[37] Holiday Planning: The Discount Balance – Email Growth Society

[37] Holiday Planning: The Discount Balance - How To Promo eMail Without Offering Another Discount


As the holidays approach, all we can think about is REVENUE! But what we don't want to do is over discount. Have you ever gotten emails from companies where every single one is a sale? Not. Good. Every time we send an email, we condition our recipients a little further. We are, after all, building long-lasting relationships with our email marketing. Because of this, holidays or not, we need to remember that there is a human being on the other end ready to open.

So while you are going to be offering some of the best sales of the year, remember that not all emails should be a sale. Think about how you can tie in educational, value-add moments that naturally relate back to a product. Gift guides, best gifts of XXX, things like that... work the best!

For this special holiday planning occasion, I am bringing back episode 5 that covers how to strike the discount balance. You'll want to take a listen ahead of go time.

Have questions? Email them to me: conversations@emailgrowthsociety.com.


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Holiday Planning: The Discount Balance - How To Promo eMail Without Offering Another Discount 

In this episode, I wanted to surface one of the first podcast episodes that was created, episode number five, which was all about the discount balance - how to promo emails without offering another discount. This is going to be so crucial as we head into the holiday season. A lot of you have been doing your planning. You probably have November and December already fleshed out. The truth is that while we can give our best discounts of the year on certain days at Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, a few times in December, we cannot start to blast promos every single time we send an email. There's still got to be a balance.

Before I move you into this episode, I want to set the stage. If you are a shoe company, then you've got your discounts ready to go, but there are so many other types of emails that you can send with a relevant educational package on them that are going to not have to have you throwing in 15% offs here, there and everywhere. It doesn't need to come across as a sale. For instance, maybe you do a gift guide. You show five different types of gifts that you can surface with the different types of shoes you sell.

What about the best gift for mom, significant other or sports enthusiasts? You can start to talk about why this type of group loves the shoes and then offer the shoes at the bottom. Try not to over-promo this holiday season. That's all I'm saying, but I'm going to let episode five illustrate this further. I hope you guys can strike that balance. Even though I always recommend an 80/20, maybe a 70/30 or 60/40. Either way, take a read and add this to your holiday planning list because it's super important.


I'm ready to rock a hot topic, especially for eCommerce and direct-to-consumer brands. It's the great discount balance. Before we do that, I wanted to make sure to update you on a few things. If you didn't listen to the bonus episode, May email ideas, I recommend it. It will give you some unique ways to stand out in your recipient's inbox, help to encourage sales, and integrate email with other channels, which is always a bonus.

Next, I'll also be offering an email intensive to help business owners of startups and small businesses get their email program started. This will be a live five-week course that will cover email goal setting all the way through setting up some life cycle programs and email campaigns. If you're interested, email me at Conversations@EmailGrowthSociety.com to be added to the enrollment waitlist.

If I have heard it once, I have heard it a million times. "We need more promos," said almost every company trying to sell a product or service. After auditing their email, that is all they have, 2 to 12 promos going out every month. Some are super cringeworthy too. No judgment if this is your brand. They have one deal that they are emailing out multiple times a month packaged with a different headline that correlates to the time of year.

The reality is that promos never offer value.

An example of this is maybe the discount is a BOGO on their product. They're using this BOGO every single email, but the headline is sometimes Stimulus Savings or Memorial Day Sale. With that said, let's do an exercise. I want you to think of a brand that has done this to you. Remove yourself out of the business owner, "I need to sell more of my product." Think closely at opening up your inbox and seeing promo after promo. How does this make you feel?

With my email marketing hat removed as a consumer, I find the emotions a bit overwhelming. First, I always feel like I should wait. If I wait, I am bound to get a better promo. Next, I get numb to seeing these. The brand pops up in my inbox and I delete it because they have conditioned me to know that there is only a promo in that email with no real value. Since I don't want to buy anything, I don't even need to look at it. Slowly, I will stop looking altogether.

This is what we call recipient conditioning. It is a huge factor in your email marketing success. Reconditioning is hard. You have to have the right balance with your email marketing to avoid being totally ignored, or even worse, getting spam complaints and having your email end up in the Gmail Promotions folder until the end of time. The balance lies in value. You have to serve up 80% value-oriented email and promotions offering discounts 20% of the time.

The reality is promos never offer value. I don't care how you want to swing this one, but they don't. The primary focus of a promotional email is to get the word out to potential customers or leads about your product or service. Common email promotions include coupons or other discounts, access to exclusive content or maybe, in the best-case scenario, add minutes to an invitation to the event. At the end of the day, you are looking for a direct response of some kind.

