Differentiation is hugely important for any company.

When customers think you are a 'me too' mobile app or accounting service, they will pass right over it and find a business with a bit more flair. That's the reason Amazon tried having a Black Friday event ... in the middle of the summer.

It worked. Despite the customer complaints, online orders went through the roof. In fact, the online store sold a flabbergast-worthy 398 products per second yesterday, a 266% increase over the same day last year and an 18% increase over Black Friday (the real one). Amazon plans to hold more of these events, which also pumped up the subscriptions to their Prime service, which costs $99 and lets you ship stuff for free and watch a ton of movies and shows for free (it's actually just as well-stocked as Netflix).

What's the lesson here for other companies? If you are a pizza shop or make a business app, there's no harm in creating what is essentially a fictitious holiday and then pumping it up as exclusive and maybe even groundbreaking. My theory is that any event is better than no event, even if you call it something odd or even hard to grasp. (Maybe using an odd name helps you get some traffic using the hashtag.)

Here's an example. Let's say you start a company that sells hot sandwiches to people by bringing them to the workplace. You find out that there are a few other companies trying to do the same thing. Yet, you really believe in your mission--maybe your sandwiches are much healthier. You just enjoy the idea of running a company that makes people happy. Yet, you’ve had some trouble gaining momentum.

You decide to target August 1 as your annual Try Our Sandwich for Free day. What does this accomplish? A few things. You are creating interest and generating excitement. We all want to be in on something and we all want to make sure we don't miss a good deal. It also rallies the troops. Everyone in the company is excited to see if TOSF day works. Even more important, it's something that is incredibly shareable on social media. Everyone "gets" an exclusive day because we are all so used to Black Friday and other holiday events.

The other benefit to a "day" is that it's just one exclusive event. You can afford to make a few free sandwiches, especially if it means attracting hundreds of new customers.

The surprise here is that so few companies actually try this. They seem to be content with not differentiating for some reason. They focus on other areas or don’t want to attempt anything new and different. But Amazon has proved that exclusivity is a ticket to high sales. I'm one of the people who jumped on the event. There's this weird sense of exhilaration. (It's also the reason penny auctions are so popular.) You feel like you have a window of opportunity, and if you don't jump through, you'll miss out.

Is it worth trying? Do you have some ideas for how to create a "day" event of your own and follow the Amazon model? Let me know if you have one and I'll be happy to tweet about it.

Published on: Jul 16, 2015