When it comes to planning a marketing campaign for Black Friday weekend in the retail and eCommerce industry, it pretty much always includes some sort of discount or promotion.
But as a small business owner, you might be wondering if you need to run a promo during this time. Maybe you're worried about giving away too much of your margin, that you'll train your customers to wait for discounts when they buy from you, or maybe you just don't want to discount because you're afraid discounting your product will cheapen your brand.
Whatever your reason, keep reading to find out what you should consider before making your final decision, and how to market your brand if you do decide not to give a discount.
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Black Friday Promo Ideas
Running a promotion during this time doesn’t have to look like a blanket discount off your entire store that discounts the products your customers would probably pay full price for or completely kill your margin. There are a lot of different ways you can use discounts strategically to hit your specific goals.
When to Do a Blanket Discount off Your Entire Website
Back in the day at my previous job we pretty much always did a blanket sale because our main goal was to increase our top-line revenue. We had a really good margin and the increased volume made up for the margin hit. Ultimately, from a dollar perspective, we brought in more profit than we would have if we hadn’t run that discount.
For you as a small business that doesn’t necessarily have that volume, you might not be able to make up the difference and ultimately end up less profitable than if you got fewer sales at a higher margin. But you have to test it and do the math to be sure.
Using Discounts & Bundles to Move Old Inventory
Maybe you have some inventory you need to move so you only apply your promotion to those items. It’s something you would do anyway to clear out that inventory, right? In this case, you’re just dressing it up around Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
Or maybe you bundle those slow-moving products with one of your best sellers, the items your customers are likely to buy even at full price.
Using Quantity Discount to Move More Units
Maybe you don’t have slow-moving products so you can offer qty discounts off your best sellers if it makes sense that someone would buy more than one, especially if it’s a super easy gift item that they can give to multiple people on their list.
Gifts With Purchase to Surprise & Delight Your Customer
A promo might also look like a gift with purchase that you get to write off as a marketing expense. Bonus points if you can get a deal from your vendor on your GWP item. We used to do this with panties during Valentine’s Day at my previous gig. Our customers went crazy for it.
Double Rewards Points
If you have a rewards program you could offer double rewards points instead of a discount. Or only offer or maybe you run a secret sale to your email list only and don’t promote it publicly.
Discounting Early to Sell Full Price at the End of the Season
Another strategy we used to use was during the Halloween season. We had a pretty big costume business and it was actually our second-highest-grossing period behind Valentine’s Day. We would run promotions early in October to drum up some excitement about our assortment, but come of week of Halloween everything was full price because we knew people just needed a costume and were willing to pay full price. Every season, and I was there for 7 Halloweens – we would get nervous in the middle of October that we weren’t moving Halloween products fast enough and then those last 2 weeks they’d fly off the shelves without fail.
No Black Friday Promotion Might Mean Fewer Orders
I don’t share this with you to say you have to run a promotion during this time, because you really don’t. But I want to make sure you’re thinking about it a bit more strategically vs. it just being an all-or-nothing – discount or no discount. And at the end of the day, if you’re not running a promotion it’s possible customers just aren’t going to shop with you that weekend. And if you’re cool with that, then awesome! I just want you to be realistic about the impact not having a sale might have on your business.
How to Market Your Business without a Black Friday Weekend Sale
if you decide you will not be running promos on black Friday weekend or at all this holiday season, let’s talk about how I recommend you show up to market your business during this time.
First off, everything you hear me talk about when it comes to marketing your business such as creating gift guides, dressing up your website for the season, increasing your email frequency, etc. I would still do all of that.
There’s a difference between not running a promotion and not acknowledging the holidays at all.
When Not to Participate in Black Friday Weekend
In some cases, maybe you’re really early in your business or you don’t sell a very giftable item and Q4 has just never been all that lucrative for you. It can feel like a lot of work for not a lot of payoff. That was the case for a Lounge member last year that sells skincare. She’s got an in-person component to her business and that was her priority.
This year she’s gonna give it a go with some extra support in a Lounge exclusive Q4 mastermind. But if you feel that it’s not necessarily going to be worth the effort at this stage in your business, you can absolutely sit this one out.
How to Communicate Not Running a Black Friday Sale to Your Customers
But let’s say you do want to participate in Q4 and the holiday season, you just don’t want to run any promotions on Black Friday weekend.
If that’s you, the MOST important thing you can do is communicate the fact that you’re not running a promotion and WHY you’re not.
Craft a marketing message that hits on the emotional points behind why you’re not doing it and get your people to rally around you. Now, you want to be careful here depending on your brand and your customer. You don’t necessarily want to go and bash the commercialization of Christmas unless your audience will appreciate that. People are just looking for some joy this time of year, you know.
But you could take a page out of Away’s book, the luggage brand. I think they do Black Friday sales now, but a few years ago they didn’t and their message was, we price our products so you get a really great value every day.
It’s similar to how Nordstrom doesn’t create their holiday windows until after Thanksgiving and they always put a sign in the window that says, we like celebrating one holiday at a time.
Where to Promote Your Marketing Message
Just like with any marketing message you’ll want to make sure you're doing your part to communicate this to your customers. At a minimum, you’ll want to send an email to your list and post on social. I don’t think you need to put anything on your website, but if you feel like you do I would make it a secondary message. Something in your hello bar at the very top, like why we’re not running a Black Friday sale, and then it can link to another page with more details.
Ultimately I’d rather you focus more on what they will get by shopping with you during this time, like really great gifts for their loved ones, etc.
Will Black Friday Discounts Train My Customers to Wait for a Sale?
One last note before we go. I know sometimes we’re afraid to give discounts because we don’t want to train our customers to only buy when there is a sale. When it comes to Black Friday… the truth is they’re already waiting. When it comes to welcome discounts for signing up to your email list, which I’ve talked a lot about before, it’s just reducing the risk for them a little bit to buy from someone new.
The only thing that will truly train customers to wait for a sale to buy, is if you run sales every weekend. It’s also why I’m not a huge fan of 12 days of Christmas sales because it’s confusing to the customer and causes them to worry if the thing they buy today is going to be on sale tomorrow.
This is your business and you get to run it your way! Do what feels good for you and remember that you can always do it differently next year. Make sure you look at your business and numbers holistically to find the best option for you.
If you tend not to pick up enough extra sales during Q4 to make up for the discount, look at your marketing strategy. If you seem to lose too much profit when you run sales, maybe your pricing is off.
Take some time to crunch the numbers and figure out what makes sense for your business and be prepared for the outcome whichever direction you go.