Get Ready for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday With This 3-Month Timeline

The holidays are quickly approaching, so it's time to get ready for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday! These three events are some of the most important sales days of the year for small businesses. To make the most of them, you need to start planning now. In this blog post, I will give you a timeline and countdown so that you can make sure your business is ready for the holiday shopping season.

The Three Phases of Holiday Sales: Preparation for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday

In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, you should start preparing by creating marketing material for these three events. This could include sale flyers, advertisements of upcoming deals or promotions, email marketing templates and campaigns, blog posts with holiday shopping tips lists of gifts for various occasions, and more.

The holiday shopping season officially starts on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving every year. This is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, as many people use it to buy gifts for friends and family at a discount. On Small Business Saturday, you should ensure your store or website is fully staffed and ready to process any orders. Offering special promotions or deals for customers who shop on Small Business Saturday is also a good idea. This will help you attract new customers and encourage them to return to your business for future holiday shopping needs.

Finally, Cyber Monday marks the last big shopping day of the year. It's a good idea to have a solid marketing strategy during this time, as more and more customers turn to online shopping at the end of the holiday season. You can reach new audiences by promoting your business across multiple channels. Additionally, you could offer special promotions or discounts on your website.

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Evaluating Your Business for the Holiday Shopping Season

Before diving headfirst into the holiday buying frenzy, taking a step back and objectively evaluating your business is crucial. This will ensure you're well-prepared to handle the surge in traffic and sales that come with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Below are some key areas to consider:

  • Website: Is your site user-friendly and easy to navigate? Can it handle a sudden surge in traffic without crashing? 
  • Sales Channels: Are all your sales channels up-to-date with your current product inventory and pricing? Are there any channels you haven't explored that could boost your sales?
  • Payment Processing: Does your business support a variety of payment methods to accommodate all potential customers? Is your payment gateway reliable and secure, and can it handle an uptick in volume?
  • Logistics: Do you have a reliable supply chain to ensure you don't run out of stock at crucial times? Can you handle expedited shipping demands?
  • Order Processing: Do you have an efficient system for processing orders quickly and accurately? Can it scale up to handle a high volume of orders? 
  • Customer Service: Are you prepared to promptly answer queries and handle customer issues?
  • Marketing Budget: Do you have enough budget to launch effective campaigns, or do you need to look for lower-cost alternatives?

Once you've assessed your business, you'll better understand what needs to be done to prepare for the holiday shopping season.

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How to Set Up Your 90-Day Promotion Runway for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday

Phase One (90-60 days out): Planning and Preparation

Ideally, the initial planning phase should start three months before the holiday sales events. This is the critical time to undertake thorough groundwork for your business to ensure a successful holiday selling season.

Identify your Target Audience

First and foremost, understanding your target audience is the key to effective marketing. Know who they are, what they want, their buying habits, and their preferred communication channels. Conduct market research if necessary. This understanding will lay the groundwork for crafting a compelling message that resonates with your potential customers.

Ways to Conduct Market Research

  • Online Surveys: Use platforms like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to create targeted questionnaires for your audience.
  • Social Media: Leverage platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to monitor trends and gather opinions about your industry. 
  • Customer Feedback: Collect feedback from your existing customers through reviews, comments, or direct communication.
  • Competitor Analysis: Understanding your competitors' actions can give you valuable insights.
  • Industry Reports: Look for industry-specific reports or studies that provide relevant data.
  • Online Tools: Use keyword research tools like Google Trends or SEMRush to identify popular search terms related to your industry.
  • Networking Events: Attend industry events or webinars to interact with potential customers and gain insights.

Set your Marketing and Sales Goals 

Once you clearly understand your target audience, it's time to set your marketing and sales goals. Whether you aim to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, or boost sales, having specific objectives will give you a clear direction for your promotional efforts. Remember, your goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) to increase your chances of success.

