Content vs Promotional Email Marketing Campaigns for E-comm

Content and Promotional Campaigns are equally important for businesses to grow. However, maintaining a balance between the two is what it all gets down to!

Robbie Fitzwater
Updated on

Learn to differentiate between content and promotional email campaigns. Engage your audience and drive conversions with personalized tactics.

For eCommerce marketers and business owners, the buildup to the holiday season and the planning of email campaigns can be somewhat intimidating. So much of this planning falls squarely on the email marketer, who is responsible for building anticipation, building a list, and converting it when it matters most.

The strategy needed for e-commerce email marketers and businesses in this window is completely different from the strategy for the year. Things can get a bit chaotic, and everyone is focused on maximizing their email marketing this season. And with the clock ticking until the holidays, there is no better time to start planning than now.



  hours  minutes  seconds


Black Friday

What we’ll cover:

  1. How to use content vs. promotional email campaigns in your marketing
  2. What is a content campaign?
    1. How to incorporate content emails into your email marketing?
  3. What is a promotional campaign?
  4. How do content and promotional email campaigns work together?
  5. How do we measure the success of your email campaigns?
  6. Conclusion

When asked about the difference between content and promotional campaigns, we tend to lean heavily towards content and believe in finding a sweet spot between both where we can share a lot of engaging, informative, and educational content with our audiences via campaigns because we’re big believers that email is an effective content distribution channel that can work no less well than any other marketing channel you use. 

And today, we’re going to talk you through our reasoning behind this and share with you the ways you can use it to get in front and engage with your audience. 

Without any further ado, let’s dive into it!

How to use content vs. promotional email campaigns in your marketing

Content campaigns provide value to our audience by offering them informative content. They engage the audience by providing more than what they asked for.

On the other hand, promotional campaigns are mainly concerned with promoting a product, announcing a sale, or an event that’s going to be a bit more transactional, with the purpose of selling or pushing them into making a purchase. 

But if we do one or the other too much, we will not be able to yield desired business results or outcomes. Ideally, we should aim to find a sweet spot for our business where content and promotional campaigns complement each other. This enables us to drive more revenue. Because, at the end of the day, if we’re not driving revenue, we’re not doing our job.

In a nutshell, that’s our perspective on the “content vs. promotional campaign” debate. In this blog, we want to walk you through our process of making this content-promotional mix to help you find the right cadence for each.

So, let’s have a look at it in detail.

What is a content campaign?

For e-commerce businesses, a content campaign allows you to add value beyond the transaction. It enables you to communicate with them and educate them without offering a discount or promotion. 

Usually, what we see is that groups start with the strategy of initiating their email marketing with a plan that looks something like this;

  • Week 1, we’ll offer 10% off
  • Week 2, we’ll offer 15% off
  • Week 3, we’ll offer 20% off
  • Week 4, we’ll offer 25% off

And then what? That’s a race to the bottom with no benefit in the long run. It’s not a strategy; in fact, it’s just a way of escalating!

So, it isn’t good because you’re essentially burning out your audience and training them to expect discounts and promotions. Ideally, we should use our emails and content to reach our audience, add value to them, and give ourselves an at-bat at any time. 

Depending on your business type and category, you may have multiple or replenishable products to offer. Still, we also know that you shouldn’t just provide them with those products, as I explained earlier. 

Instead, it would help more if you communicate with them and keep them informed and educated between those repurchase cycles. So that when they need to make that second purchase, we’re on the top of their mind and have differentiated ourselves to be the experts in that category. So naturally, their next step is to purchase from us.

Also, with content campaigns, another goal should be the monetization of content that we’re building for other purposes. Because if we can do that well in time, we can drive $5000 – $10,000 in a campaign email by adding value beyond the transaction and giving people a reason to return to our site. And if it all works out well, you can automate it and recycle it later.

If you want to look deeper into that process, we have another blog post about it, with me ranting about content monetization. So feel free to check that out!

So, all in all, the main goal is to communicate and bring people to our site, and once they’re back, our other marketing automations come into play. 

For example, we may have automations running off of browse abandonment. Once they get back to viewing a product, we’ll have hooks on them. This gives us a chance to continue that conversation further. 

That’s also why when someone asks me, “So, should I link to my YouTube page from the email?”. I always say No! Embed that YouTube video in a blog post and then link it there because you want them back on your site without getting distracted or lost.

So, that’s how our marketing ecosystem works together to keep them engaged.

