Managing a Small Business
3 Steps to Small Business Success on Black Friday
Plan Ahead to Take Advantage of the Day after Thanksgiving
Black Friday may prompt bargain-conscious consumers to gather in front of their favorite stores as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is over. For your small business, capitalizing on the post-Thanksgiving retail bonanza requires getting your plans lined up well in advance.
Big-box retailers have an advantage when it comes to offering massive discounts at the official kickoff of holiday shopping. So think about ways to use your competitive advantages, whether it be exclusivity, expertise or personalized service, to attract loyal and potential customers. And set up those competitive differentiators in advance.
By following a timeline to ramp up holiday sales, you could boost sales and profits during the most lucrative time of the year for consumer sales.
1. Early October: Strategy and preparation. Think about how to approach Black Friday and the holiday season. If big-box stores can excel in price, small businesses can stand out with promotions catered specifically to key audiences.
For instance, build a special promotion to your email subscribers. Plan ahead now for what you want to offer the week of Black Friday. How about offering your regulars a special discount, or a promotion off the second purchase they make?
Retailers may also host an event the week or day after Black Friday to anticipate customer needs that may not have been met during that 24-hour rush. Rally with other small businesses to host an event at a local venue — whether it's a community center, a retail space or a private hall — and create a fair for your merchandise. Local, community-based events are popular and can draw in customers who want to avoid the mall but still want to shop in person.
Early October to-dos:
- Prepare a Black Friday email promotion.
- Organize a local vendor event to follow Black Friday.
- Create a marketing plan to build customer excitement throughout the fall.
2. Late October: Inventory, supplies and staff. This is a good time to stock up on products you expect to be popular during the holidays.
Tina Gasperson, who sells rings on Etsy, advises buying from your suppliers as soon as you can. “They are just as busy as the retailers. It’s important to get those orders ahead of time so you have the necessary supplies for your product.”
This is also a good time to stock up on supplies for shipping orders, such as envelopes and labels. Brick-and-mortar businesses should also arrange Black Friday signage and in-store merchandising.
If you expect business to exceed bandwidth, temporary staff could help. Try recruiting at local university websites. Hiring in advance will give you a chance to prep your team for brisk sales, so they know what to expect and are familiar with the merchandise. Other staff could be used for replacing stock and fulfilling online orders. Organize shifts for your team in advance.
Late October to-dos:
- Stock up on your hottest inventory.
- Don't skimp on the shipping supplies.
- Buy Black Friday signage and other marketing collateral.
- Line up and schedule temporary staff.
3. November: Marketing, promotion and sales. In the lead-up to Black Friday, it’s go-time. A week or two ahead, tease your audience about your sale or event. This is a good time to prepare and send out newsletters, schedule social media marketing and tell everyone about what’s coming up (whether it’s new product or an event catered to loyal or new customers).
Another tip from Gasperson: “Go to the mall. This way, you can see what bargains shoppers are looking for, and it can give you ideas.”
- Kick off those promotions via social media, email and other channels.
- Visit the local competition, and see what's working for them.
Bottom line? The Black Friday and holiday rush can be a race. Be prepared to seize opportunities where the big guys can't compete.
Photo: © Thinkstock/Photodisc | Natalie Taylor is a freelance writer based in Toronto. She specializes in coverage of travel, food, drink, and design topics and has written for National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, AFAR, and Conde Nast Traveler.