Nehal: Hi, this is Nehal Kazim and this is Ad Tips for Ads Pros Podcast where we teach entrepreneurs and marketers how to grow their businesses with direct response advertising. Today we have  Kurt Bullock from the Produce Department. It’s funny because we did an initial interview with Ad Tips for Ad Pros and in the Facebook group you might have seen the case study that he did for a big peaches campaign that he sold on Facebook. Unfortunately, there were some issues releasing that and that’s why we  brought Kurt back on and today we’re going to be talking The Black Friday Playbook so if you’re listening to this, especially as it is launched, you’re going to see that there is still enough time to get ready for Black Friday Cyber Monday. The reason we are doing this podcast is that Kurt is really a good friend of mine and instead of just talking about tactics we’re going to talk about what is the full approach when it comes to your Black Friday strategy Cyber Monday strategy and what you’re gonna do leading up to it and what happens after  that cool promotion so that you actually have a sustainable business and not business based on promotion. Thanks for coming on, Kurt.

Kurt: Thanks for having me.

Nehal:  First of all, if you can explain what is it that you do when it comes to your agency to give some contexts to anyone who doesn’t know you.

Kurt: We just focus on e-commerce stores, actually Shopify specific because we love the platform and we offer some development services as well so we are a marketing agency for e-commerce brands on the Shopify platform.

Nehal: Got it. The type of campaigns that you’re running is primarily e-commerce. Initially, when we were talking there were all these different stages of campaigns, when you were running evergreen campaigns there is an approach to that. When you’re doing launches there is an approach and a strategy to that. Today we’re talking about Black Friday. What is your approach to leading up to Black Friday and how do you look to that overall promotion?

Kurt: I think that there may be a little bit of helpful info. It’s just sort of thinking about what changes during Black Friday as opposed to any other week the one we’ve been running some campaigns. One of the biggest things that change over is the cost of traffic.I’ve already seen my cost of traffic going up so higher, the number of marketers on the platform is exploding and the number of people is not growing at the same rate. We have come up with a strategy to help us reduce our cost and to get the most bang for our buck during Black Friday Cyber Monday and then lead up to the holidays.

Nehal: When Kurt and I were leading up to this podcast, one of the things that came up was how do you actually change your approach to advertising and this is one of the things that are not relevant just for this promotion. This will change how you approach advertising to your overall business as you’re doing different promotions, product launches depending on how frequently you’re doing those as well as how you’re doing audience building. A lot of businesses aren’t able to operate the same way that they used to because traffic has just gone higher and more expensive including CPM, CPC going down to the CPA. How do you build your assets in order to get ready for Black Friday? If you can talk about why that’s becoming more important, Kurt.

Kurt: We are preparing our audiences, building a list, a retargeting list, engagement list, our email list, and Messenger list so that we’ve got all of these sources of traffic that are not a cold lookalike audience. That’s what we are trying to avoid during that week in particular and in some of the weeks running up to that. Right now, we are sort of changing our outlook. We’re doing get a sales as quickly as possible so that the campaigns are paying for themselves. Right now we’re doing a different play. We’ve still got all of our normal campaigns, generating sales, but we’re allocating more of a budget to audience building. For instance,  we’re running PPE ads, engagement ads of the top of our funnel just to really grow that engagement audience. When the time comes, we can pull the switch.

Nehal: I know there are different assets that you’re building. I think it’s important to break down what are the three stages of this campaign you were talking about as it comes to Black Friday.

Kurt: I’m looking at it like and sort of pre-Black Friday essentially, the week before Thanksgiving is when I start changing things up and then the week of Thanksgiving, Black Friday all the way up to Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday and that’s game time. The sales are over after that and maybe we have some year-end sales and that kind of stuff and a lead up to Christmas. Pre, during and post Black Friday as the main event in this case.

