Or necktie. Or wallet. Or the latest gadget. Or a bigger tv.
[Not meaning any disrespect to anyone who really does need a sweater. Or socks, gloves, and warm clothing. Or any number of other things. I am very aware that people really do need material things.]
But as we head into Black Friday, or what is now known as Black Thursday, more and more retailers are opening on Thanksgiving Day to get a bigger share of the holiday sales. Why are we so eager to give up our family time for commercial reasons? What if we took the next few days to really think about what we are grateful for and what we can do for others?
Since 1863 when President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be a national holiday to count our blessings, we’ve watched holidays become more and more commercialized. From the 1920s when Macy’s created the first Thanksgiving Day Parade to the 1970s when the Black Friday tradition began, we have become less focused on those blessings and more obsessed with getting those deals (Klein, 2011). Let’s not forget that these traditions were started by retailers to enhance their businesses.
As there is more anxiety in society, people find that shopping is a release, according to Dr. Kit Yarrow, author of “Decoding the New Consumer Mind” (Stetka, 2013). The thrill of getting a bargain is an emotional high. People also shop Black Friday as a family tradition. Retailers know all this and use all kinds of cues to get people excited to buy.
If you’re on the social networks you’ve likely seen the meme that says, “Because only in America would we trample each other for sales the day after we give thanks for what we have.”
Do you even remember many of the holiday gifts you received last year? How about a few years back? We tend to remember people and feelings and experiences. Not material things. “The stronger the emotions connected to an experience, the stronger the subsequent memory” (Wesson, 2012). Most things don’t create long lasting memories, do they?
Of course we still want to give gifts. So what could we do instead of buying more things people don’t really need?
There are people who may like nothing better than for you to spend time with them. Children. Older relatives. Plan some time to make those visits. Make memories. Go places. Plan experiences. You’ll both be glad you did.
Either do them yourself or pay for them. Here are a few examples. I’m sure you can think of many more.
- Babysitting. When I have my little grandbabies now I realize how important it is to have family and extended family. How much it helps the parents when I watch them. And how much I would have loved to have someone do this for me back when my kids were little. Offer your time or pay for a babysitter for the kids in your life.
- Cleaning. Maybe someone could use a local maid service or professional organizer to help get their life together. Or just a hand with cleaning up or getting organized.
- Car detailing. I received this as a gift once and enjoyed the clean upholstery for a long time after. I just saw a sign by someone offering this service. (Of course the marketing side of me wondered if they offer gift certificates.)
- Coaching. There are life coaches, weight coaches, health coaches, sports coaches … coaches for just about anything one could want help with. Gift this service to help your loved ones improve their lives.
Since the economic crash there are millions of people in our country who are in need of basic necessities. They may not ask. Take a minute to really look at someone’s situation. Honestly, maybe a grocery store gift card will help them much more that that thing you were going to buy. They’ll remember that you made the effort to really help.
Let’s talk about consumption.
I know it sounds cheap to give something used as a gift but we waste far too much in this country. We replace things just because we want the latest, not because the thing wore out. In watching my grandbabies already outgrow a ton of clothes in just a few months, I remembered the children’s resale shops where you can sell your kids’ outgrown clothes and gear as well as buy them ‘new’ stuff. Maybe you could gift a certificate to such a shop. And when you do get new items for the holidays be sure to pass along the old, maybe on Freecycle where you can give away the things you no longer need to those who will use them and keep them out of the landfills.
What are their life dreams?
- To take a class? Help them find a program. Pay for it. (Skillshare now offers gift cards.)
- To go back to school? Help them research programs, pay for classes, find scholarships and financial aid.
- To start a business? Hire them a business coach or consultant (Disclaimer: Yes, I offer that service.)
- To travel? Give them tickets if you can. Or even a book about their favorite destination.
- To be an artist or a writer? Find them classes or coaches (I know some.)
Do you even know the real dreams of your loved ones?
Other Ways to Make a Difference
Shop Small. Small Business Saturday is November 30.
Shop Local and Independent. “Each dollar you spend at independent businesses returns 3 times more money to your local economy than one spent at a chain — a benefit we all can bank on.” –AMIBA Top Reasons to Buy Local
Shop service businesses. Give more than just things and support your local economy at the same time.
