How to build MAJOR hype around your Black Friday sale this year

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So you’re going to host a sale this Black Friday... 

I must say, how very seasonal of you ;)

And dang smart. 

Black Friday is one of THE biggest sales days of the year and as tempted as you may be to skip it (because who really wants to be creating graphics when they’re stuffed with 10lbs of turkey?!)….

…it can be a GAME-CHANGER for hitting your revenue goals this year.

Because believe it or not, we are less than 100 days until Christmas (!!!!) and just a few days more until the end of 2019.


You’re running out of time to crush those numbers, my friend.

So let’s bump up the momentum as we head into the holiday season :)

Really quick though— just so we’re on the same page, I want to be straight-up honest with you before you dive deep in: It’s going to take a bit of work to smash your revenue goals this Black Friday. 

It’s definitely NOT as straightforward as discounting your items in your shop and then twiddling your fingers waiting for the sales to come in.

(no, that’s a term we call “hope marketing” —because you’re “hoping” for the sales, not actually doing anything about it.)

And we’re all about taking action over here— because that’s when the “magic” happens—no passive sitting on the sidelines over here :)

So let’s talk about generating that killer buzz around your shop for Black Friday!

Nailing your offer

So here’s a truth-bomb that you *might* not want to hear: Your DISCOUNT isn’t the biggest factor of your sale.

What does that actually mean?

It means that even if you have an amazingly drool-worthy “90% off the entire shop!” promo going on that you are 110% certain that NO one will be able to pass up…

…your sale still has the possibility of bombing.

Yep— your discount is ONE part of the equation— but it’s not the ENTIRE equation.

So while your discount offer is still an important factor (And no, “free shipping” doesn’t count as a Black Friday promo at this point. C’mon, son!), there’s a piece to the puzzle that you’re totally missing. 

It’s your pre-promotion :)

AKA building hype about your sale!

Because believe it or not, if nobody KNOWS about your sale, they’re never going to shop from it. 

People can’t buy from you if they don’t know you (or your sale!) even exist!

Now you may be riding the wave of “Oh, they’ll find me with Etsy SEO and stuff.” but that’s a HORRIBLE strategy.

Are you seriously going to bank on Etsy to favor you with SEO on the biggest shopping day of the year?

Yeah, thanks but no thanks :)

If I can offer you any piece of advice, it’s this: you should NEVER rely on the unreliability of Etsy SEO to make you sales. Ever.

Especially on such a HUGE shopping day.

Instead I want you to feel EMPOWERED and be responsible for getting the word out about your awesome offer.

And if the Etsy SEO gods decide to favor you as well that weekend, that’s just the cherry on top ;)  

But really quick—what should my offer be, Morgan? I can’t build hype if I don’t know what I’m hyping up!

Well, I already vetoed the “free shipping” idea you had floating around in your head (sorry!), so you’re probably wondering what you should be offering instead. 

Ultimately, that’s up to you and what your profit margins can handle, but ask yourself the following question:

“What sales do *I* get excited about on Black Friday?”

Think about it though-- if you’ve ever been one of those (amazingly crazy) people that is all over Black Friday shopping (hey, I do it, too! Just from the convenience of my living room sofa and at reasonable hours of the day, haha!), there’s a method to your madness.

You don’t start your day visiting any old random shop.

You’ve got a STRATEGY in place. You know EXACTLY what shop’s your going to hit and what deals you’re going to shop.

And those first ones on your list? They’re the ones with enticing offers :)

Were any of them offering the generic 10% discount?

Yeah, I didn’t think so ;)

Enticing doesn’t always mean deepest discount (can I get a hallelujah?!), so put down the paper bag and stop hyperventilating for a sec-- I’m not going to ask you to price your items at 90% off and take a hit for every purchase (please, please don’t do that!).

But I AM going to ask you to nail down your “wow” factor to get your audience actually EXCITED about shopping with YOU this Black Friday.

Yep, my little guppy, we’re about to compete with the big kahunas ;)

Well, not really ;) But we ARE going to create an offer that is in the same league as what your competitors are offering so that you don’t disqualify yourself from the race before it even begins.

