Last minute Black Friday tips for WordPress businesses

Black Friday promotional graphic

The annual Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale bonanza is nearly upon us. Many WordPress businesses have already started their sales, and the vast majority will run a discount in the next week.

Setting up the coupon code and adding a banner to the top of the site is maybe 20% of the work. The success or failure of your Black Friday promotion lies in how you promote it. This post offers some incredibly pragmatic tips for doing that.

Optimize and then lock-in your discount level

You have likely already decided the headline discount you’re going to offer next week. The vast majority of WordPress businesses will do 30% or 50% off.

Our research last year showed these were by far the most common discount levels:

This is good, and we like 30% as a default level. 30% is the smallest big discount. It protects margins whilst offering a big saving.

If you have a B2B product, 20% – or no sale at all – is a good default level. We broke out B2B and B2C last year and

Your headline discount is fine. It’s probably too late to change that anyway. The opportunity today is to optimize your discount level at the margins. There are a couple of things you can do:

  1. Introduce an all-access bundle that nobody is going to buy: price this as high as you can. The purpose of this is not to drive sales to this offer, but to make your other offers look more valuable. It’s classic anchoring.

    Adding an extreme option at a very high price is going to increase sales of the next option down — which would have otherwise been your top option.

    The research shows you need to present your offers next to each other with a countdown timer for time pressure for maximum effectiveness (Simonson 1989). This is an easy one to add to your Black Friday pricing page.

    The average WordPress product has 3 tiers. Introducing a 4th tier with a new top tier is a nice way of doing it. Last year, 21% of businesses had 4 tiers:
  1. But please, please be careful with lifetime bundles. Last year 21% of WordPress businesses offered a lifetime deal. We’re ok with lifetime pricing in careful moderation, but it can be very dangerous. It’s revenue now at the expense of the health and value of your business later.

    If you’re going to do lifetime, do it on your terms. Lifetime on your most expensive tier only is an OK way of doing it. I’d really caution doing lifetime on everything.
  1. Offer audience-specific bonuses: you’ll have to move quickly on this one. When there are 200 Black Friday deals in a list, how do you stand out? Offering a higher discount than everyone else is one way, but it also eats up your margins.

    Better, is to offer an audience-specific bonus. The first 20 WP Mayor readers to buy through this link get an additional $10 off their purchase. You can get the same impact with a different coupon code.

    If you’ve submitted your deal to 100 roundups, it’s implausible to put together 100 audience-specific bonuses. We can prioritize: look at your analytics and see where traffic has come from already. Reach out to the top 2 or 3.

    This also works if you have sister brands. I could see StellarWP and Awesome Motive doing well with this.
  1. Offer a launch bonus to your email list. The best audience offer to do is for your own email list. The specific offer is almost irrelevant: the point should be that the first X customers to buy when the sale launches get a little extra.

    A launch bonus drives urgency. It is rate-limited by a specific number of redemptions, and this creates a reason to buy now.

    Adjust for your audience size and product pricing, but the first 50 customers getting an extra $10 off works. If stacking coupons is too difficult, set up a different discount code with a slightly higher % (but present this as a $ saving on an average purchase rather than a small % bump).
  1. Offer a non-price bundle to your best customers: if a customer is already on your top-tier plan, how can they benefit from a sale? You do not want customers to regret purchasing from your at an earlier (non-discount) time.

    A good way of doing that is to offer existing customers a non-price bundle. An extension of their current plan is a really nice way of doing that. LifterLMS offers 3 years for the price of 2 last year. This is a 1/3 discount, but it’s framed as a non-price offer.

    I suspect this isn’t going to be a huge driver of sales, but it’s going to tell current customers: we always take care of you, even when we have sales for new customers.

These will all help you optimize your sale at the margins. The above has potential to add an extra 10-20% to your sale revenue this year. Let’s move on to the sale launch.

Launch the sale on Monday

Many sales have already started. BF/CM makes November a huge month for WordPress businesses, so there’s a feeling that “more” is better. One of the ways of doing “more” is to have a longer sale period.

