Here’s what you don’t need…
You don’t need a sprawling listicle of “50 Black Friday campaign ideas.” You don’t need a glossy “holiday campaign calendar” or infographic you can’t edit, use, and make your own.
And you don’t need an exhaustive round-up untethered from:
- Scaling your ad spend
- Creating and testing content
- Experimenting with placements
- Tracking specific metrics at specific times
- Optimizing a legitimate budget built around your offer
To dominate Black Friday, you don’t need any of that. So, that’s not what we built.
Instead, we created a week-by-week Black Friday social media campaign calendar that you can actually use.
We even released our own massive holiday e-commerce marketing guide.
But how do you bring all that together?
- What’s the sequencing, the timing, the placements, and the strategy?
- When should you research, evaluate, and test your offer?
- How about content, creative, and copy?
It’s all here…
Planning Your Best Black Friday Marketing Campaigns: The Calendar
To create the calendar, we started by identifying three activities:
Then, we worked backward from Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a shipping-cut-off range roughly a week before Christmas.
We also excluded a number of Q4 holidays that show up on other calendars — not to mention notes about hashtags, tweets, and “going viral” because those social media marketing tips simply do not drive consistent wins this time of year.
None of the work-day events within the calendar are set in stone. Each should be updated as you plan.
They do, however, represent the structural framework we’re using this year across our clients.
October: Budget, Offer & Scaling Profitability
“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
While we’re all for originality, as you begin developing your holiday strategy — particularly your offer and creative — take inspiration from macro-trends and see how you can apply them to your own brand.
Do so by conducting competitive and inspirational research on offers from last year in at least two waves: preliminary and final.
It's no secret. Holiday campaigns live or die by a single ingredient: The Offer. So, we unleashed 180 desktop, mobile, email, and social screenshots from ~100 of the top DTC brands’ 2018 BFCM offers. Even better, we also included data from all those offers on how to optimize your own. Get it all here.
We’ve also set aside specific days for planning your:
- Delayed Attribution Multiplier
- Success metrics and leading indicators
- And your budget: spend and projected profits based on different Black Friday sales and Cyber Monday deals
If you haven’t filled out our budget template yet, do that prior to any increased spend. Then, to finalize your offer, fill out the holiday fuel profit template.
Begin by determining your merchandising plan and creative content: talent, stylization, which product SKUs will be featured, bundles, etc.
You can’t scale an account without new creative. Each week you’ll need to refresh your marketing campaigns in anticipation of holiday sales.
Design your holiday creative within 4x5 and 9x16 aspect ratios. Keeping content in these dimensions ensures that it will look and work well within Facebook’s many placements.
Plus, sticking to this format saves you time and money.
In Oct. and the beginning of Nov., optimize your ads for placement on Instagram Stories and Snapchat. Develop vertical creative that supports those platforms.
Once you’ve got vertical creative, use it to prospect hard on IG stories and Snapchat where costs are far lower than other feeds.
As you launch new creative, test it through different placements and on different social media platforms.
More importantly, commence scaling. Plan on doubling or tripling spend for your Black Friday campaign compared to your normal social media strategy.
To do that profitably, we’ve built in a week-over-week ~15-20% spend increase starting mid-Oct.
But, before you scale, make sure you have your holiday budget, offer, and DAM calculated.
The reason we’re pushing hard to launch campaigns during Oct. and at the beginning of Nov. is that CPMs are much cheaper.
By doing this, you’ll build a retargeting audience with the expectation of converting them when the biggest shopping days of the year arrive.
(Cue the Shopify notifications.)
November: Scale Spend, Prospect & Prepare for the Rush
During the first week of November, finalize the copy and creative for your holiday ads.
Focus on three types of creative…
1. Offer and urgency ads
While you’ll keep your Black Friday deals secret until they go live, we cannot stress enough the centrality of honing both your holiday campaign itself (the offer) and the content that accompanies it.
In addition, don’t neglect iterations of your offer — particularly a mounting sense of urgency in your copy — to release in waves throughout BFCM weekend. Scarcity, limited time, and countdown clocks lift conversion rates as products sell out and the end nears.
2. Gifting and gift guide ads
Prior to Black Friday, holiday gift guides preview selected products, hint at your offer, and simplify (or even gamify) holiday shopping.
More importantly, they can also be used to build your email list — as long as the content you create is genuinely merry (i.e., valuable and useful to shoppers). Often, this requires expanding the SKUs you feature to other brands’ complementary products.
