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Written by Octave Auger VP of Marketing
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21 Nov 2017  |  Black Friday

The Complete Guide to Black Friday for Software Businesses

24 minute read

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are some of the biggest software e-commerce days of the year, with an estimated 55% of US customers expected to take part by purchasing a hardware gadget or a software product.

To make the most out of these key dates you’ll need to combine the right offer with the right messaging and the right marketing channels, which is why we’ve assembled a list of tips and ideas for you.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are some of the biggest software e-commerce days of the year - last year we saw a 70% increase in sales on Black Friday alone, with up to 5x the sales for our top performing sellers.

To make the most out of these key dates you'll need to combine the right offer with the right messaging and the right marketing channels, which is why we've assembled a list of tips and ideas for you.

In this extensive Black Friday guide you'll learn:

![Section 2 - When and how should you plan for Black Friday?](/assets/images/blog/black-friday/black-friday-checklist-section-1.png)

Should you care about Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Black Friday is best known for its retail sales, but it's also one of the busiest day of the year for software sales. Whether you're selling to individuals or companies, whether your product costs $1.99 or $200 and no matter where your customers live: you should probably have a plan for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Doing nothing vs. doing something

We've looked at historical performance of hundreds of software companies over previous Black Friday weeks. Even though most companies see an increase in both orders and revenue without any special effort, those who offered a discount sold significantly more than those who did not.

Software orders grow 4x (+90% vs +23%) - but there's an even starker impact on turnover, since revenues grow 6x more with a discount than without (+42% vs +7%) .

Practical examples

The best products and marketing campaigns can greatly outperform the industry averages. We took a look under the hood and learnt how some of our most successful customers managed to get tremendous uplift in 2016:

Is it just a US thing?

No. Looking at Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2016 versus a normal Friday and Monday, it's clear that there's a sales uplift in most large markets around the globe.

Although the US and the UK tend to be the 2 largest countries in terms of BFCM sales volumes, other countries such as France (2.5x on Black Friday and 2.1x on Cyber Monday) show an even stronger growth during the sales weekend. Black Friday tends to be the most popular though, with Cyber Monday much weaker in countries like the UK and Germany.

What does it mean for you? Plan for Black Friday outside the US and you'll be rewarded with additional sales!

When, and how, should you plan for Black Friday?

Planning for Black Friday

The simplest way is to prepare a sales calendar in a spreadsheet . The more products and the more people in your team are involved, the more details you should add: it's easier than it seems to forget the details of a campaign!

For each product or license type, you should track at least:

  • Original price (RRP)

  • Discounted price and discount percentage

  • Discount start and end dates

  • Coupon codes (it could be a unique coupon or individual ones)

  • Promotion channels


You can grab a copy of this spreadsheet to get started.

Which products should you discount? Though there are many different tactics, being clear and simple (both for you and your customers) is often most effective, unless you're a larger company:

  • Discount everything equally : this tends to be the clearest message you can send

  • Focus on your existing best sellers : this is the least risky strategy

  • Focus on lesser known or older products : together with potentially higher discounts, you can increase your user base for these products and turn it into a very worthwile long term investment

Remember to track, update and adapt your plans as you go , as it's hard to perfectly guess what will work or not.

When should you start?

It's possible to start communicating on your offer on Black Friday morning itself - but it's much better to start working on it at least 1 week in advance, especially to:

  • Write the copy and design the marketing material

  • Get external distribution ready, e.g contacting influencial blogs in your space or having Facebook banners ready to go

  • Create your coupons, and share them

  • Update your checkout flow, so that your promotional offers actually work

Pro-tip: It's generally really worthwhile to start communicating with your customers in advance of Black Friday.

For example start a countdown a couple of weeks before and have it known that you will be offering specific products at a discount. If you ask for your customers' email so that you can alert them once it goes on sale, you can build an email base of potential buyers, as well as capitalizing on all the traffic that didn't buy your products during these weeks but will do so with a discount.

What will happen on Black Friday?

Knowing when shoppers buy is essential as it helps you plan where and when you should be focussing your marketing efforts or directing your support team ready to handle the increased volume.