Examples of Marketing and Sales Goals for the Holiday Shopping Campaign

  • Increase the number of orders by 15% compared to last year's holiday season.
  • Boost the average order value by 10% through upselling or bundling products.
  • Improve the conversion rate on your website by 5% with targeted advertising and website optimization.
  • Grow your email subscriber list by 20% through a holiday sign-up incentive.
  • Secure a 10% increase in repeat customers through loyalty rewards or special promotions.
  • Through PPC advertising and SEO efforts, drive a 15% increase in website traffic.
  • Expand your customer base by targeting a new demographic with targeted marketing.
  • Improve customer satisfaction rates by enhancing customer service during the holiday season.
  • Increase the number of positive online reviews by 25% by encouraging satisfied customers to leave feedback.

Develop your Promotion Strategies

After setting your goals, you need to develop strategies to achieve them. This could involve offering special discounts, launching a new product line, or introducing a referral program. Also, consider the marketing channels you will use to reach your audience, such as social media, email marketing, or paid advertising. Be sure to align these strategies with understanding your target audience and goals.

How to Develop Strategies to Achieve Your Marketing and Sales Goals

  • Offer Exclusive Discounts or Deals: Limited-time offers create a sense of urgency and encourage customers to purchase. You could offer a percentage off, buy-one-get-one-free deals, or free shipping.
  • Launch a New Product Line: The holiday shopping season is an excellent time to introduce a new product or service. Remember to highlight the benefits and reasons it would make a great gift.
  • Introduce a Referral Program: Encourage your existing customers to refer their friends and family to your business by offering them a reward, such as a discount on their next purchase.
  • Leverage Social Media: Utilize platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to promote your products and engage with your audience. Consider launching a holiday-themed social media campaign.
  • Email Marketing: Send targeted emails to your subscribers with exclusive deals, product recommendations, and reminders about upcoming shopping events.
  • Paid Advertising: Use platforms like Google Ads or Facebook Ads to reach a larger audience. Target your ads based on your audience's demographics and interests.
  • Optimize Your Website: Ensure your website is easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, and optimized for search engines. A well-designed and user-friendly website can significantly increase your conversion rate.
  • Enhance Customer Service: Outstanding customer service can set your business apart. Ensure your customer service team is ready to handle queries or issues promptly and efficiently.
  • Encourage Feedback: Ask your customers to leave reviews or testimonials. Positive reviews can significantly influence potential customers' purchasing decisions.
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Phase Two (60-30 Days Out): Pre-Launch Activities

As you move into the second phase, pre-launch activities, from 60 to 30 days out, it's time to bring your plans to life. During this phase, focus on fine-tuning your marketing messages, setting up your promotional campaigns, scheduling your social media posts, and configuring your email marketing automation. At the same time, ensure you're stocked up on inventory and have sufficient staff to handle the projected increase in customer inquiries and sales. Also, finalize your website updates, ensuring it's optimized for both the user experience and search and can handle increased traffic. Test everything thoroughly to avoid any last-minute hiccups. Remember, preparation is key during this phase.

Finalize Your Promotional Materials

During this phase, it's crucial to add the finishing touches to your promotional material, including banners, posters, digital content, and other marketing collateral. Make sure to incorporate QR codes to enhance engagement and provide easy access to exclusive offers. Maintain consistent branding across all platforms and ensure your message resonates with the target audience. Don't forget to include all the relevant information about your Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday deals.

  • Create Engaging Visuals: Use eye-catching graphics, vibrant colors, and compelling images in your promotional materials to attract attention. Balance this with clear, concise information about your offers.
  • Use Clear, Direct Language: Avoid jargon and opt for simple, direct language that communicates the benefits of your deals. Make sure your call to action is clear and compelling.
  • Personalize Where Possible: If you have customer data, personalize your promotional materials to make the offers more relevant and attractive to individual customers.
  • Highlight the Exclusivity: Stress the limited-time nature of the exclusive offers, making customers feel they are getting something special and creating a sense of urgency.
  • Present Value, Not Just Discounts: Rather than focusing purely on the discount, highlight the value customers will get from the product or service, such as the problems it will solve or the benefits it will bring.