Nehal: If you start any of these strategies and if you don’t change your strategy at this  stage and you just go to Black Friday, things aren’t going to be very good and what you’re going to end up doing is probably turning off all of your ads that day because traffic is so expensive that day because everyone else is doing the same thing of going to cold advertising. If you are not building any of the audiences right now or doing it with the  intention Kurt has, we’re going to break down the exact steps that you can take here and Kurt has been very generous in giving away a PDF from his company and agency on what are the different types of assets that you can build, the promotion schedule and a lot more of what he’s shared. That’s going to be on You can go there and you’ll get the resource that he’s talking about. Thank you for doing that, Kurt, I appreciate that.

Kurt:  Sure.

Nehal: As you were talking about different assets, you mentioned a few different things that you can build and we can talk about how to build those assets. You mentioned email lists, but there is a few more. If a person is listening to this is an e-commerce entrepreneur or a store owner and they’re getting ready for this, but they haven’t considered changing their strategy, what assets would you recommend them to be building right now leading up to the Black Friday promotion?

Kurt: One of the ideas when I talked to other Facebook marketers and the e-commerce space, in particular, is people are just used to their campaigns, using the conversion objectives, opting for purchase or add to cart or something like that,  and that’s kind of a default mindset. People kind of get into that rut. Right now we are sort of broadening our horizons here. We are using different objectives, I ’ve mentioned PPE objectives which I don’t run very often. Normally, we go with conversions most of the time. We are also using this as a time to test. For some of my clients, I’ve got lots of data. Should we be doing lifestyle or product images, should we be using bright colors or muted colors, video, we’ve gone through all of this. That’s something you want to be doing. If you haven’t done this stuff before Black Friday, you don’t want to be testing during the week of Black Friday.  It’s not going to go well for you. You want to have some ads already proven and you want to know what type of message is going to work. I just want to interject that. I’m also doing testing during this period while I’m building audiences as far as assets, though. Messenger list is one. What we’re doing right now is pretty simple. We are running ads that are using messaging similar to shortcut the line, be the first to know about optimum promotions, we talked about maybe releasing surprise codes and try to get people on our Messenger list.

Nehal: I know the list that you were talking about,  everything from Messenger to engagement audiences,  custom audiences, video views, and email list. From those, the store owners who are already doing that, but not with the intention of actually building it for Black Friday. What’s the difference in the intention? Because I did the same thing, a lot of marketers did the same thing, we want a return on our advertising. Why would I be doing traffic campaigns or PPC campaigns or video views campaigns when I’m trying to make money today?

Kurt: That’s a great question. It’s all about allocation, having a long view. The idea is that we want to capture as much during the Black Friday, that’s a really important quarter for e-commerce stores and businesses of all types,  but e-commerce in particular. It’s more about having that you- we’re gonna switch that allocation, right now we’re spending half or maybe 60- 70% of our budget on building these audiences. We are generating sales as we do it so they’re paying for themselves and more, but it’s just a different focus. We experimented with this last year and what I found is that Instead of just running dry in Black Friday and feeling like I almost have to take a loss in order to keep running my campaigns we had a really profitable Black Friday as we switched to big audiences that we have built up and they had to add the benefit of not being cold, engaged with us,  watched some videos, been to our websites,this wasn’t the first time they were hearing about us. We are using this time right now in order to build our video view audiences we’ve got video assets. Sometimes they’re slideshows that we need running to talk about the coming Black Friday sale. Those are going in a couple of weeks as we’re getting closer. It’s more about talking about The Long Game, but if we’re talking about the third phase it’s taking those customers that we captured and convert them into real customers of your brand, repeat customers, converting them from just a sale event customer to somebody who’s actually purchasing from you on a regular basis.

Nehal: Yeah, for sure. From all of these assets that you have built Messenger list, engaged people on your actual page,  video views and email lists you are potentially collecting buyers. You’re definitely collecting buyers leading up to Black Friday, but again the point isn’t to get the highest return ad spend, the highest return on investment at that moment because what Kurt is really saying here is that you have to be patient. This is not an immediate you know what’s my return on the ad spend on the same day, This is actually a 30-day build up from the time that I’m hoping you’re listening to this which is there is a build-up to this point where you are about to make a decision and they are trained over years and decades in order to make a buying decision in that very day. What you’re doing here is lining up all these different pieces   and assets In advance that’s ideally paying for themselves and you’re getting some of the money back in the same period of time, but the goal is how to build and create that momentum for Black Friday Cyber Monday and then the whole week promotion. Is there anything else people should be thinking about when it comes to the build-up part which is the pre-Black Friday segment?

