Black Friday is a big deal to small businesses. Consumers in 2012 spent on average $423 during Thanksgiving weekend, or $59.1 billion total (a 13% increase from the previous year), according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
This year, on Friday, November 29, retailers will open their doors early to attract Black Friday shoppers with attractive discounts and bundled services. Entire shopping communities are abuzz with ad-scan leaks, rumors, and analysis of Black Friday offers.
As a regular shopper on Black Friday myself, I can attest that for many consumers it's thrilling to find the best deal and to partake in people-watching while eager shoppers camp outside the doors the night before.
But what about small businesses?
It's not a fair fight for entrepreneurs to go toe to toe against large retailers that make Black Friday a success through steep discounting, aggressive marketing, and massive advertising budgets. Nevertheless, small businesses, too, can capitalize on Black Friday.
The core strategy to make Black Friday work for your smaller business is to position on the value of your products and services while marketing creatively to consumers.
It's likely customers won't spend Thanksgiving camping out at your front door, but you can increase sales and do it in a calculated, meaningful way.
1. Don't heavily discount your products or services
It's tempting to discount your products and services that have the highest margins. Don't. You won't win against the likes of Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target. Instead, bundle more value into what you are selling.
A good way to do so is to offer complimentary warranties or extend your guarantees. In the mind of the buyer, this reduces the risk involved in the purchase. And when you assign a monetary value to your actions, you're able to give the impression of an attractive discount that other retailers simply can't match.
2. Connect with customers meaningfully
For a moment, think about the genuine, personalized marketing activities during Black Friday. There are virtually no human-friendly activities during this time because everyone is so focused on price. The value of a one-to-one human connection to customers and prospects is substantial because you will stand out and connect with them emotionally.
Accordingly, do something personal and friendly for your best prospects and customers. Consider a simple handwritten thank-you note wishing them a great Thanksgiving. Let them know that you appreciate their support during the holidays. That is, don't make a sales attempt; just be genuine to your prospects and customers, and you just might have hot leads show up to buy.
3. Use guerilla marketing
You're a small business... you can be crafty and creative, and you can even take a few more risks than others. Do you sell cupcakes, coffee, baked goods? Head to your nearest Wal-Mart or Best Buy to hand out samples and provide a small flyer reminding people that they can buy from you after the Black Friday rush.
No need to place business cards in the windows of people's cars. Instead, be friendly and genuine and try to make people's day a little bit better. It could be even as simple as handing out hot chocolate or free coffee to frenzied shoppers while you have your business cards on hand.
4. Be useful
Consumers will be receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of sales and marketing offers. By adopting the tactic of being useful, you can be top of mind and engaging while creating memorable experiences people will tell others about. Basically, by being useful, you are promoting your authority on the subject while building trust with your audience.
Whether that means reporting on traffic jams in your local area, helping people choose between an LED or LCD television, or spotting the best deals for products and services your customers care about, you can absolutely add value while demonstrating your strengths.
5. Don't aim for new customers
Seriously, don't aim for customer acquisition. You will spin your tires without ever gaining traction. Focus instead on the people who have already done business with you. Why? Simply, it's easier to increase sales by marketing to customers who have previously purchased from you.
How? Perform some analysis on your customers. Think about the ones who have spent the most or bought most frequently, or simply those who have been long-time supporters of your company. Send them a targeted, segmented email explaining that they are VIPs to your company and that you are happy to apply a "customer appreciation" discount or to offer an exclusive bundle to create more value.
Your customers will have a sense of feeling rewarded, as though they'd earned a discount, which often translates into a repeat sale. Go for the gusto by giving them a warm phone call or sending a personalized postcard.
6. Harness social media and email marketing
I know this is a no-brainer, but you ought to use the social platforms that customers use. And, yes, email is social: People forward emails, share discount codes with friends, and even talk about specials with their friends.
So craft a useful and engaging email marketing campaign to your customers and prospects. The better targeted (and therefore fewer recipients), the more personalized you can make your offers. Above all, be brief. Consumers don't have time to wade through a 1,500-word email.
7. Think about search engine optimization (SEO)
All right, this late in the game SEO isn't something that will bring in droves of customers come Black Friday morning, but it will help your site stay visible during the overall holiday shopping season. Consumers often search for a product's model number or features and do so with intent. Intent means they are specifically looking for price or availability to purchase the given product or service in their local area.
Google (and Bing) do their best to present timely and accurate information to their users. One such bit of information is structured data that is coded on the website. Some examples of structured data include... you guessed it... product name, model number, features, price, location, reviews, ratings and more. That data is displayed in a special way within search results to promote the visibility of your website content.
Build relationships and strengthen your business on Black Friday
As a business owner, you need to think about your end game. Black Friday, to many retailers, is about shortening their revenue gaps within a weekend. For smaller businesses, it's about rekindling customer relationships and providing superior value.
Since you're in the business of developing strong relationships with customers, consider developing a robust customer lifecycle so every prospect is receiving follow-up and every customer is being satisfied. That will make your Black Friday efforts last longer and provide more business value all year.
Nevertheless, you can't ignore the reality that you need to stay top of mind with your customers during the holiday season, so be sure to put steps in place to carry your customers beyond Black Friday and into your repeat buying cycle.