Sale season is upon us. The end of the year marks the last chance to hit your goals and go into the new year feeling confident about your brand. It seems to me that every single store has some sort of promotion starting around Black Friday and the prices stay low until Christmas or the New Year. With such a saturated market of sales, how does your small, sustainable brand stand out? The answer lies in your intentions and values.
Give A Sale That Makes a Difference
A 10% discount is great for an email sign-up, it’s not great to compete with the rest of the marketplace. And when you’re having a sale at the end of the year you are no longer competing with just your industry but all products and services that are also on sale right now. This means you need a discount that will make an impact on your customers and have them choose you over any other sale they see online.
For this reason, I suggest having a sale that’s at least 25% to compete. With so many brands on sale for 25-70% off during this time of year + free shipping, you need a deal that stands out. As a small business, this might not be possible for your bottom line, and that’s okay, here are some other ways to stand out from the crowd.
Limit the Number of Sales You Have
I love it when brands have the same sale at the exact same time every year. It allows me to plan for that purchase and know where my “Christmas money” is going. In order for this technique to work, you can’t have sales, or a sale wrack, the whole rest of the year. It’s a one-time-of-year special that sticks out in your mind. I often see this with more luxury brands that have high ticket items. Their products hold their value and don’t change often so they can keep the prices up throughout the year and give loyal customers (who know the secret) the special sale one time a year.
Fjallraven is my favorite example of this. I know that on Black Friday weekend their store will be 25% off for that weekend only. For the rest of the year, there are no sales. No sale rack, no last chance items, none of it. So I wait to buy all my Fjallraven gear on Black Friday weekend. This means all the other sales that are happening are less important to me because I already have a plan on where I’m spending my money.
If you choose this method, cancel all the rest of your sales for the next year. Highlight in your copy or through your salespeople that this only happens 1x a year so that it feels special. You can even create an event experience at your storefront by offering snacks, beverages, games, and freebies or prizes to try and get more bodies in the store. When we see a group of people gather it inherently makes us wonder what we’re missing out on.
Choose a Different Time of Year
With everything around you is on sale you might choose to simply not compete. Instead, choose a time of year when there is less competition so that your sale stands out. If your slowest months end up being the last two months of the year, have a sale before the sale craziness happens (think September and October.)
After the Holidays is another time to stand out with a sale. Customers have just received Christmas money or returned gifts they don’t want or didn’t fit and now they have a little extra cash. Use the month of January to highlight getting what you actually wanted for Christmas with a sale on your products and services.
Finally, the end of tax season is a great time to promote a sale. Customers have just received their tax returns (hopefully) and will have extra money to spend. It’s not the sexiest time of the year, but the competition is a whole lot less than the end of the year.
Skip the Sale Altogether
While sales might help you hit goals or get rid of inventory, you don’t have to have sales to be a profitable business. A sale for your brand should be used with intention, not just a way to make money for the sake of it. As with any brand decision, it should come back to your values and how you’re serving your customers. I assume that as a sustainable brand, you’re in this business for more than just making money.
With that in mind, think about all the other ways you can serve your customers and align with your values without having sales this season.
- Partner with a charity so that your customers can give and get at the same time
- Show customers how to sustainably wrap your gifts
- Show your customers the value behind your products
- Answer frequently asked questions again and again in blogs, on social, or in your email marketing
- Have flexible return policies and/or free shipping
- Explain what shopping small and/or local does for the economy and the community
As a sustainable brand, the number one thing you want to be emphasizing any time of year is your values. Your dedication to the planet, people, and making the world better than you found it. This means that consumerism shouldn’t be at the top of your priority list but supporting your people, creating unique experiences, and helping your customers get creative are all actionable ways for you to stand out from the rest.
Some of my favorite “Anti-sale” stories come from Cards Against Humanity. They choose to take all their products offline and sell something with 0 value in order to raise money for charity and make a statement against Black Friday and the drive for consumerism. In 2014 they sold beautifully packaged cow shit. Literally, a dried-out piece of cow dung was delivered to your door and raised over $160,000 for charity.
Use this time of year to think out of the box and come up with new ideas of how you can make an impact, even if that impact isn’t towards your bottom line. Something as clever as the Cards Against Humanity tactic could encourage word-of-mouth to introduce you to new customers.
When To Have a Sale
When you get down to it, anytime can be a good time to have a sale depending on the intention behind it. As a small sustainable brand, you need to find ways to stand out from the saturation. This might mean not having a sale because everyone else is doing it and instead, highlight quality, value, and story in your marketing. Provide content that sparks creativity in your customers. Share testimonials and stories of past customers and how they use your products/service. Emphasize the impact that your brand has and what supporting a small business can do for a community and the world.
Sales are great, the power of your story is greater. Lean into the story behind your brand instead of having to compete in the mass of sales at the end of the year.
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