Ahh Black Friday. The day when consumers blow lots of money and businesses have one final push to meet their year-end goals.
This year, we worked directly with three clients (we’ll keep them anonymous) to help them launch Black Friday sales. Collectively, these clients generated over $1.2M from Friday through Monday from these sales.
I want to share a few things we learned.
But first, here’s some quick context about these clients:
- All clients sold digital products under $100
- Two clients ran sales from Friday through Monday, one client only ran a sale on Monday
- Black Friday is the only time these clients offer sales during the year
- The discounts were $15 off, 15% off, and $10 off
- No two clients executed the exact same strategy
Our most successful campaign
Here was the most successful strategy we helped execute: The client created a brand new lead generating PDF. This PDF was seasonal and timely for their audience. Starting on the Tuesday prior to Black Friday, the client drove traffic to the lead generator landing page to get as many email addresses as possible.
We set up an automated email campaign that sent four emails to folks who joined the list. However, the email campaign was dependent on the day. So for example, if someone downloaded the lead generator on Thursday, they would only get the emails from Thursday, Friday, and Monday, but not the emails from Wednesday. We opened the sale in the Friday email.
Below was the focus of each of those emails:
- Anytime: the user would get an automated email with the lead generator whenever they opted in
- Wednesday: informed the customer the sale would be opening on Friday
- Thursday: wished them happy Thanksgiving and sent a valuable tip
- Friday: opened the sale
- Monday: reminded the customer it was the final day of the sale
Okay, let’s jump into it. With all of that in mind, here were a few things we learned:
1. Email is still the most successful channel
As a consumer, my inbox was full of emails during Black Friday. It’s easy to fall into the trap that email isn’t effective and it’s just a part of the noise of Black Friday. For us, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, our clients doubled their email conversion rate during the sale. We found their customers were more engaged via email than they typically are during the year.
Next year, we’ll make a plan to incorporate email even more than we did this year.
2. Only run one sale per year
One of the biggest reasons all three clients experienced success was due to the fact they only run a Black Friday sale. They don’t offer discounts or sales on any of their products throughout the year, and as a result, customers take advantage of the sale without expecting another one later in the year.
When you frequently discount your product(s), your customers become trained to expect a sale. Why would I buy your product now when I know it’ll be cheaper in a couple of weeks? When you offer frequent sales, you essentially permanently lower the price of the product. You’ll have to run sales to make money and you’ll run into major cash flow issues.
3. Give plenty of time to test and plan
Ready for some realness? We made a mistake this year for two of the three clients. We didn’t start planning the campaign until Monday (yes, four days prior) for one client and two weeks prior for another client. As a result, we made a few mistakes that could have been prevented if we had more time to test and plan. Mistakes like:
- An email server sent out an email early which meant 13k customers were told the sale was starting Thursday instead of Friday
- We wrote two emails the day they were supposed to go out (not ideal at all)
- A product price wasn’t changed which resulted in hundreds of customer service emails to the customer
The point is, next year we’ll make sure we start our planning in October so we have plenty of time to create the strategy and make sure all of our assets are completed and tested.
4. You don’t need to have a massive discount
All of our clients offered discounts under 15%. Where other companies are offering huge discounts on their products and services, our clients were able to have a lot of success with smaller discounts. Personally, I think this was because this was their only sale of the year.
Here’s why I love smaller discounts:
- It allows you to run a sale without giving away your product and destroying your margins
- It maintains the sense of value in your product
- It doesn’t create a problem with previous customers who have purchased at full price
5. Direct price changes are more effective than coupons
Two of our clients automatically discounted their price. Meaning, the price for the duration of the sale was changed at checkout and the customer didn’t have to enter a coupon. Anyone who purchased during the sale was given the revised price. The other client used a coupon (i.e., enter “BLACKFRIDAY” at checkout). There were a few of their customers who forgot to enter the code and our client had to offer a partial refund.
Now, we advertised the fact the sale was happening even if the price was changed. You can do that through a banner on the website, a strikethrough of the “old” price, or something on the checkout letting the customer know the product was discounted.
Next year, we’ll try and have all of our clients do a direct price change.
6. A majority of sales come in the final day or hours of the sale
I think there’s a misconception that most sales will happen right when you open a sale. While the first day may give you a lot of sales, this mindset shows a lack of understanding of consumer behavior. Thinking about how you buy things… depending on the price of the product, you may need to check with your spouse to make the purchase, you may need to think more about it, or you may not have the ability to purchase at that time. In addition, consumers are motivated to not miss out on the sale. FOMO is much more relevant on the final day or hour than it is at the beginning.
All three of our clients brought in over 50% of their revenue on Monday. So with that in mind, make sure your strategy covers how you’ll end the sale and not just how you’ll start it.
7. Assign specific tasks to specific people
We tell the client to change the product pricing when the sale starts, while we handle all of the automated implementation work. Usually, this is because a sale will start and end at midnight and we’d prefer to not have to stay up late to make the change (ha).
This year, we sent a client an email on Tuesday reminding them to change the price on Thursday night. The problem is, we sent this email to two people at the company instead of assigning that specific task to one specific person. As a result, the client sent us a frantic email on Friday morning that the product price hadn’t been adjusted yet. The email had gone out and everyone was expecting the sale to start, but the price hadn’t been changed. This was technically the client’s responsibility, but we didn’t assign that task to someone to ensure it got done.
8. Have a backup plan
In true 2020 style, anything that could go wrong did. For example, on Wednesday, a client was making a big push for their lead generator. 10 minutes after they made a post on Instagram, Amazon servers decided they wanted to take their website down. The site was down for about an hour and there wasn’t really anything we could do about it.
I’m still not sure what a backup plan would look like in this instance, but I do know that we never even thought or talked about it. Next year, we’ll think through all of these things.
I share all of this to highlight one point: you don’t need a massive budget or an expansive campaign to win on Black Friday. You can have success with a solid plan, clarity, and focus.