Incorporating QR Codes in Unexpected Yet Effective Places

QR codes can be placed in locations you might not immediately consider, but these could bring significant revenue. By scanning the code with their smartphone, customers can be directed to your website, special offers, or new products, creating a seamless and engaging shopping experience.

  • In-Store Displays: While this may seem intuitive, many businesses underestimate the power of QR codes in physical stores. They can quickly lead customers to additional product details, customer reviews, or related items.
  • Product Packaging: Adding QR codes to your product packaging can provide added value after the purchase, leading customers to instructions, tutorials, or accessory recommendations.
  • Video: YouTube and other video platforms provide an excellent opportunity to include QR codes in your content. This could lead customers to related merchandise or promotions, increasing engagement and sales.
  • Business Cards: These small but mighty networking tools can be enhanced with a QR code, leading new contacts to your website or a personalized welcome message.
  • Vehicle Graphics: This is a great way to reach potential customers on the go and direct them to your website or promotions. It can be particularly effective for businesses that offer services in their local area. 
  • Invoices or Receipts: Include a QR code in your invoices or receipts to offer customers a hassle-free way to re-order products, introduce them to your loyalty program, or ask them for a review/testimonial.
  • In Community Spaces: Don't underestimate the potential of community bulletin boards, local events, or even outdoor billboards. A QR code makes it easy for interested passersby to instantly learn more about your business.

It's not just about placing QR codes anywhere but creating a strategic placement plan that aligns with your business, target audience's behavior, and needs.

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Plan Your Social Media Campaign

Your social media campaign is a cornerstone of your overall marketing strategy. Start by determining which platforms your target customers use the most. Next, create engaging content that aligns with your overall marketing message. You may want to use holiday-themed visuals, catchy headlines, and hashtags related to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Also, consider scheduling your posts in advance to ensure consistent engagement with your audience.

Develop Your Social Media Promotion Strategy

To ensure successful promotion of your offers during the holiday shopping season, here are a few key steps to consider:

  • Identify Your Key Offers: Determine the products or services you want to highlight most on your social media platforms during the shopping holidays. These may be your most popular items or those with the highest profit margins. Consider doing bundles or limited-time discounts to make them more attractive.
  • Create a Posting Calendar: Create a well-structured social media posting schedule outlining the timing and content for each platform. Ensure a balance between promotional posts and engaging content that resonates with your followers, specifically tailored for the upcoming holiday shopping season.
  • Promote Across Platforms: Maximize the potential of your social media platforms by promoting your offers across multiple channels. For instance, utilize Instagram for visually captivating product posts and videos, leverage Facebook for longer content or engaging stories, and leverage Twitter for quick updates or reminders about your deals. Additionally, don't overlook the impact of long-form content such as blog posts and YouTube videos.
  • Run Competitions or Giveaways: Generate buzz and boost engagement with your followers by offering a free item or one of your most popular bundles. You can achieve this through captivating methods like a lucky draw, social media contest, or online quiz. Personally, I love KingSumo for this.
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Organize and Optimize Your Email Marketing Strategy

Email marketing is a direct and effective way to reach your customers. Begin by segmenting your email list based on past purchase behavior, engagement with previous emails, and customer loyalty status. Then, tailor your emails to each segment to increase relevance and engagement. Your emails should inform subscribers about your upcoming sales and encourage them to share the information with others. Consider offering your email subscribers exclusive early access or special discounts as an added incentive.