Support arts and crafts by shopping at local fairs and on Etsy.
If you’re in the U.S., it’s likely you’ll be spending some time with family and close friends this Thanksgiving. Find out what people need. Ask about their dreams. Try to take a few moments for yourself to think about really matters to you and yours.
What could you give, or do, that would make a real difference?
Klein, M. (2011, November 23). How Thanksgiving Became the Holy Day of Consumerism: Echoes. Bloomberg. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-23/how-thanksgiving-became-the-holy-day-of-consumerism-echoes.html
Stetka, B. S. & Yarrow, K. (2013, November 22). Why We Shop: The Neuropsychology of Consumption. Medscape Psychiatry. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/814649
Wesson, K. (2012, March 1). Learning & Memory: How Do We Remember and Why Do We Often Forget? Brainworld. http://brainworldmagazine.com/learning-memory-how-do-we-remember-and-why-do-we-often-forget/
Unless you run an ice cream shop, you may find your small business has slowed down for the summer. People are gone on vacation. Kids are out of school. It’s difficult to get folks to come to networking events. As tempting as it is to give up and head for the pool each day, this business slowdown is the perfect time to put your marketing in place for the rest of the year. Get a jump on your competition who took the summer off.
Use the time to plan
The year is half over so this is the perfect time to take stock. Are you making progress? Work on your business plan, your marketing plan and your calendar. Create systems for everything you do. Look ahead for the rest of the year. Do you have – or can you create – any product launches or new service offerings and packages? Schedule them, then work backwards to plan the marketing.
Get to know some new people by networking online. The whole web won’t be gone on vacation. Try a new social site. Freshen up your online profiles and bios. Claim your listings. Update your website and, while you have some extra time, create lots of content to attract potential clients who are searching for you.
Get ahead on your content marketing
(And if you aren’t doing content marketing yet, you need to start!) Write articles, blog posts, newsletters and social media offerings. Start using audio and video. Create enough content to get you through the busy times. You can have it ready and you can even pre-schedule it to automatically go out on a regular basis throughout the rest of the year.
Look for summer themes
Make an Independence Day Special Offer. Do you sell anything you could tie in with travel, vacations, or summer weather? Or something your customers should do in summer to prepare for fall, back to school, the upcoming change of weather? You don’t necessarily have to lower your prices or have a sale; just invent a new service package or bundle of products along with a summery name.
Help your customers with summer information
Summer skin care. Summer fashion. Pool care tips. Summer maintenance for your (car/home/garden.) How to protect your (kids/pets/grandparents) from the heat/bugs/ this summer. Get in shape this summer. Get organized before school starts again. Summer marketing tips. Oh, wait, I did that one already.
What do you do or sell? Relate it to summer. Unless you’re marketing a ski resort you should be able to relate it somehow. And if you do run a ski resort? Why it’s “Five tips to get your ski gear it tip top shape for the upcoming ski season,” of course.
Attend events and network
If your usual networking groups are on summer hiatus, find a new group that is having a summertime meeting. If half the group is out of town, plan more intimate events with those who stayed home. Schedule one-on-one coffee meetings with the people who are around so you can really get to know them.
Plan something summery for your networking group to do, like meet in a park. Look at the places you go in the summer (on trips, the beach, the park) as opportunities to meet people you wouldn’t meet during the rest of the year.
Also look at upcoming events and get them on your calendar. Are there any events or meetings you could speak at? If so, put that in motion while you have the time.
If business is slow, spend time catching up with people you haven’t heard from in awhile, such as former customers, potential clients, possible partners, people you met while networking and meant to connect with. Call, send them something, email them or say hi online – not to sell them anything but to say hello and maybe offer them something of value. They may or may not need what you offer right now but they’ll remember you took the time to stay in touch when they are in need.
Who could you partner up with? Find someone with a complementary product or service who has the same target market you have and come up with a joint offer for the summer. Are there any local summertime festivals you could join forces with?
Don’t let the summer slip by without doing any marketing. Remember to look for opportunities to tie what you offer in to summer activities and themes. And if your business is a bit slower, be sure to use the extra time to prepare your marketing for the rest of the year while your competition is on vacation. You can even combine the best of both – grab your laptop and do your marketing from poolside.