Are You Ready for Black Friday?

Black Friday is right around the corner. Now's the time to make plans and formulate a marketing strategy.

Are You Ready for Black Friday?

Jam-packed stores don't happen by accident, even on Black Friday. You'll need to advertise your specials and get people in the door. 

You know who knew what they were talking about regarding Black Friday marketing strategies? Fictional male models Derek Zoolander and Hansel. Yes, the dimwitted bro duo from the movie Zoolander. When plotting a strategy to sneak into the villain’s office to steal the incriminating evidence, Derek comes up with the perfect plan:

“Wait a minute, I might just have an idea. They’ll be looking for us at Maury’s, right? But they won’t be looking for… (dramatic deep-thought pause) not us…”

And there you have it. So, maybe Derek wasn’t thinking about Black Friday per se, but he did hit on the solution. Why? Everyone assumes that they have to play by the traditional Black Friday rules. Advertise a lot. Open the store at some obscene hour. Hope that people know about your deals and show up with wallets in hand. What if you refuse to play by the established rules? It can work, as evidenced by companies like Uber. By the time you read this, they may have minted a new class of Silicon Valley billionaires through their IPO.

Here’s the biggest problem with Black Friday: noise. You know that you have some great deals. You know that you’ve found some new items that your customers will love. You know that it’s important to get the word out to your customers. The problem is that everyone else knows these things, too. In a world where we’re all bombarded with stimulus 24x7x365, Black Friday turns the digital exposure dial up to 11. Your customers will get more emails, see more Facebook posts, and endure more web pop-up ads from everyone and their second cousins twice removed than they do during the rest of the year combined.

So, how do you get a sliver of attention from your customers? How do you optimize your sales on Black Friday? As the Gage family heroes in the movie National Treasure said, “change the status quo.” We’ll look at a few ways to do that, but before launching into specific strategies to consider, we ought to ask the most important question: Should you bother with all the hassle or just skip Black Friday altogether?

Yes. This is the day of the year when people are primed to spend money. Half of the emotional hurdle of making a purchase decision has already been overcome. On any other day, we debate with ourselves whether it’s OK to buy that new Flo-Bee hair cutting machine. On Black Friday, it’s like society has given us permission to spend, so we do. You can’t make a bad buying decision on Black Friday because… deals!

So, what does that permission to spend mean? If you combine Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, we’re talking about a total spend of $90 billion give or take. That translates to an average total cash outlay for those days of just under $500 per shopper. That’s a lot of potential hunting gear sales if you can beat out the people selling TVs and electronics.

You're almost certain to have a ton of people shopping at your gun counter. Make sure you have enough staff on Black Friday to handle all those 4473s.
You're almost certain to have a ton of people shopping at your gun counter. Make sure you have enough staff on Black Friday to handle all those 4473s.

Besides, it’s not just the hunter that might spend money on Black Friday. It’s anyone who might purchase holiday gifts for a hunter in their life. That opens the market into individuals who might otherwise never set foot in your store. In 2016, 101.7 million shoppers fought traffic to venture out and buy stuff. Think about that — one in three Americans went shopping just on that day. And that counts all age groups. Considering that the demographic under 16 doesn’t drive, we’re talking about way more than one in three adults with disposable income in the shopper pool. 

The game is big, so you want to take part. But how do you play the game and stack the odds in your favor? Here are some ideas to consider.

Anti-Black Friday

Actor and comedian Bill Murray takes a novel approach to promoting himself. He makes himself completely unreachable by phone, mail or email. As a result, he’s missed out on some huge roles in blockbusters like Monsters, Inc., Rain ManIron ManShrek and Forrest Gump. On the other hand, his refusal to breathlessly answer the phone calls from directors and producers has made him universally cool as the anti-Hollywood guy. Not only has the strategy weirdly worked out for him, it’s kind of hilarious.

You can try a similar strategy, although one that might cost you sales. Close the store. Or at least don’t have any sales on Black Friday. Huh? How about during the month or so leading up to Black Friday you take potshots at all those stores getting ready to wake up in the wee dark hours to open their doors to the stampeding hordes? In advertisements, on your website and on social media, talk about how sensible hunters will take care of their gear needs before that holiday, because at zero dark thirty on that morning, they’ll be headed to the woods, not the outlet malls.

If you want to be edgy, try stuffing your pre-Black Friday marketing communications with slogans like “We won’t be having any Black Friday sales. We’ll be out hunting while everyone else is fighting the crowds.” Of course, we’re not suggesting that you skip Black Friday altogether; we’re just talking about ways to get your message heard in advance so you can take advantage of holiday spending before everyone maxes out their credit cards on the big day. This strategy pairs well with the next one.

Start Black Friday in October or at Least the Week Before

Breaking the rules by running promotions early isn’t as non-traditional as it may sound. In fact, Amazon is starting to make pre-Black Friday online shopping a national pastime.

If you’re willing to invest some time and money to get the word out, there’s no reason you can’t develop your own “Black Friday-like” program. Maybe for the seven days leading up to Friday you can choose focus products for each day. Give each day a catchy label like Stands Saturday, Scopes Sunday, Mossy Oak Monday, Trail Cameras Tuesday, Waders Wednesday, Tungsten Shot Thursday or Footwear Friday. By changing the rules of when you will offer specials, you might just avoid getting caught up in all the noise and distraction of Friday itself.

There’s another benefit to starting early with your own program. During Black Friday week, discounts are extreme. Depending on the day, retail store discounts range from 20 to 37 percent, with the highest being on Black Friday itself. If you’re the only one in town running special deals early, you won’t have the same price pressure and might be able to get away with discounting a bit less.

You can try a similar strategy, although one that might cost you sales. Close the store. Or at least don't have any sales on Black Friday. Huh?”

Play in the Big Show

There’s nothing wrong with taking part in Black Friday itself if that’s your thing. After all, it is the day that the most people spend the most money. What you don’t want to do is mark down a bunch of stuff and hope people show up to buy. You’ll want to be very intentional about who you want to sell to, what products you will offer on specials, and how you’re going to get the word out and attract people to the store.

The first step is to figure out who your ideal Black Friday customer is. In aggregate, the younger folks spend more per capita on Black Friday than the older. Gen X and Y upstarts will spend near $600 on that weekend, while baby boomers tend to fall in the less than $300 range. On the other hand, there are more aging hunters than spring chickens, so you must think through your customer base. Just keep these figures in mind when you choose which products to promote.

As for making the most of the day, consider relieving customers of the time pressure to be there early. Run specials on the hour or maybe morning and afternoon so people don’t have to choose between getting to your store and buying a new TV first thing in the morning. If you choose to capture people after the morning rush, maybe advertise a “shopping boost” to your customers with free coffee and doughnuts. Better yet, pick up some Black Rifle Coffee by the pound. Give cups away and sell the bags.

Here’s the bottom line for Black Friday success. While you’ll need to worry about practical logistics like having enough staff on hand, the real win will come with creative strategies to make sure that customers hear what you’re offering. Don’t be bound by tradition or what everyone else does. Instead, start your planning with a clean slate, beginning with the fact that people are going to spend money around that time. Then think about how you want to attract those buyers.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.