Episode #071: How To Get Ready Now For Holiday Sales


Believe it or not, now is the time to start thinking about preparing for your holiday sales whether you’re working only to build your list, preparing your special offers, or hitting your holiday marketing full on. The only time it’s not conducive is during the holidays, but this powerful episode was created to equip you to maximize your profits during the next holiday season. In this episode, Leah goes into the radical preparation and marketing she did for her recent holiday sales campaign, and it’s NOT for the faint of heart! For an independent, non-touring artist like her, you have to maximize your efforts in order to maximize your profits. You’re going to get a lot out of this episode, so get something write on to take notes!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • What you should be thinking about when it comes to holiday sales.
  • When you should start planning your holiday sales.
  • Do you market to a cold or warm audience?
  • What you should be doing throughout the year.
  • Why you shouldn’t worry about sending too many emails.
  • Segmenting your email list.
  • How to handle shipping times during the holidays.
  • Why more emails is better.


“Last year, I made an extra $33,000 just from Black Friday sales and holiday, little holiday promos and the majority of that came from email.” — @LEAHthemusic [0:04:40]

“Ideally, you would start planning your end of year sales in August and September.” — @LEAHthemusic [0:05:13]

“I’m spending the rest of the year building my email list, building my following, building my organic following, building my email list, just building my audience all year long.” — @LEAHthemusic [0:06:50]

“What we’re really going to focus on is honing in on the existing audience we already have and offering them really attractive deals.” — @LEAHthemusic [0:09:09]

“If I conducted myself worrying about offending people, too many emails, I wouldn’t send any emails.” — @LEAHthemusic [0:11:15]

“Don’t let your insecurity make the decisions…you got to do what’s best for your business.” — @LEAHthemusic [0:11:39]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

“How to Plan Music Promotions for the Holidays” (Freebie) — https://savvymusicianacademy.com/tribe/resources/

Lorena Dale (Student Spotlight) — https://www.facebook.com/LorenaDaleMusic/

Click For Full Transcript

00:18 CJ: Welcome to the Savvy Musician Show, the podcast for music marketing. This is CJ Ortiz. I’m the branding and mindset coach here at the Savvy Musician Academy and I’m joined once again by her eminence, Leah McHenry. So good to see you. There you are.

00:39 Leah: Here I am. Nice to see you too.

00:41 CJ: Love to pick your brain, miss lady and great receptions we’re getting out there. I keep hearing good things from people about how well the podcast is going over. And in light of that to the listener, I say, leave us a review. That’s something that I cannot emphasize enough. If you really want to help give back to this podcast, if you’re getting value out of it, if you feel like it’s really helping you with your music marketing, then do us a favour and go and leave a thoughtful comment.

We will read every single one of them in our staff meetings and leave us as many stars as you can, if they give that on your particular podcast player. But we, again, we live on those reviews because it’s the one feedback we get as I often say on my end of things in my motivational side, I’ll say, how do you motivate a motivator?

You have to tell him or her how much they motivate you. So if you want to motivate me, you got to tell me how much I motivate you. So if you’re getting value out of this, please go and leave a review. We can’t wait to read those. You love those don’t you, Leah?

01:52 Leah: I do. They really mean a lot and it gives me a lot of feedback to know if this content is even valuable. We don’t really have to be doing this, you know?

02:00 CJ: Yes, you’re right. But we enjoy this guys and thank you so much again for all of your support. I want to share something with all of you in the student spotlight, Lorena Dale, is one of our elite students, had a win and she writes, “Have just listed my first ever like ad and in less than a day have almost a thousand new likes. I’m still pinching myself that this even works. Excited to watch the rest of the week play out now to keep my new fans engaged.”

02:36 CJ: Sounds like she also understands what she needs to do.

02:38 Leah: That’s right, yeah. And she’s using a specific technique that we only reserve now for advanced students because I found that even though it’s a fairly simple process, most people don’t follow instructions. So we have to leave the more advanced techniques to the more advanced students who will follow. That’s how they’re going to get the good results like this.

03:02 CJ: Well, good for you Lorena, and we look forward to seeing and hearing more about your success. Well, the folks may hear this a little later before year-end, but when we’re recording this, we still have some ample time here for one of the busiest times of the year holiday sales. Which especially here in the US is governed by the Thanksgiving holiday, Black Friday and Cyber Mondays and all that kind of stuff. We just call it holiday sales because it’s kind of covers all of it.

