6 Anti-Black Friday Tips for Small Businesses

Illustration by Sènga la Rouge Happy store owner in hectic marketplace.

For many businesses, Black Friday and Cyber Monday planning started months ago. If you’re not one of those businesses, don’t stress! Not every business owner has the time and resources—not to mention the profit margin!—to run the kinds of sales you’ll see big businesses hosting this coming weekend.

So if you’ve been procrastinating because you’re unsure of what to do with your WooCommerce store this weekend, or simply don’t like the idea of running a big sale on your site, this post is for you.

There’s no reason why you can’t participate in the biggest weekend of the year without discounting your products or services. You just need to employ a little creativity.

Here are six non-traditional ways small businesses can take part in Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

Looking for some traditional sales tips? Check out our Last Minute Marketing Tips for Cyber Monday.

Tip 1: Opt out of Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Opting out of Black Friday/Cyber Monday is about as non-traditional as it gets. For many small businesses, offering deep discounts just isn’t feasible. Some online store owners run at margins that are too low to participate in Black Friday/Cyber Monday. 

Both Barrels, a contemporary travel products brand based in the UK, is offering 15% off this week, but not because of Black Friday/Cyber Monday. It’s their annual birthday sale and on Instagram they write: “This will be our only discount this year as we don’t have enormous margins to give away for Black Friday promotion – instead we focus on offering outstanding quality & value all year round 😊”

Both Barrels Instagram post.

Other business owners, such as artists and small producers who invest in quality materials for their products, might already feel like their products are undervalued, so discounting for the sake of running a sale feels wrong.

Then there are the store owners who sell high-end goods and might feel that putting their items on sale damages the integrity of their brand. LOOQ Designermode based in Zürich is one such brand:

LOOQ Zurich Instagram post.

This year, there’s a greater push amongst small businesses—particularly on Instagram—for “conscious consumerism”. That is, moving away from fast fashion and making conscious choices when making online purchases.

As @veganbeautygirl writes, Black Friday/Cyber Monday “…encourages fast, thoughtless purchases with ‘lightning sales’ and ‘limited offers’ … trust me, you’ll ALWAYS have the opportunity to buy stuff. Take all the time you need and think over your purchases.”

Vegan Beauty Girl Instagram post after fast fashion.

Similarly, Zola Amour, an ethical and sustainable fashion brand, encourages followers to make sustainable purchases. This year the small family business is even planting trees for every dollar spent in-store or online.

Zola Amour Instagram post about fast fashion.

Tip #2: Participate in Small Business Saturday

It can be hard for small businesses to compete with the big guys. But if you’re a local business, Small Business Saturday is your time to shine.

It’s a shopping holiday that falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Created by American Express in 2012, it encourages people to “shop small” and support independent sellers.

For online sellers and WooCommerce stores, it’s a day you can appeal to shoppers in your community, particularly if you have a strong social media following. 

Take knitter and designer Rachael Raimo, for instance, who is releasing a new sock pattern on Small Business Saturday:

Rachael Raimo Instagram post.

Here are a few ideas for promoting your stores on Small Business Saturday:

1. Tell people about Small Business Saturday

This might seem obvious, but make sure your followers, subscribers, and customers  know about Small Business Saturday. It’s only been around 10 years so there’s every chance they’ve never heard about it and will want to get on board if you promote it.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are both heavily marketing and have been around longer so don’t let the one holiday created to support small businesses get overshadowed by the big guns!

2. Create an email campaign

Email is the most valuable marketing channel you have at your disposable so make the most of it! Create a newsletter with MailPoet or go one better and create a dedicated email campaign.

If you haven’t got a WordPress email marketing plugin set up on your site yet, check out our round-up of 10 Excellent Free and Premium WordPress Email Marketing Plugins.

With MailPoet, you can drag and drop WooCommerce products right into your emails, making it really easy to promote special offers or promotions.

Grab attention with animated GIFs or videos. Don’t forget to use personalization and segmentation for increased engagement and higher open rates.

For more on WooCommerce emails, check out A Complete Guide to Email for WooCommerce. And if you want to get started creating a simple email campaign for Small Business Saturday, don’t miss 4 Tips to Prepare Your Emails for Any Holiday Calendar Event.

3. Tell your brand’s story in your campaigns

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about big sales and big discounts. Small Business Saturday, on the other hand, is all about promoting the value of small businesses and shopping small.

