by Michael Sansolo

You know we just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they're happening. Back then I thought, well, there'll be other days. I didn't realize that that was the only day. - Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, Field of Dreams

I can’t believe it. Singles Day came and went and none of you even sent me a card.

Then again, since the point of Singles Day, as conceived by the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is to celebrate ourselves, the only person who owed me a card or gift was me.

And I forgot.

Sounds silly doesn’t it? But then again, Singles Day - November 11th or 11-11 - just broke its own record for one-day sales. As reported by CNET (among others) Alibaba rang up $25 billion in sales for the made up holiday, a far greater total than ever recorded by Black Friday, Cyber Monday or any other holiday real or otherwise.

Singles Day, as we’ve written here before, is the epitome of a merchandising event. It was created in China as a kind of anti-Valentine’s Day for those who have no one with whom to celebrate. And no doubt sales will top $25 billion next year for a new record.

The thing is, we don’t need to create something on the same scale to succeed. The secret to Singles Day, like so many other merchandising and marketing events, is all about making a regular day special or a regular moment something memorable. And that’s something any business can find ways to do almost daily.

In fact, it may be something we need start to do in all kinds of ways.

I got a wonderful reminder of this during the summer when a speaking engagement took me Coralville, Iowa, just a few miles from Iowa City. (Iowa City, you may remember, is the location of the movie Field of Dreams and we are reminded it is anything but a tourist destination.) While checking into my hotel I found out that the guy checking me in grew up in Turkey in a town very near where one of my grandparents was raised.

Later that same day, a card was slipped under my door reminding me of everything the hotel would do for me. It was signed by the man I met at the front desk, with a reminder of our common link to a town I have never seen thousands of miles away.

Just like that, he took an all-too-ordinary moment and made it special. There’s little chance I’m heading back to the Marriott in Coralville anytime soon, but there’s even less of a chance I’ll forget the place. All thanks to the extra effort of a single associate who made the special extra-special, and the ordinary extraordinary.

It’s a reminder to all of us that similar efforts are becoming increasingly important. No longer can we rely on traditional strengths in any business, but especially retail. The power of a great location, broad product variety and even historical customer knowledge has all been diminished by electronic commerce.

As Singles Day demonstrates, even holidays need take on a different role in this new world. Today (and, certainly, tomorrow) we need make any day special and any customer interaction extraordinary.

The present and the future demand nothing less.


Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.