If you're hinging your email marketing success on a majority of promotional emails and offering discounts every single time, you are going to increase your list churn as users will begin to be conditioned to wait and potentially ignore as they will associate your brand with little value and always needing to buy something. To achieve balance, you can still do a promotional-style email without offering discounts. This should be your 80% of the time play, then 20% of the time you offer a fun and exciting discount that will get recipients excited.

Let's explore some ways to promo without offering discounts. The first is bundles. If you can take your products and bundle them somehow, for instance, maybe you're a supplement company and sell a variety of vitamins that can solve many different things. For instance, if you know your persona is looking for energy boosts, you could create an energy boost bundle by taking three of your products that would increase energy, bundling them for savings.


You can serve up an email that specifically talks about energy drains, the times of day and how to sustain balanced energy through the day and offer up this bundle at the end. That is a good way to add value, but not to come out and say, "Use this promo code DISCOUNT 15 at checkout." It adds value and the bundle is going to be great because they can see value in those products due to what you serve them up for content.

Next, we have relevance to the product. With that, we're talking about, "How can you use a time of the year, a day of the week or something that's important based on a calendar to align to your product?" Some of the May ideas were on this topic. For instance, May is Allergy Awareness Month. If you have the ability to align your product to reducing histamines, hypoallergenic properties, if you're gluten-free, soy-free or whatever, this is a perfect way to use relevance to the product. You can sell just as much by introducing your product under a relevant topic.

Perhaps there is something going on in the world that's a big deal. We could use the COVID pandemic. When it first hit, some companies were able to align products as a value-add for people to be able to see a lot of value in that product due to the relevance happening in the world at that time. This is a great way to move away from those crazy promotional emails. If you follow the show, I'll offer email tips ahead of the given month every month. Look ahead and see what's going on. Try to be agile and use the relevant topics to align your products to sell more products based on value.

The third way is educational topic to a product. You have got to sit down and jot your thought leadership uniques. That is one thing I always recommend to brands. If you know who your personas are, you need to start a content map of your persona in the center and then all of the topics, pains and challenges that they go through around that persona. You can go, "I can talk about this pain and here's the product that solves that pain." This is such a great way to serve up your product and brand but also to become a thought leader. The best part about this, I'll tell you a story.

I have a lot of clients that traditionally are on Amazon. You know the typical Amazon buyer is discount-motivated. You might be one yourself. That is how they are. They feel like they have some loyalty and discount being an Amazon customer anyway because of Prime and free shipping. A lot of times, the products are a little bit cheaper there, but when we serve up communications to Amazon customers, what we find in the research that we've done is that they respond well to promos.

They're like the group before in that you can't give in to that strategy just because you know they like promos because they don't buy frequently. We want to have people engaging with our emails, opening it up all the time. We want the engagement from the top at the open rate so we can get them to buy our product. You have to condition these folks to be better at opening the email so maybe the topic will resonate. When we do this migration, we're trying to get Amazon customers to start purchasing in Shopify or on the web.

As entrepreneurs, we want to have people engaging with our emails, opening them up all the time.

We see educational topics are the way to move these customers because for the first time ever, they've stopped looking at your product as, "I need a magnesium supplement, so I'm going to buy it at the cheapest discount on Amazon," to, "I got this email about all these tips and tricks about magnesium. Did you know I also needed B12 because the education was there?" My point is you should create a content map that allows you to understand all those pains. You can start writing these emails and it's super organic to layer in a product. That is a great tactic.

Another way to promo without offering discounts is through loyalty and reward points. You can do it certain times of the year. I know a couple of my clients do it every quarter. You can say, "You're going to get a loyalty or reward point. It's double the points this weekend for purchases of $50 or more." It's a nice way because you acknowledge the loyalty of the customer. People love getting a reward. One of the best promos out there is like, "Spend $50 and get a $10 gift card for every $50 you spend." It's because people like getting something back.

We always think that they want to save 15%, but giving them something back is great. In this case, you could do four times a year, "We're doing our double-triple loyalty reward points based on a purchase amount." In this email, you can offer user-generated content that shows the fan favorites of the month or the quarter. That's a good way. People love that stuff. They love seeing what others are doing with your products. It's a great idea.

Another simple way if you're going to run a promo, sometimes think about leaving your customers out of it. I know this sounds crazy, but I say this over and over in almost every episode. You have to have your list segmented into leads and customers. They have to be treated differently. We are looking for customers as a lifetime value. We can usually get our customers to purchase with all of the above tactics.

What we don't want to do with our customers especially is get promo fatigue with them. For instance, sometimes you know you're going to be running several promos for a month. Find a few that your customers can be left out of. You can do it for leads only in a conversion attempt to get them to purchase for the first time and move over to the customer side of the fence. This is an easy one. I want to bring it up so you guys can consider that.

