Strategies. He is the acclaimed author of the Make Each Click Count Book Series, the Founder & Managing Partner of True Online Presence and the Founder of Make Each Click Count University. Andy was named to The Best of Los Angeles Award's Most Fascinating 100 List in both 2020 and 2021.

New episodes of the Make Each Click Count Podcast, are released each Friday and can be found on Apple Podcast, iHeart Radio, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts and


Andy Splichal  0:52  

Welcome to the Make Each Click Count podcast. This is your host, Andy Splichal. And today I am being joined by a special guest to discuss your email marketing during Black Friday. He represents a company called Inbox Heroes. Inbox Heroes is an email marketing team behind many, six and seven figure ecommerce launches. And in the last five years, they've generated over 5 million in revenue from email and SMS marketing. A big welcome to Chris Schelzi. Hello, Chris.


Hey, Andy, thanks so much for having me. Good to talk to you again.


Yeah, glad to have you on. Now, before we dive into today's topic of email promotions, that you can immediately use for Black Friday. Let's hear your backstory and how Inbox Heroes came to be.


Sure. Yeah, so I've been working in digital marketing and all different facets for about a decade now. And so as the team behind this in various capacities, so inbox Heroes is actually the the newest name that we're operating under. But yeah, we worked on a lot of different campaigns and finally made it official this year. So we're super excited. We've been working with, you know, clothing companies, software companies like training, nutrition, all sorts of E commerce companies. And it's been a it's been awesome doing been doing very well. And so we've been, we've been really lucky to help people out.


Great. Well, today, it's a very timely topic is many listeners are getting ready for Black Friday and their holiday promotions. And although I myself have quite a bit of experience writing holiday email promotions, this experience dates back six or seven years before I started to online presence and, and I was working as a director of marketing for a substantially sized e-commerce company. So since you are currently on the frontline of email marketing, I thought you would be a great guest to discuss some current trends and what's working today. How does that sound?


Yeah, absolutely.


Let's do it. Okay, great. Well, to start with, seems everybody is sending out or planning to send out emails on Black Friday, what are some of the biggest mistakes that that you've seen with somebody running a Black Friday promotion?


Yeah, there's, there's a handful of them. And some of them might not be very helpful for this year, since we're very close to the actual date. But one of the biggest ones that I see is starting early. And that's something that throughout all the Black Friday promotions that I've been a part of this is the thing that we continually strive to start earlier and earlier, every year. An easy example of that is with Facebook ads. So it can get more expensive to do ads closer to Black Friday, because there's just more people running ads, because it's one of the biggest days if not the biggest day of the year, online as well as for in store shopping, probably a lot more online this year, which is going to make it that much more expensive. So starting early for things like that. But besides ads just mapping out the whole campaign. So I would say I mean, three months is a good amount we started probably six months earlier this year, in previous years, we've done you know, the month of but mapping out some of the high level pieces. So what's the actual promotion you're gonna be running? Is it 50% off site wide? Is it for specific products? Are there going to be bonuses? If people spend a certain amount? How long is it going to run for? Is there going to be just Black Friday? Is it going to be for the whole week? Are you going to do Cyber Monday? What Cyber Monday gonna look like? How are you going to incentivize people are you gonna have a theme, all of those types of things. If you nail those early, it's like, if you are going to write a book, like a how to book, you're not going to sit down and just start on a blank page, you want to map out the outline first. And if you do that, it makes the kind of filling out of the campaign a lot easier. So if you don't, the discount is you know, the timeline it's going to run for in all of that. And you get that locked in. Then it's just creating emails, creating landing pages, and it's pretty piecemeal. It's kind of plug and play at that point. So if you do that kind of the hard work upfront, it makes it a lot easier as you get closer to the date.


Sure, no, that makes a lot of sense. Now when you're mapping stuff upfront, do you map your email headlines and what kind of value do you put on on the email subject lines?


