Seven years ago, I ran the first Black Friday sale at BrentOzar.com just for fun. I always like shopping for stuff like TVs around this time of year, even if I don’t actually buy anything – it’s just a fun diversion for looking. However, it caught on with consumers in a big way, so over the years, it became a really big deal for the business. In 2018, we crossed the half-million dollar mark, and then things got better in 2019 as well.
Every year, leading up to the sale, I put a lot of thought into two things:
- What I’m going to offer
- How I’m going to market it
Early on this year, as the quarantines hit, I realized I had a bit of a blessing and a curse. The blessing was that everybody was going to be learning remotely for the foreseeable future, but…the curse was that I’d be competing with all of the in-person conferences who needed to suddenly shift their business model. The ocean was suddenly bigger, and there were more fish, but there were also more sharks.
By April-June, it was also obvious to me that this wasn’t a short-term problem: not only would in-person conferences be canceled for all of 2020, but probably for all of 2021, too. Even if a vaccine was successfully produced and gradually introduced to the public, a lot of folks like you and me probably wouldn’t qualify to get the vaccine first. We wouldn’t want to sign up for a conference until we were vaccinated, so the conference business would be decimated.
Designing what to sell:
a new 2-year bundle
Thinking about the quarantines, here were the bundles I set up for the 2020 sale:
When you set up a pricing table like this, the general advice is to use 3 products:
- Left side product: least expensive
- Center product: best value, most popular
- Right side product: aspirational, stretch goal
Last year, I had the same setup for the Level 1 & Level 2 bundles in the left & center, but I had a different product on the right side. I had a Level 3 Bundle, which was the same as Level 2, but it also included a cloud virtual machine for you to use during the live training classes. That bundle was priced at $1,995. It sold decently well, but…there wasn’t much profit in it. After all, I had to pay for the VM and the SQL Server licensing! It was actually more work than it was worth.
This year, I thought, “I bet I’m not the only person who isn’t going to conferences at all in the next couple of years.” With that in mind, I switched the right-side product out to a new 2-year bundle. This way, folks could just go to the boss once, and get approved for tons of training over the next couple of years.
Plus, I know from talking to a lot of my Live Class Season Pass customers that they like to renew during Black Friday because they like to keep dropping in on the live classes over and over again over time. Some students just leave the live classes up on a second monitor, and absorb things in the background when they’re in between tasks, or hop in to ask a question relevant to the work they’re doing.
Designing how to market it:
a series of free live streams
Let’s be honest here: you’ve probably sat through more than one crappy webcast. Bad demos, bad lighting, invisible presenter, scratchy audio, no live interaction, empty chat rooms, vendors trying to sell you stuff. (I always find that grating – paying money to attend a conference, and then having to sit through vendor spam. Who’s the real customer here?)
My live online classes these days are wildly, wildly different:
- Lots of live interaction between me & the class, with their questions popping up onscreen
- Very high resolution, crystal clear cameras – you see me light up with happiness at great questions
- Clear audio – none of this talking-through-a-blanket or ear-piercing echoes
- Instant replays available within minutes of the class finishing
If you want to see an example of the kind of work I do, you can see it in one of my past live streams from my YouTube channel:
I needed to get the public to understand that my classes are different, so…this year I gave away classes for free. Leading up to the Black Friday launch, I scheduled several free Fundamentals classes near the end of October. This way, folks could see real examples, live, and understand how different my live classes are from typical conferences.
It worked wonderfully! I had over 1,500 folks sign up and attend classes live.
It worked great for marketing, too, because throughout the free classes, attendees kept asking questions about how the Black Friday bundles worked and how to register for more classes, and past customers piped in and talked about how they got huge value out of their Live Class Season Passes.
They both worked great:
sales are better than ever.
My biggest test was to see whether the sales of the new Level 2 for 2 Years bundle would do a better job of both revenue and profit than the Level 3 Bundle did. Comparing new-customer sales month-to-date for this point this year versus last year – not including renewals since that skews things towards last year’s products:
- Level 2 Bundle
2019 til Nov 13: 107 seats sold, $100K revenue
2020 til Nov 13: 154 seats sold, $143K revenue
- Right side product:
2019 til Nov 13, Level 3: 20 seats, $38K revenue (but not very profitable due to VMs)
2020 til Nov 13, Level 2 for 2 years: 47 seats sold, $74K revenue (and way more profit)
So first, in all, sales are way, way up from prior years. Whew! I was worried that more sharks in the sea would try to eat my lunch, but I’ve done alright. Second, though, the Level 2 for 2 Years product has caught on really well.
Looking forward, I’m really excited to see how the second half of the month goes. Historically, 2/3 of our sales have come in the second half of the month – people seem to love waiting for the last minute. These days, I spend less of my Black Friday time looking at TVs, and more time freaking out about people waiting so long to check out and then ambushing the site at the last minute, hahaha!
Speaking of which – what are you waiting for? Go check it out.