I know, I know. It seems like the entire world is hosting sales of epic proportions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is the season when the whole world loses its damn mind, slashing prices to the bone in an attempt to garner attention. While that may be a wise strategy for Best Buy and Target, it’s likely not a smart strategy for you, my friend.




Each year, I attach myself to the proverbial legs of my clients, pleading with them not cut off their nose to spite their face with sales. There is a better way to promote your brand this holiday season, and I’d be delighted to help you build a roadmap that creates a win-win for you and the customer. But before I do, let’s pull back and look at the “big picture” behind those generous holiday sales:


  • The kinds of products which are purchased at Target and Best Buy are likely mass-produced. If your creative process doesn’t look a whole lot like factories full of people, then your promotions probably shouldn’t look at whole lot like theirs either.


  • Department stores and huge chain stores sell commodities- things that can be exchanged one for another. Commodities are purchased based on two things: price (lowest cost) and availability (easiest to get your hands on). You- my friend- are a brand, which means we need to think like a brand rather than a commodity.


  • Target is banking on the fact that when you come in at 6am to snag that TV with the ultra-low price tag, you will also pick up a holiday onesie and some beauty products that aren’t on sale. So they lose some dollars on the TV, but they make up some ground with the other items. Many of the makers and product designers I know and love don’t have products to help them make up lost margins, so there’s no “win” in the massive BFCM sale.


  • Target and Best Buy offer 83,916 different products. Their goal in luring you through those doors in the pre-dawn hours is to capture as much of your holiday business as possible, so that you’ll keep coming back to them for diapers and sports bras and alarm clocks and school supplies all year long. But if you’re an artisan entrepreneur with a more focused product collection (please tell me that you have a deliciously focused product collection, yes?), then your peeps can’t come back and make 47 more purchases from you this year. So while the “big guys” can dangle the carrot, indie makers are serving up honey-glazed carrots alongside prime filet topped with blue cheese and accompanied by grilled asparagus and truffles…at 60% off. No. Thank. You.


I hope we can all agree that an indie brand doing a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale and Best Buy hosting a holiday sale are two very different things. Apples and oranges, if you will. There’s no need to compete with chains who are transacting a billion dollars a year in business. We aren’t them.  They aren’t us.


Trying to apply their promotional model to our business is an unwise endeavor. I freely concede that the Giants of Retail have trained the American public to suckle at the teat of sales on this critical buying weekend. But how does a smart brand tackle that? Good question! I like where your brain is headed with this one…






I not-so-secretly loathe discounts and sales. When promoting a sale, you move the conversation away from value and place it squarely on price, and that’s not a wise direction in which to focus attention. It’s worth keeping in mind, too, that price-conscious shoppers don’t typically exhibit a great deal of brand loyalty. They’ll abandon ship once a new “cool kid” brand rolls onto the block or the moment a lower-priced option appears.


Even worse? Announcing a special promo code this week miffs all the customers who ordered last week. When I launched my first product-based brand, I hit this stumbling block with a vengeance! My customer service team found themselves fielding calls from disgruntled customers each time we launched a sale. So we implemented a new rule: If the customer had ordered up to three days before the sale announcement and they contacted us within 24 hours of the announcement, then we’d honor the promotion and offer a refund equivalent to the sale price. That worked well, until customers from days four and five called, miffed that customers from days one to three got the deal, but they didn’t. There’s no bottom and absolutely no way to win as the brand owner!


Running frequent promotions also trains customers to order only when there’s an opportunity to score a sweet deal. And once they’re spoiled, it’s virtually impossible to entice those customers to order anything at full-price.




You are officially invited to raise your right-hand and take the No Sales Pledge.


“I [insert your name here] do faithfully pledge to abstain from offering discounts. I say NO to percentages off. NO to flat-dollar discounts. NO to luring new subscribers to my email list with a coupon in exchange for their email address. In short, NO to crazy gimmicks that temporarily fatten my bank account while crippling my business in the long-term. I know my worth and I believe that there’s a better way.”


Can I get an “amen”?


But there’s still the Black Friday Cyber Monday buying frenzy and I want you to take advantage of that as much as possible. Accordingly- dear friend- here’s my list of 8 smart ways to capture the dollah dollah bills this holiday season. I hope you’ll try these strategies on for size…





Amazon has trained us to loathe shipping fees with an especially fiery passion. Make them disappear for orders which meet a minimum threshold and your customers will be happy campers. If you normally offer a “free shipping” promotion, try cutting the threshold in half for “limited time” holiday promotions.


I prefer to hold this offer back until the week before Christmas when half of the country is in a full-tilt panic about their still-long shopping list. Offering to upgrade their ground shipping to 2-day delivery will ease their anxiety without depleting their wallet and they’ll love you for it.