But Leah, you are notorious and I have seen what you do in the background. You are notorious for plotting and planning for absolute domination when it comes to selling during the holiday season. So how can our listeners get ready for holiday sales?

03:57 Leah: Yeah. There’s a lot to say on this and actually I have also a free download for you guys if you really want to get ahead of your planning, but it’s going to be really useful. Because I’ve spent a lot of time doing these several years now and last year alone, just keep in mind for those of you who don’t know my story or even if you’ve heard it a hundred times, it’s important to keep things in context.

I’m a non-touring artist, I’m a recording artist for now. I have kind of an odd niche and I built my entire fan base, everything I’m doing online using strictly online digital marketing techniques. That’s all I’ve got. Last year, I made an extra $33,000 just from Black Friday sales and holiday, little holiday promos and the majority of that came from email. So that’s pretty significant for some people, that’s a year’s worth of salary, and I did that in a short amount of time just from these sorts of sales.

So I think it’s important to know and understand how significant this part of the year is and understand the types of things you should be thinking about when planning. Now, ideally, ideally, you would start planning your end of year sales in August and September.

05:20 CJ: Really? That early?

05:22 Leah: Yes, yes. Any major and minor brands and companies normally start planning the fourth quarter of the year, the quarter before. And the reason is because if you’re doing it properly and correctly, you need that amount of time to get your act together. Because there’s so many different assets involved. It’s not just sending one random email. I’ve done that in the past where it was like, “Oh, tomorrow’s black Friday. I guess I should send an email.” I’ve done that. Trust me, it didn’t give me an extra $33,000. Yeah, it did not.

It did not result in that kind of revenue. So if you want this kind of revenue, you should be done ahead of time. Now, most of you guys listening, maybe you’re not at that point where you’re listening to this. By the time you hear this you think, ah, it’s too late. It’s not too late.

There’s still things you can do. So I’m going to give you as many tips as I possibly can in this episode in the short amount of time. And then like I said, listen through to the end because I’ve got a link for you to where you can get a holiday guide, a planning guide that I put together for you.

06:28 CJ: Well, I mean obviously something like this, you’re not marketing to a cold audience, right? You’re going strictly for the audience that you’ve already built.

06:38 Leah: That’s right. I think that’s a really good place to start. I think one really key takeaway you can get right now if you didn’t even listen to the rest of this podcast is that I’m spending the rest of the year building my email list, building my following, building my organic following, building my email list, just building my audience all year long. So that by the time I get to Black Friday, I’m not trying to acquire new fans. I’ve already got a following.

There’s already people there, there’s an audience and they’re willing and ready to buy the new stuff I’m going to show them. Now is not the time in the fourth quarter to try and get new fans on your email list. The reason is that’s not because they might not be interested, but there’s a couple of reasons. One, they’re already going to be inundated with so many other offers, so many ads vying for their attention.

That’s one. So noise, just white noise. Number two, it’s the most expensive time of the year to try and use paid traffic or advertising to build your email list. That’s because the amount of competition is so high at this time of the year. So inventory, so space in the news feed, for example, is limited. There’s only so many places people can put an ad or Facebook can offer spaces for ads and that means the more competitive it becomes, the more expensive it becomes. The highest bid will win.

I don’t know if that just registered in your brains when you heard that, but this is an auction. Facebook is an auction. When it comes to buying media, buying advertising space. The highest bidder will win. That means the person who is willing to pay the most money to acquire that space or acquire that customer will win. And that’s why they say if you can outspend your competition, you will always win. You’ll be a thriving business.

But for most musicians, we’re not in that position that we can outspend the competition. That’s probably the worst time of year to ever try anything like that. So even big brands that I know and follow, most of them are not trying to acquire cold traffic, they’re not trying to build their email list and get new people that never heard of them. You may get a little bit of that trickling in, which is great as a side product or by-product.

What we’re really going to focus on is honing in on the existing audience we already have and offering them really attractive deals. And there’s a lot we can say about this, but this is going to be the most economical thing, and this is going to be the most profitable thing is focus on the existing audience you have through email ads and organic social. That’s my trifecta.

09:33 CJ: Okay. So it’s great for them to be focused on these holiday sales. Some of them may be waking up to the sudden reality that, well, I haven’t been building my audience throughout the year. So make this as a mental note that as you go into your next year, even start thinking about it now. Just say, I’m going to structure my music business to the place where I can sell when it comes down to the holiday because I’ve spent all that time building bringing people to my pages, my channels, getting them on email lists, creating that relationship.

