Bad Black Friday Email Marketing Advice that Needs to Die

Bad Black Friday Email Marketing Advice that Needs to Die
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I’ve got a confession to make: I’m not a Black Friday (or Cyber Monday) fan.

Maybe it’s the Britishness in me that finds this American cultural vortex overhyped, but I think most D2C brands get it completely wrong and don’t really know why they’re doing what they do over this period.

For far too many eCommerce brands, Black Friday has become a literal race to the bottom.

It doesn’t just erode margin for many brands, it often destroys them completely and eats into future sales that would have happened regardless.

Yet the justification for this is often “you need to compete with others in your space”.

Here’s my ‘controversial’ take on things: Black Friday only makes sense for most brands if it’s used as an acquisition play (more on this later).

BS Black Friday advice

Before I get into creating an email marketing strategy for BFCM, I’d like to first rant on some of the “advice” circulating in the current D2C echo chamber (which is completely lacking in originality of thought these days).

1: “Get people hyped to get on your SMS list for exclusive deals!”

Two issues with this:

  1. Why would you discriminate against somebody who didn’t share their phone number with your brand? A phone number is personal, even to a great customer. Does that mean they shouldn’t be entitled to great offers, even if they’re a loyal customer, unless they resign to being carpet bombed with offers from your brand over text?
  2. SMS is more expensive than email, which means it makes no sense to condition your audience to look for offers exclusively on this channel during this frenetic period.

Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t take steps to build your SMS list - you should.

And I am not against getting people to subscribe to your SMS list for Black Friday offers and instant notifications.

But telling them it’s the only place they can receive offers? This seems stupid and illogical to me.

Omnichannel is about meeting the consumer on THEIR chosen channel, and if somebody doesn’t want to share their phone number with you, that should be respected, not penalised.

Last thing on this issue: you’re also conditioning customers to know SMS as the “discount/offer channel”.

SMS can be a powerful two-way conversational channel in your business to engage customers, and making it a sales-only channel pigeonholes it.

2: “Go in hard and early with deeper discounts than your competitors!”

This is just silly and a surefire way to erode profitability.

I am not against going in earlier with your offers - it makes sense, to an extent.

But if your only strategy is to compete on price, then you already have fundamental issues in your business that are putting you in a challenging position for years to come.

Creating the maximum possible discount and using that as a differentiator against your competition has multiple issues:

  1. It gives your competitors a chance to pivot against you, either on price or value proposition (they can hurt you if they have the creativity to spin your marketing against you and make it a battle of “quality”)
  2. Consumers often wait to see what other brands propose, at which point you’ve shot your load already and can only increase to salvage margin, disappointing your customers in the process as now they know the true value of your product
  3. It gives you less to compete with when the busiest period actually starts (why would somebody buy from you at 20% off over BFCM when you’ve just offered 40% off two weeks before?)

All of these combined with the fact that CPMs on Facebook are through the roof at the moment and if you’ve remarketed to your existing customers, you’ve probably done well to break even and more likely than not ate into your future profitability.

Maintain an element of restraint and be more strategic about your offers.

3: “Hit your audience multiple times in their inbox to cut through the noise during the peak period!”

This is a great way to establish yourself as a pest with your customers.

Overloading your customers with campaigns harms email deliverability, lowers engagement and drives up unsubscribe and spam rates.

“But the inbox is so saturated with others during this period, shouldn’t we increase the frequency to compete?”, I hear you say.


What you should do instead, is tell your customers in advance what days your offers will be available and what channel you will deliver them on.

This doesn’t mean explicitly revealing the exact offer, but it does mean creating a schedule that customers can adhere to and that they’re aware of.

This helps you be more economical with your sending routine as well, as you don’t have to invest in so many creative assets during what is undoubtedly a stressful period for your design team as well.

Saturating them for the sake of overloading them with messages, is silly and a negative customer experience.

Next week: You’ll get an Email Marketing strategy that actually works

I went off on a little bit of a tangent with this article ranting, but it’s important to establish a foundation for what I believe is a more pragmatic, and performance-driven approach that I shall reveal in next week’s Newsletter.

I’ll see you on Thursday for a complete guide on Email/SMS Marketing Strategy for BFCM, one that we’ve tested extensively with our clients, and that works while preserving margin, being economical, and delighting customers.

See you next week!

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