If you’re reading this, I hope you’re relaxing, feet up, beverage in your right hand, and you’re ready to take screenshots, circle things, and send them in Slack to your coworker… because today we’ve got 9 pages of tactical nuggets for Black Friday. And, to all my readers for whom it’s Monday morning, I hope you have an amazing start to your week!
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That said, thank you for both the form and subscribing to the Sharma Brands newsletter. Now, let’s get into today’s goodies… Last-minute BFCM tactical nuggets.
Alright, we’re at the official T-minus 19 days until Black Friday and 6 days until Singles Day. Following that, we have a robust set of promotions around Christmas and New Year’s, and then we get into Q5, the rally for health and wellness brands.
You and I both know the next 6 weeks are the most important 6 weeks all year… so I’m going to keep this email fairly tactical about BFCM. We’ll do another one that dives deep into December/January promos soon. A lot of this email was inspired by a Limited Supply episode I put out with Moiz; we got a ton of positive feedback on this episode, and many of you found it valuable (woo!).
Below, I’ve listed at least 15 nuggets to keep top of mind as we all bunker down, chug our endless sources of caffeine, and make 1am website changes over the next few weeks. My goal is for you to read this email, get some helpful insights or ideas, and make a sh*tload of money. Can you tell I’m fired up about Black Friday? You should be too!
Alright, let’s dive in…
Quickly setting the stage:
At a high-level, what should brands expect for performance & spend during BFCM?
According to some Triple Whale data that they shared with me and Moiz, in 2022, most brands saw roughly a 3.3x increase in daily revenue during BFCM (compared to the week before) and a 10% increase to their average AOVs.
As far as ad spend, Triple Whale said that, on-average, brands spent roughly 70% more on Meta and Google during the week of BFCM compared to prior weeks. They also spent 32% more on Pinterest ads but the average ROAS on Pinterest somehow declined during that time. Snap didn’t see a material increase and I didn’t get the data on BFCM TikTok spend.
My advice for brands is to simply maximize their Meta and Google spend and avoid Pinterest overall. With that in mind, you should be increasing budgets right now (like as of reading this email right now) as we ramp up into BFCM. Aim to spend at least 70% more than normal through the entire week and weekend of BFCM with your biggest day on Friday and your second biggest day of spend on Cyber Monday. Also, don’t be afraid to push past 70% if it’s profitable and you’re still converting. I’ve seen brands spend 500% more than typical weeks during BFCM and still do very well.
From my POV, TikTok is a bit of a sleeper platform because it generally underperformed last year for many brands that I know, but with the introduction of TikTok shop, I think it’s a wildcard for BFCM this year. I’d have to imagine that TikTok really wants advertisers to see results so I wouldn’t be surprised if they juice their algorithms to heavily favor brands using TikTok shop for BFCM and Q4. Various Sharma Brands clients will be investing in this strategy alongside Meta and Google and I’ll report back on how it goes.
On the tactics and reminders side, I’m going to break this down by category.
PS, if you’re not setup on Triple Whale’s free product, Founder’s Dash, I highly recommend it. 6-8 months ago when I was on a call with Maxx, the founder, I told him, “You need to make a free version of Triple Whale that anyone can use and just get the basic analytics with.” And voila, he put out Founder’s Dash within a month!
Here’s a bunch of nuggets in no particular order to review:
EMAIL + SMS
According to Klaviyo, the average brand sent 11 emails during BFCM weekend with an average open rate of 49% and an average CTR of 1%. That’s only 2-3 emails per day. In my opinion, you should send more.
A more aggressive email strategy on Black Friday might look something like this:
- 12:01am, you send your first email blast announcing your sale.
- Between 7-9am, you send your second email blast reminding them of the sale.
At 11am, for anyone who didn’t open your first two emails, send another segmented blast.
- At 12:30pm, for anyone who opened but didn’t click or convert, you should send your first text with a “Text only offer” around lunch.
- At 3pm, send another email telling subscribers that “Inventory is moving fast and they better act now.”
- At 6pm, send a plain-text email from the founder thanking the subscriber for one of your best Black Friday’s yet and adding another offer like a free limited edition gift with purchase available on all orders now thru EOD to drive more sales.
At 8pm, send one more text to anyone who has clicked but not converted and increase the discount with a new custom code. Offer an additional 5-10% off here.
- At 9:30pm send one more “Last Chance” email to push for the final purchases of the night.
Remember: Brands work the entire year to build awareness and anticipation for the Q4 sales season. When your shoppers feel ready to spend (i.e during BFCM and the holidays) you need to go all out to clear your funnel (“flush the toilet” concept from this deck) and get lurkers, visitors, and on-the-fence buyers to convert.