Yeah, so so that would be something that would be mapped out probably a bit closer to the date once that higher level campaign is established, like how you're going to do that a great tool actually is fun analytics. I don't know if you're familiar with that. But that's something I've enjoyed for particularly for flows from like, ads to landing page to email and things like that Funnelytics, is really cool to just visually see, you can map out what it's going to look like. But in terms of email headlines, I think they're, they're absolutely important. But similar to what I was saying earlier, one of my favorite people online is for meat Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. And he talks a lot about like doing the pre work, like we were just saying. So if you're going into a job interview, it's less about saying the perfect things at that moment, it's about the week or the month leading up to that, where you kind of establish like you learned about the company and you. And so when it comes to doing this online, it's like if you already have loyalty and trust with your audience, then you're going to do well. And if you don't, even the best subject in line isn't going to be very helpful for you. But that said, I think Neville Medora, he says you want to be clear before you're clever. And I think that's a really good way of looking at it is don't try to have the most clever headline, if it's not super clear, start with clarity, and then you can kind of jazz it up from there. So it could just be 50% off the whole site or something like that. Another little piece that I liked that picked up at a email marketing conference on Australia was one of the speakers there said, she found that if you just put in, like at the end of your subject line, in parentheses, if you just say inside, it can really boost open rates. So you can split test something like 50% off site wide or 50% off sitewide inside, and it kind of makes them think they have to click into the email to get access to it. And then you can kind of boost your emails that way. 


That's interesting. You know, we would when I was a director market, we would always split test a third of the list about two hours before and then send to the rest of it. And every year for like seven or eight years, the same email, headline one and it was shush. Sh h h h exclamation mark our 40% Black Friday sale it started. It was amazing. We tested everything against it. And nothing could beat that headline. Do you? Do you have any headlines that you have found, you know, that are just hard to beat that listeners might consider besides that one?


Yeah, you know, I don't have a specific one off the top of my head. I mean, I remember I was reading something and they said one of the the highest converting open rate is Fu, but it's not necessarily the best one to get high opens it's real specific to the company, is what I found. And I'm curious, did you see like, was it a very big difference between this this subject line you're talking about in the other ones? Or was it marginal? And I'm not asking a leading question. I'm generally genuinely curious.


Yeah, you know, it was pretty substantial. The Black Friday one always seem to have an open rate. And we mail pretty often. So our open rate was back in the day huge. I mean, it was 40 - 45% for Black Friday, but the next one down, our number was maybe 35 or 30. So it was it was substantial. 


For sure. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I think AB testing is obviously awesome for email. I find that the smaller the company is, the less important it's going to be just because it's going to be lower on the priority. So you want to nail all of these other pieces. And then if you have the time, and you can do that, that's great. It's a great place to like work on optimization, but it's definitely not where I would where I would start with some of this stuff. If you if you have a short really good overall plan, mapped it out. And then you lock in those headlines like that's, that's how you crush it.


Right? And I think it's also depends on your list size, right? So you have to have a big enough list to make it worthwhile. Now beyond the email headlines, what value do you put on the actual promotion?


Yeah, I mean, for e commerce, the bigger is always going to be for me, personally, I have a list on my computer of just like all of the kind of big ticket items that I want to buy, that I kind of store for Black Friday, kind of starting in July, I'll start thinking about like, oh, I want to buy this thing. That's a couple $100 Like, I'm just gonna add it to the list and see if that goes on sale for Black Friday. So the bigger the better there. But, you know, obviously depends on what the margins are for the company and how that's going to work out for them and what their goals are. But in terms of like a specific email, sketch one out if we wanted to walk through that a little bit for what kind of a typical black friday flow could look like for established company.


Sure. Yeah. No, that sounds great. Before we do that, I just couple more quick questions. How many times do you consider it appropriate to email your customer base regarding a promotion, specifically a Black Friday promotion?