Who doesn’t love “free?” Instead of deducting dollars from an order, why not throw in an additional product or a deluxe-sizes sample? This generous offer never fails to capture attention and it does two important things: a) prevents you from being seen as undercutting your wholesale stockists, and b) introduces new products to your current customers, increasing the chance of future purchases. Win-win!


Raise your hand if you feel completely swamped during the holiday season. Did you see that sea of hands shoot up? We’re in good company! Take something off your customer’s “to do” list, and they’ll be tickled pink. Offering to elegantly giftwrap purchases and include a handwritten note saves your customer’s time and enables them to ship directly to the recipient, which also saves them dollars. Trust me: They won’t be mad about it.


Altruism is important all year-round, but it has a special place in the heart of Americans during the holiday season. Tying purchases to philanthropy can be an especially effective marketing technique that helps lift others up as you build your business. In fact, “Giving Tuesday” (the day following Cyber Monday) has become a national movement that gains more steam each year. Why not do some good as you generate some dollars?


Hello, collaboration opportunity! Partner with a complementary brand and swap products to be tucked into outbound orders. This strategy enables you to tap their audience to grow your customer base while unleashing a small tsunami of cross-promotion opportunities.


Have some soon-to-be-discontinued products? This is an ideal way to get them out of your workshop and into the hands of your fans. “Free” is everyone’s favorite 4-letter word and it’s a powerful lure to encourage purchases.


If you offer a loyalty program that enables customers to earn points based on their purchases, then it’s fantastically easy to tinker with the technology to boost the point values during select time periods. Try offering double or triple reward points over the BFCM period to draw loyal shoppers to your site.




In short: Add value, but try to avoid deducting collars. Slash-n-burn sales may win in the short term, but you’ll almost certainly lose in the long run. And I pinkie-swear that it’s quite possible to build a wildly successful product-based brand without tempting your customers through sales!


Pray tell… How do you plan to capture revenue this holiday season? I’d love to hear about your planned promotions. Drop a comment below and let me know!




  1. As an artisan/small business owner – I handcraft wood and metal flower sculpture – your latest newsletter was a godsend.

    It helped confirm my thoughts on my position in the marketplace. No, I can’t compete with Wayfair, Target, Amazon, Pottery Barn, and on and on.

    Those who shop those stores are largely not my target market – so how do I offer something special for my own market?

    I recently began offering Free Shipping and the results have been truly worth it. This has allowed my customers to purchase more.

    The interior decorators who purchase from me can offer more for their clients as well.

    And, I in turn, still make a profit, and retain the integrity of my hard work.

    Thank you for the re-affirmation. When the holidays came around, I used to be filled with anxiety (should I hold a sale?? are my prices too high??) and it was painful to draw a line in the sand against what I consider a race to the bottom.

    Well, no more. I’m going to have a cup of hot pumpkin spice coffee and read your post one more time for good measure.

    Thank you! You made my day!


  2. Thank you for this timely reminder, Lela! Shall I confess I was flirting with a discount idea? After reading this post (which I have heard you preach multiple times before), I felt a virtual “hand slap” and am back on track with my value added promotions. You also presented several new ideas I will be implementing, namely doubling reward points and decreasing my free shipping threshold. Thanks for always being in our corner! 😘

  3. This was a FAB thing to wake up to this morning! I was contemplating my BFCM promos and was thinking of a small discount (10%). Now I’m going to something different and fresh (for me). Thank you!

  4. We have never participated in these sales, for the reasons you describe. But when I see so many others offering discounts I start to wonder if I’m doing something wrong. Thank you for this much needed post! I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of alternatives. I’ve worked hard on creating a special “unboxing” experience for my jewelry. I get compliments on it all the time. I think adding gift wrapping and reminding people I’ll include a handwritten note is a great idea. I’ll promote free shipping too. I’m also going to look at some of the other options you listed. Thank you so much for the support and suggestions!

  5. Why did I not see this years ago. We are, at this point, locked into the big ‘holiday’ discounts.. our clients have come to expect them. But, what really reverberates is “It’s worth keeping in mind, too, that price-conscious shoppers don’t typically exhibit a great deal of brand loyalty. ” YES!

    We have lifelong clients, who have been with us for 15 or 20 years, and who will shop nowhere else. but we also have a huge base that are totally price driven. They shop big sales, they praise our products, but they will never pay our full price. We have already instituted free shipping, over a certain minimum and with a promo code… we offer professional discounts, and we put certain categories of product on sale each month. But still. we will do 7 to 14 ‘average days’ worth of business on a Halloween sale, or on Labor day, or BFCM. They wait for the price cuts.

    I wish we had never started it.

  6. Solid business advice as always Lela. I love your thinking around the value that artisans have versus mass produced. What a timely message for the entrepreneurs that follow you.

  7. Thank you for the timely reminder. I was ready to give a percent off for cyber monday, and I never discounted before because of your guidance. I am so glad I didn’t send out my email yet. I changed my cyber weekend deals to giveaways instead of discount off and feel much better about it.

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