Now that pumpkin spice is everywhere, it is definitely time to prepare for Black Friday—the big dance arriving on the heels of Thanksgiving. Even if you’re not a brick-and-mortar retailer, this huge day and its cousins, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday, likely drive a lot of sales for your business.
It’s not enough just to hire a few extra people and hope for the best. You need a plan and you need one now if you hope to leverage the power of Black Friday.
“Many small business owners feel intimidated when it comes to Black Friday, that holiest of holidays for retailers,” says Sarah Matista, the marketing communications manager for Vistaprint’s digital services business and its social marketing suite, Pagemodo.
“Between budget differences and name recognition, they feel like their message will get lost in the holiday marketing din.”
But this doesn’t have to be the case. By taking a few savvy steps now, your business will shine on the big day.
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Analyze Last Year’s Data
“Every holiday season brings unique opportunities, but analyzing data from last year offers the best window into what will be successful this year,” says Ian Goldman, CEO of Celerant Technology in New York City.
For example, if discounts and promotions worked well, make sure that all of your sales channels are ready to reflect price changes. Or, if you had good luck with extended hours or door busters, make sure to repeat them.
“You can also leverage customer information to make sure the right customers are notified of the offers most likely to appeal to them,” Goldman adds.
Start planning your email campaign or direct mail offering now. Create visuals for print and contact your marketing affiliates with the details of your Black Friday promotion as soon as possible.
Make Sure Your Website Is Ready
David Hsieh is the CMO of Instart Logic, a leader in web experience optimization. “With the holiday season coming up, ecommerce business owners need to take preventive measures to ensure their website is healthy by keeping web performance at the top of their priorities,” he says.
Hsieh suggests taking the following steps immediately to improve web performance.
- Remove all unnecessary content and unused assets on your site, including third-party widgets, social buttons and unused customized fonts.
- Simplify. Trim down the number of pages on your site and use a limited color palette.
- Use application monitoring (APM) tools. These monitor real user experience, ensuring your website operates at maximum efficiency.
- Implement an intelligent Content Delivery Network Accelerate and optimize the delivery of content to provide the best end user experience.
Related Article: How Retailers Can Unwrap Big Sales This Holiday
Create an Engaged Audience in Advance
“If you have an ongoing relationship with your potential customers, they’ll be far more likely to purchase from you come Black Friday,” says Matista. Especially if you spend the months and weeks ahead of the big day building buzz.
As you work to connect with your loyal customers, make sure your business website is attractive on mobile devices and optimized to reflect your Black Friday promotions. Buyers now operate in the real world and on mobile simultaneously and they expect useful information that is easy to find on their phones.
“Engagement doesn’t happen overnight, so now is the time to make sure that your social media presence is on point,” Matista continues. “Whether your audience is most active on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, keep them engaged with quality content, helpful advice, great customer support and just-for-fun graphics and videos.”
Know where your customers hang out online. “There’s more to social media than just FB and Twitter,” notes Lisa Milbrand, co-founder of Moxie Workshop, a digital content agency aimed at small business in Bloomfield, New Jersey. “If you’re trying to reach moms, Pinterest will be essential. If you’re trying to show tweens and teens the coolest gadgets for their wish lists, Instagram is essential.”
To get a bigger social media following now, consider running a giveaway in October using Rafflecopter to collect entries, and then market your Black Friday promotion to all your new followers throughout the month of November.
Forge Partnerships With Other Businesses in Your Community
Teaming up with other businesses can be a powerful way to attract more consumers used to the convenience of mall or online shopping. By focusing on what makes your community unique, you can better compete with the “big boys.”
“Several years ago, my partner and I created a Black Friday and Small Business Saturday event for local retail shops in Portland, Oregon, called Little Boxes,” explains Betsy Cross, co-owner and designer at betsy & iya.
“We saw a need for a spotlight to be shone on the smaller local shops in our city on a day historically known as the biggest shopping day of the year. The event was an instant hit and five years later, it has become a household tradition.”
Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the importance of supporting their local businesses, and many want to enjoy a shopping experience on Black Friday that’s a little more family-oriented and fun instead of bleary-eyed and competitive. But cooperating with other small businesses, you can deliver this cozier experience.
“Over 200 Portland shops participated last year and we anticipate even more this year,” says Cross. “It's a massive coming together of the community and something that has helped our shops' bottom lines as we jump into the holiday season.”
Black Friday will arrive sooner than you think, but this year you’ll be prepared. Once you’ve taken all the steps above, try to relax and enjoy the busy holiday season, preferably with something warm and pumpkin spiced!