Data-Driven Direct Marketing: The Black Friday Edition

When you hear Black Friday, what do you think of? Do you think of mass chaos and people slamming into each other with shopping bags? Do you think of hundreds of people packed into stores exceeding the maximum occupancy regulation? Do you think of the best sales, offers, and discounts? Well, if you’re in the direct marketing industry, you should automatically think of sales, revenue, profit, and how to make sure you’re benefiting from this “holiday.”

A little background: Black Friday actually earned its name because of the windfall profits associated with it. One theory is that retail companies used to struggle from January to November. Accountants and bookkeepers would keep track of the gains and losses and mark the losses in red ink and the gains in black ink. As November repeatedly proved to be a month of gains, especially the day after Thanksgiving, accountants' balance sheets would be full of black ink or "in the black"—hence Black Friday.

All etymology aside,Black Friday is a day consumers relish in and companies anticipate. In this post, we extrapolate meaningful data from this pseudo-holiday and distill actionable insights for direct marketers.

The Basics

Since 2010, the amount of money that is spent on Black Friday has steadily increased. This year alone, it is projected that sales will increase to $655.8 billion (National Retail Federation). Every business should want to share in the wealth of the holiday—planning an end-to-end direct marketing strategy is the first step to realizing this success.

black friday spending graph.jpg

via the Balance

Chevrolet digital, site, and social advertising manager, Jamie Barbour advises “companies that want to leverage a hot topic or major holiday on social platforms to initially do research to see what their fans care about the most,” (PR Week). Partner at Hunter Public Relations, Jason Winocour, agrees in saying “there should be connections among the brand, the holiday, and the campaign; and that companies can also generate buzz through pre, during, and post-holiday plans.” (PR Week)

Leveraging Social Media with Direct Mail

It’s a proven fact that people open their direct mailpieces during the holiday season. So you might as well make sure you’re utilizing the direct mailpiece fully. A good way to do so is to include your social media pages and company/brand-specific hashtags to further promote brand awareness. Seeing as certain social channels resonate differently with certain demographics, 4-color variable data printing can allow each and every segment (and corresponding mailpiece) to contain those relevant social sites. Millennial-only? We know it's Instagram, Twitter (and the new contender, Snapchat). Older working professional? Facebook and LinkedIn are your best bet.

Pre-Black Friday

The day of Black Friday, consumers are too busy gallivanting from store to store to pull out their phone and voluntarily wander to your site or Instagram/Facebook page. This is why you need to mail out your direct mailpiece early, to get people on your pages earlier, so you can show off your Black Friday-themes offerings.

Leading up to the holiday, you should make your posts fun, interactive, and rewarding. You can start with a holiday guide—posting pictures of items and saying whom they’d make the perfect gift for. You can also post new items, drawing attention to the Black Friday offer. Another great tactic—you can create an interactive post with a reward factor by making a contest that inadvertently gets your company name out there as well.

Create a contest that makes people photograph something from your company/brand and make sure that in order for them to be entered in the contest, they have to create a hashtag with your company name. Whoever wins the contest, could get an extra coupon emailed to them to be used on Black Friday.

So now, you’re not only engaging with consumers and driving sales, you’re also adding to your earned media ... It’s a win – win – win.


A strong intra-Black Friday tactic involves mailing prospects a physical offer via direct mail. Even if your store is offering prominent Black Friday deals (and making use of all digital channels to push the message), making people feel special and sending the offer directly to their home or business will help nudge these prospects further down the pipeline.

With regards to search—you should be leveraging Google Ad Words (keeping in mind recent changes)all throughout the Black Friday weekend.

For example, if you’re an electronic retail store and the hot new item is a brand new smartphone, you should make sure that you're bidding competitively and appearing on the first SERPs, making use of ad extensions and compelling copy.As AdWords now takes up 100% of the real estate 'above the fold', it is critical to ensure PPC best practices and drill down on relevant keywords/topics for bidding.


Even though Black Friday is technically one day, the holiday is somewhat of a starting point for all holiday sales. Don't cease your shopping-centric strategies, simply tailor them. Do a countdown to Christmas and/or a gift guide; promote a sense of urgency and emphasize the fact that time is running out, but you still have holiday offers on tons of the most sought after products. When consumers feel they’re running out of time, they’re going to decide quickly on a gift and where to purchase it; if they see a discount—they decide even quicker.

Cyber Monday

Once Black Friday has ceased-fire, marketers need to be cognizant of the newer, just-as-powerful Cyber Monday. Though this holiday is predominantly online shopping holiday, direct mail can still be used as a successful driver of sales, pointing to DM's positive impact on online engagement.

The solution? Send direct mail marketing before Black Friday weekend, as well as email blasts during Black Friday weekend, as a reminder that they don’t have to worry—your company is well equipped to handle their needs with discounts they’ll love.

You can also use direct mail to announce a different way of celebrating Cyber Monday. This could work especially well for smaller, local businesses.

“Just because everyone is online doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about local retailers as well. It might be a good idea to include discounts for those who prefer to step into your stores rather than shop online. This will make you stand out from the crowds of online offers.”


1. Start Early, End Late
Execute your direct marketing strategy for Black Friday early, and keep your campaigns running until after the holiday. This way when the inevitable product returns hit the bottom line, these customers are compelled to swap out for other gifts and offers that you've crafted into a continuous campaign.

2. Leverage Social Media for Brand Awareness
Be sure to include relevant hashtags on your direct mail so people are aware of your social media presence; this cross-promotion can mean the difference between a lackluster and super successful campaign. Also, this is a great way to increase your earned media.

3. Go Seamless
Ideally, Black Friday and Cyber Monday should be a seamless experience (for both the marketer and the consumer). Get people talking about your offer/brand, follow up with DM and emails the day before or day of, and rinse and repeat for Cyber Monday.

4. Don't Neglect Monday
Cyber Monday is just as potent as Black Friday and deserves similar recognition.Either make use of direct mail to drive consumers to your online store, or create better in-store deals to promote more people to go to your brick and mortar location.

5. Content is Key
At the very core of direct mail, emails, and social media posts is content—you want people to recognize your brand (whether conscious or subconsciously) through your marketing material. That way when Black Friday commences, you’re top of mind for your prospects. As such, content marketing could be a powerful tactic for providing useful information sans salesy language. Instead, this method of purely helping (instead of hard-selling) will be a lighter touch and actually push the prospect even farther down your pipeline.

In a world where brands battle for millimeters on the infinite online shelf (and especially during Black Friday), it's more important than ever to create seamless experiences and execute channel-agnostic campaigns.

Published on November 23, 2016