Kurt: What I’ve been finding out is that I have to switch the way that I do things even in just generating sales, maintaining the same  CPA. I’m doing things using more placements sometimes using auto placements on my retargeting. At least, you might be someone who runs to the Facebook feed all the time. The Facebook feed gets super expensive even now so I’m trying to be careful and to have at least two, three or more placements selected.I’m trying to get out of me… I use a lot of Carousel ads And trying things like video slides which I don’t do very often, or trying a little bit more graphic design on our images. We use lifestyle images, maybe product images, graphic design. Essentially, we’re trying to come up with different ways to reach our audiences and especially when you switch to using those engagement video view audiences. It’s not so much about where they are, it’s about getting in front of them. Audience network if it’s a retargeting campaign one of the times it will work. I had a good experience doing that with my retargeting audiences. I’m just sort of switching things and keeping a mobile perspective. It’s funny, I was reading some Facebook stats last week. Just thinking about this and they were saying that fewer and fewer people are owning laptop and desktop computers except at work which is pretty interesting. You have to be thinking about the whole purchase experience from mobile so I’m using a lot of vertical images, vertical videos where normally I would go with square and on Facebook, I was always doing horizontal until recently. What didn’t go well could change a lot in your mind between now and the next year. As far as what we are doing with our campaigns, last year after Black Friday during the holidays we continued to rely on our engagement.

Nehal: So,  for anyone who’s doing the traditional dimensions for those videos, it might be horizontal  9 by 16, or if it is one to one ratio of the square, is there one you’re seeing better results with?

Kurt: What I’m using right now is, I think, 4 by 5 aspect ratio because it shows on Facebook and Instagram where some of the more vertical shows only on Instagram and Facebook Stories,  these will show in regular news feed as well. I’m doing a lot of these right now because they seem to be working really well.

Nehal: Awesome. What I  have seen even with 4 by 5, like I have iPhone 7 plus with that,  it’s a pretty big screen and it scales on that as well so when you’re scrolling it’s pretty hard not to see the ad. You’re going to see it, it just matters of how good that thumbnail is and if it’s AutoPlay in that scenario and how good those 3 seconds are to catch your attention or get you to stop. When you’re doing those videos, especially if you’re doing audience building with these assets that you’re talking about is there any trend or anything that you’ve seen work well?

Kurt: What I’m doing is I’m using this as a time to cover maybe the first couple of gaps of your funnel depending on how you slice and dice it, but sort of know, like, trust. We’re talking about whose the business is. We’re throwing in components, if there is a social good component to the business,  like they don’t have some portion of funnels and including that and talking of that, they manufacture their products in such a way that they are good for the environment or not detrimental to the environment we’re talking about that. We’re trying to share somebody’s things, maybe the social good components sort of like a reason to believe. That’s the theme of some of these videos where we’re doing engagement. It’s a reason to believe and we’re going to come later knocking when it’s Black Friday with some deals for you to check out.

Nehal: For sure, awesome. The main thing that I got out of that is the mindset and intention of what to do from now leading up to Black Friday which is building your assets. There is a handful to focus on and we are getting at least a trickle of customers to pay for advertising and building those assets for close to free if not free and then once you have those you’re getting closer to Black Friday. Is there a sequence in terms of how you like to structure your promotions and just make sure you have some sort of promotional calendar for those holidays?