Yeah, I do. You see, specifically Black Friday, I do differentiate with that, because it is kind of all hands on deck for it, I think people are expecting to get more emails, and it is, it is very aggressive the way other companies are. So just to stand out, you kind of have to, you know, play that game to a degree. It's not sustainable, obviously, for all year round, but I think for Black Friday, it's not going to turn people off for that for that period for that week, just because they are expecting it. They're getting it from other companies. And they are looking for these types of sales during this period. So I don't think that unless you're going way overboard, like probably dozens of emails, I think you're I think you're okay, I typically do, we'll say like, six to 12 emails, 12 is probably on the higher end. If you're doing like the week of Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, I think probably like seven or eight emails is a good place to be depending on what you're offering. And if you have new things dropping throughout the promotion versus just like general promotion across the board.


Sure. Now, does it depend on per client? Are you sending like, you know, typically one a day a couple a day, or just depends if you're dropping new sales or, or just changing?


Yeah, it will depend on like the actual list for it. So we're usually separating out at least based on like active customers versus people who are like on the list, but they're not engaged. So engaged versus passive. People who don't email might get or people who don't open an email might get you know, another bump email of the original launch email a bit later into the campaign, because you kind of want to know where people are at in the funnel. Some companies will work with have like VIP list where they're on a subscription, where they get early access to they'll kind of there'll be early access emails that go out to them, and the general access emails for the rest of the list. But yeah, if it's the most basic accompanies, you're doing kind of like a 20% off site wide, you can get away with a lot less emails, if you have more flows and funnels and audiences, it definitely can get more complicated from there.


Sure, sure. Okay. Now, what I kind of wanted to ask you about as well is SMS. And you know, six or seven years ago, it wasn't a thing. You know, now it seems in especially this year, it seems like companies and be getting more and more aggressive using SMS is a piece of their marketing. Have you been incorporating to that? And what kind of results have you been seeing?


Yeah, so this is actually one of the appetite the second the first year, we've really gone hard with SMS, I've done a bit of it in the past, I would say if you have an audience, kind of the target audience under, I would say around 35, it's like, if your audience is on Instagram, then probably SMS could be a cool thing for you to play around with. There's there's less traffic, it's more personable, and it gets a lot higher click through rates, we'll see probably like, if our emails are getting like one to 5%, click through rates, SMS can get six to 10%, or something like that. And it's also a lot easier to set up. But with that is kind of the double edged sword, where what I'll see people do wrong with SMS is they write it like an email, or they write it like a company, and it is its own channel. And it needs to be seen as that it's not just a shorter email. So I think people want to try out SMS and they're unsure of how to write it, it's like open up your phone, open up a text message and write like one or two sentences that you would send to a friend for this promotion. And I do the same thing for reading email. If I'm stuck, I go into Gmail, I open up a blank email and I start writing it there, I don't go into like Klaviyo or MailChimp and write it there. Because you really want to be creating it in the context that somebody would be receiving it. And a great resource for this is actually, there's a company called The Nudge, the CEO is John Peterson. And they basically text people, events and things like that, that are going around in their city, they write really, really good SMS copy. So I recommend people sign up for The Nudge, no affiliation there, I'm just a really big fan of kind of, they really do a great job getting into the mind of the person receiving it. And when I was when I was talking with John, he said like, that's exactly what they'll do is they always start the SMS, like meeting the customer, where they're at, it's about them. It's not about you as a company or what you're doing. It's like, Hey, you're probably sitting at home right now, like just finished cleaning your house, you're stuck during quarantine. And you're wondering, wondering what to do next, like things like that. So yeah, I think SMS is great. It is a bit more expensive than email. But so you kind of got to measure that against the ROI. If you're getting more click throughs. And it's a better connection with your audience. And it also saves a lot more time. You can put in one image in one or two sentences, and it's a lot, you know, a lot more lightweight than it is doing email. Sure. Yeah.