During BFCM, “give one, get one” plays to everyone’s inner narcissist. Releasing new free gifts keeps excitement high.
3. Tiered-discounts or bundle ads
Tier-discounts pile on the savings while simultaneously lifting average order value (AOV).
- Spend $100, save $25
- Spend $150, save $50
- Spend $200, save $75
Bundling does likewise and can be especially powerful on a pre-BFCM landing page to remarket, collect email addresses, and switch on — or “unlock” — when the holiday hits.
For more ad inspiration…
Check our How To Create Holiday Creative That Converts tutorial, video, and article:
On average, our efforts spent prospecting for traffic versus remarketing to traffic averages around a 70/30 ratio.
However, advancing toward BFCM we recommend increasing your prospecting percentage by 10% each week starting mid-Nov. The week of Black Friday, you want to be sitting on a 90/10 ratio. On Black Friday, you’ll switch over to 60/40.
As you scale your spend, placements, and creative, evaluate ad performance based off of key metrics that indicate high purchase intent.
Pre-BFCM ads: Dashboard and evaluation
- Cost Per Outbound Click (CPC): The average cost for each click on your ad. This metric is calculated as the total amount spent divided by clicks (all).
- Outbound CTR (Click-Through Rate): The percentage of times people saw your ad and performed an outbound click. This metric is calculated as outbound clicks divided by impressions.
- Cost Per Unique Add To Cart: The estimated average cost of each unique add to cart. This metric is calculated as total amount spent divided by unique adds to cart.
- Cost Per Checkout Initiated: The average cost for each initiate checkout (offline conversion). This metric is calculated as total amount spent divided by initiate checkout.
Similar to October, continue to scale spend week-over-week, test creative, and launch new creative to:
- Buy your customers early
- And, find what works prior to holiday
Let’s break this down:
1. Drive Traffic By Prospecting
Get as many new people into the funnel as you can through paid tactics, so that by the time that Black Friday/Cyber Monday rolls around, you’ll have tons of people to remarket to.
Keep in mind that your ROAS probably won't look as good as it did in October, because shoppers are getting a lot smarter this year – they know the sale is coming at the end of November. So, even though you want to keep prospecting, your ROAS won’t start to look great again until BFCM.
Once BFCM weekend hits, remarket to the traffic you built up from this month and reap the benefits of recouping your return on ad spend.
2. Don't Focus On Bid Caps, Focus On Delivery
Normally, we preach about using bid caps as a way to protect delivery and make sure that every dollar is used efficiently. But, Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t normal.
Because the market is so competitive, the goal for this moment should instead be focused on getting delivery and getting your message out to as many people as possible for Black Friday.
Run your accounts on lowest-cost, so that you're spending through your full daily budgets. By not putting any caps on delivery, you can reach as many people as possible before Black Friday.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday Campaigns
Now, the big day we’ve all been waiting for. Once BFCM weekend rolls around, things change...
Keep your Black Friday offers secret until the actual event, this helps build anticipation for your sale.
Once the clock hits midnight, launch your Black Friday ads. Repeat this process for Cyber Monday (often with an increased discount on ads — stronger incentive).
As a rule of thumb, don’t go heavier on remarketing than prospecting.
While exact numbers vary from business to business, we recommend your media buying fall in the ballpark of 60/40 for prospecting versus remarketing.
During this time frame, the best social media content is square images and videos that can be used across all placements – feeds, stories, or anywhere within the Facebook family of apps.
Use this content to remarket to the audience that you grew earlier.
Now that this audience is already familiar with your brand, make sure you’re clean, clear, and concise with your ad copy.
Keep your messaging to the point by spelling out, “What is your offer?” and “What are you selling?”
Also, be sure to build and schedule your ads before the event. In the calendar, we suggest doing this on Tuesday, Nov. 26th — to help save you from approval purgatory.
Alongside Black Friday social media campaigns, turn your site over to update it with holiday banners, homepage creative, and graphics. Same goes for Cyber Monday.
If you change or increase your discount, build new creative and launch ads that reflect this difference.