I feel very confident that no one will remember, in a bad light, that you sent 8, 10, or 15 emails to them 2 weeks after BFCM. But as a brand owner, those extra emails or “chances” to convert could equal a meaningful increase in revenue (and hopefully profit) for your company and team. In short, don’t be afraid to send more emails. 11 is the average. I think 15-20 throughout the weekend is more than okay, especially as long as you keep removing those clickers/buyers as you go.
Email your entire list to start:
Most brands exclude inactive subscribers on regular sends to increase their open rates and click through rates. Don’t do this on BFCM. You should ping your entire list. As a brand, your biggest goal with email (or SMS for that matter) is to make subscribers aware of your offer in 2 seconds or less.
Put your offer in the subject line:
This brings me to my next point. If your offer is 30% off site wide, put it in the subject line and put a massive image in the email stating your offer. Consumers want to know what offers are available so they can decide how they might want to allocate their limited budgets on BFCM between brands. Although they might not open your email, they will scan their inbox and read subject lines. Put the offer upfront and make it loud and clear.
Use exclusions after the first 3 emails:
If you plan to send 15-20 emails during BFCM, the best way to go about it is to use exclusions and segments after the first few major blasts. If people open and click, exclude them from various future emails that you plan to send. If they’ve converted already, exclude them. Exclusions and segments exist in ESPs for a reason. Use them wisely as you clear more and more of your funnel over the week.
Try letting customers enter their own coupon code:
The standard with BFCM is to have coupon codes automatically applied at checkout. Although this slightly increases the friction, there’s a lot of psychological enjoyment to people entering the code “BF30” themselves and visually seeing and feeling like they “made the discount happen.” It’s a small tweak but I think more brands should try this approach.
Moiz is a fan of letting people input the code, whereas I prefer to use a Shopify permalink with the coupon code already included in the link. See how you can do that here.
Put a countdown timer in your emails and on LPs:
Creating a sense of urgency is crucial when it comes to BFCM sales. Use countdown timers in your emails and on landing pages to show that “this sale only lasts for 5 more hours.” You want visitors to feel a bit of FOMO and then click and convert right away.
Incentivize the first 500-1000 sales with a free gift with purchase:
To get sales rolling, try giving exclusive offers to early birds, like “The first 500 orders receive a free gift with purchase.” 78% of the time, this works every time.
Out of the box idea… send postcards
This isn’t related to email but I think sending postcards to all existing customers which arrive in their mailbox a few days before BFCM is a great strategy. To go one step further, customizing them with “Black Friday starts early for you (and then insert their name)” is the best way to go. I recommend using PostPilot for this. Right now, they have a holiday offer, which is a $7,000+ offer for only $1,499. View it here.
Send Handwritten Cards:
Want to be even more aggressive? Create and send handwritten cards with a note from you as the founder from Handwrite.io, PostPilot’s sister company.
It’s the same concept but this is way cooler since very few brands do it. You could also send regular postcards to everyone on your list and handwritten cards with an exclusive discount to your top 1,000 customers if you wanted some differentiation.
The lift sounds heavy, but with regular postcards, it’s a quick design, and you ship it with the PostPilot platform. With Handwrite, it’s as simple as uploading the note and addresses. Both will take you under 45 minutes to get setup and live.
Flush the toilet!
Black Friday and Cyber Monday is all about clearing the funnel and moving your excess inventory. I call it “flushing the toilet.” Basically, all year round brands are running ads, getting clicks, comments, emails, and shares. A LOT of people have interacted with your brand, but they haven’t converted. TBH, that’s just the natural byproduct (aka a backed up toilet) of running ads online for the first 10 months of the year. Now, it’s your job to collect that build-up and convert them when they’re the most ready to buy. Don’t let your entire year of impressions, clicks, and content go to waste!
Your paid ads strategy
For ads, you are simply paying more money to get in front of people who have already interacted with you before. You should be spending the vast majority of your budget on retargeting traffic i.e anyone who has clicked on an ad, viewed content on your site, interacted with your social accounts, or been added to your email list.
You don’t necessarily need or want to spend too much time and money trying to convince cold traffic or net new people to try you for the first time. You want repeat purchases from existing customers and to convince people who have meaningfully interacted with you throughout the year but haven’t converted that BFCM is the right time to give your product a try.
If you’re prospecting on Black Friday, you should be focused on people who have likely been considering a purchase… you want to get everyone who’s on the fence, OVER the fence. My beef with going after completely net-new, cold, new traffic is that you tend to find not-so-great customers. You don’t want to get deal-hunters as customers who are just there for your BFCM offer. You want to get people who have the potential to be real, non-promo-buying customers, but the BFCM offer is an excuse to try you.
Don’t turn off your evergreen ads:
If your evergreen ads are working, don’t turn them off. Layer your BFCM ads on top. Your evergreen ads have built up so much positive social proof, including tons of comments, likes, and shares. If they still get clicks and conversions, keep them on!