For some businesses with a certain level of expertise, we recommend using it uniquely to humanize yourself and your team to separate and differentiate yourselves as an expert in that space. For instance, I always talk about how you can’t out-scale Amazon but out-human it. 

example of content email

It’s because it lacks a human face or touch, but you can give that to your audience and become the trusted resource they pick when they need to make another purchase. 

So, we’ll be on the top of their minds. They have been opening our emails consistently for the whole last year. And when they need something, they’ll reevaluate and again find us there to assist them. 

We tend to look at these in two different buckets. 

  1. Some of the content that we share might be more evergreen. For example, we have a group that sells equestrian riding boots. So for their audience, we share content related to leather care, which can be helpful to them all year round. Hence, it’s not seasonal and can be used anytime. 
  2. On the other hand, we have some content that fits more into the contextual bucket. For example, content on staying warm while riding in winter would only be helpful to those living in colder areas. If I’m residing in the southern states of America, a piece of content like that won’t match my intent. Therefore, we should ideally try to line up the right message at the right time for the right person.

So, when we’re doing this, these content emails can bring some value back to us by keeping our audience engaged and driving a sale as well.  

Pro Tip: These can work as a trojan horse for selling products relevant to a customer’s journey with you, such as adding something to a post-purchase sequence or introducing a complimentary product that supplements the content you’re sharing. 

I call it a trojan horse because first, you add value, then ask for a purchase as you’ve rightly earned the opportunity to do so. 

Also, thinking about that content, we want to use it to increase our repeat customers’ average order value. 

For instance, if you educate and inform your audience about your products or a specific category, the next time they need to make a purchase, they might be interested in getting a more extensive bundle or an upgraded version now that they are aware of the value your product offers. 

You can also use that content to automate at different stages of that customer life cycle, which we love doing. Especially a post-purchase sequence. If I’m buying a pair of leather boots or some leather item, a piece of content around keeping it clean and lasting longer would be pretty relevant for me. This would add value beyond the transaction, improve the post-purchase experience, and separate you from everyone else because, again, Amazon doesn’t do that!

Similarly, we have some groups in the coffee space. So, after someone purchases a coffee for the time, we go about this like, “Hey, how do you like to brew your coffee? What level of grinding is going to be appropriate for you? How to grind coffee?” etc. So, as you can see, all of these will be useful in helping them get the most out of the product. 

Example of content email

We consider how to use content to engage people over a long time, similar to social media. We use the same apporach in our campaigns.  

Anybody who has worked in social for a long time knows that if we do too much warm, fuzzy content, we won’t have a business outcome. Similarly, if we’re going overboard with selling content, we’ll still be unable to drive desired results. Therefore, maintaining a balance is the key.

Sometimes we’ll need more “bottom of the funnel content” that’s deeply engaging and less hard-hitting than the one mainly built for SEO. That kind of content makes those interactions human. Especially when we’re sending those consistently. The audience starts to build a relationship with the author of that post/content. For example, we have clients who, after receiving emails from specific authors, go like, “Hey, can I talk to Lizzie or Hey, can I talk to Michelle?”. They feel they know in person after consistently being in communication with them.

And honestly, that’s the GOAL; that’s how we want to separate ourselves and position ourselves as experts.

How to incorporate content emails into your email marketing?

Generally, the easiest way for you to get into this rhythm is to put that content into what we call the hygiene, hub, and hero model

Hygiene refers to the stuff we do daily, whereas hub is about what we do every week, while the hero is something we do every once a year, so it requires a bit more firepower. For example, events like Black Friday/Cyber Monday fall into the hero category for eCommerce businesses. 

We tend to have a consistent drumbeat for hero events, keeping our audience engaged and training them to expect something big coming up soon with a piece of content every once a week. This enables us to learn how engaged they are and what we must do further to keep their attention.

Another thing I want to mention here is the concept of top-of-the-funnel content versus the bottom of the funnel. 

Suppose the top-of-the-funnel content is like having broccoli, which would be suitable for a couple of times but won’t excite you after a week. Similarly, if you have too much dessert, eventually, your stomach will start hurting. S0 finding balance is what’s necessary here. 

What is a promotional campaign?

Promotional campaigns are the type of campaigns that communicate a new product release, a sale, or a promotion of a specific product. 

Those will be something we don’t want to use too often because that would feel highly one-dimensional. We may also commoditize our business because when everything is a sale, nothing is a sale. And we don’t want to do that because it would be a terrible strategy for long-term growth. 

