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The Agency Guide to Surviving Next Year’s Black Friday Week

The aftermath of the holiday rush often leave agencies spent and exhausted – but this doesn't have to be the case. These four tips can help.

The Agency Guide to Surviving Next Year’s Black Friday Week

Phew, you’re finished!

You survived another Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) week; and now you collapse exhausted into December – barely functioning enough to make it through until Christmas.

The last thing you want to do is think about next year.

But let’s think about next year in a way that stirs hope.

What if I told you your BFCM week doesn’t have to be as stressful as the one from which you came?

What if I told you there are certain productivity hacks that can help your (albeit, busier) week be less stressful and chaotic?

My agency has had great BFCM seasons. And we’ve had really, really tough seasons.

I remember one time I received a frantic call from a client CEO at 6:30 a.m. on the Saturday after Black Friday. We discussed a potential change in strategy after what had proven to be poorer than anticipated sales day.

(That was the year Amazon, Wayfair, and Overstock all surged and ate this particular retailer’s leftover Thanksgiving lunch, but that is a story for another time.)

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Another time, I spent Thanksgiving day at my in-laws chatting with a client whose Google Merchant Center flagged a bunch of random disapprovals that morning.

Sometimes, BFCM is just hard.

It doesn’t always have to be difficult, however.

And I have found that much of the stress that comes in the BFCM week can be abated, or at least greatly reduced, by taking a few crucial steps in preparation… of which you should begin pondering now!

1. Find Some Margin (Death to Meetings This Week)

The single most important thing to plan into your next BFCM week, is nothing.

In fact, do the opposite of planning things.

Eliminate things in your calendar and create space in your week for the inevitable emergencies to arise.

We do that in a few ways at my agency.

We pull back from any major strategic changes or discussions, we clear out client calls, and reserve internal meetings for strictly talking about BFCM troubleshooting or strategizing rather than shooting the breeze.

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Death to meetings this week.

Like, literally, kill meetings.

You have 51 other weeks in a year to bond as a team or with your clients, BFCM shouldn’t be one of them.

What I have found is you will always find things to do, but they are not urgent.

So when the BFCM client emergency arises you can seamlessly shift gears to resolve it without sacrificing another client task or your own mental health.

No 50-hour workweeks – even in BFCM season – and that’s because we actively seek to create margin in this time period.

By the way, you’ll also discover a positive mental benefit with fewer things on your plate that week.

With fewer things going on, your brain is already less full, shifting to emergencies or last-minute promotion changes, so you have the emotional bandwidth to focus as needed.

2. Religiously Stick to the Pareto Principle

You are familiar with the Pareto Principle, I assume?

Twenty percent of something produces 80% of the results. So focus 80% of your time on that 20%.

The same rings true of BFCM changes in clients.

This is similar to the previous point of “finding margin,” the way you will manage the other tasks you left in your week is by:

  • Identifying the the most important tasks (so, properly prioritizing).
  • Investing your energies into the most important tasks first.

This means taking stock of what you do allow into your week, and actively evolving as new demands come in.

If a true client emergency moves in, then that can take the place of a normal bid optimization check-up you had originally planned into your schedule.

This might not seem like a terribly insightful point, but I find the trick to managing things to the Pareto Principle isn’t in understanding the importance of doing so, it is in continuing to do so.

When you’ve built margin into your BFCM week and then accurately prioritize your remaining tasks, you will always feel less stressed and more successful in your task list because you are actually getting done what needs to be done.

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3. Prepare Early, Prepare Often (or Something Like That)

I have a good friend who likes to say “pass early, pass often” while driving on back roads in Montana.

Our two-lane roads have 70mph speed limits (much of our highways system is long, straight, and flat), with a surprising number of drivers who don’t see the need to drive past 60 mph.

When you are of my temperament (the kind of temperament that prefers to get to my destination rather than drive endlessly), this can become quite the frustration.

So, “pass early, and pass often” means you are always watching for the opportunity to pass and are ready for it when it comes, without hesitation.

In a similar way, when it comes to BFCM, it’s too easy to sleep on it and wait until mid-October (admit it, you waited until November this year, didn’t you!) and thus miss the important window of opportunity!

Recognize that the more you get done ahead of time, the less will have to be done in that final week.

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In an agency, if your culture is to miss the opportunity to plan with multiple clients, then that means you are that much busier when it comes to the BFCM season with all of those client tasks.

Take initiative, reach out to clients who invest heavily in BFCM around mid-summer, then end of summer, then fall.

Make sure it’s on their radar, and that early planning has begun.

Every little piece you can get figured out before it gets too close to the season, is one less thing you have to do.

That leaves actual emergencies (like Merchant Center disapproving your products) for the week of BFCM, and you actually have the bandwidth to focus on the actual emergency without sacrificing other clients, or your own mental health.

4. Avoid Bad Clients

Tough talk time.

I know, I get it.

You’re trying to grow as an agency and you’ve let some red flags slip by in the sales process. “Maybe they’ll end up being better than we expected.”

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Over the past 10 years, I’ve learned a universal truth about BFCM and bad clients.

Bad clients are even worse when it comes to BFCM.

There’s a direct correlation between a client who has any number of bad behaviors (to make them a bad client) and how hard BFCM will be that year for you and them.

There’s the bad client who abuses you verbally.

There’s the bad client who is dishonest to their customers and you.

There’s the bad client who has unrealistic expectations.

And sometimes there’s the bad client who just over-communicates and soaks up your agency time with unimportant, non-strategic conversations.

Whatever the hallmark is of this particular client you have in mind as I talk, the likelihood is that they are even worse over the BFCM.

I’ve learned that if you are trying to minimize the suck-level of your BFCM week – but you also take on any and every client that comes your way – then you are your own worst enemy.

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Good clients, on the other hand, make even BFCM emergencies solvable.

That client I told you about whose Merchant Center had the product disapprovals on Thanksgiving? They’re (still) one of my favorite clients.

My contact there is someone I count as a friend, and when we were trying to figure out the disapprovals a couple of years ago, it wasn’t a stress-filled conversation loaded with threats and anger.

It was a positive conversation where we were both seeking out the quickest, and best solution as a team.

I’ll take clients like that any day!

Conclusion

So lean into these four areas and your next BFCM will certainly be better than this year.

Of course, it is still the holiday season, and things still get a little crazy.

But overall, you’ll find your stress reduced and have just a little more time to manage those things that come up. Just imagine how bad it would have been if you hadn’t done anything at all?

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Here’s to a better year ahead of us.

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Kirk Williams

Owner at ZATO

Kirk is the owner of ZATO, his Paid Search PPC micro-agency of experts, and has been working in Digital Marketing ... [Read full bio]

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