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Creating Promotional Email Campaigns with SFMC? Keep These 5 Strategies in Mind

Did you know that 72% of people prefer to receive promotional content through email? In comparison, only 17% would like to receive brand promotions th...

Did you know that 72% of people prefer to receive promotional content through email?

In comparison, only 17% would like to receive brand promotions through social media.

Furthermore, for every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI

So obviously, email marketing works.

But if email marketing continues to remain an effective method of contact for brand promotions, why do some brands struggle to implement it effectively?

The most successful promotional campaigns involve smart strategizing, thorough planning and picture-perfect execution, not to mention post-campaign analysis and continuous learning (and improvement). It also helps to keep some best practices in mind when planning, designing and sending promotional email campaigns. Read on to know more!

#1: Understand the difference between promotional and transactional emails

This one sounds like a no-brainer for experienced SFMC email specialists or email marketing professionals. But it’s worth mentioning, just the same.

Promotional emails and transactional emails are among the two most common types of emails sent out by brands. However, they have several differences to be aware of – especially if you’re new to the field, or if your brand is just starting to dip its toes into the email marketing ocean.

First, a promotional email focuses on customer acquisition, retention, and engagement. Next, it is usually timed and sent strategically to a group of contacts – either prospects or customers or both – and its purpose is to engage with recipients in order to persuade them to take a certain action. This could be encouraging them to make a purchase, register for a service, download an app, make an in-store visit, etc.

Here are a few examples:

On the other hand, transactional emails are about facilitating one-to-one interactions to complete a particular transaction (or process) initiated by a customer or subscriber. That’s why transactional emails are often time-critical.

Take a look at these transactional emails:

Here are the different kinds of transactional and promotional emails you can create with Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

CouponsRegistration confirmations/Welcome emails
DiscountsOrder confirmations
Limited time sale noticesPurchase receipts
Special offersAccount notifications, e.g., signups
One-off event invitesPassword changes/resets
Product updatesShipping information
NewslettersLegal/policy updates or notifications

Abandoned shopping cart messages

#2: Make it personal

People love promotions, so discounts, special offers, and free gifts are all great ways to impress your subscribers and convert them into loyal super-fans.

What people don’t appreciate is “cut-copy-paste” emails that start with “Dear User”, or include irrelevant content or expired promotions.

Every day, the average office worker receives about 120 emails.

To stand out among the crowd, your promotional emails need to be different and unique. And one of the best ways to achieve both goals is through personalization.

Personalized emails deliver 6X higher conversion rates compared to generic messages.

SFMC provides a plethora of tools like Email Studio, real-time marketing, and Einstein Artificial Intelligence to simplify your personalization goals. Use these tools and the below tips to personalize your email marketing campaigns:

  • Include a salutation with their first name to build a personal connection from the get-go
  • Add their first name to the subject line. Personalized subject lines increase open rates by 26%
  • Include a pre-header that supports the subject line (up to 100 characters)
  • Personalize the ‘from’ line so the recipient can identify you as the sender. Avoid using “no reply”
  • Include special offers or promotions that match their unique demographics (e.g., gender or location), or prior interaction/purchase history
  • Use dynamic content blocks and SFMC email templates
  • Provide real-time content with product recommendations or personalized product bundles

#3: Experiment with send times and frequency

When it comes to email marketing, the advantage usually lies with brands that focus on quality over quantity.

Every brand wants more opt-ins, more subscribers, more conversions, and more sales. But bombarding people with multiple promotional emails, say, with too many incentives, too much time pressure, or too many emails inside a drip campaign, is not the way to achieve any of these goals. In fact, “too many” is often “too much” – a sure-fire way to lose subscribers or be labeled as a “spammer”.

In general, sending the right emails at the right time and in the right number — rather than an avalanche of messages — can drastically increase your ROI.

Now, is there a “best” time to send marketing emails?

No, there isn’t. Instead of wasting time looking for one best time or day to send emails to everyone, find the best (or most optimal) time for each subscriber and email them accordingly.

