If you sell products or services, you can't deny the power of Black Friday and it's partner in crime Small Business Saturday. It is a time of year when people are excited to spend money in the spirit of getting a deal. As a small business owner, it's hard not to get excited about that and to scout out some Black Friday tips that can make yours even more successful.
As a strategist, I often work with small business owners, makers and creatives on pricing their work and creating a profitable business model. While sales can generate excitement, it's important to remember that relying heavily on discounts to generate business may train your audience to wait for these limited time offers. (There are other ways to create urgency, I swear!)
If you use sales intentionally – a few times of the year, and on select offers – then you're set. These Black Friday tips for sellers (meaning all you makers, etsy shop owners and product based business owners!) should help you have a seamless, profitable experience of the busiest shopping day of the year.
39 practical ways sellers can make Black Friday a success
- Don't miss out by being too “by the book.” If you're participating in Small Business Saturday, you can and should have offers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
- Set clear timeline expectations. For online shops and service providers especially, include time zones with the start of your sale time for your most eager customers worldwide. If your email list is segmented by country, you can send out local times.
- Know how you'll get the word out. Your plans should cover social media, email marketing, website visitors and shop visitors if you have a brick and mortar shop. If you sell through small retailers, consider calling them to ask if they'd like more stock.
- Pre-write any emails you'll send out. Draft up your emails in advance – you'll have lots to do the week of the sale!
- Don't be timid about reminding your people. People have so much going on in their daily lives that your loyal customers need help to remember when your sales start, and which days they're running. Are they getting lots of emails already? Sure, but if they're genuinely excited for your email then you're helping them get the savings want.
- Don't announce and then vanish. If you're not comfortable with email marketing, it's common to announce something big and then disappear, or stop emailing your readers altogether. Don't do this. Follow up emails that remind them how much longer the sale is on, or and any special deals like a freebie for the first 10 people who purchase every day drive sales and generate excitement.
- Program your social media posts. Pre-write and schedule all your content the week before. Be sure to include reminders, countdowns, and spotlights on your products. Services like MeetEdgar or Hootsuite can make this easy to schedule so you can focus during the sale.
- Get the most out of email sequences. After pre-writing all of your content, make sure you schedule everything in an email marketing system as well. If you're an advanced email marketer, double check and test your rules, automation and funnel settings so you don't have to think about it when Black Friday and Small Business Saturday come around.
- Coupon codes are your friends. Create unique coupon codes that are just active during Black Friday and Small business Saturday. It will create an extra sense of urgency, but delivering them straight to your loyal customer will make them feel special and appreciated. It is also an easy way to give people a discount without a lot of extra work on your end.
- Bundle up your products. Make special Black Friday bundles with your products that deliver them with a significant discount when they buy everything all at once. Bonus tip: make themed bundles and give your customers a one-stop solution.
- Stock up. Black Friday sales can be manic! So make sure you stock up and know your inventory numbers before it arrives. It will save you a lot of trouble and stress.
- Create a Black Friday category or tag for your shop. You want to make it super easy for your customers to find your Black Friday deals – especially on a platform with limited customization likelike Etsy. If you're not doing a shop-wide sale, making a Black Friday section of your shop gives shoppers a clear understanding of where they need to go.
- Create unique graphics and promotion material. You want to communicate clearly to your customers that you're running a sale. Consider updating your shop banner and Facebook page cover image with an eye catching reminder so people won't miss your excellent deal.
- Use it as a way to sell up old stock. Do you have some old products that have been sitting on your shelf forever? (Who doesn't!) Now is the time to offer a discount, bundle them up and clean out your shelves. Use this time to make room for new products and give your customers great value for money at the same time.
- Discounted shipping. This one needs no explanation – everybody loves free shipping (and many are beginning to expect it) when shopping online. If you can offer simple, accurate shipping rates your customers will appreciate it.
- Be aware of your profit margins. Profit margins aren't sexy, but they're critical to the running of your business. If you go crazy and give your customers a significant deal, but you end up having to pay money for each item you're selling – then you lose. Run your numbers to make sure that even with your discounts you're still earning money from every sale.
- Help customers find you with elevated SEO. Great products and Black Friday strategies will only work when people land on your website when they're out shopping. Make sure that you're using descriptive product titles that reflect how your customers talk about your products to have a sound SEO foundation that will make it easier for you to find them on big holidays and events.
- Start promoting early and create a landing page. A good Black Friday starts early. Keep your customers in the loop, let them know what they can expect and countdown. A good way to do this is to collect email address through a landing page. Even a simple Black Friday landing page or sign up form on your website can make a difference.
- Reward your followers Create an additional offer especially for those who opted-in to your email list. A different coupon code, free shipping, or a special gift for spending a certain amount that is just available for them. It makes your customers feel loved and appreciated.
- Blog about the promotion. Your blog is a powerful tool so don't be shy to blog about your Black Friday deals. It's great at giving you some extra Google juice and it keeps people in the loop that might not have opted into your list.
