When I was a kid, I was told that Black Friday was the biggest shopping day of the year, and was so named because it was the day that many retailers finally posted a profit and came out of the red and "into the black".
It's not true, of course, since the phrase is only about 50 years old, but many people I've asked offer the same explanation.
"Black Friday is the day when retailers become profitable."
It always bothered me to think that a store had to wait until the tail-end of the year to see profitability. How can you function for 10 months of the year without making a profit?
Sadly, I see creative entrepreneurs do it all the time. The struggle, the shame, the push-push-push of trying something - anything - to bring in money. And very often, it's Thanksgiving weekend (Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday) when they finally see some cash.
The way it happens, though, is all kinds of wrong. So wrong that, this year, I decided to opt out and NOT send any type of Thanksgiving greetings. It was hard for me because each year I like to do a give-back campaign around my book, The Secret Watch. Thousands of people have participated over the years, and it was hard to NOT do it.
But not this year. I just couldn't bring myself to be part of the marketing mayhem that this week has become.
My friend Leesa Renee Hall posted on Facebook the other day, bemoaning what she calls the "#gratitudespam" emails filling her inbox because of Thanksgiving. Leesa's Canadian, but that didn't stop the marketers from ruining the spirit of the American holiday anyway:
"This time of year, I like to reflect on how grateful I am for the life I have. I'm grateful for you. Without you, I'd be homeless, and I like my big house on the beach and my vacations to Hawaii. Thank you for being a loyal customer and buying my crap. Because it's awesome. And speaking of awesome, be sure to watch for my Black Friday email, because my offers are SO amazing THIS year that you'll pee your pants. Forget standing in line at the Apple store Friday morning. Get up at 3a.m. and wait for my email with baited breath because you know my shizz is off. the. HOOK!"
Or something like that. #GagMe
I'm all for expressing gratitude. Some folks do send emails that are just an expression of gratitude. I got an email from someone I barely know saying how much I meant to her as a loyal subscriber. It felt phony because I was a new subscriber, but I'm sure her long-time readers appreciated the sentiment. There was no pitch, no promise of something amazing on Black Friday. Just a simple thank you.
It was buried amid so many sales pitches, that it was hard to take it seriously.
Yes, I'm a little cynical, and the reality is that when you say "Thank you" and follow it with a request to buy your stuff, it feels fake. It feels forced. It doesn't feel genuine in the least. You seem desperate and pushy. It's as if you couldn't afford to let one email go out without making an offer.
So the crappy emails continue to pile up as more marketers try to pry your hard-earned cash out of your hands and into their wallets.
Black Friday devaluation
I enjoy sales, discounts, and getting a great deal as much as anyone. My favorite purse is an Italian leather number that I got at a yard sale for $3. I was giddy for a week after that find! But I feel bad for the creatives (who already consistently over-give) that are discounting their Great Work because "it's Black Friday". They're bringing in money, but it's not sustainable - and it's not always profitable.
I rarely offer sales or discounts because of what I call "the Lane Bryant dilemma".
They've pretty much trained me to NOT buy anything at full price, because there's always a discount, coupon, or sale right around the corner. And many times, I can use it for the clearance rack, so why would I EVER pay full price? All those pretty clothes just sit on the rack until the sale rolls around, which I know it inevitably will.
In the mean time, I look at all those clothes and think they're WAAAAAY over-priced, so why buy them?
Lane Bryant has trained me to de-value their products.
I see it over and over again this time of year. I know several creative entrepreneurs who always make some kind of crazy low-ball offer "in honor of Black Friday". So I wait. I don't buy. They've trained me to wait for the super saving spectacular that is Black Friday - or Cyber Monday.
Instead of discounting your regular offers, why not do something remarkable? Create something exclusively for this selling season, and when the season's over, it's gone. Like the "McRib" or "Pumpkin Spice" everything. Limited-time offers don't have to be price-sensitive.
If you're really grateful, just give it away.
On the other hand, you could show real gratitude and just give something away. Again, not like a clearance sale, but do something special. A free concert, or digital wallpaper, or some other truly free offer that shows people that your gratitude is real. You don't bring a hostess gift to Thanksgiving dinner and then ask your host to pay your mortgage. You bring a gift because you want to show your affection (and gratitude) for the person receiving the gift.
That's what I'm doing this year.
All my subscribers are getting an invitation to a free webinar in December where I'll walk them through the pitfalls of planning for each of the 3 creative entrepreneur types. Each type has strengths and blind spots when it comes to planning your year, and if you rely only on your strengths, you may discover you're not moving forward on your dreams and goals the way you planned. The answer often lies in your blind spots. This webinar will help you see them, deal with them, and plot a course for a successful 2017.
And you won't have to buy anything to make it work.
If you're not already on the list, you'll need to get registered to join us. For those of you already on my list, an email is coming with more specifics. I'm not trying to be mysterious here. I just haven't decided what day to teach this webinar yet. When I do, I'll send out the email. It's that simple.
I am truly grateful for you. Not because you're my fan, a reader, a subscriber, or because you've bought my stuff. I'm grateful for you because you matter to this world. It wouldn't be the same without you. Your life, your story, and who you are matters. If I get a chance to be part of that, well, fantastic, but you don't need my products and services to continue to shine your awesome light into the world.
Thank you for being you. Keep it up. #ThatIsAll