Not so: Black Friday is effective because you’re running a sale at a time when consumers have been trained to bargain-hunt. That’s true today, the week before Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t true three weeks ago.

If you’ve already announced your sale but not started it, consider deleting the announcement. Telling customers “wait 5 days and you can save 30%” is a way to wreck your conversions in that interim period. A WordPress business that announced their sale at the start of November — but it doesn’t launch until Monday — kindly shared their revenue numbers with us:

Start the sale early removes any urgency from the purchase. Urgency is a key motivator behind purchases. I don’t want to be too crude, but effectively urgency/a countdown timer panics consumers into making purchases:

Under time pressure, people rationalize and behave differently. Time pressure limits people’s cognitive resources, forcing them to refer to simple heuristics to evaluate purchase decisions (Suri and Monroe 2003)

If that makes you uncomfortable, don’t use it. Most readers are going to use urgency and countdowns next week, though, because they are bloody effective. Extending the sale beforehand removes any urgency — a countdown timer with more than 7 days on it isn’t going to have the same impact.

Urgency must be grounded in reality. We saw last year urgency perceived as “fake” was perceived as untrustworthy and ineffective. As long as your urgency is anchored against real deadlines and real scarcity, you’re OK.

Only 86 of the 250 WordPress product business sales we looked at last year used a countdown timer. I’d expect this to be higher this year.

So — even if you’re already started your sale, “launch” it on Monday. As we’ve written about before, starting your sale on the Monday before Thanksgiving and ending it at the end of the day on the Cyber Monday gives you a nice time period. There’s enough time in those 8 days to get your messages across, but not so much that you lose urgency.

Launching your sale means distributing it. There are 2 ways consumers can find your sale:

  1. Passive
  2. Active

The endless WordPress Black Friday deal roundup posts are passive consumption. As we’ve discussed before, you can stand out in those lists with an incredible deal. The reader who buys from those lists is a bargain hunter looking for good deals.

You have the chance to get active consumption of your deal by leveraging your email list. This week only, email is suddenly your most important marketing tool. It’s time to start sending emails, and the better state your email list is in, the more effective you’re going to be at making these sales. Let’s talk about how to launch your email to your list effectively, and then specific emails to send to your list.

Specific emails to send to your list, including a launch bonus

You need to send a lot of emails next week. The pushback against this is usually “I don’t want to annoy subscribers”, to which I’d counter:

  • This is a commercial email list and your subscribers have opted-in. It’s not unreasonable to send commercial emails that ARE relevant to the reader.
  • You’re not going to send all emails to everyone. You can segment, and pretty quickly filter out people who really aren’t interested.

You need to know who on your list:

  • Is using a free plugin (never upgraded)
  • Is using a paid plugin with an active licence
  • Has previously bought a paid plugin but their licence expired

If you have multiple products or multiple tiers, you need to know the specifics. If you don’t know this and it’s not in the email software you use, provided you can reach at least 1000 people via email, you need to add that data now.

Side note: it’s a bit late to be worrying about email software, but if you do need to switch our (unpaid) recommendation is Drip. Drip lets you store activity (including site visits, plugin install/update events, licence purchase or renewal) as events at the subscriber level.

Screenshot of a Drip subscriber
The Drip activity UI, which can be used for automations

Come Black Friday, that can make for some wonderful segmentations: 1 offer for free users who are on the latest version and have clicked through to your site; another offer for paid customers with 2 of your 5 products already. It’s good stuff for next year.

Here are the emails to send:

Friday/Saturday/Sunday: announce the sale is coming on Monday, at a specific time

Announcing your sale a long time before launch is bad for conversions, but a couple of days before is good. This is an email to draft now: you want the digital equivalent of getting people to queue up at the shop door waiting for the offer to start.

Don’t mess around too much: make it incredibly clear what the offer is, that it starts Monday at a specific time (9am US Eastern is good), and that the first 50 customers get a special bonus.

We talked about audience-specific bonuses earlier. This is the time to disclose this. Make it really clear what the offer is, when it starts, and where to get it.