No, that's some great advice. Now, do you have a somebody's trying to get some different ideas, a sample campaign funnel, you could run through your Black Friday


So for Black Friday and I guess this is and other kind of going back to what we talked about earlier. Yeah, I wouldn't call it a mistake. But we used to do just Black Friday 24 hours only. And a lot more companies and us included with the companies will work with is expanding that out. And just taking advantage of the whole week, it's kind of, you know, why limited to one day if everyone else is doing a full week, and you can do a full week, and there's not much to lose, and there's a lot more to gain. So I think if people aren't already doing that, and if they're just planning on the big day of Black Friday, at least exploring the idea of starting kind of on Monday, where it's similar to like the Facebook ads, you're kind of getting ahead of it, you're giving more opportunity for people to come across this sale, and build up momentum and get them to share it and all of that. And I would also recommend, if you're doing Cyber Monday, making Black Friday, the biggest deal and having Cyber Monday be a bit less. So if you're doing 30% off on Black Friday ends at midnight, then Cyber Monday it can be 20% off. But I do find it odd when it's when it's either the same or better, because people who then buy it on Black Friday feel a little punked by the end of it. They're like, Hey, you kind of said it was last chance. And now I can't really trust you because you just extended. I think I think honesty in your marketing is is really important. So you're having the biggest sale of the year. And it ends tonight have it in tonight in do a lesser sale later on.


So why I think I know the answer. But But why do you recommend that Black Friday be a bigger discount than Cyber Monday for a commerce company?


Yeah, I mean, I just think having it doesn't necessarily have to be, but I think being honest in your marketing. And so I see a lot of companies saying like, hey, this ends tonight, 50% off, and then you get the email the next day. And it's like it did so well, we decided to extend it and I just kind of find it scammy it leaves a it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. And I just think a lot more people are online on Black Friday, though, set aside time on Black Friday to like, go through their lists and go through their email and buy all the things they want to buy. So you're kind of hitting them right at that point of like, peak opportunity. And, and yeah, and then Cyber Monday can be a great kind of like cleanup crew. But But I would I do recommend doing that on on Black Friday having that. What are your thoughts?


You know, I had another question or thought it was kind of interesting. And I don't know if anybody really is going to know the answer to it. You know, six or seven years ago, when I was heavily involved in email, Black Friday used to really be the day where, you know, you'd get a little bit of, of people shopping online. But tons of people were going to the stores, right? And then it was Cyber Monday was so I mean, you know, six or seven years ago, Cyber Monday used to be two to three times bigger than Black Friday online. Now this year, where they're saying that, that at least 50% of online holiday shopping is going to be done online. You know, who knows what's going to happen? So it's kind of a mystery. But have you seen in the last few years, Black Friday be bigger or equal? Or how have you seen it being compared to Cyber Monday?


You bring up a great point. And I guess my response was basically, I haven't really worked with any brick and mortar only companies. So yeah, I didn't even really think about that. But that's 100%, right? I mean, so much more of this has been shifting online. And so Cyber Monday was like the online version of the in, like in store deals that you were getting on the previous Friday. But so much of this is taking place online now. And I think this year, obviously in particular, I bet this is probably across the board, brick and mortar, and online, this is my prediction is that it's going to be the highest Black Friday revenue of all time just combined. I think a lot more of it's going to take place online, but across the board, I think they're gonna more than make up for it just because it's easier to buy stuff online. I think there is a lot of kind of pent up spending that people have going into the holidays and just being at home and all of that. So So I mean, we'll see. But yeah, I think people are kind of primed for Black Friday. And all the companies are kind of positioning this as Black Friday. No one calls it Cyber Monday. They're like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It's always kind of the appendage to it. So yeah, I mean, I think shoot your shot on Black Friday, and then do a little cleanup on Cyber Monday.


