Although it can feel like Cyber Monday / Black Friday sales are only for big retailers that can afford to make big losses on stock lines, the massive interest that this event creates can also create excellent opportunities for small handmade businesses to generate sales.

So what exactly is Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday?

Black Friday is the day immediately after Thanksgiving and is regarded as the first day of the Christmas shopping season: this is when sales really start to increase. Retailers have in recent years begun to capitalise on this by offering special discounts and deals and branding them as "Black Friday Sales".

Cyber Monday was coined by marketers in 2005 to lure shoppers online with similar deals and discounts.

American Express founded Small Business Saturday in 2010, with the aim of giving small businesses and brick-and-mortar stores across the country a way to get shoppers’ attentions between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The key here with all of these events is that much of the marketing buzz and hype has already been done for you: you just need to think about how to participate.

One of the most important things to remember is that you don't need to offer huge too-good-to-be-true discounts or offers that hit your margins too hard. Leave this particular tactic to the big box retailers - as handmade sellers your margins can often be much tighter so you need to be a little smarter to stand out from the crowd.

Here are a couple of tips and tricks to help you get the most out of this big shopping weekend:

Go the Distance

Even though Cyber Monday is designed for online retailers, traffic across the internet spikes on Black Friday and remains high all weekend. Consider running your promotions across the whole extended weekend to maximise exposure.

Be Quick or it's Gone

Timed and limited offers across the weekend can also be really effective as it encourages quick purchases: for example, you could offer a discount on a certain product between 8am - 12pm and on another only between 2pm - 6pm. This approach also maximises the potential to keep social media posting your sales through the weekend.

Bundle

Offer a discount on a bundle of your products rather than individually: this splits your revenue loss across a number of your products and avoids too much margin cut. A good example is a bundle of 5 soaps: discounting your bundle by $10 looks like a much better offer than discounting each bar by $2.

Value Add

Think about adding value rather than offering discounts. For example, you could keep your prices as listed and instead provide a free gift with every purchase over a certain value (i.e. free tote bag with every purchase over $50). Ensure that you keep the cost of the free item low to avoid cutting into your margins. Great ideas for low cost freebies are stickers, decals, keychains, greeting cards or tote bags.

Gift Voucher = Return Customers

Another option is to provide a free gift voucher for sales over a certain value: this encourages repeat purchases and can be quite a good tactic leading up to the holidays. For an example, you could offer a $15 gift certificate for sales over $100.

Update your Social Media

Update your online banners and backgrounds on all your sales channels and social media to include Black Friday wording and imagery and make sure that your customers are aware of the upcoming sale.

Create some extra buzz

Create some interest before the event with a couple of well timed teaser posts across social media that hint about some of your offers that will be available. Remember to use the #cybermonday #blackfriday #smallbusinesssaturday hashtags for more exposure and better findability!

Sale Categories

Think about creating a temporary product category on all your sales channels called "Black Friday" or "Cyber Monday" and listing all relevant products within this category. This creates an easy way for visitors to see that you are participating and have offers available.

Etsy Cyber Week Sales Event

If you sell via Etsy, you might like to consider joining in on their Cyber Week Sales Event. To do this, schedule a sale of at least 10% off from November 20-26 to be included in their promotion for this event.