Another one that's super easy to layer into an email is recommended for you based on your last purchase. I can't stress this enough. I know a lot of people are so scared to use dynamic content and dynamic elements. If you simply know that somebody purchased a set of earrings the first time, you can automatically set up a small flow that checks in on them within ten days or so, asking how they like their earrings and recommends a couple of products based on that earring purchase.



This is a good way of getting more products out there, getting in upsells and not throwing a discount code out there. We want to start to think that discount codes should be rare when we talk about them. Customers need to understand that this is the occasion to take advantage. Recommending for you based off your last purchase is a quick win. You can add this into even the bottom of emails every now and again. You would be amazed at how people love suggestions that feel like they're for them.

Another way is you can do product-specific flows. This is a good one. If you sell multiple products, you probably have a product that sells far more than your other products. For instance, some of these products, if we go back to the supplement example, we know that consistency with supplements is huge. We might want to layer in an email that talks about making sure they remember to reorder their original purchase.

We can create product flows that may be 6, 9 or 12 months long and contain a few different emails. They're very specific to checking in to see how they like the product they purchased, reminding them to reorder their purchase and giving them some education on five other ways they can use this supplement like, "Did you know that this supplement is great before a workout? It's great for a 3:00 PM energy boost."

You can give them other alternative ways. You can layer in what I mentioned before. You can have an email that says, "Based on your last purchase, here are a few other products that are recommended for you." You can also talk about Subscribe & Save if you have it. This is a perfect time to say, "Did you know that you can save time and money if you Subscribe & Save?" By creating this flow, this takes a little bit more of an upfront work lift, but this one is automated and will allow you to nurture this purchase path over time, which is nice for saving time. This is a nice way to consistently get objectives met by not having to offer a discount code.

Subscribe & Save is another good program. If you want to send an email out that can give you back lots of opportunities, it's through Subscribe & Save. If we can touch on the key solutions that Subscribe & Save solves, this is a great email. I like to send a Subscribe & Save email every so often to the people that have not yet taken up Subscribe & Save. We can segment users typically knowing who is a member of Subscribe & Save.

What we can do is we can remind those users that are still purchasing one time to join Subscribe & Save. This is another way where we can get some pretty significant purchases. The bonus here is it's recurring revenue and it's predictable. This is great. We think of Subscribe & Save like a membership. This is a way for an eComm or a D2C that's not membership-based to have a membership.

Even if we can just encourage the click to get people to our site, that's one more chance that we're going to get somebody to purchase.

Last but not least, you can always offer sale items in the nav or at the bottom of the email as a complement to the email. That's another way to promote items without having to offer discount codes. One of my favorite examples of this is Gap. It doesn't matter if they're talking about wearing purple for peace or showcasing a brand-new product launch in every single email. At the very bottom of the email, you always see a grid of images that shows their sales.

After looking at their email data, you can tell that that is an area where a lot of people click. Even if we can encourage to click to get people to our site, that's one more chance that we're going to get somebody to purchase. That's a good way to subtly layer in that purchase path without having to offer a discount code. Before I end this episode, let's bring this to life.

Remember that your cadence of how many emails you send per month will depend on feedback surveys and doing some testing. This will be covered in another episode. Let's hinge on the example of sending five emails per month, which is usually what I recommend for clients anyway as a starting point, imagining that we don't have any automated flows in place. All we're doing right now is sending five emails per month.

Let's put ourselves into a brand we all know, Nike. This is what their email calendar could look like. Week one, they sent an email, "How to reduce pain while running?" They offer educational tips on how to reduce the pain and then the products at the bottom are running shoes that were engineered to reduce injury. Week two, they have yoga fan favorites. This one can include some yoga tips while showcasing favorite yoga wear and user-generated content is included here.

Week three, they have members-only new merch unlocked. They're sending this email to members only. This is all of the new merchandise that members can jump in and purchase ahead of everybody else because they're a member. No discount is needed. Week four starts off the week by sending weightlifting tips and showcasing their Metcon shoes and product attributes as to why they support weightlifting goals. They then follow up with a Memorial Day Sale where they're offering 50% off select styles.

This is just a sample, but as you can see, Nike would be able to encourage purchases through value. It's a bonus if you can segment your audience based on purchase habits so you are getting relevant content to them always. As always, please let me know if you have any questions. You can always email me at Conversations@EmailGrowthSociety.com. Take some time to map out a few months of your content strategy, trying to achieve balance and moving towards the 80/20 model. Until next time. Happy emailing, everyone.

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