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Promotions that work and work with your technology
Author: Jeremy Herring
May 1st 2013 -

It’s May and that can only mean that your busy season is about to start winding down if it hasn’t already. Since revenue doesn’t just walk itself through your front door, you’ll want to get more aggressive in your marketing and promotion efforts in order to ‘make a little rain’ during the dry summer season. I certainly don’t advocate a cart-before-the-horse approach; rather, I’d suggest a whole-view approach in order to come up with a winning campaign that won’t add to your workload. This means not only developing an offer that entices more customers and more revenue but also testing its compatibility with existing controls and reporting capabilities and then timing the campaign to begin and end on the best schedule to produce results.

Any campaign will focus on one of two primary aims: either the recruitment of new customers or the opportunity to upsell existing customers. For this reason, you may actually choose to run parallel campaigns, each with a specific purpose; or, you may choose to offset the timing of campaigns, knowing that the best time to recruit isn’t necessarily also the best time to upsell.

From a technology standpoint, regardless of the focus of your campaign your current tech solutions should be able to administer the guidelines of the campaign and provide tangible results by the end of the campaign. At the very least, your technology should be able to:

· Determine which customers to include in any marketing campaign targeting a specific customer demographic;

· Prevent campaign promotional offers from being made available before the first day or after the last day of the scheduled campaign;

· Limit the number of times any single customer can take advantage of a particular promotional offer;

· Limit new customer offers to new customers only and prevent ‘gaming’ the campaign by current customers;

· Keep employees honest in the execution of the campaign’s rules and restrictions;

· Provide analytics following the conclusion of the campaign to report on its effectiveness, reach and ROI.

Get your name out there (Reputation)

The goal of any entrepreneur is to be not only well-known but also well-respected in the community. A great reputation is actually one of the most effective advertising tools at your disposal but it is not always easy to come by. A business develops a reputation regardless, but your goal should be to make it a positive one instead of a negative one. This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, but it does mean you have to be responsive and involved. Unfortunately, in 99 out of 100 cases this requires direct involvement by the owner. Employees, even good employees, simply don’t have the personal investment in the business to make them think in terms of what’s best for the reputation of the business. When faced with an unhappy customer, an employee’s mind takes stock of the company policies set forth to them and tries to placate the customer within the guidelines of these established policies. Employees will not stick their neck out or risk their job just to prevent a potential public bed mark on the business’ reputation. If you’re lucky, you may already employ a senior manager who has some of the skills necessary to operate as a surrogate to the owner’s presence but even at that there will be limits to the amount of leverage this employee can exercise or the focus on long-term financial repercussions to a disgruntled ex-customer. If it comes down to allowing employees some latitude to satisfy an unhappy customer, make sure you communicate that permission explicitly and with the expectation that they provide justification. This is another great opportunity to utilize the technology at your disposal to make sure the employees can both complete the appeasement and provide the reasoning for you to review at your convenience. In this way employees know they will only hear more about a situation if they did something wrong or you simply want more details about the situation.

Get them in the front door (Recruitment)

The mechanics of converting reputation into recruitment are many and varied with different degrees of expense, commitment and effectiveness. Mass media certainly fits the model but can also be cost-prohibitive if you don’t have a significant advertising budget. If you’ve been successful with the reputation step above, then one of the most cost-effective forms of recruitment is word of mouth. By rewarding existing customers for referring new customers, you can essentially ‘finance’ your recruitment efforts with the cost being incurred after the new customer has materialized!

Get them trained (Recurring Revenue)

Why do Black Friday sales still work in spite of all the bad press? Simply put, consumers have been trained! They’ve been systematically programmed by retailers to believe that the best deals are only available at 12:01am the morning after Thanksgiving and it is therefore worthwhile to sit in cold, dark lines all night for a chance at a fantastic deal. Never mind that the evidence in recent years demonstrates that Black Friday offers are really no more price-conscious than any of the other hundred deals retailers offer at various times throughout the year… consumers enjoy the hunt and retailers enjoy the revenue! By developing a plan for your campaigns, even going so far as to identify annual events worth repeating, you can also train your customers to anticipate deals and also to spend more during those promotions.

Scheduling your message

In real estate, the three most important factors are location, location, location. In marketing, it can be said that these three factors amount to timing, timing, and timing. The proper timing of a promotional message has a remarkable impact on its success. For instance, if you’re trying to recruit new customers, a mass media campaign like a billboard, newspaper ad or radio spot can run for a week or more and apply to a promotion that is good for an entire month. In contrast, if you’re trying to increase impulse purchases from your existing customer base, a minimum amount of lead time is better. You can use direct marketing tools like email and text messaging which should be able to be scheduled in advance but only reach the target audience hours or days before the promotional period. The promotion should only run a couple of days also, further reinforcing the sense of urgency to respond. This method is particularly effective during holiday weekends and any type of 2-or-3 day event.

In-store experience

The marketing efforts don’t stop at your front door step. Inside there should be a concerted and uniform effort to promote the current campaign. It can be as simple as placing a countertop placard the day of the promotion or getting buttons for the staff to wear or it can be as elaborate as your own custom video ads which can be played prior to and during the campaign. The same goes for any direct marketing tools like email, text messaging and social media.

Post-campaign analysis

Once the campaign is over, the task of data analysis should begin in order to learn what worked and what can be improved for next time. One way to gauge the effectiveness of different offers is to use different promotional codes to track the various offers and also track the different methods of delivery. In order words, even if the offer is the same, use a different code to redeem the promotion received via email blast than one received via text message, and so forth. The response rates can then be compared to the applicable group to determine which one works or doesn’t work. Then the next time you can mix it up and see what works better!

Converting prospects and problems into promotional opportunities

Even when no specific campaign or promotional drive is in place, it is a good idea to keep a few ‘unadvertised specials’ on standby and available for staff to use. This provides the opportunity for salespeople to ‘close the deal’ on a new or prospective customer. It also works to allow employees to ‘be the hero’ when they know they have some leverage to address customer complaints.

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