General Timeline for Your Holiday Email Marketing Strategy

Crafting a detailed timeline for your email marketing strategy can keep you on track and ensure you're effectively reaching your audience throughout the holiday shopping season. Here's a basic blueprint:

  • 90 Days Out (Late August): Begin planning your overall email marketing strategy. Decide on the main offers, key dates, and target customer segments.
  • 60 Days Out (Late September): Start teasing your upcoming holiday sales to your email subscribers to build excitement. You might also start segmenting your email list during this period.
  • 30 Days Out (Late October): Send more detailed emails about deals and sales. This is a good time to offer loyal customers early access or exclusive discounts.
  • 15 Days Out (Mid-November): Send weekly emails reminding subscribers about your upcoming sales. Highlight different products or offers in each email. 
  • 1 Week Out: Increase the frequency of your emails to build urgency. You could send daily countdown emails or last-minute reminders about your sales.
  • Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday: Send out special emails each day of the sales. Consider including real-time updates on the best deals or quickly selling products.
    • 24 Hours Out: The “Get Ready” email: A friendly reminder.
    • At the Time of the Event (Midnight): “The Doors Are Open” email. On your marks, get set, SHOP!
  • Post-Holiday Follow-Up (Late November-Early December): Don't forget to follow up after the sales. This could be a thank you email, a special offer for their next purchase, or a survey to get feedback about their shopping experience. Automate this, too. 

Phase Three (30-0 Days Out): Execution and Adjustment

As we approach the final phase, 30 to 0 days out, it's time to execute your well-planned strategies and stay adaptable for any necessary adjustments. This is the sprint to the finish line, where your marketing efforts intensify. Continue to engage your audience through consistent social media posts, email reminders, and exclusive deals. Monitor your campaign's performance closely, adjusting your tactics based on what's working best. Customer queries should be promptly responded to, ensuring top-notch customer service. Plans can change based on how your customers respond, so stay flexible, keep the conversation going with your audience, and adapt as required.

Roll Out Your Promotions

This is the action-packed phase! Start executing your holiday promotions as planned. Whether it's Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday, your carefully crafted promotions should now go live. Publish your holiday-themed social media posts, send planned emails to your segmented lists, and ensure your website and landing pages have holiday banners and clear call-to-action buttons. Also, keep your audience engaged with real-time updates, flash deals, and exciting giveaways. This is your moment to shine, so make sure your business is in the spotlight!

  • Pre-Launch Teasers: Keep your audience intrigued by sharing sneak peeks of your offers or dropping hints about what they can expect. This helps build anticipation and keeps your business at the top of their minds. 
  • Live Events or Webinars: Consider hosting live events or webinars introducing your holiday sales. These platforms can be a fun, interactive way to engage with your audience and generate excitement. Think QVC style. 
  • Engaging Social Media Posts: Use platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter to share engaging content related to your holiday sales. This could include behind-the-scenes footage, customer testimonials, or product highlights. Like live events and webinars, leverage these platforms to provide exclusive discount codes for complimentary gifts or unlock access to an exclusive community.
  • Email Campaigns: Send regular emails to your customers detailing your offers, deals, and discounts. Use subject lines that grab attention and create a sense of urgency.
  • Real-Time Updates: Keep your customers in the loop by providing real-time updates on your sales. Update them about which items are selling fast, new items added to the sale, or extended sale hours.

Monitor Sales and Web Traffic

Keeping a close eye on your sales progress and web traffic is crucial during this period. Use analytics tools to monitor customer behaviors, online sales, and traffic patterns. Which products are selling fast? Where is the traffic coming from? Are your social media posts driving engagement and sales? Are your emails opening and clicking through as expected? By understanding these dynamics, you'll gain valuable insights that will assist you in making real-time adjustments to your strategies.

  • Sales Performance: Track the sales performance of each of your holiday promotions. Which items are selling out quickly? Which ones are underperforming? This data can help you adjust your inventory and marketing efforts accordingly.
  • Web Traffic: Monitor your website's traffic to understand customer behavior. Are certain pages receiving more visitors? Are visitors spending more time on specific pages or links? Use this information to optimize your website and improve the user experience.
  • Social Media Engagement: Watch your social media posts' performance. Which posts are driving engagement and sales? Use this data to tailor your future social media content and drive more traffic to your sales.
  • Email Campaign Performance: Track your email campaigns' open and click-through rates. This can help you understand which emails resonate with your audience and inform future marketing strategies.
  • Customer Feedback: Actively seek and monitor customer feedback. Are customers happy with the sales and service? Are there any common complaints or suggestions? This invaluable feedback can help you improve your current and future promotions.
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Adjust Strategies as Needed