Onsite, these changes can be creatively dramatic…
Or, more straightforward with a slight uptick in your sale…
At midnight, launch your Black Friday ads. Within your Facebook Ads Manager, switch over to a Dashboard view that reflects metrics significant to your BFCM success. In this order, these are the metrics to select:
BFCM dashboard and metrics:
- Campaign Name
- Ad Set Name
- Cost and ROAS Controls
- Amount Spent
- Website Purchase ROAS [Revenue Divided by Ad Spend]
- Website Purchases Conversion Value [Raw Revenue]
- Cost Per Website Purchase
- Website Purchases
- Cost Per UNIQUE Checkout Initiated
- Unique Checkouts Initiated
- Cost Per UNIQUE Adds To Cart
- Unique Adds To Cart
- Outbound Clicks
- Cost Per Outbound Click (CPC)
- Outbound CTR (Click-Through Rate)
- CPM (Cost per 1,000 Impressions)
Lastly, don’t forget to turn off your Black Friday ads the moment they’re no longer relevant. (That should go without saying but — tragically — it happens to retailers every year.)
December: Shipping Cut-Off & Post-Holiday Campaigns
Once everyone has taken advantage of your BFCM offer, its showtime to run creatives that highlight your holiday bundles, last day for shipping cutoffs, or wish lists for your customers.
These value props are key to creative that converts as Christmas approaches.
For one final push, build and launch ads for shipping cut-off dates. Just like BFCM itself, ensure you kill the campaigns on top of the cut-off.
Shipping cutoff ads drive urgency and offer an opportunity for additional sales after the traditional shopping window of BFCM weekend ends.
After your last day to ship, on Christmas or on the day after, start a new post-holiday campaign. Post-holiday campaigns let you get rid of surplus inventory (ex: clearance sale) or tease new January releases.
Buying Your Holiday Shopping Season Traffic Early: How & Why
At Common Thread Collective, we have a reputation for screaming from the top of every available mountain that CPC and CPM are not a valuable metric to use in making decisions within Facebook.
We write giant articles about it, like 3 Facebook Metrics That Matter (Based On $100 Million Ad Spend)
“The #1 mistake you can make when optimizing and scaling your Facebook ads is looking at cost per click (CPC). In fact, I recommend taking CPC, cost per 1000 impressions (CPM) and Facebook’s ‘Relevance Score’ off your metrics dashboard.” —Savannah Sanchez
We argue with people on Twitter about it:
There is no correlation between CPC / ROAS on FB.— Taylor Holiday (@TaylorHoliday) August 11, 2019
Take it out of your dashboards. Stop reporting to clients like it means something. Stop making decisions like it’s predicting something.
Love the thread just wanted to emphasize the point. Haha.
For ten months of the year, we anchor ourselves in this contrarian position for the sake of your ad accounts. Suddenly, Nov. rolls around and everything changes. We extoll the value of traffic and CPC. Hypocrisy, right?
It’s not. That’s because the holiday season represents a unique cultural moment.
People are not looking for new products. They’re looking to get value on the products they already know and love — an opportunity to get the best price.
In our holiday marketing e-commerce manifesto, we pushed back on the alleged rise of CPMs and how you can arbitrage this by focusing on ad placements like IG Stories and Snapchat.
We also talked about how your DAM (Delayed Attribution Multiplier) peaks in early November, giving you the opportunity to scale more aggressively against lower ROAS targets.
All that means you want to pour as much traffic as possible — and collect as many emails as possible — in the weeks leading up to BFCM.
Where? Wherever traffic is the cheapest.
CPM’s on IG stories and Snapchat are 50-80% lower than your standard FB and IG Feed placements.
But so what? There are plenty of cheap traffic sources out there. Display and native advertising can offer penny clicks!
What about the ROAS?
Think of it like this: if you can bank on ROAS spiking over time — if you know your payback for that traffic will explode (despite initially low performance) — which result would you rather have?
2x-4x the traffic equals a potentially massive value add over the holiday shopping season where we know:
- 48% of BFCM sales in 2018 came from customers who first engage before BFCM (Klaviyo).
- Across all CTC brands, the average month experiences a 72/28 split between new customers and repeat customers.
- During BFCM, that number comes closer to 50/50.
- Last year, remarketing made up 75.23% of revenue in CTC ad accounts over BFCM. Compared to only 40% throughout the rest of the year.
- What’s more, ROAS remarketing outperformed ROAS prospecting by more than double — a 126.6% increase — during BFCM despite an increase in CPM of also double.
- Set your budget, scale your spend, and prospect hard in Oct.
- Finalize your offer, refresh your creative, and prospect hard in Nov.
- Run shipping-cut-off campaigns and post-holiday campaigns in Dec.
During BFCM, reap the rewards of a profitable plan laid out within a holiday calendar you and your team can actually use.
*Numbers are taken from a random sample of 17 CTC accounts totaling $1.46 million in BFCM spend.