The sales pattern is fairly similar around the world: sales volumes start at 9 in the morning, peak in the afternoon and remain stable throughout the evening - which shows that the majority of shoppers enjoys Black Friday during work hours .

Sales in the US and Canada tend to be fairly constant during the afternoon, with a peak at lunchtime.

Meanwhile, sales in Europe show a first peak before lunch, and another one around the time Britain enjoys their mandatory tea break(!).

Most software products are sold worlwide: this means that you should expect orders all day long, from 9:00 in Japan to 23:00 in Alaska.

Which promotions should I use?

Your imagination is the only limit, so we'll focus on the main ideas. We've split them into the simple promotions that you can do without a team and the more sophisticated promotions that require more effort to pull off… With a bonus last chance promotions section to convince the hardest customers before it's too late.

1. The simple promotions

Give a discount

Probably the simplest promotion: just give a substantial discount on your products. Customers love having the feeling that they made a good deal and that's exactly what discounts accomplish.

It's important however not to offer discounts too frequently and make it your unique marketing tactic, as it can end up depreciating the perceived value of your product.

To learn more, check out what we found out when we analyzed the data on millions of dollars of discounted software products and which discounts perform best.

Offer a VIP discount

Many software developers feel that discounts should be for new customers only - after all, wouldn't your happy existing customers pay full price anyway?

While this can be true, there are also many benefits in engaging with your existing customers during Black Friday. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Offering them a unique discount before you even communicate the normal discount on social media or on your website

  • Offering a discount that's worth less, but applies to more products (e.g instead of 40% off your main product, they get 20% off all products)

  • Giving them a sneak peek on the products that'll be on sale before anyone else is even aware

  • Promoting a referral scheme with increased rewards for each new customer they bring you (turn your happiest customers into promoters)

Bundle another product

Instead of offering a discount (same value for less money), offer an additional product as part of a bundle offer (more value for the same money).

For example, if you sell a design software, bundle templates and tutorial videos as part of an exclusive Black Friday deal.


Offer a free gift

The word "free" can have a quasi-hypnotic effect on people. Offer your cheapest app for free if they buy over $50 worth of software, and they'll suddenly start adding another product just to get the free gift.

You can of course find something else that's not worth a lot of money to you, but has sufficient value to your customers that they don't feel ripped off by your "free gift". For example some additional support or training.


If you'd rather not send your promotion to your existing customers but don't have the time or money to find new customers out there, consider cross-promoting your deals with another software business.

They promote your offer to their customer base, and in return you promote theirs to your base: a simple and low cost way to get your product exposed to new customers.

Here are some rule of thumb guidelines to find a good cross-promotion partner:

  • You have similar customers : like minded audiences are much more likely to be interested, and therefore buy your respective products

  • You have similarly sized audiences : if you have 1,000 customers and they have 1 million, it'll be harder to convince them to just trade promotions without having to pay for it.

  • You respect their products : your customers trust your word and taste. Don't promote something you wouldn't buy yourself.

  • You can both move quickly : don't spend months negotiating a complex cross-promotion deal. Unless you're both huge corporations, you'd be wasting valuable time.

We often help our customers cross-promote: if you're interested but don't know who to promote with, just reach out and we'll put you in touch with similar software companies.

2. The more sophisticated promotions

Run a sweepstake

This is best run on social media, especially as part of building a Facebook community.

A typical sweepstake would ask people to enter their email and follow your Facebook page to have the chance to win a free copy of your software. This can help you build a community of people who, even if they don't win, may be interested in purchasing it anyway when you offer them a discount afterwards.

Inviting your existing customers by sending them an email is a good way to help promote the contest.

You can organise one by using tools like Woobox (from $30/month) or Rafflecopter (from $13/month), which allow you to launch, track and promote your page.


Mystery gift

Add mystery to the simpler discount or gift to intrigue potential customers into visiting your site. Rather than "30% discount", they can for example be offered a random discount ranging from 10% to 80% (with the former much more frequent). Customers will hope to win the higher discount, but once on your website many of them will still end up buying using the smaller discount.

