black friday
Visiting mall on Black Friday

By Maile Proctor

When it comes to Black Friday, big retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, and Target are perennial powerhouses. These stores attract throngs of frenzied customers who exchange sleep for doorbuster deals and unbeatable bargains.

In 2016, customers spent an estimated $665.8 billion during the weekend after Thanksgiving. The question is, how much of this Black Friday revenue is available for smaller businesses? Can the little guys have a piece of the (pumpkin) pie, or should they forget about Black Friday and focus on small business Saturday?

While this answer will vary from business to business, there are some things you can do to compete with the bigwigs. If you plan to open your doors on Black Friday, here are seven things you can do to be successful.

Personal Touch

This is where you get to play to your strengths. You may not have lines out the door like Target or WalMart, but when you have a smaller customer base, you can offer a more personalized experience.

This personal touch starts with your inventory; can you offer unique products or services the big retailers won’t have? In addition to your inventory, you may be able to offer bundled deals or services to accompany your items. For example, can you give customers free delivery or setup for household items or electronics?

You can also offer a higher level of customer service. You can actually assist your patrons, find out what they’re looking for, and answer any questions they may have.

In a sense, you can create an experience as opposed to a sale. This is a unique opportunity for small businesses and startups, and can help level the playing field between you and your larger counterparts.

Find a Partner

This strategy may not work for everyone, but if it makes sense for your business, you don’t have to “go it alone” on Black Friday. As Ben Gran from Kabbage writes, “many small business are creating their own unique local marketing alliances to have a more successful Black Friday.”

Is there another local business you can team up with to create an event or offer additional promotions?

Ask around, you may be surprised what you find!

Know When Your Customers Will Shop (and What They Want)

Black Friday is no longer just a single shopping day. Many retailers open their doors on Thanksgiving Day, and some even offer deep discounts during the week leading up to the holiday.

Black Friday is also no longer an in-store only event, shoppers can find deals online during Thanksgiving weekend, and many customers even prefer to shop on Cyber Monday. According to this survey, 47.7 percent of respondents say they plan to shop on Cyber Monday instead of Black Friday in 2016.

This doesn’t mean you should have a week-long sale, open your doors on Thanksgiving, have a Black Friday sale AND participate in Small Business Saturday. Instead, determine which opportunities are best for your business, and strategize around where and when most of your customers will shop.

It’s also a good idea to know which day/time is traditionally best for the type of product or service you offer. Use this report from dealnews based on sales data from 2015 to help you determine your weekend sale schedule.

Offer a Relaxing Experience

Black Friday is synonymous with chaos and craziness. For this reason, some people choose to avoid the event entirely. You can use this to your advantage. While potential customers will expect long lines and crazy crowds at the big stores, advertise your shopping event as a calm, relaxing experience. You will attract customers who would rather stay away from the holiday hotspots, and your customers will have a peaceful, memorable shopping experience.

Use Social Media

Get the word out about your items, your service, and your special promotions. Because of the constant changes to Facebook’s algorithm, it can be hard to reach customers organically. You may want to consider using paid ads. You can reach a large number of people using relatively inexpensive ad campaigns.

Also, take advantage of other opportunities to promote your business and sales on social media. Pay attention to trending Black Friday and holiday hashtags and get in on the conversation.Get people talking about your brand and build some buzz prior to Thanksgiving weekend.

Instagram and Snapchat are also great resources to build a customer base, and can be especially useful leading up to the holidays.

Tell Your Story

Every business has a story; if yours pulls on customers’ heartstrings, you’re already ahead of the game. Share your story and let customers know how/why you started your business, what makes you unique, the causes you support, and your values.

This is just another opportunity to connect with customers and earn their trust. According to Mashable, 90 percent of Americans are more likely to trust a brand that backs social causes. If customers believe in your mission or message, they’re more likely to choose your products or services vs. a competitor. Just remember to be authentic, you shouldn’t use this solely as a marketing ploy.

Don’t Forget Your Mobile Customers

Hopefully, you already have a mobile strategy in place, but don’t forget to optimize your sales and promotions for Black Friday. According to Forbes, mobile shopping accounted for well over a third of all online shopping on Black Friday 2015 in the U.S.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers use apps to shop, and to price match and find deals. Make sure you have an app, or at least an easy way for customers to order from a mobile device.

Have you hosted Black Friday promotions in your store? Which strategies were successful for you? How did your Black Friday sale affect your business? Let us know in the comments below!

Maile Proctor is a full-time blogger and content editor. She writes how-to articles, and on sports, fitness, and lifestyle topics. She earned her Bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking, finding new, fun fitness activities, and officiating basketball in Southern California.