Monday: launch email with launch bonus

You’ve already warmed your audience to the sale, so keep this one brief: at the specific time you teased your sale going live, send a “The sale is live” email.

Keep it brief, reminding the reader of the core offer, the launch bonus, and the scarcity on that bonus. Then wait for the Slack notifications of new sales to come in 🙂

Tuesday and Wednesday: urgency for launch bonus ending

Without a launch bonus, you’d immediately enter a lull. With the launch bonus, you get the opportunity to drive urgency mid-week.

Ideally your launch offer’s scarcity runs out on the Tuesday or Wednesday. This gives you the opportunity to send a “19 redemptions left!” email on those days, driving home the urgency.

You saw GiveWP do a version of this last year: Give offered 40% off for the first 250 customers. This applied across the whole sale period; I’d argue this would be more effective as 40% off for the first 50 customers, and then 30% off the rest of the sale period.

GiveWP's sale offer in 2021

After the launch bonus ends, you’ll enter a lull. You might want to send a product education email, especially if you’re primarily cross-selling unfamiliar product(s). After the launch bonus ends, though, there’s no urgency and thus it’s OK to back off the emails.

The end of the day on Wednesday closes out the first part of your sale. Don’t send any emails Thursday, and then we ramp up again Friday through Monday.

Friday and Saturday: start pitching again

Friday is going to be peak email day. Don’t assume the reader remembers anything from your offer, and start pitching from scratch: remind about the offer, the product, and the urgency. Your Friday and Saturday emails should read OK as standalone emails.

Sunday and Monday: urgency to close out the sale

This is when we ramp up again. It’s time to get out the countdown timer and send a lot of emails. Your emails can get shorter again, focusing on driving clicks to your website.

The urgency is important: we’re counting down to when this offer ends. An offer this good won’t be available again this year (assuming that’s true)! Focus on your core messaging, and this is where you start segmenting heavily. Sending multiple emails on each day is good, especially as you get to the end of the sale.

End your sale the smart way — if you have the subscriber base to do it

Phasing out a sale by reducing the discount offer in stages — 30% off becomes 20% off on the last day of the sale — provides your potential customers with an upwards price trend. Research has found this created “greater anticipated regret of missing out on a good deal” (Triros and Hardesty 2010, Husemann-Kopetzky 2016).

If you have the audience on an email list to pull this off, this is a good one to do: a sale extension after the planned end of your main discount — but with a smaller discount — achieves this effect.

Creating the anticipation of higher prices for your product is extremely valuable for making sure your Black Friday discount doesn’t impact your ability to charge full price the rest of the year.

You will need to full own sale distribution for this, and that means a big email list (10k+) that is well segmented. This is relatively trivial to do:

  • End your sale at the end of the day on the Cyber Monday
  • When you get to work on the Tuesday, create a new coupon with a lower discount than your main offer
    • 50% becomes 30%, 30% becomes 20%, 20% becomes 10%, etc
  • Send an email to everyone who can purchase something else on your previous emails, telling them there’s an extension to the sale for 24 hours only.
  • Send a follow-up with 8 hours and 2 hours to go, this time with a countdown timer in the middle of the email.

That’s it! That’s maybe 30 minutes of work, it helps your pricing long term, and with a big email list done well I’d think this can drive an extra $2-5k.

The Black Friday bonanza rolls on

Creating the discount is a tiny slice of the work. Effectively promoting the discount is where you get the sales.

I’d guess that effectively implementing all of the above is worth an extra 50% on the sale revenue you’d otherwise receive. This is the time to get to work.

We’ll be analysing sale activity in a couple of weeks. You can always reach us here for questions and queries. Good luck, and see you on the other side!

Alex Denning

Alex Denning

Alex Denning is an SEO Content expert and the Managing Director of Ellipsis®, a world-class SEO Content agency. Alex is the inventor of FALCON AI®, the next-generation AI SEO platform that helps you predict how your content will perform – before you create it. Alex is an international speaker and publishes regularly on the future of SEO. @AlexDenning on Twitter

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