SaaS Planning for Black Friday

There are many origin stories for the day after Thanksgiving Day shopping bonanza known as “Black Friday.” According to the History Channel, the true origin of Black Friday dates to the crash of the U.S. gold market on Friday, September 24, 1869. “Two notoriously ruthless Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, worked together to buy up as much as they could of the nation’s gold, hoping to drive the price sky-high and sell it for astonishing profits.” Their scheme unraveled that Friday, “bankrupting everyone from Wall Street barons to farmers,” thus Black Friday was born.

Over more than 100 years, there have been many attempts to change the meaning of Black Friday. The first ties to shopping are attributed to the city of Philadelphia in the 1960s. “Police and bus drivers in Philadelphia used the term ‘Black Friday’ to refer to the chaos an influx of people to the city created before the Thanksgiving weekend. Visitors would trawl the stores in Philadelphia on Friday with their Christmas lists looking for gifts.”

Also, in the early 1960s, retailers tried to change “Black Friday” to “Big Friday,” but the moniker didn’t stick. Though the name didn’t change, its meaning did. Black Friday became the day that incredible bargains lured consumers into retail establishments. So much money is spent that many consumers believe that the day after Thanksgiving is when retailers first begin to turn a profit for the year, the day their books turn from red to black. 

In 2023, Black Friday falls on the 328th day of the year. It is hard to imagine any sound business letting 89.59% of the year pass without turning a profit – unless you live in the world of SaaS start-ups. Most fail to post profits in Year 1, and many never post profits. In fact, the P&L for many start-ups looks more like the Game of Thrones Red Wedding than a finally profitable Black Friday! 

At Outset, we assume that the path to success has changed. The days of outlandish targets and growth at all costs are over.

Realistically speaking, most SaaS start-ups are running at a loss in the early days. While doing so, losses should be attributed to planned investments, not execution issues. This is why the old adage applies, “Plan your work and work your plan.” SaaS businesses need a solid planning process that runs annually with quarterly as a minimum. They need a defined method to cross-functionally determine if investments in programs and campaigns are delivering planned results. They also need a decision-making and problem-solving platform to leverage when results are subpar.

Metaphorically speaking, SaaS start-ups should not hope to be profitable by Black Friday. They should know where they will be each and every day. They should be executing against a robust planning framework designed to drive cross-functional collaboration and financial results. Execution should be nearly flawless, and the Say:Do ratio should be 1:1.

SaaS start-ups rarely run Black Friday deals. There is no significant SaaS shopping day, nor is there a gimmick that leads to sudden profitability on a specific day of the year. This is why it is essential for these companies to build amazing annual plans and have a framework to manage those plans daily. This is where Outset shines. Please reach out if you would like to learn more.