Sure. Now, when a company comes and ask you for advice on how they should promote or how aggressive they should promote. I know I have a few klenner the one client in particular, where they'll use Black Friday, just to clear out their clearance section which nobody buys anyway. And then they want to know why they aren't very successful on Black Friday. What what what kind of advice do you give your clients when they're when they're thinking about what to put on sale or or what kind of Black Friday promotion to run?


Yeah, I mean, again, it's whether it's SMS or email or figuring out the promotion You have to start with the customer in mind. Like, that's a huge mistake is assuming that they're just kind of people to take things off your hands for you. And that, you know, assuming your audience's stupid, and if you have the right subject line, they're gonna buy it, it's like, you really got to think of it is as your friend or your family or somebody like that, like, what would they be excited for? What would you be excited for? We were talking about this with some of the content we were putting together for for YouTube, where we were making videos, and we were seeing them weren't getting a whole ton of attraction. And that was kind of what we circled back to. It's like, what would you watch this? Like, if


Chris Schelzi  20:32  

 this popped up in your recommended? Would you watch it? And we're like, probably not. So let's let's rejigger that and really focus on it. So what are people excited about, they're excited about new products, or bringing back a best seller that ran out of stock. So it's like, if you can do that, and you have the ability to do that, it's gonna do a lot better than only selling, you know, the extra large shirts of the product that nobody wanted in the first place a 20% off. And it's like, you know, it'll probably sell better than it did. But it's really not going to be like, if you want to go big, and you want to do it right, you got to be coming up with something new and different. And being weird. Like we'll get, we'll get a little weird with our stuff and just kind of, like, make a theme around it, whether it's Western, or like cyberpunk, or whatever it is, like, get creative and have fun with it. Because because that definitely resonates with people in it. A lot of companies will brush that aside, and they kind of see it as like, branding is this tertiary thing that doesn't really have tangible value, but it couldn't be further from the case.


Andy Splichal  21:29  

Okay, that's great. Now, how do you what percentage of email versus SMS or are you using for your clients, during Black Friday week,


It's still I would say it's probably 60/40 70/30, email, the SMS. The way we kind of map it out is we map out all of the emails first. And then we see which ones would make sense to kind of send a tag along SMS, something we started doing where with one particular company, they were kind of sending their email and SMS at the same time were for like the same thing. So it's like 24 hours left, they send out the email at noon, and they send out the SMS at noon, spacing those apart, because you're kind of you're sending them at the same time, you kind of assuming you're gonna catch the person at both times, why not spread out that opportunity. So sending them whatever, an hour, a couple hours apart. That way, you're hitting them through two different channels. I'd probably say email first. And then SMS is kind of like a bonus round at the end. But yeah, it's still it's still primarily email. But I think I think it's going to keep going more and more in the direction of SMS. And I am, I am curious to see how the phones like Apple or whoever is going to handle this, as more companies start doing this, if there's going to be like folders and promotional tabs and all of that in, in your phone. But so far, it's been it's been pretty good. So I think it's going to keep shifting in that direction. As more people are on their phone emails are getting open more on the phone, anyway than they used to ever in the past. So I think it's just going more towards that direction for sure.


Now, does your SMS system, does it have the ability to segment out like, can you send email or SMS just to people maybe who didn't open their email or anything like that? Or is it your last in the entire group?


Yeah, it depends on the company. So one of the companies I'll use for emails is Klaviyo. And they have their own SMS built into it. So you can build which is actually really cool is you can build flows that incorporate both email and SMS. So it can be like, send this email, wait 15 minutes, send this SMS, if they like, don't click on this sms send this in, you can kind of batch them that way and have them play off each other, it's probably going to be harder. If you're using something like postscript on Shopify, and then MailChimp or they're not talking to to each other, there might be a way to integrate them with Zapier or something like that. I haven't personally done that. So I would say if you're interested in doing that, try to do it all on the same platform. So a company that does both email and SMS, it's going to make your life a heck of a lot easier.


I'm sorry, what ESP are using. Did you say? 