In practice this often takes the form of a digital scratch-card: you can use a tool like Zembula (from $99/month) for a key-in-hand solution or implement your own logic on top of Paddle (for example by tying an IP address to a discount level, and creating a coupon on the fly with our coupon API).


Host a competition

Ask your followers on Twitter or Facebook to record a video wearing your swag T-shirt, or using your software and reward the more creative / funniest ones with free products - and a discount for everyone else.

This requires a good dose of energy and a passionate following to pull off. On the plus side you not only get exposure to your Black Friday deals, you also get lots of free material that showcases how happy your product and brand makes people feel.

Turn your products into a gift

Your existing customers already own your product, and you don't have a big marketing budget or existing social media following to find new customers?

Just let your existing customers, who are already convinced that your product is great, gift your software to friends or relatives, with a special discount of course.

If you want to learn how to set this up quickly and easily, we've recently written a step by step description of how you can implement gifting with Paddle.

3. The last chance promotions

Extend your sale

There's a lot of marketing noise on Black Friday and Cyber Monday: you're far from the only one trying to sell something to your customers!

An interesting way to escape the noise, and give a "last chance before you miss it" reminder to customers is to extend the sale by a day or two. Announce it via email and you'll suddenly get a lot more attention to your promotion.

You can of course also start early - this approach is the reason why it feels like Christmas starts earlier each year!

Use it when you want

Some of your potential customers may have been tempted by your product, but now's not the right time - because they already spent too much on other products, or because they don't need it just yet.

To incentivize them to take action now, give them a "use it when you want" discount. Make it lower than the regular discount, and offer them the possibility to still make a good deal at a time that makes more sense for them.

How should I communicate my promotion?

1. Simple announcement

Just explain what your customers can get, focusing on the main elements of your promotion: discount, expiration date, products involved… The key is to keep it extremely simple so that your customers understand the value of buying now at a glance.

This works extremely well if you have a large discount, as you won't need much more than that to convince.

This is something Cindori does well by purely stating that all their products are 50% off (we've also looked into their campaign in detail to see how they tripled revenue).


Macphun uses an elegant design that focuses the attention on the bonuses that bring the total discount to 70%.


2. Eye catching design

You can go the extra mile and come up with a visually arresting design - your customers will be exposed to many, many promotions so get yourself noticed with something different.

Flixel does this really well - but of course they're the creator of eye catching design software! (we've delved into their campaign to understand how Flixel had doubled their sales on Black Friday).



3. Urgency

Your goal is to make a purchase entirely frictionless - and each time your customers need to make a decision, it adds friction. Adding urgency is a good way to simplify their decision, and therefore reduce friction.

VMware does this by using the most visible colour in their image, the red, on all elements that emphasize the urgency of their deal: "Hurry", "Save before it's too late"…


Meanwhile Waltr uses some eye catching design with a pseudo-countdown (actually a simple GIF that fakes an actual countdown), as well as a complement to their call to action button "Get It Now" - "Or never".




4. Scarcity

Another psychological effect is the perceived scarcity of your offer. It combines the fear of missing out ( others will get a good deal and I won't ) and the ego-stroking pride of having made a better deal than others ( I paid less than them ).

Creative Tim limited their deal to the first 100 orders and offered an extremely high discount of 90%. The beauty of this approach is that to check whether this is still valid, you have to visit the store of the software seller - and many people still end up buying at that stage, even though they may get no discount (or a smaller discount), simply because they are already on your website.


5. Last chance

As we mentioned previously, you can extend your deal and/or alert customers of a last chance deal. This is a way to create urgency at the dead end of BFCM week, and convince the last customers who haven't been lured in by your marketing yet. In order to maximize the efficiency of his tactic, we recommend keeping the coupons / promotion active for at least 72 hours after you send the email.



6. Make it funny

A quirky communication is always appreciated - even more when your customers have received 20 very serious promotions in the same day, following all the advice given above.

Of course you run the risk of having your joke not actually be that funny. On the plus side, it's rare that customers point that out so your feelings should be spared.

TunnelBear, who already uses a lot of humour in their day to day communication, went for a pun that's almost unBEARable.


Which channels should I use?

