Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the biggest shopping days of the year. Is your website ready?

Fall is in full swing, which means—as any retailer knows—the big holiday boom is about to hit hard. However, well before holiday season begins, you should be gearing up your marketing plan to be ready to start with your best foot forward.

Black Friday 2019 is going to be a big one. Here’s what you need to do to be prepared.

6–8 Weeks to go: Create a marketing plan.

The bigger your business, the earlier you need to begin your marketing plan. We assume that any large enough company has been planning since earlier this summer. Meanwhile, many small businesses tend to run smaller campaigns that don’t take as much prep work. So if you’re reading this post, you’re probably a mid-sized business with the budget to execute something larger—but not necessarily the experience of having done so already.

If this is the case, you’re already cutting it close. Now is the time to sit down with your marketing team, discuss what you’d like to do, coordinate departments, and plan a production schedule. Marketing campaigns take time to produce, so start now.

Read our post: When to Start Planning Your Holiday Marketing Campaign

5–8 Weeks to go: Begin creating marketing deliverables.

Once everyone is on board with your marketing plan, your creative team needs to get to work. Every campaign will come with its own list of deliverables, but here are a few you should consider:

  • Blog posts to attract interest on social media.
  • Downloadable catalogs and shopping guides.
  • Email content and landing pages.
  • Website banners and display ads.

A common mistake of many businesses is that they think of Black Friday itself as the due date. But your marketing campaigns have to launch before the big sale, and you need time to create, proof, and test your deliverables before then. And remember: the holiday is a common time for many employees to take a few days off, which can also limit your production schedule. You want to get this work done early so that you don’t end up placing your team under extra pressure during an already intense sales period.

4 Weeks to go: Test your site, take inventory, coordinate with your in-store employees.

With your marketing deliverables in production, it’s time to do some of the background work. You wouldn’t want to run a promotion on an item that has limited stock, nor do you want your in-store employees caught off-guard by an offer they didn’t know about. Internal communication is key to making sure your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales run to plan.

Also, take this time to do extra site testing. Just as you want a brick-and-mortar location to look spotless on a big shopping day, you also want your online store to be perfectly functional. Make sure your site can handle a sudden influx of traffic, and to a usability audit searching for broken links or dead-end workflows.

2 Weeks to go: Begin sending out email promotions.

Your exact email schedule will vary depending on your campaign, but two weeks in advance is a good time to start teasing products and catalog items that you want to promote for Black Friday.

Play your cards carefully, however. Advertising a big sale can backfire if it causes shoppers to delay making purchases earlier in the month. Consider different kinds of promotions, too—such as early access to a new product for long-time customers, or entrance into a special raffle for customers who use a designated hashtag on social media.

Read our post: Timing Is Everything: How Automated Email Marketing Closes Sales

1 Week to go: Update your site banners, begin advertisements.

As your sale approaches, start rolling out updates on your website. Make sure they’re clearly labeled so as not to cause confusion—these first updates should advertise the Black Friday deals to come, not cause customers to believe that they’re already here.

Scheduling site updates can be a huge help in this department. Your marketing team will want to spend their Thanksgiving with their families, not counting down the minutes till they need to log into your website to update a sales banner. Scheduling tools give you and your team some much-needed peace of mind in this busy season.

The Big Day: Send out final promo emails.

Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you’re going to have a lot of emails to send. Fortunately, if you have good marketing automation software, you will be able to test and schedule these well in advance. With the right tools, you shouldn’t need to do more than check in on the process, and you can devote the rest of your attention to customer service.

1 Day after: Have your next plan in place.

When Giving Tuesday rolls around, you’re going to want to feel good about the success of your big sales push. But you also want to have your next move in place. Maybe that’s a generous outreach event to put your team in a positive holiday mindset. Or maybe you want to keep the momentum going with a new email campaign series. No matter your plan, have your next step ready so that you aren’t left flat-footed.

Begin your prep work for Black Friday 2019 now.

You need to begin preparations earlier than you think. The more you leave to the last minute, the more likely you are to miss the mark on your messaging, lose an opportunity for early engagement, or create a last-minute campaign riddled with avoidable errors.

So, if you want to have a successful Black Friday marketing campaign in 2019, get moving now. And pay attention to how it works this year, so you can improve your game in 2020.

Published 10/08/19 by Laura Lynch