Kurt: I do have a sort of basic structure and it depends on the individual client, but I will go over that really quickly. I think that one of the most important things that you covered just now is just to have the calendar and to make sure that you have assets plan for all these different segments. The way I like to think about it is the week leading up to the Black Friday, that’s the week of Thanksgiving, that’s the time that I would put on a timer that has a countdown to Black Friday. Sometimes we have like dedicated Black Friday landing pages where people can sign up to get alerts that hypes up the deals a little bit. It’s interesting, I was doing research again last week and the target has a landing page. If you look at Target Black Friday, and they haven’t structured yet. They’re doing the same thing, collecting information, but they’ve got underneath little circles almost like Instagram stories that talk to all the different product categories and the things to be happening. Anyway, I thought that was an interesting idea, I’m not doing that, but I’m seeing more of that sort of thing. I’m getting off track here.  So, I have a timer and you can choose to have some sort of promotion before Black Friday. I talked to different people and different people have different ideas about this. My wife for one has the idea that she hates when people bust out too early, she likes the company which says they take this time to be with your family and we’ll do Black Friday after. But you do what works for you and that was what my wife told me about this as I was talking about that stuff. A couple of businesses shut down on Black Friday last year and that actually gave a lot of buzz for them. Once Black Friday starts  I can reset the canes of my timers and I will be doing nightly timers. There is going to be a countdown that goes till the end of the day on Black Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Often times at that point I’ll run ads Messenger, Facebook, in transparency this is the first year that I’m using Messenger at any scale especially for announcing all these Black Friday deals so I’m planning on doing the hey work standing our Black Friday into Cyber Monday announcement. Again the timer resets for the Cyber Monday deals and then in an email you’ve probably got a lot of different messages that are going out through the day. With Facebook ads, it’s not that granular. Essentially, I’m running the ad that says hey, this is the last day of the promotion.

Nehal: For someone who hasn’t used the promotional calendar before  they might be thinking what are my moving parts and how do I actually go about it so this is what we’re going to send to you at and the thing I’ve heard is what are the different days for promotion and from there, there is different messaging and different ways that you’re going to  reach those pros and customers through platform. How you’re getting across what you want to get across, what you’re going to post on paid advertising on different placements because there is going to be things that you’re going to do specifically on Facebook in the newsfeed vs writing hand side vs Instagram stories, whatever the case is. If you look at this as a whole picture, what are the big buckets? The big buckets are there is going to be a timer, like Kurt mentioned, so from there, you’re getting people hyped up. By the way, this is what we are doing, either on your email or you want to sign up, click here or go to the Messenger and then you have that, but from there now you have 4 buckets. Do you have four segments or was it 5 in terms of leading up to it and then Black Friday?

Kurt: Lead up, Black Friday, then I do black Friday’s ending and then I do Cyber Monday.  Cyber Monday is ending typically. I guess that’s 5.

Nehal: If it’s 5, then the different angles and different assets you have built up at this point your Facebook traffic or custom audiences that you’re doing on Facebook or Instagram,  there is your email and your Messenger. From managing all of these, have you seen anything to say ok, here is my five segments how do I organize my assets, how do I organize my copy, how do I make sure my links are working? Is there anything that just helps you organize that or is that simply having a big document and double checking everything?

Kurt:  That’s the idea, I have a spreadsheet and I make sure that all the pieces are there that there are no big gaps in timing and telling people what’s happening whether the sale is beginning or whether it’s ending or we’re charging in the middle of it. I want to make sure there is continuity there, where do we want to be, if it’s  Instagram what are Instagram sizes, if we want to be on Facebook, what is our Facebook size. if we want a video we have to break it down by asset and channel.

Nehal: Something people aren’t considering, yet, when it comes to Messenger campaigns and for some of our clients it’s we are having people who are part time or full time dedicated to just responding to messages depending on how frequent that is, depending on how big your Messenger campaigns are, if you have a live chat on your site, it’s just super important to have all this communication in one place. Just because you’re Media wire and you know your stuff in and out, the marketing person might not or the owner of the company might not depending on how many people are involved. From an agency standpoint, there are all these parties involved, from people who you are managing versus the actual client. All of this is coming down to communication and making sure that everyone is on the same page because we’ve been in the situation before where we thought that everything is being lined up, everything is good, but there wasn’t enough of that feedback  to say I confirmed, I’ve seen this, that exact same length. These are the exact opposite I want to make sure people see, because what happens is that at the end of the day people are messaging you on Facebook or Instagram or whatever the case is, and they’re asking for different offers and there is money sitting in the Messenger and there is no one to claim it. That becomes a huge opportunity and the way to simplify that is just through communication.