And so it becomes much, much easier to do this. So you’ve already done that work, Leah. You’ve got raving fans, super fans, as you’d like to call them. We’ve just been covering in the last few episodes on the podcast about your crowdfunding. You’ve been doing pre-launches, you’ve been doing album launches. Now you’re going to hit them with holiday sales? How do you, that’s a lot?

10:33 Leah: Oh, you better believe it. This is, well, it’s going to be one of the most intense years that I have personally had just because of the timing of it all. Although last year when I released the Quest, it was released in October and then we still had November with Black Friday and everything. So it was very close together. This time it’s even more close together. Because album comes out November 15th and then a week later it’s Thanksgiving and holiday starts.

So it’s going, for me, one is rolling right into the other. That means, yeah, I am hitting up my audience like crazy. Now, how do I do this without offending people and knowing them? Number one, don’t worry about that. Don’t care about that. If I conducted myself worrying about offending people, too many emails, I wouldn’t send any emails. Because I’m always, that’s always in the back of my mind. So you got to let the marketer in you win and not the insecure musician win. It’s about going into a certain mode, right?

It’s a headspace, my musician artsy-fartsy mode or I’m in promotion mode. You just pick the mode you’re going to be in. Don’t let your insecurity make the decisions. So you got to do what’s best for your business. And that’s part of just learning how to think like a business owner and a marketer. So yeah, I will be hitting them up with a lot of emails. Now I’m going to open this little tool that I use to plan out all my stuff. And if you don’t know what this tool is, go back to the last episode. Go to the show notes, I’ve got a link for you to watch me kind of explain how I use this tool to plan out my album launches and holiday sales.

I use it for all these different things. So I’m going to open this up and the things that are in here that I use to plan out my holiday sales, I’ve got kind of high-level things that are going on. I will run a campaign for people to opt-in for my email list before any of these holidays happen. So there’s still an opportunity, there’s still a window of time to get people to opt-in and that’s going to happen if you’re not doing paid traffic yet. It’s going to happen from word of mouth and social media, just so organic social media.

12:38 CJ: Let me stop you for a second there. Because I think it’s an important point and I don’t know if everybody’s going to make sense of it. So you’re running ads during this time for an opt-in?

12:48 Leah: Before it begins. Before the holidays start. Yeah, so for me.

12:53 CJ: Would it be a dedicated list for just for this particular sale?

12:57 Leah: The way it’s going to work with my album launch and the holiday sales because of rolling in one after the other I have, with the software that I use, my email service provider, we don’t really create separate lists the way MailChimp does. In my software, we’re going to give people a tag. So there’s not really a separate list.

They just get a separate tag and so they’re going to get a specific name that says, “Early bird pre-launch.” And then the people who opted in to get that news and those discounts and freebies and things in there, I will send those people’s specific emails based on the tag they have. For the holiday sales, that will go out to everybody. Everybody’s going to get those emails. Does that make sense?

13:38 CJ: Yes. So this is a segmentation type of thing that you know, again, not your for your average person necessarily to indulge in, but Leah is, she wants to share everything that she’s doing. Whether you necessarily can grasp what it is she’s doing or that you’re ready for it right now is really not important. It’s important that you know what’s possible.

13:57 Leah: Right. Okay. So people are opting in before I do this holiday launch, then during the holiday lunch, I’m not trying to build my email list, I’m strictly marketing to the people who are on my email list, following on social, and I will advertise to my warm audience through Facebook and Instagram ads.

14:17 CJ: Okay. So again, it may seem a little bit sophisticated guys, but it makes sense that she’s differentiating. She knows she’s going to be, there’s going to be some overlap. Some people are going to get whatever, you know, little extra emails here and there.

But I’ve heard you say before recently on the podcast that you are not concerned that these people are getting too many emails. Why is that?

14:43 Leah: Well that’s because for one, most people are not seeing your emails. They’re not seeing your posts in social media, either. So that really frees you up to send more than you are comfortable with. Believe me, it’s outside of my comfort zone too. Don’t think that I’m comfortable sending sometimes up to three emails a day on a heavy last day cart disclosing, the last day to get this. I’ll send three.