Consider changing the content on your LP for your evergreen ads:
Instead of turning off evergreen ads, consider making additions to the LP you’re sending traffic to. For Sharma Brands, if we’re running paid ads to a listicle that is killing it, we’ll just add a module on the landing page (LP) explaining the offer, and swapping out the coupon code on the page. This way, the ad, its social proof, and its learnings stay relatively untouched.
Next time you throw up your ads, you can also consider using a redirected vanity URL behind the ad, such as longwknd.com/ad1, so that when BFCM rolls around and the ad has amazing social proof, you can change the redirect to go wherever you need it. You can learn how to do that in Shopify on this link.
Again, make the offer clear:
Consumers are going to naturally search for offers from their favorite brands. Put it everywhere. Put it in your ads, emails, the bio and pinned post on all of your social channels, etc. Anywhere a consumer looks, they should see your BFCM offer in 2 seconds or less.
People who really want to shop from you will likely go directly to your website or your Instagram to see the deal… don’t try to hide it. You can and should make an entire post explaining your offer, and you can always archive it later.
Whitelist creator accounts
I’ve talked about this concept for years and I won’t stop. This is a big part of what we do at Character, and we always see the best results from this approach. If you don’t have content creators or publishers to run ads from, then get your founder’s Instagram account going with a founder-created video explaining the offer. I always see this from Lume Deodorant and it gets me inspired to be scrappy and create ads like that.
The Calendar Invite Strategy
This was an idea that Moiz had and I don’t know how feasible it is, but a cool way to kickoff Black Friday could be sending your top 500-1000 customers a calendar invite on gmail for when your sale begins. I’ve never seen a brand do this (and now because of this email I feel like at least 10 people will try it) but I thought that was a pretty creative idea to spark some buzz and set a reminder for customers to engage with your brand.
Revive churned customers or subscribers
Black Friday is the best time I’ve seen to revive your churned customers and subscribers. IMO, you should offer a steep discount for people to rejoin your subscription program if they commit to at least one or two quarters. They have tried your subscription before and it’s likely while they are in the shopping mood, that they would consider subscribing again.
The same playbook can be run for churned customers too. If they bought from you last year but haven’t purchased anything this year, try running a segmented winback campaign with a custom offer that literally says, you tried us last year and we’d love for you to try us again, use code BF20 for your next purchase today.
Don’t forget about your affiliate opportunities!
Every year, nearly every major publisher will run lists on the top 50 BFCM deals in tech, beauty, and fashion etc. They will cover every category. Your job is to get your product and offer on these lists and it’s easier than you might think.
The strategy is pretty simple. Find a top 50 list from last year. Find the author’s name. Find their Twitter, LinkedIn, or email. Tell them what your discount is this year and ask if they’d consider including it in their upcoming list. Why does this work? Well, you just saved them time at their job. They will probably do it and I’ve personally done this for many clients before. Even if it doesn’t generate a ton of sales, you will get a great backlink from a popular publisher or blog. Be sure to use UTMs so that you can track the performance if you do get a few links into blog posts and articles from big publishers year.
Think about how publishers make money… it’s mainly either sponsored content, display ads, or affiliate. If you’re going to make them money, especially by giving them a good affilite offer (i.e. 20% or 30% comission vs the standard 10% or 8% from Amazon).
Invest in Influencer Marketing
Similar to the bloggers and journals, everyone is looking for recommendations when it comes to BFCM. IMO, now is the time to increase your influencer spend, especially because you can pair that spend with an affiliate incentive. You give the influencer a link or a coupon code (use Social Snowball for it), and as they see the sales come in for your cookware set, they’re going to want to keep posting and pushing their link/coupon code. This works especially well if you have a mid/high AOV product, or you have something that sells well (aka you have done a good job of brand awareness).
Her favorite “B” word: Bundles
At Sharma Brands, Bailee on my team builds out a lot of our on-site customer journeys, and her favorite B word is, “bundles.” BFCM is the best time to bundle items to increase your AOV. The average AOVs are around $105 so keep that in mind. If you sell a lower priced product, you should be actively thinking about how to make your cart value above $100. This is your biggest opportunity all year to bundle items and drive more units per transaction in your sales.
Okay, that’s it for this week. I hope this added a few reminders and ideas to your checklist of projects to handle over the next few weeks. It’s a crazy time for everyone in DTC but it’s also probably the most fun time of the year.
After BFCM, please tell me how your BFCM went! I’d love to compile the data and share it (I won’t name your brand, it’ll be fully anonymous of course). If you’d like to participate just DM me on X @mrsharma, or email me back here.
We’ve also created a #BFCM Slack channel in our Limited Supply Slack for everyone to jam on real-time tactics and ideas together. Moiz and I will be online responding to everyone when time permits.
Now, onto some fun stuff…