Our Black Friday deal TANKED!

Well…I did say we would share our failures as well as our successes! 

In this article, I’ll tell you the sorry story of how our Black Friday deal fell flat on its face…and share some of the lessons we learned along the way.

Why run a Black Friday deal?

So, unless you were enjoying a November vacation to a distant planet, you probably noticed the annual bonanza of post-Thanksgiving deals and discounts known as Black Friday.

Traditionally, dating back to the 1950s, Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – simply represented the start of the holiday shopping season. Businesses found it culturally problematic to run Christmas promotions before Thanksgiving was over, which meant that Black Friday was like a starter gun for the festive shopping period. The day reportedly took its name from the traffic and crowds it created in towns and cities.

Now, though, Black Friday is way more than that. The day itself has become almost a cultural event, with deals and discounts across every imaginable niche, from retail, to travel and leisure and – yes – even SaaS! 

This year, a record $7.4 billion was spent online on Black Friday. 

Unfortunately – spoiler alert – not a single penny of that came our way! That’s right: a big fat zero.

“0”

Let’s look at why…

What did we want to achieve?

We came into this on the back of a very successful AppSumo deal which you can read about here

Around 4,000 people took up this deal, making up 99% of our overall signups for Project.co. But – crucially – only around 1,500 of those were paying customers. 

Taking into account the time of year – and looking at opportunities to grow our revenue – we thought there’d be an opportunity to target the other 2,500 with a special Black Friday deal.

The deal…

So we had a think about the best deal we could offer, taking into account what we knew about the audience and their goals. We knew they were mostly smaller businesses, who were at least interested in the lifetime offer we’d promoted through AppSumo. We also wanted the deal to align with our normal, ‘per-user’ pricing model.

Based on all this, we decided to create an offer of 2 free users for life if they signed up to an annual plan. (This would be in addition to the 2 free months people get on the annual plan anyway.)

What this meant, in practice, was that people could get a 3 user account and pay for just 1 user. If they wanted a 5 user account, they’d only pay for 3. If they wanted 7, they’d pay for 5 – and so on.

We were pretty excited about this. We thought it was a strong Black Friday offering that would help convert those people who’d signed up but not been enticed, for whatever reason, by the AppSumo promo.

Launch & promotion

We launched the deal on Tuesday 26th November. I know, it’s early!

But Black Friday – as well as expanding from its origins – has also slowly grown to become far more than just one day. Retailers regularly talk about ‘Black Friday Month’ and run deals all throughout November (Amazon, I’m looking at you!) so launching earlier in the week didn’t trouble us at all.

We knew that doing this would give us some time to promote and build some interest. We did, however, state an end date and time of midnight on Black Friday itself – 29th November, to make sure there was a sense of urgency.

We segmented our user database and sent an email to 2,127 people who matched the following criteria:

  • Had created an account.
  • Hadn’t upgraded to a paid plan.

This meant we had a target of selling to people who hadn’t made the decision to buy yet – but were at least likely to have the power to make that decision.

We sent a designed and branded email out on 26th November…

We followed this up with a personal, plain text follow up email on Black Friday morning itself. 

We also set up an in-app message through Intercom, which showed on the front end of our website and told all new visitors that we had a Black Friday deal running.

During this period, we were contacted by the team at RemoteFriday – a special Black Friday promotion which pulled together a whole host of SaaS products (55, in fact) designed to help people work remotely. 

Finally, we submitted the deal to 5 of the better looking Black Friday SaaS deal websites to try and generate awareness and traffic. We hadn’t been aware that these sites existed when we launched, so we submitted our deal pretty late in the day, which didn’t help. It’s something we’ll keep in mind if we try again in future!

Based on all the above, we chose to keep promotion light. Our primary aim wasn’t to reach ‘new’ people, but to convert people who had already signed up into paid users. This meant we could rely on our own organic communication channels rather than promoting to a wider audience.

Results

Okay, so, unfortunately, this shouldn’t take too long!

After 4 days of the promotion our result was…zero! That’s right. Unfortunately, zero accounts signed up for the offer. We had a small handful of people express some interest but we didn’t manage to get any to cross the line.

Clearly this was extremely disappointing – but, as the saying goes, you either win or you learn, and this was certainly a learning experience!

The Post-Mortem

Of course, there’s no way to be 100% sure about the exact reasons why the promotion didn’t land. But, now the dust has settled, I think the reasons are likely to be:

  • The user base had mostly made their decision on Project.co. They were looking for a lifetime deal and already decided our tool wasn’t for them based on a lifetime basis.
  • The deal may not have quite been appealing enough. 
  • We perhaps didn’t promote it heavily enough.
  • Our last-minute submissions to Black Friday SaaS deal sites prevented us from generating any traction from these sources.
  • The RemoteFriday offering also tanked! There were a variety of reasons for this, as you can see from the email below…

Again, this was unfortunate – but it’s always better to try and fail, than not try at all.

Conclusion

Okay – so how do we reflect on all of this?

Well, first things first, it’s clearly a disappointing result. But, as I’ve written many times, the road to success is always littered with disappointments. I’m a big believer that you need to try things to see whether they work, and be honest enough to admit if they don’t.

It’s important to put this all in its full perspective, too: we weren’t expecting to set the world alight with this deal. It was simply about wanting to convert some of our existing audience to a paid plan. Ultimately, then, it was a surprise that we achieved nothing with this – but something to keep in mind for the future.

On a final note, I suppose a key takeaway is that simply being part of the whole Black Friday cultural phenomenon with any old deal isn’t necessarily enough to entice people. 

There’s so much noise and competition around this period – basically everyone is offering some kind of discount or deal, and it can all become quite overwhelming. We relied heavily on contacting people directly, mainly by email, in a week where people’s inboxes must surely have been full to breaking point.

That said, I’m sure that the right deal to the right audience COULD get results.

Share your experience!

So, that’s how it went for us. I’m keen to hear from you: Did you run a Black Friday deal? How did it go?

And, based on what we’ve covered in this article, why do you think our Black Friday deal flopped? What could we have done differently to make this a success?

Let us know by commenting below. I’d love your input and I’ll personally reply to every comment!

Thank you for being part of our journey. We’ve had a slow start but we’re close to releasing a lot more marketing and knowledge content so we hope and expect to see more traction soon. 

And, I’m not naive, growing a business from scratch takes time and I’m in this for the long haul, I’m not expecting hockey stick growth from day 1. Our plan is to steadily grow a successful SaaS audience that benefits our customers as well as us.