Klaviyo. Okay, great. What if there's possibilty, there's still time, if somebody is interested is working with you during the coming Black Friday?


Yeah, yeah, definitely people can, if you want to put my email in the show notes, people can for sure reach out to me. We can do anything from from creating emails, creating, designing and scheduling them getting them sent out. We're doing something more lightweight, where we just hop on and on our call and just kind of go through what people are planning what their promotions are, what their subject lines are, what the emails are, and give advice and feedback that way. So we're happy to do that. And in terms of actually starting early, we've been discussing for next year for 2021. In January, we're going to start taking on a couple clients where we're going to kind of do the the whole Black Friday planning and promotion starting very early in the year and getting all that locked in for people So if anybody's interested in that, I know it, it seems very far away. It's over a year away. But starting early is really going to set people up. So can also email about that if they're interested.


Okay, great. What is your email? And I'll make sure I put that in the show notes below.


Yeah, it's my name at Gmail. So it's


Okay, great. I will put that in there. And is there anything else before we go? That I might have forgotten to ask regarding Black Friday, or anything that listeners can do to improve their results? 


Um, well, I can let me let me run through the flow real quick. If 


I forgot to remind you


No problem.


Let's hear the flow ended.


All right, this is what I got. So I would say three to five days before the official launch, let's assume you're going to, I mean, that's kind of right now. So if you're going to start your launch on the Monday of Black Friday, I will get that email out today or tomorrow. Just hyping it up and teasing people in terms of like, what's coming, what they're gonna get, then Monday, do the launch email, send it send time is, I don't know, we play around with it, I don't have a specific time that I like somewhere in the morning, 10am, noon, something like that, send that launch email, then send a 72 hours left email, a 24 hours left email, and a six hours left email for Black Friday. And then when Cyber Monday starts, you can send an email for that. And then probably three hours before Cyber Monday and send another email there, that is a very basic high level flow that you can do. But if you're kind of thinking in terms of like, how do you space out these emails, I would keep the emails also very short. It's like give the most punchy thing that people want. And then let your website do the rest of the work. So look at it this way where it's like the subject line gets them to open it, there should be just enough content in the email to get them to the website and then the website should handle the sale. So don't try to stuff everything into the email where now people are you know, pause and they go open another tab because they haven't finished your reading reading the email, have a big nice graphic, have them click through go to the website and make the purchase. So I'll go through that. Real quick. Again, have a hype email couple days before launch email 72 hours,


so hate the interrupt. So the hype email you're you're not nothing's on sale yet. And you're just saying, Come and see. 


This is coming. Mark your calendars biggest sale of the year, new products dropping, anything like that, whatever you have. And then yeah, the launch email is just being like doors are open. It's go time like super excited. This is what's in stock, check it out, push them through. And then the 72 hours left the 24 hours and the six hours are all just like Time's running out. What are you waiting for? If they already purchased, maybe it's things that they they haven't purchased yet. Maybe there's what else can you do there? Yeah, yeah, I mean, recommending new products. I mean, if you're using Shopify and in Klaviyo are one of those tools that can do dynamic inserts of like products that they haven't bought yet or related products, you can do that. And then that's six hours left email is just where you're like, This is the last chance if you're if you are ending it on Black Friday, like the biggest sale of the year. It's not coming back for another year. Make sure you get in there 50% off whatever and just really, really hyping it up. It's all about hype and excitement and promotion in new things and getting people what they want.


Well, that's great. That is a solid funnel. Well cool. Well, that is going to be it for today. Remember, if you liked this episode, please go to Apple podcasts leave a five star review. And if you're looking for more information regarding Chris, you can email him through the email that I will put below in the show notes or you can reach him through the Make Each Click Count Facebook group. Chris is a member of the Make Each Click Count Facebook group so if you have questions directly for Chris, feel free and you can ask him there as well. Remember to stay safe, keep healthy and happy marketing and I will talk to you in the next episode.