- Team up with other shops. Create bundles together, or exchange coupon/discount codes. It's a great way to serve your audience and to build lasting friendships with other small business owners.
- Embrace social media. Be prepared for questions on social media. It's a quick and easy way for customers to connect with you and send last-minute questions. Be sure to be present during your sale or delegate to trusted friend or a member of your team.
- Email is your friend. People won't just ask you questions on social media, they will reach out via email as well. Make it easy for them to find where they can contact you if they have questions by making sure your contact information is easy to find. Staying on top of your email today and over the weekend will build trust with your customers.
- Have a shipping plan ready. Suddenly, you will have many more items to ship than normal. This is great and what you want but make sure you are prepared for this. Stock up on packing materials, tape and other things you might need – like customs forms, printer cartridges and label stickers.
- Create a FAQ to help people to help themselves. Before the sale, consider building an FAQ page or email that you can use to help your customers before they have a problem. Think about any questions you or your team answers frequently and prep the questions ahead of time. When the sale is underway, you can copy & paste your answers from the FAQ page, save time and help your customers in record time.
- Stay happy, polite and efficient. Big sales like this can take a toll on anyone. Start the day fully rested and try to avoid to work till 3 am the night before, so you can be professional and polite when your customers ask you questions. Even if you don't have a physical shop, reacting to customers with kindness can turn negative experiences around and build your reputation.
- Motivate your team or employees. If you're working with a team of people, you need to communicate clearly why this sale is important. Remember to motivate them to help the customers best they can and focus on quality over quantity. If you have a physical shop, make sure you staff appropriately and consider providing food for your hard workers when they clock out. Just cause you're small doesn't mean you can't be classy!
- Focus on value first, price second. Even though Black Friday sales bring people in due to the discounts, make sure you focus on value first. Let your customers know what your products will help them achieve or what the outcome is they are buying. In the end, that's more important than the price tag.
- Make returns easy. Some people give into their buying impulses a little too soon, or the product is just not a good fit. Make sure that your return policies are clear and make it easy for customers to return a product. Have a plan for how you'll manage returns and make it stress free for everyone involved.
- Make your customers feel special. Not just with the big things, but it's in the little things. Take the time to be friendly and personal. Including a friendly email back to a customer question, or even saying you hope they feel better soon if they mention in a message they felt a little under the weather builds genuine connection. It's the little things that make customers feel heard and appreciated, and like you're not just bracing for the busy day to be over!
- It's not just about selling. It might seem that way, but no matter what your sales numbers are for the day, promoting your work around the sale is a way of building your brand. While your sales will likely come from customers who know your work, remember that you'll also attract new customers to your brand. Help them understand what you're about and how you help them.
An Ounce of Prevention
- Test your systems first. To skip finding out about problems when they become disasters, thoroughly check your systems before the big day. If you have a website or shop, do this in a private browser get a first time visitor experience. Ask yourself if you can quickly make a purchase. Consider using the free service Peek to have a stranger audit your website, and listen for any potential issues you can fix in advance.
- Don't let your pop-ups steal mobile sales. If you're using pop-ups or a service like SumoMe on your website, social sharing buttons and pop-ups can be trouble. This reduces the screen area and makes it hard to buy. Test your site on your phone and iPad using a private browser tab to see what customers see. Then adjust your pop up and social sharing settings as needed.
- Have a crash kit. If you run your own online shop, it's a good idea to have a backup plan in case something goes sideways. In retail this is usually a pencil, paper and calculator so you can still take cash payments. Online, no matter which service you use to collect payment, it's a good idea to have a functioning account that's already tied to your bank account with a back up payment processor just in case. (Paypal and Stripe are popular options.)
- Send a helpful friend on a Starbucks run. You'll be on email and social media duty all day, and you'll want to be awake for all those sales! See if you can enlist a friend, or order your favourite takeout to be fueled up for the day.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Running a big Black Friday sale is a lot of work. If you already have a loyal customer base, you might know what to expect. Don't be afraid to ask people for help before, during and after. You can even host a packing party, where you pack orders instead of moving boxes.
- Have an internet back-up plan. Knock on wood that everything works – but have a back-up plan in case internet fails. The last thing you want is to be locked out from communicating with your customers when they have questions. Coffee shops or friends and family in the neighborhood that can lend you their connection are ideal for this. Tust don't forget to ask them first.
- Be aware of stock levels, and centralize your inventory information. If you're selling online and at a physical store, inventory can be frusterating on these days. If you don't have a system that coordinates your inventory between both places, communication is key. Double check your stock before, during and after. Have a dedicated place to write down any transfers between online and offline inventories on the day of.
- When it's all over, create a packing station. Get a good night's sleep, and then set up a packing station to ship our your extra orders. Put all your supplies in one place so you can start packing when orders are confirmed. Put on Netflix and get ready to make progress! A simple system may not stop you from taking over your dining room table, but it will block your overwhelmed.
I hope that this helps you have a profitable, sane Black Friday, Small business Saturday and Cyber Monday experience! If I missed your favourite tip, make sure you let me know in the comments below.