Once you've planned your offers it's time to reach potential customers. There isn't a perfect mix of marketing channels that applies to everyone - what you use will be a factor of:

  • How large your existing audience is (customers, fans, visitors)

  • Your existing marketing channels

  • Who your ideal customers are and where they are typically found online

  • How much money you make per visit (a combination of average basket size and conversion rate)

  • The advertising budget you're ready to spend, starting at $0

1. Your website

This is often overlooked: if you have regular traffic on your website, you can increase your conversion rate by promoting your deals on-site.

There are a couple of places where you can advertise your promotions:

  • On the homepage: take over the hero banner at the top with a Black Friday message

  • On each page: go for a header banner, or be more subtle and display a dismissable overlay in the bottom right corner

  • Contextually: add Black Friday on each of your product pages and in your checkout flow, with a message that's adapted to each product

  • In your apps: notify your users in your online dashboard or desktop app

It's key not to overdo it, especially as it gets away from your homepage and onto your app. Riddling them with constant aggressive ads would be counter productive!

2. Email

You may have several email lists: one with customers who've bought one of your products before, one with subscribers to your blog, one with people who gave you their email to download a free resource you came up with 2 years ago…

Determine which lists would be most receptive to your message - making sure that you have collected permission to email them.

The subject line

Probably the most important part of your newsletter: the majority of recipients will not open your email (depending on your segment, even getting 10% or 20% open rates could be considered a success), so spend some time on the subject line.

Hubspot provides a handy recipe:

  1. Check for deliverability : avoid spam filters and your readers' BS detector by limiting triggers words like "free", "limited time", "REMINDER"…

  2. Make it actionable : use a verb to convey what the reader can get from your email, e.g "Get a 50% discount" vs. "50% discount"

  3. Personalize : use any information you have about your readers (especially if you've segmented your list) to make the subject line sound like something they want, rather than a something generic

  4. Scrub for clarity : keep it clear - try to be too intriguing or witty and people may not bother opening

  5. Edit for brevity : a good rule of thumb is 50 characters or shorter

  6. Ensure consistency : deliver in your email what you promise in your subject line

You can find inspiration with other actual Black Friday newsletter subject lines (most can equally apply to either retail or software products), such as this research by Omnisend or this list of 27 subject line examples.

The copy

We've shown many newsletter examples earlier. Use them as inspiration, keeping in mind these tips:

  • Keep the design clear and simple : it's all too easy to clutter your email. It also makes it harder to showcase a good looking email on all clients and devices. Provide plenty of white space between your sections to make it more appealing to a tired eye.

  • Keep the copy short and to the point : your goal is to convince your readers to take action and click.

  • Give an alt text to your images : many email clients block images, so make sure your email is still functional without them.

The call to action

There is a golden rule in a promotion newsletter: have one unique call to action .

There are many lists of call to action examples, for example:

The tools

To design banners: tools like Canva or Crello allow you to create good looking images without any design skills, Pexels helps you find free stock photos for commercial use, while Flixel and Sketch are great tools for those of us who have some design skills.


To test how your email will display in various email clients, use Litmus. The way HTML and CSS is interpreted varies wildly between each client, from the iOS Mail app to Outlook, so it's highly recommended that you don't skip this step.

To manage your email lists and send your campaigns, you can choose between a seemingly infinite number of providers. Popular choices with small and medium businesses include Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, ActiveCampaign, Mailjet and GetResponse.

Test, test, test

One last tip: test as much as you can.

Send your newsletter to 10% of your audience and A/B test subject lines, then use the best converting one with the remaining 90%. A/B test longer copy versus only an image. Test segmenting your email list and see if you improve performance or just increase your workload for no payoff. Keep testing from one email to the next, to keep things from getting stale and your open rates from decreasing.

3. Social media

Using social media is a great way to engage your community and get new followers during Black Friday, as well as generating sales. You won't be the only one with this idea though, so follow our checklist to make sure you get the most out of it!

