17hats Ambassadors / Entrepreneurship

Planning For Black Friday & Beyond: 17hats Ambassador Q&A

It’s mid-October as I write this. Have you started planning for how your business will make the most out of the (quickly) upcoming holiday sales period? Experience has taught many small business owners that the right sale or promotion can generate extra business (and income!) at year’s end.

In our continuing series of Q&A sessions with our new 17hats Ambassadors, I’m passing along some valuable advice from small business owners who have been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt.

If you’re new to business – or even if you’ve been doing this a while – you may well benefit from their shared wisdom, as they discuss what has worked best for them when it comes to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.   

Today I’m talking with seven Ambassadors:

  • Tanya Smith, of Tanya Smith, Inc., a photographer in Ontario, Canada.
  • Alexis Sadler, of Accounting Therapy, a bookkeeping practice in California.
  • Stephanie Rubio, of SoVerve Marketing Group, a digital marketing firm out of Florida.
  • Ksenia Pro, of Ksenia Pro Photography, based in Maryland.
  • Sara Alepin, of District Bliss (a networking community), out of Virginia.
  • Phillip Blume, of Blume Photography, in Atlanta
  • Julie Smith, of Simply Seeking Photography, based in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Let’s start with the basics. What have some of you promoted for Black Friday?

Tanya: Well, I offer a big discount off of my session fee – for $99, say, instead of $395 regularly. Then I might give one or two valuable bonuses with purchase. In other words, a client will still need to purchase images from me, but when they do, they get additional bonuses. Those bonuses are valuable to my clients, but low cost for me, requiring very little additional effort on my part. For example, I might offer a smartphone app of their purchased photos, which is on my price list for $395.

Ksenia: You know, it’s interesting: I don’t feel the need to offer any Black Friday deals! As a photographer, this time of the year is busier than normal already. But I do offer Fall Mini-Sessions that are a big success. I get fully booked in a few days and have additional revenue in Q4 – that’s always nice.

Sara: Rather than doing a “sale,” I do a value-add to District Bliss membership. We offer new members additional events, resources, access to bonus courses and training, and tons of support!

Phillip: On Black Friday, we generally run two offers: The first is a once-per-year “Double Dollar Day.” Clients can purchase gift cards worth twice their usual value. In other words, a $100 card is worth $200. The second is a gallery re-release, with all artwork and prints at 50% off. For our clients whose photo session galleries have expired more than three months ago, we re-publish and email them access with a 50% off coupon.

Julie: Several years ago, I approached a local business about partnering for Christmas Mini-Sessions. The business is an antique barn wedding venue, with fresh-cut Christmas trees and seasonal wreaths. My packages always include a gift certificate to their farm venue, as well. Quick turnaround is key, so people can use the images for Christmas cards and gifts. It has become a tradition for some of the families! 

Yep, that syncs with what I’ve heard from a lot of 17hats members. It’s so smart that you’re all focusing on adding value for your clients. It’s important to understand, and underscore, the benefit to your clients.

Tanya: Can I mention something about that? For my part, I think it’s important not to cheat the experience, even if I have discounted the price. My clients still get hair and makeup, full use of my studio wardrobe, same amount of shooting time, etc.

Sara: Adding value to something you offer, rather than discounting, makes everyone feel good. I include items that don’t take a lot of my time or preparation – like courses we already have created, or office hours/Q+A time with me.

Ksenia: Yes, and remember there’s always a chance to make more money later if you keep your eye on the client experience from the start. Like with the mini-sessions I mentioned … those are just $475, but I am often able to upsell clients on more products later on.

Super. Let’s switch gears. What are some pitfalls to avoid when planning a Black Friday promotion?

Alexis: Well, it may sound obvious, but small business owners – especially those just starting out – need to make sure they’re not losing money on these deals. They shouldn’t run a campaign that is going to crush them and their finances.

Instead, business owners should determine what their costs are (including their time) for the products/services they are discounting and still ensure they have some kind of margin, even if it’s low. Never lose money on a sale, just to “get your name out there” or build up a client base. It rarely works out.

That makes sense. In fact, I mentioned some of those same potential drawbacks – overextending yourself, cannibalizing future revenue – in a recent post, Black Friday and Small Business Saturday: Deal or No Deal?
OK, last question for today. What advice do you have for other small business owners who may be thinking ahead to a Black Friday or Small Business Saturday promotion?

Ksenia: Start prepping ahead of time! And keep reminding people about the event, via social media or email.

Tanya: Yes, I was just going to say something similar – plan early. A minimum of a 30-day runway works, but longer is better. Make sure to warm your existing audience up, get them engaged, tease what is coming, and then launch the sale. I’ve found that the longer ahead I plan my emails and social media posts, the better my promotion works.

Stephanie: Well, I hate to sound like a broken record, but, like everyone else, I advise people to start now. There are only seven weeks to go before Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. If you haven’t given your campaigns any thought by late October, it will become astronomically more difficult to gain momentum.

Phillip: I couldn’t agree more – tease it ahead of time. Remember, the “sensory input” on Black Friday itself – between advertising and social media – is overwhelming for consumers. Get out ahead of the rush, and communicate to your clients early. But don’t let that be the last time they hear from you: Be willing to extend your Black Friday sale into Cyber Monday, via a follow-up email.

Julie: I guess my advice would be to make it easy on yourself. It’s such a busy time of year already. Do as much of the work as possible up front, when you have more time. And automate as much as possible. I’m using 17hats Online Booking for my 2021 Christmas Mini-Sessions. It lets me collect payments and send reminders, while providing an easy, streamlined experience for my client.

Sara: For me, speaking has turned out to be my most successful marketing technique. That might be on my podcast, during someone else’s summit, or offering a free webinar with a pitch at the end.

Tanya: Oh, let me mention one other thing, if you don’t mind. 17hats members can set up a workflow specifically for the clients who purchased a Black Friday promotion. That way, all the emails and appointments are sent automatically, and there’s no additional work on your end.

Thanks so much. I know our readers will benefit from your hard-won insights and experience. Here’s to a prosperous Q4 ahead, for all of you. 

Tanya Smith’s website and social handles:



Alexis Sadler’s website and social handles:



Stephanie Rubio’s website and social handles:



Ksenia Pro’s website and social handles:



Sara Alepin’s website and social handles:



The Blumes’ website and social handles:



Julie Smith’s website and social handles: