The one-month countdown is about to begin. Thanksgiving is coming, and so is America’s favorite unofficial holiday: Black Friday.
Scoring a deal on Black Friday no longer requires camping out for a new TV. The weekend after Thanksgiving has become the time to shop for just about anything. Last year, more than 151 million Americans told the National Retail Federation that they shopped online or in stores that weekend, spending nearly $300 per person on average.
Even if your products or services don’t inspire a campout, your business can still take advantage of the year’s busiest time to buy. And it’s not too late to start planning (as long as you start soon).
Here’s a week-by-week glance at preparing for a Black Friday promotion.
For a complete plan, download 10 Steps to Organizing a Small Business Holiday Promotion, a guide to choosing an offer, sending a promotional email series, and following up with another offer.
Week of Oct. 24: Set a goal for your promotion
Don’t have a Black Friday sale just because everybody else is doing it. Choose a promotion that helps your business, whether by clearing old inventory, launching a new offering, or boosting sales of a holiday-centric product.
Before setting a goal for this year, consider how you could improve on last year’s holiday season. How were your sales last November and December? What were your best and worst sellers? What kind of emails did you send—and who received them, opened them, and clicked them?
Check out the holiday marketing guide for a list of questions to ask in reviewing the success of last year’s season, as well as tips for tools that provide the data you need to inform your strategy.
Week of Oct. 31: Choose a target audience for your offer
With your goal in mind, create a holiday offer that’s going to help you achieve it. If you need to deplete old inventory, you might offer a “buy one, get one free” deal that helps you move more products. If you’re trying to gain awareness for your business, a low-dollar offer (also known as a tripwire) could make it easier to upsell customers on bigger-ticket items later.
But when you decide on a promotion, you’re not quite ready to promote it yet. First, you need to identify the target audience for your offer. Hint: It’s not everyone.
Any marketing effort is more effective when you focus on an ideal customer. When you consider the customer’s demographics and psychographics—the attitudes and emotions that drive purchase decisions—you can better speak to her goals and challenges in your marketing messages.
Need help determining your target market? Check out our free worksheet, “How to Identify Your Target Market”
Week of Nov. 7: Segment your email list
Perhaps you heard there’s some kind of election going on this week. Rather than fighting for customers’ attention in their inboxes and social channels, use this time to do some behind-the-scenes work on your email list.
If you identified a specific target audience for your holiday promotion, that offer may not pertain to everyone on your email list. And customers don’t have time for irrelevant emails, especially when they’re being bombarded with holiday offers.
Ensure you target the right audience through segmentation, the act of dividing your customers into groups by factors like gender, location, and purchase history. Software like Infusionsoft can help by automatically segmenting customers based on actions like purchases, link clicks, and form fills. The information is then stored in a customer relationship management (CRM) database, allowing you to send emails to certain customer segments.
For an in-depth look at segmentation, check out this guide, Take Your CRM Contact List to the Next Level with Segmentation.
Week of Nov. 14: Tease your promotion
Next week, more emails will be sent on the day before Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday than any other days throughout the year, according to research by Experian Marketing Services.
It’s going to take more than one email for your promotion to stand out in a customer’s inbox. Using email and your social channels, give customers a heads-up that a promotion is coming next week.
If you use marketing automation software like Infusionsoft, you could also ask customers to join an early notification list to receive earlier access to your promotion. By clicking a link, the software automatically tags them to receive the emails. Similarly, customers could also click a link to indicate they don’t want to hear more about the offer—allowing you to protect customers’ inboxes from unwanted clutter and your emails from being marked as spam.
See the holiday marketing guide for an example of how one small business used this strategy to drive 80 percent of his Thanksgiving weekend sales.
Week of Nov. 21: Schedule and send a promotional email series
This week, it’s go time. With consumers seeing deals every day from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, send a series of increasingly urgent emails, with subject lines like:
Email No. 1: Holiday sale for three days only!
Email No. 2: Get [offer] now before it’s gone!
Email No. 3: Today is the last day for [promotion]!
Between the business, family time, and maybe even doing a little shopping yourself, you’ll have better things to do this week than manning your emails. If you have marketing automation software, you can schedule emails to be sent on specific days and times—and automatically remove customers who purchased your offer so you don’t annoy them with subsequent emails.
After the weekend: Follow up with another offer
After Thanksgiving weekend, the holiday shopping season is still only beginning. First of all, there’s Cyber Monday—the biggest online spending day of the year, with $2 billion in desktop sales last year, according to comScore.
Keep your customers shopping by making another offer to those who took you up on the promotion, like a related upsell or a thank you discount to be used on the next purchase.
And if the promotion doesn’t produce the results you hoped for, there are always the procrastinators who might jump for gift cards and other last-minute deals: As of Dec. 15 last year, about 90 percent of consumers told the National Retail Federation that their holiday shopping lists still weren’t finished.