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McLellan: What if Black Friday is not for you?


Black Friday and Cyber Monday have wholly changed how Americans think about Thanksgiving week. Don’t get me wrong; there is absolutely a place for holiday sales, and I know for many retail businesses, the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving are the initial spark that kicks off the two most important months of the year. 

But it seems like everyone is jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon, from service businesses to companies in the B2B sector. It’s as though they’re looking for an excuse to communicate with their prospects and customers, and Black Friday just makes it easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right tactic.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday work for organizations that sell commodities or smaller-ticket items like clothing or electronics. But it feels a little forced (like a law firm having a Presidents Day sale) when it comes to bigger-ticket items or products/services that are more of a considered purchase.

How do you take advantage of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday phenomenon if it’s really not a good fit for your business?

Why not capitalize on the prevailing sentiment that the holidays are over-commercialized? While everyone else is out there hawking their wares, you could be building community.

Here are some thought starters:

Give, not get: This is perfect for the Thanksgiving season in general, but you can give it a Black Friday or Cyber Monday twist. Why not invite your employees or customers to write a short article about a charity they support and then give everyone a certain number of votes based on tenure or annual spend? 

They can “shop” with those votes on Black Friday or Cyber Monday to help determine which charity your organization will support in December. To make it even more meaningful, you could include a link so people could make their own donations or volunteer their time.

Human connections: The beauty of Cyber Monday is you can shop without crowds, human interaction or ever speaking to another person. Why not declare a mutiny on that concept? Announce to your employees and customers that you think the holidays are all about human connections, not clicks and carts. 

You could plan activities that bring people together. Get creative, and remember it doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. You could organize an employee potluck and set the seating chart so people who don’t usually work together can get to know one another. Or you could go all out and shut down the office so you can share in a community project like walking puppies at a shelter or helping with a Habitat build.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t inherently evil or ineffective. But if they aren’t the right fit for your organization, then you can play off of them to your advantage. It’s the perfect time of year to step away from the push to sell more, and instead invest in the long-term relationships that ultimately will earn you loyalty and longer-term sales.

Maybe instead of discounts, BOGOs and other hardcore sales tactics, you could declare that you’re going to do late November differently. Maybe even when it comes to marketing and sales, the holiday season could be the season of giving for your organization.

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