In fact, the last one I sent four on the very, very last day and the last one wasn’t a heavy promotion when it was just like, “Hey guys, whatever happens. I just want you to know I appreciate you. Thank you for coming on this journey. If you’re still reading this, you’re still on my list. Thanks for hanging in there with me. I know I sent a lot of emails. I appreciate you going on this journey. This is how it is what during a campaign, so thanks.”

So I acknowledge it too. I want people to understand. I know I’m sending you lots of emails. I appreciate you putting up with it in a way without making it sound like that and it always goes over really well. People actually, a lot of my fans say, “Actually we like getting all those emails because I want to feel like I’m in the loop like I’m getting updated.”

Once in a while, get someone who’s PO’ed about it, but then they’re not for you. That’s okay. And I always say, “Hey, I’m not offended. You can jump out of the car. That’s okay. You can always come back later. No worries. Like no hard feelings.” I opt-out of emails constantly and it’s not because I don’t like the brand or the person. I just right now I feel like my inbox is too full. That’s all it is and I might resubscribe later. It happens all the time.

So I have at least 35 or 40 emails planned for November and December and there will be more ads. Because right now in my list here of emails planned out and yes, I do make a list of them, there will be some days where two or three go out in the same day and those aren’t accounted for yet. So Black Friday for example, I will send a lot of emails and the reason is specifically for that day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, people’s inbox are going to be buried alive. It’s going to be like quicksand in there. They won’t see anything.

There’s going to be so many, they will not see it. So I’m going to have to send more. You got to stand out more. That’s the only option. And at the end of the day, email is still the number one channel to drive eCommerce sales. So people buying physical items online, whether it’s a digital music. You’ve got a digital offer on Bandcamp or you would just want to send them to iTunes or you are running a full-on Shopify store and offering bundles. In any case, people won’t be seeing your emails. So send three times as many as you’re comfortable with.

17:27 CJ: So let me ask you this then. Do you, having done this many times yourself, whether the crowdfunding or holiday sales or launches, have you seen the uptick in sales when you’re ramping up the emails and even up until the last day when it’s super crazy? Do you see that it actually makes a difference?

17:48 Leah: Yes and that’s because also people are seeing their emails at different times and in my case, I have fans all over the world in different time zones so they may not have seen the one I sent at 8:00 AM in Pacific time or they had already finished their day and aren’t looking at email. But they might see the one that I send 10 o’clock at night, which might be 6:00 AM for them and then when they’re up, you know? So I don’t even really worry too much about the times of day.

I don’t even pay attention to that on social media, either. Like, “Oh, when is the optimal time to post?” I don’t know. There’s people all over the world awake right now. Who cares? Bottom line is post frequently and often. Same with email. Send messages frequently and often and at different times and test them out. So I’m sending a lot.

18:36 CJ: Well, let me ask you this, so how do you, because I know we can’t get into it necessarily here, but the way you handle a lot of your sales and merchandise fulfillment and stuff is through services where you’re not having to touch inventory. They’re taking care of it, but I know that that takes more time. It’s one thing if I have a bunch of products here in my house, I can ship it overnight. I can get it ready really quick.

So your service providers who are taking care of your merchandise and accessory and things, they’re getting inundated end of the year with all people just like us. So how do you deal with that aspect of people getting things late or trying to get in under the wire and that kind of thing when you’re not the one who’s able to control the actual fulfillment?

19:25 Leah: I mean, my personal situation is I have a hybrid going on. I have a physical warehouse, not in my house, but at a separate location where I have certain physical items like CDs and vinyl, certain t-shirts and stuff that are sitting there. And then I have a lot of print on demand stuff. Again, this, we cover these sorts of things in our Superfan System Elite program, how to do all of that.

Everything from the apps that we recommend to design and the fulfillment part of it, all of it. But the nice thing about print on demand is that you don’t have to touch it. You don’t touch the inventory. You don’t touch the shipping. It’s all drop-shipped for you and you don’t even have to pay for it until you’re paid first, which is revolutionary for a musician who’s on a budget with stuff like Christmas and people wanting to get things in time.

The best thing is be completely transparent about shipping times, and there’s a couple of reasons. This is very important. Well, from a customer experience position alone, you never want to over promise and under deliver much better to under-promise and over-deliver. So you should whatever you’re using, whether you’re shipping it out of your garage and you have an account with UPS or FedEx, you want to contact them and get their policy, their shipping times for that season, the holiday season and you need to ask them, “Hey, what’s the shipping time? What’s the standard shipping time during these months, these weeks so that I know what to tell my customers.”

