Black Friday and the wrong way to talk to your customers about buying handmade : The Maker's Business Toolkit

Black Friday and the wrong way to talk to your customers about buying handmade

I’ve got strong opinions about Black Friday.

Actually, that’s not true.

I’ve got strong opinions about publicly complaining about Black Friday.

Black Friday is a relatively new phenomenon here in the UK and each year there seems to be more and more polarisation around the event and more and more Anti Black Friday blog and social media posts from makers.

To be clear, I don’t believe that anyone should ever feel obliged to discount their products.

Whether you take part in Black Friday or not is entirely up to you and should be a considered decision based around what is best for your business. Like everything it works for some people and not for others.

But I do believe that it is a bad business decision to complain publicly about Black Friday. I believe that is a particularly bad idea to complain about Black Friday in a way that suggests, explictly or implicitly, that sale shopping is somehow shameful.

Let me put it bluntly.

Shaming your customers is NEVER a good business plan and if you are publicly equating your decision not to participate in a seasonal promotion with that promotion being somehow disgusting or thoughtless, you are going to alienate your customers.

If you are referring to things they may have carefully picked out as “tat” or “junk” you are just going to piss people off.

It is not your job to police their spending habits or to assume that their shopping is done in an unconscious and thoughtless manner. It is not your place to judge them for how they choose to spend their money.

Now, this isn’t to say that there isn’t a whole world of difference between buying consciously and purposefully, and arm-wrestling someone over a discounted TV.

But there’s also a whole world of difference between showing your customers how much a meaningful purchase of artwork can enhance their lives and telling them that if they don’t buy handmade products they are buying junk they don’t need because faceless corporations told them to.

One of these approaches is likely to earn you more sales and more raving fans, and the other is likely to earn you the nickname Judgy McJudgerson.

If you are a maker with a handmade business or art business, you are in the business of selling people things.

If you’re uncomfortable with that then you need to think carefully about whether you really want to make a living from this because, if left unchecked, your beliefs about money and spending will mean that you’ll always be getting in your own way.

As artists we all know that the things with which we choose to surround ourselves can be the source of such joy and that our possessions can give us meaning and self confidence. The way we decorate our surroundings can make us feel uplifted or calm or cosy. The clothes we wear can change the way we feel about ourselves and can literally change our experience of life.

We also know that there is nothing like giving a gift that is absolutely perfect for the recipient. Something they never thought about buying for themselves but which will bring them happiness for years to come.

Handmade products can do this. And so can mass produced products.

We know all of this about the significance of possessions and yet, instead of telling those stories, we send out an anti shopping message that is at best confusing and at worst offensive.

It’s totally fine to just ignore Black Friday altogether but if you do want to post about why you’re not discounting (or why you don’t discount at all) why not consider describing the hours of work that go into your product, the love, care and craftsmanship it takes to make it, the joy and meaning it has brought to some of your customers, and the extra mile you’ve gone in order to provide excellent service to them. Talk about value, rather than price.

Or you could talk about why your pricing doesn’t allow for discounting or why you choose not to do it.

We don’t need to shame our customers to show them the benefits of buying well made, beautiful products from local makers that spread joy and comfort.

And we can share a campaign to promote conscious and soulful giving without any need for Black Friday snobbery.

A few words about discounting generally.

This post isn’t really about whether or not you should discount and that’s something that we’ll explore in more depth another time but here are a few things you might want to consider when planning ANY promotion.

  • Can you afford to discount?
  • Can you cope with the potential extra sales (and sales that come at a lower profit margin)?
  • Do you think it devalues your brand?
  • Are you training customers to expect discounts too regularly?

These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself and it’s really important that any promotions you offer, whether they involve discounting or not, are done because you believe they will strengthen your business rather than because you’re afraid not to.

Whether you choose to discount or not, if you are selling online you need to find a way to encourage customers to come back to your site, again and again.

You can accomplish this in a number of ways and many people use discounting for this purpose. If you don’t want to ever offer discounts, you don’t need to, but you do need to use your creativity to come up with another incentive for people to visit your website today if you want to have a successful online store.

I'm Nicola Taylor

I’m the founder of Maker’s Business Toolkit and I help artists, makers, and handmade business owners to make more money with less stress.

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