Memo #18

5 Powerful eCom Black Friday Strategies Behind the Best Month to Date for Our Clients

Memo18

Today I would like to tell you 5 strategies we used to get our clients $5.5 million in revenue in the Black Friday month.

These strategies have the potential to increase your sales by over 100% in just a few weeks!

In order to come up with these lessons, I asked my team of campaign managers at AdKings, to share their tricks for Black Friday and the Cyber Week that followed.

Then, I distilled their philosophies into principles that you can easily learn and apply to your own campaigns.

But first, let’s meet the different brands that I’ll be talking about, and see how they did in the month of November, with the percentages compared to the baseline of October:

Home Decor Brand: Revenue $4,372,609.3, Sales up by +120%;

Clothing Brand: Revenue $491,432.76, Sales up by +115%;

Dentistry Brand: Revenue €348,822.09 (c.$407,302.11), Sales up by +259%;

Skincare Brand: Revenue A$204,269.74 (c.$143,581.20), Sales up by 64%; and

Outdoor Equipment Brand: Revenue $170,660, Sales up by 332%.

It’s worth noting that these are brands in completely different product categories, and often only servicing specific countries. We shouldn’t extrapolate from them precise numbers, or compare them 1:1.

The point of mentioning them is not drawing direct parallels, but to see what lessons you can learn from them.

These five strategies will take you through the whole Black Friday period, starting from early November up until early December, and teach you how to run your own campaigns better.

1. Plan Your Offers

At this point, we’re in early November and Black Friday remains weeks ahead.

Many would argue it’s too early to start organizing your campaign, as well as looking into the finance and feasibility of potential offers.

But nothing could be further from the truth!

Think of this as your opening move in a chess game. Every strategic decision that follows is based on this opening move.

So you do need to think about what the consequences of your early decisions will be. Indirectly, it will control your profit margins, your brand perception, and your marketing strategy.

As, for example, if you’re a brand that is known to give good discounts, then people might hold off on buying altogether until you offer them.

The gaming platform Steam is notorious for their Black Friday and Christmas sales wherein you can find a lot of games with over 90% discount. So, it’s commonplace for people to just wait for the sales to ever buy anything.

The issue though is that when you’re selling physical products, you have production costs for every item you produce.

As such, while software is endlessly duplicable, and if you’ve already paid for its production costs, any additional revenue is essentially profit.

Regular products and services don’t have such luxury.

Since every single order which is made has to be fulfilled, if the ROI per client becomes too low, it might simply not be worthwhile to have these lower-tiered customers, as you lose your capacity to fulfil full-priced offers by clogging up your infrastructure with the less desirable ones.

It’s worth mentioning that some of the customers who receive the discount might have been willing to pay the full-price anyway.

So not only is it an opportunity cost where you’re simply not fulfilling the worthwhile orders, but you’re also leaving money on the table by not charging a higher amount that people are willing to pay.

In other words, sometimes the economic and business realities make us reconsider what it is that we are pursuing. Growth for growth’s sake is pointless if it’s not profitable. So, because of this, it might be beneficial to readjust your goals once you get access to newer data.

2. Pivoting

As the weeks go by, you may have noticed that your expectations didn’t completely match with the data. Faced with new information, it’s sensible to reassess and pivot to better optimize the situation you’re now in.

This was the issue with our home decor client, as initially, they had a site-wide discount. But then, as the weeks went by and the marketing campaign ramped up, alongside increasing marketing costs, the margins started to become razor-thin.

Eventually, it was decided to only offer the site-wide discount to customers that were being remarketed. Cold audiences paid full price and in aggregate margins increased.

Despite this decision, in the days leading up to Black Friday, daily sales were hovering around the $200k mark, but then they exploded up to almost $400k!

Worth mentioning though is that even though it decreased thereafter, the daily sales remained above the $200k threshold for several weeks, although the average revenue per client went down during this period.

In other words, there is no shame in walking back an offer that you’ve realized was a mistake. You simply fulfil the obligations you’ve accrued and stop offering it to new people.

Then, with the new data you have at your disposal, you reassess and reorganize your strategy to maximize profit.

Remember, ‘Revenue is not profit’.

At the end of the day, you’re trying to maximize profit, not revenue - you might have a high conversion rate, but if new sales start costing you too much money, it’s absolutely worthless.

So, then once you have your promotions and strategy planned out what do you do?

3. Preparing Traffic

An oft-ignored fact about Black Friday is that people have come to expect it.

Long before Black Friday or Cyber Monday/Week has happened, people are already thinking about things they might buy.

In other words, they’re already in a buying mood.

Yet, if you look at costs per click, you’ll often notice how many brands, particularly the smaller ones, ignore the ramp-up to Black Friday altogether. This is a mistake, a rather costly one at that. As you can use the weeks prior to Black Friday, to cheaply build a remarketing audience.

For our dentistry client, we ran a pre-Black Friday giveaway, and thereby they built a list of contact information which they used to announce an irresistible discount on Black Friday to a group of people who no longer was a cold audience.

This got them a revenue of c.$407,302.11 in revenue in the Black Friday month.

In other words, by starting at the beginning of November, they were able to avoid the CPM increase in the days immediately prior to Black Friday.

On the other hand, our skincare client continued to pre-buy traffic to get a remarketing audience right until the last moment which got them c.$143,581.20 in revenue in the Black Friday month.

They viewed the cost as worthwhile, as the competition on Black Friday is rather intense.