And it happens quite often with people when they’re scratching their head over what to send this week. It turns into, Hey, I need to send something, but I don’t know what to send. And then they make the same “10% off, 15% off,20% off” mistake we joked about earlier. However, if we use these strategically, they can drive more sales in a given window and a good amount of volume around a specific product release. 

Especially using these promotional email campaigns in conjunction with content can help ensure that we’re driving revenue, making sales, and keeping our audience engaged and not burning them out by being so one-dimensional. 

Therefore, while working with our clients, we always tell them that if we are going to have a promotion or a sale. We’ll do that only once every six or eight weeks. With this strategy, our audience will neither burn out nor expect a deal now and then. They’ll be trained that we don’t do this every other day and will wait for when we do it.

For example, when people see Black Friday/ Cyber Monday approaching soon in the US, they stop buying toilet paper way earlier in October because they want to wait for the upcoming deals. 

How do content and promotional email campaigns work together?

We ideally want to find a sweet spot where both the content and promotional email campaigns can be connected and used together because that’s how we think there’ll be much value added. 

And for doing that, our first focus is on giving them enough value that’ll eventually earn us the right to ask. Or another way to look at this is that content leads into the joke, and promotion is the punchline. And we need to lead into that joke well to give it some context, make it funnier and add sense to the punchline. On the contrary, if there are just punchlines after punchlines without context, it won’t work any more than once. 

Without a storytelling component, no one will want to come back to us or engage with us!

To keep our audience engaged, we must know when they’ll purchase from us. We should also identify which segments are more likely to do so sooner. By doing this, we can keep sending them fresh and relevant content, preventing from tuning out.

For example, let’s say we’re sending out an email on Thursday. And by the end of that week, we have a promotion coming up as well. We can tee them up by offering an incentive to join our VIP list and gain early access. The main goal is to have them on board with an engaging piece of content, have their attention and they’re piggyback off of it. 

Also, that piece of content has to be engaging enough. It can be something that has worked well before, and we can recycle it to get mass attention before kicking off the broad-level promotion so that we have most of them back on our site. You can also incorporate some user-generated content or behind-the-scenes stuff into your promotional campaigns. This makes you sound more authentic and human.

And once we have introduced that sale or promotion, a follow-up like “Hey, this is your last chance!”. This would also be an excellent way to stay in touch. Then, moving forward, once that promotion stage is over, we get back to our old routine of adding value beyond the transaction. And then again, after 6 or 8 weeks, we’ll be in a position to offer another incentive.

However, this works differently for different businesses. You’ll have to go through a little bit of experimenting there, like how much is too much? How much is too much? What level of content saturation will we hit before people start checking out and don’t open our emails? Those are all going to be things you need to answer for yourself.

How do we measure the success of your email campaigns?

We measure success by how well is this driving revenue. If our automations and campaigns are bringing back revenue, it’s great. But if not, we might need to refocus and shift.

Ways to measure success of your email campaigns

And thinking about this, revenue from repeat purchasers is what we should be mainly looking at. Because if we try to drive that value from new customers, we’ll have to sacrifice a considerable margin – something we don’t want to do out of the gate (except occasionally). 

Then another metric we’d like to look at is the average order value from our repeat purchasers. The revenue from which will generally be higher than that from first-time purchasers. The main reason is that they know you better. They trust you more than the newcomers since you’ve kept them informed and engaged. Therefore, they are willing to invest more, for example, buy larger bundles from you.

Ways to measure success of email campaigns

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Another way to measure our success is by looking at how many people need our content. How many of them are opening and clicking on it? How many are getting redirected to our site and viewing us as thought leaders? That’s a time-taking process, however. 

However, businesses that have done an excellent job of separating themselves from the rest and have won the hearts and minds of their audience by giving more of human touch, as we discussed earlier, will have a much easier time doing that. 

So, suppose you’ve been in that commodity space for a little too long or have been one-dimensional until now. In that case, it’s high time you start working on getting your audience out of that state where they start seeing you as a differentiated service/product provider. 

In a nutshell, those are some ways of measuring how well you are doing, month after month.

For more information on how we measure success for e-commerce email marketing, check out a previous blog here.


I would again emphasize that maintaining a balance is the key. Being too structural and promotional might burn the audience out and prove an unsustainable strategy in the long run because it’ll make us sacrifice too much margin. Therefore, adding value constantly is crucial to have them keep coming back and purchasing from you. 

Understanding the importance of content and promotional email campaigns is crucial. Incorporating them into our marketing mix leads to long-term gains

If you guys have any suggestions, please let us know. We always love receiving feedback!

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