I’ve noticed that more of the independent creators and small businesses I follow are jumping into the Black Friday discount email frenzy these days.

My reaction is usually:

  • Oh yeah, that’s an awesome small business I like. Cool to be reminded of them!
  • Wow, 25 percent discount? I paid full price in the past because I thought the product was worth it and liked the feeling of supporting a sustainable business. But now I feel kind of yucky.

I’m not suggesting that independent creators and small businesses shouldn’t market their products more aggressively. I’m not even saying that holiday discounts shouldn’t be part of the mix. There’s just a better way to go about it than mimicking the big box retailer playbook.

Imagine that rather than getting a deep discount email mixed in with 30 other Black Friday messages, I got a few other emails throughout the year with short updates about how business is going and appeals like:

  • I’ve created something new that I’m really excited about. Since you’ve bought my stuff in the past, I’ll give you 10 percent off if you pre-order it.
  • You’re part of a weirdo niche that likes our products, and it’s your birthday next month. Give this free shipping coupon code to all of your family members and see what happens.
  • I know Halloween just happened, but we’re a small shop with big holiday season plans and only so much time and inventory to make it happen. If you help us out by getting an order in by Nov. 15, we’ll give you 10 percent off.

In each of these examples, marketing tactics and discounting are still used. But they are more about staying on the radar and making any discounts feel like win/win scenarios that preserve the positive feelings that come from supporting an independent business.