Be prepared

  • Make sure your website looks great on mobile : a majority of users consume social media on their phones - make it easy for them to redeem your offer when they click through. On the plus side, our checkout is already optimised for mobile 😉

  • Use a Black Friday landing page : keep the funnel distraction-free. Avoid sending traffic to your homepage but instead send them to a landing page that repeats the specific offer they saw on social media, with a direct way to redeem the offer in one click.

  • Focus on the right networks : don't try and be active on all networks. Focus on 1 or 2 - whether it's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or any other channel depends on your customers, your product and the country they live in (especially important in Russia and China where large local social networks dominate).

  • Time it right : there's no hard rule but you can either join the flow at its highest, when everyone else is promoting, or try to communicate when it's more quiet (but when fewer customers may be looking). As we found out previously the peak of Black Friday with software sellers tend to be around 11:00 to 19:00 (local time for your customers).

  • Dedicate time to answer comments : remember that social media contains the word "social". Customers may comment, ask questions, or generally post their love for your products: be ready to reply, as this contributes in spreading the message and showing a creator who cares.

Use these ideas

  • Post your promotion : the easiest is to post your deals to your community, using the right hashtags (

    #blackfriday #blackfriday17
    for example)

  • Give an exclusive discount : giving something special to your community is a good way to reward them and add more value to following you on Facebook, Twitter etc.

  • Make it funny : take a look at the Amazon example below - this triggered a lot more engagement and caught the eye instantly. Social media is the perfect place for a lighter tone, so use your most creative ideas (or worst puns).

  • Use catchy images : just like newsletters, grab the attention of people as they scroll their feed.

  • Add a video : social network algorithms currently heavily reward video - which means that you will get a lot more exposure if you use video content.

  • Organize a giveaway : grow your community or increase your exposure with a giveaway. Depending on your goal and social network, ask people to like, share, retweet your post or follow you, and give a couple of free copies of your products to some of them. You can also link it to a minimum threshold - for example "if we reach 10,000 followers we'll give away 5 copies of our product".


Boost it

It can be worth spending a little bit of money to maximise exposure - especially as there'll be so much communication from other brands, and as social networks increasingly force you to spend money to reach your own audience.

Let's focus on a simple retargeting campaign on Facebook as an example. Retargeting means that ads will target people who've engaged with you before:

  1. Create a great post using the tips highlighted above - a video would be ideal.

  2. Spend a bit of money in boosting the post to your existing audience ($50-100 ought to do it).

  3. Create a retargeting ad campaign, with the goal to send traffic to your site.

  4. Create a lookalike audience to those who saw your post

  5. Profit.

You can also use retargeting on Facebook, Twitter or Google for these common strategies:

  • People who visited your site but dropped out: offer a last chance discount

  • People who visited your site before Black Friday but didn't buy: promote your normal Black Friday / Cyber Monday deal

All you need is to setup the Facebook, Twitter and/or Google pixel on your website

4. Blogs & press

Whether you've already been making a name for yourself with journalists and bloggers or not, it's always useful to reach out to them to let them know about your upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotion.

What to write

It doesn't need to be very sophisticated. For example, Sparkle reached out to the likes of MacStories with a simple email:

Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal heads up.

Sparkle (Mac visual website builder) is 40% off ($79.99->$47.99) for BlackFriday/CyberMonday:

Thanks for any exposure.

It worked:


If your product is lesser known, you can tweak this simple template:

Hello {name},

I just wanted to let you know that {your product} is {X%} off during Black Friday and Cyber Monday - a {$X} saving for customers.

{your product} is a {10-15 word tag line that explains what is and what benefits are, or how many people already use it}.

To redeem the offer, your readers just need to {redemption guidelines: indicate the coupon, the URL…}

Thanks a lot for any exposure!

Who to target: for Mac, Windows and Web

Who to target: Apple only

In conclusion

I hope this is helpful to you and wish you the best for your Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns!

If you want free customized advice, we've got a team whose job it is to help our software sellers make the most out of Black Friday. They've seen hundreds of different approaches - some that worked, and some that haven't (!).

Whether you're already using our e-commerce platform and want advice on how to best utilize it, or whether you're using another solution but could use a 10min chat on the right discount or email campaign, reach out and we'll happily help you out (no, we won't force you to switch to us - when we say free advice, we mean it).

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