Kurt: You don’t want discount codes that don’t work, you don’t want to be selling products that you’ve run out of inventory, things like that. Having those basic channels of communication open with your Media wire and if you’re the media wire with your team.

Nehal: Right. Increasing opportunity, there is so much money that could be made because of all the thinking that you’re already doing in advance, like we’re talking about building these assets and getting ready and then you build all this build up and you’re right there. People are willing to give you money, and it’s completely emotional and irrational on a cool offer that looks good. I know I’m going to have this much money to spend or if I see offers I’m just going to go ahead and buy, and they’re looking for reasons at that point not to. I would send them a message and they didn’t respond or their discount code doesn’t work so that’s when the offer is done. There is a lot of money that can be lost there. Now you have these five segments of Black Friday Cyber Monday, the whole promotion. The dust has settled, what happens after that? Assuming the campaigns went well and then there is the full sense of reality- I am very financially successful, I have money in my bank, everything is great, but then there is a down that comes down from their potential depending on what you do next. How do you make sure that you’re keeping the momentum that you created as a sustainable thing finishing off the year and a new challenge is coming in the first quarter of the following year? Just to finish off the post-Black Friday Cyber Monday, how do you keep that momentum?

Kurt: For one thing, as long as we’re talking about teams, I think team debriefs is important to talk about what went well and to capture learnings for the next year, because there is a long time story what went well, what didn’t go well. These things can change a lot between now and the next year. As far as what we’re doing with our campaigns, last year after Black Friday during the holidays we continued to rely on our engagement audiences for much of that time we were running small look alike cold ads,  but mostly we were hating our customer lists that either hadn’t purchased or at least had been some amount of time, a couple of weeks. This year we’re going to try more of dub ads, play with those but there are the dynamic audience, dynamic ads for a broad audience, that’s what it is.

Nehal:  I’ve been seeing them coming in the Facebook groups a lot.

Kurt: Yeah. We’re playing with those as well,  I’m going to be running those just to see how they work during the holidays. If they don’t work, I’ll shut them down real fast. During that time, it’s all about activating your customers, I think. A lot of that, in my mind, typically happens in email. Making sure that you get those customers and you’re asking them about the products and you’re kind of giving them that experience- the product’s on the way, great,  the product has arrived, how was it, and the other messaging they might need to actually start using your product and become a customer. One interesting thing that a colleague mentioned recently was that he keeps in mind when you’re looking at your CPA that oftentimes people are buying for themselves and other people so you might be getting to customers for the price of one or three customers for the price of one because somebody’s buying for many people. That was an interesting thing to think about in terms of my CPA. It’s all about activation in terms of messaging. At the end of the year, a lot of times we look at New Year like new you messaging, it’s holidays so family messaging, If it shows your product, it shows a bunch of people together outside using your product,  that kind of thing, sort of the Feelies to help that out. I usually have one last sale at the end of the year like a year-end sale and again I’m getting my customer list, my engagement list, and my visitor retargeting list.

Nehal: This is very important because what will happen is that from this you will have an expectation on what your return on ad spend is, what your return on investment is, how many sales you should be closing. Obviously, some of those things are going to slow down. For one of the campaigns we’re doing right now it’s a free plus shipping offer that eventually leads to further education, we have a variety of offers from $100 to 50000. The quality of that person who is going to buy all of the follow up offers including Information, in-person events and coaching In that specific business model is correlated to how much of the initial products they consume because if they are not consuming the initial product and if they are not implementing any of these, at least get it in relation of some sort of sense of accomplishment from completing that content they are way more likely and prime to continue to consume the rest of your  funnel and eventually buying and purchasing more from you. It’s the same concept here. Now you have Black Friday sale, assuming everything goes well from inventory to a bunch of shipping at the right times or a week or two later, they’re actually getting the thing in the worst case, getting the things that they asked for. Now that they’ve got it, this is actually an opportunity to get them to buy something again depending on how quickly you can get something out in their hands…What you’re saying, Kurt is that once you’re getting a buyer, it’s actually being multiple buyers and depending on your type of product, that’s multiple block buyers or multiples of lifetime value whether it’s coming from that one buyer or from individual buyers.