And the same thing applies if you’re using print on demand. If you’re using anything, you want to get clear on what their standard procedure is during these times. Then you want to make sure it’s loud and clear on your website, on the product description, in your emails, on the order confirmations, anywhere where they’re going to be observing basically where they’re going to be opening their emails. Anywhere in that process, you need to say it and don’t think that if because you put it one place that they saw it. Put it multiple places like I said, on your website as a banner in the product descriptions.

If you’re using Shopify, in the order confirmation, follow-up emails anywhere you can put it. The more transparent and more times you see this, the better you can set the expectation, the happier your customer will be and want to come back and buy from you again. The worst thing you can do is promise that it’ll get there in time for Christmas and then it doesn’t. That’s going to be, they will be upset even if they liked the product, they’re going to be really upset. So be super transparent about these things.

The other really important reason, and I’m speaking to my Elite students right now, that you want to be so transparent about your shipping times is because Facebook is now surveying your customers. If you run an eCommerce store or you sell products through Facebook, after a certain period of time, Facebook is going to send a survey to your customer because they track all of this stuff in their newsfeed. They’re going to ask for their feedback and one of the things that are going to be asking about was quality of the product.

“Hey, was it what you expected? How long did shipping take, was that what you expected?” They’re going to survey them and you will get a score based on this. This is brand new. You will get a score based on this and if it goes under a certain number under a two. I think it’s like you get a scale of one to five if you’re a two or under, I think a two is the line of being satisfactory. If you are under a two, you can actually get penalized. Your accounts can be shut down. They can suspend you. All kinds of things.

And the reason Facebook is doing this, by the way, don’t demonize Facebook. Their job is to provide their customers, their users the best experience. If people are being on their platform and purchasing items and then having a negative experience, Facebook doesn’t want to associate with negative experiences. They want people to only have positive experiences. So you as an advertiser on their platform and you are now providing a negative experience for their customer, their users, they want to penalize you.

The whole goal is to get your act together so that it’s a positive experience for everybody. That’s why they’re doing it. So don’t freak out about it. I checked my score. I have a 4.8 so that’s next to perfect. I’m really happy about that. You never know what people are going to say, right? So that’s really good. That’s why this stuff matters. So just be transparent. Be honest. If you don’t set the expectation, that’s where the danger is. Don’t worry about, “Oh, it could take up to 14 days or whatever.” That’s fine. As long as they know that, then you’ve set the expectation.

24:28 CJ: Very good. Well guys, I mean this is a lot, I know it’s a lot, but the basics are the foresight to know that ahead of time, knowing what your goals are, knowing what you’re targeting, who you’re targeting, and then planning out your particular communication with your audience. Now, Leah mentioned she’s got a ton of emails that she’s going to be sending out. You’ve got to know your audience, but like she said, your audience is not seeing every email. They’re not seeing every social media post.

Don’t err on the side of caution. It’s better especially if they’re super fans, they’re going to understand as she mentioned earlier. She’s putting in her emails, “Hey, I know you’ve gotten a lot of emails. I know you know you’ve heard from me quite a bit, but thank you for standing with me.” Make them participants, partners with you and the success of what you’re doing. Because that’s what makes them super fans. They believe they are supporters of your particular vision. Leah, you mentioned you wanted to share something with them today.

25:35 Leah: That’s right. So there’s a lot more to say about this whole holiday planning stuff. So I have a download for you. If you go to savvymusicianacademy.com/holiday-guide, I know that’s a mouthful, but it’s in the show notes. So go ahead, go to the show notes, click on that link and you will download a PDF made by me to help you plan your holidays. Even if this feels last minute for you, there’s still stuff you can do.

Do it now and then prepare for next year. I hope we can work together. If you’re not already in one of my programs, I would love to work with you. I’d love to help you plan year-round. You need to start thinking long-term. Stop thinking short-term. Think about what you can be doing all year long in 2020 to prepare for the next holiday season. So savvymusicianacademy.com/holiday-guide

26:31 CJ: Wonderful. Leah, thank you so much. Guys, we will see you soon.

Leah McHenry

It's become my absolute obsession to find out what will make musicians successful today. In the face of many obstacles, and in the vast sea of the internet, we have an opportunity that has NEVER been available to us in the history of the music business.