Smart Ways to Prepare for Black Friday

Small business marketing consultants share their top tips to help you leverage this shopping day to the max.
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There are plenty of ways to take advantage of Black Friday, including teaming up with another small business or hiring extra holiday staff. (Photo: Arina P Habich)

One of biggest shopping days of the year will be here before you know it. Black Friday may have lost some ground in recent years to Cyber Monday — and for small business owners, sales volume may pale in comparison to Small Business Saturday, which happens the day after — but on Black Friday 2015, shoppers still spent $10.4 billion in stores.

Here’s what you need to know to be ready for Black Friday 2016.

Set clear goals

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“Unless you know what you’re trying to get out of Black Friday, you can’t work out how you’re going to handle it.” – Chloë Thomas (Photo: Chloë Thomas)

Small business marketing consultant Chloë Thomas said identifying your Black Friday goals is key. “Is it to keep sales volume up? Is it to recruit new customers? Or is it to get your existing customers to use your website as well as your store?”

“Unless you know what you’re trying to get out of Black Friday, you can’t work out how you’re going to handle it.”

Thomas said the next step is to decide what promotion or offer is going to best achieve your goals. “If your aim is to get new customers then you might want a big bold ‘X percent’ off everything today, but if you’re trying to get existing customers to buy online, it might be ‘Black Friday Web Exclusives — get X, Y, Z product for a low price on the website while stocks last.’”

Plan the logistics

Once you identify your promotion, start working out the logistics. “Do you need more support? Will it run for one day or the weekend? Do you need to buy in more product, and if so, where are you going to put it?” said Thomas.

“Inventory planning for Black Friday can be a nightmare, so find ways to make it easier for you. That might be limiting the offers to only a handful of SKUs, that way you only have to worry about a few items. Or it might mean restricting the deals to just one of your distribution channels, just store or just website,” Thomas said.

Mitch Dowell, founder and creative director of Branding Experiences, said Black Friday can be the perfect time to move old inventory or overstocks. “One thing that small businesses tend to miss during the holidays is the opportunity to move stagnant inventory through heavy discounts or by marking certain inventory as clearance items. Most holiday shoppers will be on a budget and will have to limit their purchases to a certain dollar amount,” he said.

Team up with other small businesses

Competition for Black Friday shoppers can be stiff. Findings ways to band together with other small businesses can give you more leverage.

For instance, to capitalize on foot traffic you might choose to hold a promotion, such as a discount at all participating retailers, in conjunction with nearby shops.

You could also team up with retailers that offer complementary goods or services. A clothing boutique could offer coupons to the jewelry store, or the sandwich shop could offer coupons for the cupcake stand, and they could offer coupons to your store.

Cooperation takes planning. Start early to get discounts on printing or to coordinate social media marketing.

Focus on offering a positive customer experience

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Mitch Dowell, founder and creative director of Branding Experiences, suggests moving old inventory or overstocks on Black Friday. (Photo: Mitch Dowell)

A unique or at least a positive customer experience is a great way for small businesses to compete with big retailers, especially during the holidays, when finding a salesperson at a chain store can be a feat unto itself. Create a holiday atmosphere with scents and sounds. Offer hot chocolate and cookies. Give shoppers personal attention.

Above all, make sure you’re adequately staffed for the day. And look for ways to streamline your checkout process.

“Holiday shoppers have a lot on their plates and on their minds. The shopping experience has to be smooth and effortless,” Dowel said.

Hire your holiday staff early enough that you have time to educate them about your goods or services and coach on them how to handle a crowded store and difficult customers.

Consider offering your most loyal customers a little something extra — use text messages to invite them to an invitation-only event on Thursday, email them VIP offers, etc.

Make Black Friday customers repeat customers

Dowel said small business owners should collect customer data at point-of-sale, something a POS system can do for you.

“Whether it’s capturing their email address for a mailing list or creating a customer survey insert to include in their packaging, every transaction is an opportunity to gain more than just a sale,” Dowel said.

Thomas agreed. “The biggest trend in retail right now is to learn from your customers how to make your business better. You should get good traffic over Black Friday, so think about how else you can take advantage of it.”

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