Both of these strategies are valid: you can either use the longer period to maximize your remarketing audience, or you can use the cheaper CPM to be able to better use your advertising budget in the most competitive days, where every cent counts.

And this is an extremely important point - every cent does count.

Given the intense competition, Facebook (and any other advertising platform, for that matter) has no immediate incentive to prioritize your spend, unless your daily budget is rather large.

In fact, this was one thing where all marketing managers were in agreement with - Facebook prioritizes large daily budgets and will take longer than usual to fulfil your daily spend (more often than not it still falls short).

With our dentistry client, for example, the daily ad spend was 1000% what it normally was. But this isn’t unusual either, the skincare brand increased its Facebook budget by 500%.

However, as exciting as this might be, it brings a scary notion into the matter. If you don’t pay attention to your campaigns with budgets like these, it could rather easily get out of hand!

As such, this brings us to our next point.

4. Live Tracking

As hinted at before, Black Friday is a rather volatile time period. And given the budgets you deal in, even a minor mistake could be costly.

For example, let’s imagine that the 1000% daily ad spend for our dentistry client gets fulfilled in a short window. But, for one reason or another, the margin suddenly started to shrink.

In that case, you could potentially lose 1000% your daily budget in an instant if you’re not paying attention!

Worse still, you can’t rely on Facebook’s own numbers, as they’re slow to update.

And, as we’ve discussed in other posts, their performance data is often misleading. As such, since we wanted to see the numbers as soon as possible, we used Lifetimely - an app that links to your Shopify store.

Through their advanced profit dashboard, we are able to track the sales as they happen. So we can instantly react to the change in numbers. This way, we can put on the breaks if necessary, or push the budget even higher!

Ultimately the decision to increase the budget, even if the results are very positive, rests on the client. But generally, we give them the same advice: “Don’t be afraid to push your spend higher throughout the weekend if profit margins remain stable.”

Some clients have come to put a lot of trust in us as we provide them with results, our clothing brand client, for instance, has no budget restriction on the account.

This is because last year we generated $100k in sales during this period, and this year we gave them $491k when the restrictions were lifted!

Even so, though, it’s a good courtesy to keep them in the loop, and we kept updating them throughout the day.

And on the subject of keeping people in the loop, over the course of this month, if you’ve followed the lessons from our Ad campaign managers, then you’ve managed to build a considerable audience. So what do you do with them?

5. Remarketing

In the “Preparing Traffic” section we spoke about the importance of using the early weeks of November to build an audience.

It’s perfectly fine if these cold audiences don’t immediately yield a profit.

Some brands, like the home decor, and the clothing brand saw immediate sales upon even establishing contact with potential clients. Others, like the dentistry, and outdoor equipment companies, saw little activity before Black Friday.

And this makes perfect sense, the first two brands fall under impulse purchase territory. Meaning, they’re cheap and immediately interesting enough so people can decide to buy products from them just as they’re presented with the idea.

On the other hand, the dentistry and outdoor equipment companies sell much more expensive things. (which you may need to sit down and think about whether you can afford them, or whether it’s worth it)

As such, this second type of “slower” companies have to introduce the idea to people first, and give them a chance to play around with the idea for a few days, or even weeks.

Then, on Black Friday, to quote the Godfather you “make an offer they can't refuse.” By then they’ll have thought about the matter, as they’ve been through your sales funnel, and the temporary discount entices them to go for it.

However, it’s worth mentioning that Black Friday is a BUSY day.

Most potential customers are getting bombarded by a bunch of different products and brands. So chances are that even if they are interested in your product, they might not even see your offers.

A good example is the outdoor equipment client, we used their back revenue channels (emails & SMS in this case) strategically during the weekend to send about 2 emails per day, and SMS more sparingly as there’s a lower tolerance threshold for it.

This resulted in 50% of its revenue in the Black Friday month.

Conclusion

Broadly speaking a Black Friday plan has three distinct phases, each with their own unique priorities and goals:

  • Pre Black Friday - your goal here is to lay the groundwork necessary to run a smooth campaign. This includes thinking about the specifics of your campaigns, the finances underpinning everything, and beginning to contact cold audiences cheaply, to later remarket them.
  • Black Friday - In this phase, you’ll have prepared a higher daily spend than you would normally, as Facebook will only prioritize your ad campaigns if it thinks it can maximize its own ROI by doing so.
    Meanwhile, on the day itself, you’ll have to carefully monitor that your campaigns are performing under expected parameters.

If they perform exceedingly well, it might be worth increasing your ad spend, while if they start underperforming, it’s worthwhile to stop and reassess.

Make good use of the remarketing audience you’ve built in the weeks prior, and don’t be afraid to contact them more than you might otherwise feel comfortable doing, as chances are, they won’t see your messages otherwise.

  • Cyber Week - In all likelihood, you’ve already made more money on Black Friday than you will make throughout this period. However, the same general principles of Black Friday apply though, the intensity is lessened and you slowly taper off. Sometimes though, you can keep some momentum going into early December.
  • Running a successful Black Friday campaign requires a lot of planning. It’s not something which you can easily jump into without rhyme or reason. Every industry in every market has slightly different behaviour.

    Some brands do well in the morning on Friday, while others do better during the weekend in the afternoon.

    The main point is that you can apply these general principles to your own campaigns, but you can’t force your campaign to perform identically to someone else’s.

    The best way to learn is through the experiences of others, and through your own experience over the years.

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