Kurt: Yeah, absolutely.

Nehal:  From your standpoint, once you have this review meeting because I think we really just passed over that especially if you are a larger e-commerce store and this is your core business, you’re going to be running hopefully next year and do another big promotion. Review meetings are so valuable because there are different perceptions of what happened in the promotion. What the owner might think went well versus the marketing person versus the media buyer are usually contradicting at times or they just have different perspectives. What have you seen on your side with that?

Kurt: I definitely experience the different perspectives. When I’m working with a client it’s good to talk about expectations and sort of get this and that conversation. Afterward I usually create a document where even if the client is not using it, it’s just for me if I’m doing it next year,  I take screenshots of my ads that worked well, I take screenshots like notes on my audiences what was the seed audience, if it was lookalike audience, what was all the terms. I take a lot of screenshots and put them in Google Docs so that I have this kind of document on what went down. That’s been really useful for me. I’m opening some of these documents right now that I created last year and I’m happy that I made them. That’s usually what I do, the whole campaign is a sort of a document. Then we do a debriefing with all the different team members to see what went well and what could have been maybe improved upon.

Nehal: Is there any way that you structure that debriefs in the sense that there is a pre,  Black Friday and posts Black Friday from your metrics and how you’re tracking stuff?  How much advertising, dollars that you spend and channels, there might be sales numbers, how would you approach that debrief? If you could put something together so that people have some structure.

Kurt: What I have usually done is just gone over  our metrics review, we discuss those, some of the metrics that we’re looking at is just the cost per new customer, a return on our ad spend, average order values, how many of our discount codes were used and which ones were there, are we over discounting, did we have to use the 25%  or did we get a lift as opposed to the 15% ones. It’s interesting that for some of our campaigns I find that you just need to connect them at that moment they are looking to buy, you just need to put the right steps in front of them and they’ll do it. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if the discount is as deep as you think it needs to be. That depends on your industry and the competition so we look at those things as well.   I’m usually running multiple discount codes and I like to track the stats on different discount codes to see what they might tell me. Typically, we run those meetings and they’re usually pretty quick, we’ve got the owners, different team leaders and all these kind to do a review of the stats and then we go around and talk about getting each perspective on what went well, what would you guys like to remember to do next year and what we should be telling ourselves that we should be doing next year that we can improve upon. That provides tons of conversation points.

Nehal: I can imagine. For anyone who is looking to make the most of their Black Friday campaign and it might be their first Black Friday campaign, there are so many different moving parts. If there was one thing you want them to understand, what would be that thing?

Kurt: It’s hard to choose, but I would probably say planning. Making sure that you have a plan,  map out that spreadsheet whatever works best for your team because things change. You’re switching from promotion to promotion, resetting timers and all that kind of stuff and I think that’s going to be one of the most important things especially if you are a media buyer doing this on behalf of a team.

Nehal: Got you. That’s probably the least sexy answer you’ve given on this podcast so far. The reality is people want to get sizzle and they want the sexy hack of how to make a bunch of money, but the reality is that you have to do the hard work.  The hard work is actually doing the planning and figuring out what the 5 segments of the promotion are, what your offers are and how you’re going to communicate that on different platforms that you want to run, what type of retargeting do you want to do, what are your discount codes and how much. You have to do all these questions and no one else is going to do that for you. Kurt’s answer is suck it up and get your ducks in a row or you’re going to suffer from the consequences. If you’re listening to this, hopefully, you’ll have some time leading up to Black Friday and again some of their resources and everything else that we’ve put together that will be on Thank you so much, Kurt. I appreciate coming on, man.

Kurt:  I appreciate it.