To do this, find your nearest Tardis/wormhole/time-turner and turn back to Black Friday 2018 (or even 2017 if you’re feeling a bit nostalgic). This might mean spying a few (hundred) posts back on Instagram, looking through old blog posts, or simply googling “2018 Black Friday sales.” (although I’d recommend narrowing that search down a bit so you’re looking more industry-specific ;)

Take note of:

  • What offers were getting people talking (look for comments, likes, etc.)?

  • What offers didn’t seem to gain a lot of traction (look for lack of engagement)?

  • What offers caught YOUR eye (what sales got YOU excited)?

Now use those as a springboard for your OWN Black Friday promo this year.

Stuck with where to get started? Here are some ideas of promos to get the wheels turning:

  • Offer a tiered promotion discount. 20% off $50, 35% off $75, etc.

  • Offer a deep-discount flash sale with 50- 75% off of any ONE item in your shop (note- you’ll want to make sure you cross-sell/upsell additional items in your orders so you still make a tidy profit)

  • Offer a different discount every day through the Black Friday weekend. 

  • Offer a chance to win a free order from those who purchase on a specific date.

That list is by NO means exhaustive, but it’s a sampling of promos that I’ve acted on, haha (and if I’m your target market, you now have everything you need to create a ridiculously profitable promo)!

So I’ve nailed down my offer. I’m good to go, right?!

Stick with me a little while longer, friend ;)

Because here’s the deal: once you’ve got your order down, your work isn’t done (dang it!). 

Because-- like we discussed earlier-- your offer can be KILLER, but if no one knows about it, fat lot of good it’s going to do you. 

You need to be building HYPE around your sale. 

Meaning that long before Black Friday happens (2-4 weeks), you need to have a plan in place about how you’re going to get your audience aware of the “don’t miss this!” promo going down in your shop that sales-filled weekend.

At this point, you may be feeling overwhelmed by everything you COULD be doing to build hype. There’s a TON of ideas out there—and not all of them are good.

So let’s take a look at 3 hype-building strategies I’ve personally used that have taken my Black Friday sales from “meh” to “wowza!”

// Hype-building idea #1: Create a product gift guide

Have you ever been shopping for a gift online and been completely CLUELESS what to get?

It happens to me basically ALL THE TIME and my go-to method for moving past that stuck page is to either 

  1. Head on over to Uncommon Goods and enjoy (aka waste) DAYS falling down the rabbit hole of all the crazy-unique items; or

  2. Search “gifts for [cat/dog/travel/etc] lovers”

This hype-building idea caters to b (although I’m not going to tell you that you can’t spend 20 hours this week scrolling through uncommon goods. You do you!)

Wondering what a gift guide actually is? Let’s take a look!

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What it is: This is an image-heavy post (hosted on your Pattern/Squarespace/Shopify/Wordpress site) filled with products from multiple shops around the web that all fall under a certain "theme." Think of it as a curated shopping guide designed to inspire your audience to think of items they normally wouldn’t have considered.

Why it works to build hype: This is an incredibly viral-potential piece of content that is quickly and easily shared by those who view it (hello, Pinterest!). There’s also the added bonus of the shops you feature promoting the gift guide as well-- more eyes on your stuff!

When should you create this? Plan on publishing this at least 3 weeks in advance of your Black Friday sale. Even earlier is better. 

Keys to making this work:

  • Create a gift guide centered around on-trend items/keywords. Google Trends is a great place to research this if you’re stuck!

  • Only share products that are complementary to yours-- never the direct competition!

  • Make sure you follow up with each shop you featured to let them know that a) you included their product, and b) you’d love if they could share it with their audience, too. 

  • Make sure you include at least 2-3 items of your own in the product round up

  • Include a Pinterest-friendly graphic within your post

  • (pssst! You can skip the design hassle and plug-and-play with this awesome Canva one over at Creative Market!)

  • Include a CTA (call to action) at the end announcing your upcoming Black Friday sale + a personal invitation (via a hyperlink and/or image [see below]) to join your email list. THIS IS NON-NEGOTIABLE. You need to make sure you have a way to continue to market to them during the holiday season so you can tell them when your sale goes live.

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#2 - Create a VIP waitlist and promote the heck out of it

People like feeling special-- or at least, I certainly do :)

So let’s build up some good vibes with your audience— because that’s what your VIP waitlist is all about. 