So take the time to share your brand’s story. Tell shoppers about your business, how you got started, and why you do what you do. Don’t be afraid to get personal. Sharing details about your business will help customers connect with your mission and values.

4. Get on social media

Make sure your follows on social media know you’re planning to participate in Small Business Saturday. Share any special offers ahead of time so followers know to look out for your posts on Saturday. This will help build excitement amongst your loyal customers.

5. Host an event

Black Friday/Cyber Monday emails are often flashy and impersonal. After all, they are purely about selling.

So on Small Business Saturday, make your community part of your strategy. Host an online event, such as a website or go live on Facebook or Instagram. This way, you can connect with customers in real-time, share special offers, and combat the perception that all business owners care about is making money.

Tip #3: Donate on Giving Tuesday

Black Friday/Cyber Monday might bring about buyer’s remorse in some people, so why not draw customers to your store with the promise of regaining some good karma?

Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and this year falls on 3 December. It’s an international movement aimed at encouraging charitable giving at the beginning of the holiday season in response to commercialization and consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving seasons.

Typically on Giving Tuesday, people are encouraged to give their time, a donation, or lend their voice to their community. Last year, for example, shoe retailer Frye re-packed 10,000 lbs of food that would have otherwise gone to waste for New Yorkers in need:

Giving Tuesday Instagram post about hoe shoe retailer Frye packed food for homeless people.

If you search the hashtag #givingtuesday on Instagram, you’ll find plenty of examples of businesses supporting charities on Giving Tuesday.

Tip: #4: Partner with a good cause

If you’re taking part in Black Saturday/Cyber Monday this year, why not partner with a non-profit or charity? Tying your offer directly to a good case can help draw increased interest in your promotion and increase the likelihood of more sales.

Choose a cause that’s in line with your business or values and tell customers why this particular cause is close to your heart. ’Tis the season for inspiring goodwill and customers will be more open to supporting your business if they can see you are genuine in supporting a good cause.

Last year, Séarlait McCrea, who runs jewelery brand Today, harnessed the spending power of Black Friday to raise £632 for Crisis, the national charity for homeless people in the United Kingdom.

Made By Today Instagram post about raising money for charity.

Tip #5: Skip the rush

The days leading up to and after Black Friday/Cyber Monday are jam-packed with emails. I don’t know about you, but I’ve received dozens of emails spruiking sales and discounts since last week.

In fact, according to Digital Commerce 360, people receive an average of 18 emails a day in the lead-up to Black Friday/Cyber Monday. With so many emails hitting people’s inboxes, and the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales cycle starting earlier every year, there’s every chance your messages will be forgotten or drowned out by other merchants if you don’t get your marketing organized well in advance.

Instead, why not try skipping Black Friday/Cyber Monday entirely? Run your deal or special promotion next week. You’ll stand out from all your competitors (and possibly annoy your customers less as well!).

Plus, you might catch shoppers who were too busy to shop during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend, or felt so fatigued by all the sales that yours is more appealing.

Tip #6: Reserve discounts for VIPs

Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks, so why not use the occasion to thank your loyal customers. Instead of giving discounts to everyone, save your promotions for those who have stuck by your store over the years.

If you have a VIP program, promote your sales directly to your VIP members. And if you don’t have a VIP program, create one! As a store owner, you should aim to nurture and reward VIPs so they remain engaged with your brand and continue to shop with you.

While this strategy won’t get you a big surge in sales over the holiday weekend, it can help turn loyal customers into loyal advocates. These are the best type of customers. Not only do they regularly buy your products, but they actively promote your brand to friends and family.

Word of mouth is the best kind of marketing, so for Black Friday/Cyber Monday also take the opportunity to task VIPs to spread the word about your store. Offering a discount or coupon in return for their referrals might be the nudge they need to push your brand further.

Plan ahead for next year (or don’t!)

You may be late to the game this year, or feeling like you’d rather opt out of Black Friday/Cyber Monday and try something new. Whatever you decide to do (or not do), there’s still time to prep your store and emails and make the most of this coming weekend.

If you missed the boat this year, use your learnings from your 2019 efforts to start planning for next year. Mark dates in your calendar and plan something small if you’re a busy business owner. Start by adding opt-ins to your site so you can build your email list. If you’re time-poor, consider automating your most important emails.

What are you doing (or not doing) on Black Friday/Cyber Monday? Let us know in the comments below!