I can still remember the early years of Black Friday. My sister and I would drive by Borders Bookstore (RIP) on Thanksgiving morning, grab the meaty folds of the much-awaited newspaper, and then sprawl ourselves on the living room floor making separate piles of good sales and bad sales while the turkey magically roasted itself in the kitchen.

In those days, there was nothing better than a legitimately cheap piece of tech. Two hundred dollar laptops and TVs were gold. We didn't need a marketing technique better than that. 

Cue in Cyber Monday and the endless supply of coupons, time also brought in a lot of noise. Although a good deal will always be the best piece of marketing, new-age concepts keep reminding us to add freebies instead of discounting our product.

So, what's a company to do?

These few marketing strategies will help you try some new concepts for retail's biggest day of the year.

1. Build your customers and fan base before it's time.

People are thinking always unconsciously thinking about what to buy. They may not know it, but the key to getting customers to buy from you during this time is to be on their radar before it's time. If you haven't already, amp up your social media presence, invest in ads, test out remarketing, and explore tell-a-friend rewards programs.

2. Become the anti-consumer.

This may not make any sense, but one of the most memorable Black Friday marketing techniques I have ever seen came from REI. I'm not sure if that company would consider it a technique or simply a mission statement come to life, but for the past few years, REI has closed all 149 of its stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday and stopped all online order processing.

Employees have the day off and customers are encouraged to explore the outdoors and use their nifty hashtag, #OptOutside. It's totally in line with who the company, is and last year, CEO Jerry Stritzke said sales were trending upward despite the closing. And, well, we're still here talking about it, so it's definitely one way to create buzz.  

3. Stand for a good cause.

OK, this one is not totally realistic, but it stands out and is a pretty solid marketing technique. Patagonia is known for taking care of our planet and it stands its ground through the campaign, "100 Percent for the Planet."

According to the Patagonia site, all money from purchases made online and in stores on Black Friday is donated to "grassroots organizations working to create positive change for the planet in their own backyards." The result? All of last year's $10 million in sales went straight to good. Although it's not sustainable for all businesses, it leads us to the next point...

4. Create a strategy that is in line with who you are.

Are you a really unique clothing company? A vintage goods shop? A single luxury item? Create a campaign that eccentrically and fully encompasses who you are. Share that through a video, a hashtag, or a tagline. Whatever it is, be radical and make sure it's the youest-you that you can think of and it will resonate right with those who need to hear it.

The examples above are not completely sustainable for all companies (I mean, a startup should probably not close its doors on the biggest retail day of the year), but what makes it stand out is that it's so completely in line with the company's mission statement.

5. Keep it simple.

Yes, fancy campaigns are fun and exciting, but if you don't have the means to go all out this year, stick with guaranteed techniques that always get a sale. Small discounts, free shipping, extra freebies, BOGO, surprise gifts, future store cash, partnerships -- these all are simple but do the trick. Think of Black Friday as a day that people are already spending -- what is a nice early Christmas present you can give to them as a thank you for thinking of you? 

6. Create how-to or inspiration articles that lead back to your company.

Time to put your writing hats on. People don't always know how to look for your company, but they do know how to look for things they are interested in, which could eventually lead to your company.

Do you sell furniture goods? Write a piece on holiday home decoration ideas, with links to your top selling decor items (that may also be part of your Black Friday sale). Maybe you sell a new piece of tech that just hit the market -- write a piece on the best gifts for new college grads (or whatever resonates) and share it.

You can either post it on your site's blog and SEO it up, or submit it to your favorite blogs or magazines for a chance at a bigger circulation. 

7. Make it easy for your customers.

A lot of people get stuck in last-minute gift situations. How can you provide simple solutions that will make those last-minute customers feel instant gratification? Think about advertising gift cards that come with a little extra cash or a small freebie, or free and fast shipping. 

Published on: Oct 18, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.