This is the PERFECT strategy to follow-up your product gift guide (remember: you’ll send people to this landing page with your CTA), although it can also stand on its own as well. 

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What it is: A VIP list is simply a tagged list of email subscribers who have expressed interest in your Black Friday sale. You’ve created a form or landing page through your email service provide (Mailchimp, Mailerlite, Aweber, etc.) and are encouraging people to leave their name + email so you can notify them about your sale going live. 

Why it works to build hype:  The purpose of creating a VIP list is to have a place where people can go RIGHT NOW (BEFORE your sale is live) and take action right away. No, they’re not going to be able to shop the sale-- but they WILL be able to leave their name + email address so that when it is time for your Black Friday sale to go live, they’ll be able to access all the goodies immediately (and you’ll have a direct way to market to them!).

You’ve essentially just created a list of people who are emotionally “committed” to your Black Friday sale (whether they realize it or not!). 

When should you create this? At least 1 month in advance. You’ll start heavily promoting it the closer you get to Black Friday.

Keys to making this work:

  • Create a landing page specifically for this purpose-- no distractions or navigation leading them away. You’ll be promoting this URL specifically.

    • Be sure to include the following on your landing page:

      • Logo along top 

      • Name of your Black Friday promotion 

      • Promotion details + the VIP bonus (aka the benefits of signing up to be a VIP) 

      • Button or form to leave their name and email

  • Make sure there’s an incentive to joining your VIP list. Don’t just tell them to “Join for exclusive Black Friday deals!” because that tells them NOTHING and sounds like everyone else. Let them know WHY they need to join!

    • Maybe they get an extra discount, upgraded shipping, a free item with their purchase-- whatever it is, make sure it’s an incentive your target market would actually be interested in!

  • Make sure you’re not going MIA before the sale-- you’ll still want to send 1-2 emails prior to your sale going live to your VIP list-- get them excited and keep your shop at the forefront of their minds!

#3: Host a viral contest or giveaway

Arguably the EASIEST way to build hype around your brand prior to hosting a sale (and chances are you’ve done it before!) , a contest/giveaway is one of the quickest and most straightforward ways to get people talking about your brand prior to Black Friday.

It also happens to be a personal favorite strategy of mine :)

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What it is: A promotion where you give away free product(s)/gift card in exchange for email addresses entries and social sharing of your brand. 

Why it works to build hype: People love free stuff (no duh, right?!) and will instantly pay attention when there are things up for grabs. 

Added bonus? People will unconsciously picture themselves winning and owning your product when they enter-- so you’re one step closer to closing on the sale!

When should you create this? Plan on hosting your giveaway 1-2 weeks prior to your Black Friday sale; there shouldn’t be any overlap with your actual Black Friday sale.

Keys to making this work:

  • Do not just say “follow me on Instagram!” for entry (seriously— do NOT do this)-- make sure to get their email address so you can follow-up with them throughout your sale. 

  • Partner up with additional shops for increased exposure + viral potential. A prize bundle valued at $500 is going to generate a lot more buzz than just a $25 product. 

  • Make sure you email these entrants

  • Use a viral-sharing platform like Rafflecopter or Gleam to increase social sharing potential— your followers will get more entires the more they share!

  • Keep your giveaway timeline short (no more than 5 days) to keep the momentum going and increase urgency. 

  • Consider extending an exclusive discount code to those who entered but did not win to increase sales. 

    • This can be the same as your general Black Friday Sale, but use language that thanks them for entering and offers them this “consolation prize.”

Whew! And there are 3 tried-and-true (by yours truly!) strategies for building hype around your Black Friday sale promotion!

Remember-- for a shop owner, Black Friday doesn’t start the day after Thanksgiving-- it’s the prep work beforehand (the HYPE-building) that can make or break the actual sale itself. Your audience has to actually KNOW about your sale before they can ever shop it ;)

So STOP relying solely on Etsy to send you sales this holiday season— you’re totally capable of making your own success.

It just takes a bit of preparation ;)

Now, obviously there’s a lot more that goes into running a profitable Black Friday promotion (including the strategic follow-through of the actual sale, haha ;), but use these ideas to get started on what you can do PRIOR to your sale to get the ball rolling.

Let’s CRUSH it this holiday season.

Xo, Morgan