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.
IF YOU’RE NOT TARGET, THEN YOU NEEDN’T BEHAVE LIKE TARGET
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…
THE PROBLEM WITH TRADITIONAL SALES
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.
A SMARTER WAY TO BLACK FRIDAY
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…
1. FREE SHIPPING
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.
2. EXPEDITED SHIPPING
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.
3. BUY THIS, GET THAT
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!
4. COMPLIMENTARY GIFT WRAP + HANDWRITTEN NOTES
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.
5. BUY THIS AND WE’LL DONATE THAT TO A SPECIFIC CAUSE
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?
6. BUY THIS AND RECEIVE SAMPLES OR PRODUCTS FROM OTHER BRANDS
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.
7. BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE
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.
8. DOUBLE OR TRIPLE LOYALTY POINTS
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 never deduct 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!