Despite the best planning, you'll likely need to make some adjustments along the way. That's okay! It's all part of the process. For example, if certain products fly off the virtual shelves, highlight them more prominently on your social media channels. Conversely, if some items aren't selling, consider sweetening the deal with additional discounts or bundle them with more popular items. Your strategy should be fluid, adapting to the realities of the market and your customers' behavior.

Here are a few ways to ensure a smooth transition:

  • Reiterate Marketing Efforts: If your email or social media campaigns aren't driving the expected engagement or sales, don't panic. Review your messages, consider tweaking your content, subject lines, or posting times, and reiterate your efforts gradually.
  • Monitor and Adapt Inventory: Keep a close eye on your inventory. If certain products sell out faster than anticipated, focus on promoting those items. On the other hand, slow-moving items might require additional marketing push or attractive bundling deals.
  • Update Website: If your website analytics show visitors spending more time on specific pages, consider making those pages more prominent to enhance the user experience. Conversely, underperforming pages may need updating or optimization.
  • Adjust Pricing Strategy: If certain items aren't selling as expected, it might be time to reconsider your pricing strategy. Gradual price drops, flash sales, or bundled deals might be necessary to boost sales.
  • Improve Customer Service: Always be attentive to customer feedback. If you notice common pain points, address them promptly and improve your service. This gradual optimization can lead to better customer satisfaction and increased sales. 

Participating in Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday can significantly boost your business's revenue. However, it requires careful planning, strategic execution, and flexibility to adjust your tactics as needed. Whether you participate in one, two, or all three shopping holidays, remember to keep your customers' needs at the forefront and ensure your promotions align with your brand and business goals. And most importantly, have fun with it!

Post-Event Analysis

Once the dust has settled post-Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, it's time to dive into the data and evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies.

Analyze Sales Data

Take a close look at your sales data. Which products sold the most? Were there any clear trends in purchasing behavior? Did the sales meet your expectations? Understanding this information can give you a clear picture of what worked and what didn't and provide valuable insights for future planning.

Evaluate the Success of Your Strategies

Reflect on the strategies you implemented. Did your email marketing campaign drive customer engagement? Did your social media posts increase brand awareness and drive traffic to your site? This is also a good time to look at customer feedback, online reviews, and social media comments. This will help you understand what aspects of your campaign resonated with your audience and which areas need improvement.

Plan for Next Year's Events

With all the current year's learnings, start sketching a roadmap for next year's events. Identify the best strategies, areas that need improvement, and any new ideas you want to try. Each year is an opportunity to improve, so take your good and bad lessons and use them to improve your future strategies. 

Remember, every bit of data, feedback, and experience holds valuable lessons that can help you plan and execute a more successful campaign in the future.

Conclusion

As we wind down, the key takeaways are clear: Preparation, strategic execution, and flexibility are critical to a successful holiday shopping season. Whether you're partaking in Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, or all three, start your planning early, monitor your progress, and be ready to adapt based on real-time data and customer feedback. Each shopping holiday presents a unique opportunity to boost sales, enhance brand awareness, and foster customer loyalty. Yet, it's essential to approach them in a manner that aligns with your brand, resonates with your audience, and contributes to your business goals.

Finally, the learning doesn't stop after the sale. The post-event analysis is a crucial part of the process, allowing you to understand what worked and what didn't and how you can improve your strategies for future events. Each year presents a new opportunity to enhance your approach, fine-tune your tactics, and deliver a shopping experience your customers love. And if you're unsure about participating in these shopping holidays, consider the potential benefits and make a decision that best serves your business. Either way, the holiday season is a time of excitement, connection, and celebration – let's make the most of it!

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