In SFMC, Einstein Send Time Optimization (STO) in Journey Builder enables you to predict when each contact is most likely to engage with an email within the next 24 hours. It thus automatically determines the best time to send an email to a subscriber.

You can also use the Send Throttle feature in Email Studio to spread out email sends. This is an effective way of ensuring that subscribers are not overwhelmed by your brand’s promotional emails.

#4: Use segmentation effectively

You can target specific audiences with personalized messages using segmentation. In fact – you should!

When you segment your leads or customers based on certain relevant criteria, you set yourself up to target each group with the right message at the right time, rather than just casting a wide net with one single message – and hoping it works. This is crucial because people respond better to information that is relevant to them.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud offers many user-friendly tools, a rich data model, and powerful insights to help you segment your audience, and create hyper-targeted email campaigns. You can either create data filters or SQL queries in Email Studio, or you can create filters across data extensions and create more precise segments using Audience Studio.

With SFMC, you can create different audience segments based on different criteria, such as:

  • Demographics: Age, income level, gender, etc.
  • Behavior: Purchasing habits, brand interactions, website visits, etc.
  • Geography: Continent, country, city, etc.
  • Psychographic: Interests, attitudes, values, lifestyle, etc.

Segmentation is especially useful for sending promotional emails for:

  • Upselling or cross-selling
  • Re-engagement 
  • Special offers
  • Referrals

#5: Create a copy, visuals, and CTAs that resonate

Today, 84% of customers say brand experiences are as important as products and services. And these experiences include the emails they receive. Therefore, emails that are tailored to their needs and personalized for their enjoyment are more likely to garner engagement. And the best way to deliver hyper-personalized email experiences is via high-quality content, visuals, and CTAs.

With Email Studio and Salesforce Content Builder, you can create different types of emails tailored to each customer segment. Make use of readymade SFMC email templates to create engaging emails that subscribers will want to open and read, and use Einstein AI to create ‘predictive’ content.

You can also create interactive or real-time emails. With interactive content like image carousels and forms, your subscribers can enjoy a more engaging experience, which is more likely to keep them onboard for longer.

And with hyper-personalized, real-time content, your subscribers will get only what they actually want or need, every time they open an email from your brand.

Determine if one Salesforce email template with different modules will fit all your needs, or if you need to create different templates for different campaigns. Do include ALT text for all images and buttons. ALT text helps users understand what they’re reading, even if the HTML doesn’t render properly or if their email client blocks images by default.

Your CTA text can increase conversions by pushing readers towards a specific action and by giving them the choice to do so. Make sure you distinguish your CTA through color, placement, and text treatment. Experiment with buttons and links, and test both with A/B testing. Which one delivers better results? Tweak your campaign’s CTAs accordingly.

To optimize your CTA:

  • Be specific and unambiguous with your CTA copy
  • Use contrasting colors, but do follow your brand’s guidelines on colors and designs
  • Focus on the benefits to the reader
  • Optimize CTA for mobile

And last but not least, it’s critical to design mobile-optimized promotional emails.

Studies have found that 69% of mobile users delete emails that aren’t optimized for their device.

If your email campaigns are not mobile-optimized, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity for greater conversions, engagement, and even sales.

Tips to create mobile-ready email templates:

  • Test and fix broken links
  • Make sure images load properly
  • Make text readable and not cluttered, use white space
  • Make scrolling and navigation easy
  • Use short subject lines
  • Show CTA text clearly and above the fold
  • Create browser-agnostic emails

Wrap Up

Promotional emails are super-powerful, especially if you execute them in Salesforce Marketing Cloud. However, these emails require a careful analysis of the audience and extra attention to detail with respect to critical elements like copy, visuals, and send times. Try these 5 strategies for your next promotional email campaign, and if you need further help, do get in touch!

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Kevin George

Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing full-service email marketing companies. He is an email enthusiast at heart and loves to pen down email marketing content. You can reach him at or connect with him on LinkedIn.



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