Free Marketing Ideas Part 20 – Promotions

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Welcome to the latest edition of my new weekly blog series, “Free Marketing Ideas”. Each week I will identify and explain a simple marketing idea that you can employ at low or no cost. Last week’s topic was Make Deals.

This Week’s Topic = Promotions

Pricing and Promotion are two of the 4 P’s of Marketing that are taught in most intro-level marketing classes. The others are Product and Placement.

The price that you set for your products or services is a tool that marketers can use to distinguish themselves from the competition, set customer expectations, affect demand, and control profits. And promotions are special offers that you make in order to drum up more business.

Most promotions don’t have to cost you anything in terms of real dollars. It takes time to dream up and implement them. If you’re offering discounts than there is a cost to you related to lower margins. But offering a promotion is a way to increase sales without spending a lot of money on advertising.

I could spend days listing all of the different kinds of promotions you can try, but let’s stick to a couple simple ones. The first are basic discounts, offering lower prices on one or more products for a limited time. The second is a free shipping offer, which is a very effective way to increase your conversion rates in an online sales environment.

The third is BOGO (buy one, get one free) which will have a similar impact on sales to a 50% off special. The fourth is a bulk sale discount, a discount on orders of a certain size aimed at increasing the value of each order.

A fifth is a free trial or free sample, that allows people to try your product or service before they buy it. You can also drive more sales with financing plans that require a lower up front cost, product add ons, the promise of discounts on future items, etc.

The marketing team should always be planning promotions that will boost sales and revenue at key points throughout the year. Creativity is a part of promotion planning. Some will work, others will fail. The key is to always be thinking, planning, and executing.

Share your thoughts on this idea, and other free marketing ideas in the comments section below and keep the conversation going!

Steal This #5 – Seamless Warning Emails


Welcome to the latest edition of my new weekly blog series, Steal This. Each week I’ll highlight a marketing activity that a company is using and suggest ways that you can model it and make it work for you. Last week’s topic was – Samsung’s Attack Ads.

Today’s topic is: Seamless Warning Emails

This is actually quite simple, and quite brilliant on the part of Seamless.

For those of you who don’t know, Seamless is an online food ordering platform that has taken New York by storm and is in the process of expanding in a number of other cities across the country. They also recently merged with GrubHub to expand their reach.

Seamless has developed a fun brand, with many loyal users. It’s an easy to use tool that markets itself using humor and offers frequent discounts. One thing that they’ve started doing is sending an email the day before a special offer, announcing the offer and telling hungry customers to stay tuned.

While they may not be the first to employ such a strategy, they do it so well that I had to make them the subject of this week’s post.

So how can you steal it?

The beauty in this type of strategy is that it helps you cut through the “noise” in the email marketing landscape. Customers know what to expect from you and they are actually looking forward to receiving your email. I suspect these emails have a very high ROI.

It’s also very easy to steal if you have a built in customer base. Before you make an offer, tell them to be on the lookout for a special offer. That’s it.

It serves the purpose of getting your fan base excited, and making sure more people see your offer and take action on it.

As always, tell me what you think of this week’s idea and suggest other marketing programs to “Steal” in the comments below.


Is Black Friday Giving Marketing a Bad Name?

Yesterday was Black Friday. Traditionally, Black Friday is a day in the United States marked by steep discounts that kick start the holiday shopping season. In recent years, Black Friday was joined Cyber Monday, its online equivalent. And now, the two have merged and blended with the weeks leading up to and after Thanksgiving that now mark what seems like endless deals and offers from every company you can think of. Some retailers are even opening their doors on Thanksgiving night.

What is all this doing to consumers?

First, I think we’ve already hit the point of diminishing returns. That means that each new discount, each new offer, each new TV ad, email, or in store promotion is not adding the type of return that they used to.

In part, that’s because consumers are either fed up, or extremely overwhelmed. Perhaps and combination of both. It’s hard enough to keep up with the brands you’re interested in and offers they have going on all year round. When you add to that the “urgency” that comes with this time of year, and the mounting offers from brands you’re not interested in, it becomes too much.

We’re creating a generation of consumers that will learn to tune out all deals. It’s like a vaccine which exposes people to a virus so that they build up a tolerance. But that tolerance does not lead to success for marketers, it does not lead to a generation of consumers who welcome more offers. It leads to consumers who are so numb to the amount of offers they’ve seen that they don’t react anymore.

Further, it’s giving marketing a bad name. Consumers associate brands that go out of their way to notify you about discount after discount with spammers, desperate for the sale, and annoying.

As a marketer, even I can say that I’m annoyed with the culture of marketing at this time of year. It makes the rest of the year that much more difficult.

So what’s the solution?

I don’t think there is one. Because if your competitors are doing it, you’re going to do it. And if it has measureable results, the argument can be made to do more of it.

But I do know that there will come a point when we are so overly consumed with advertising for Black Friday that a movement will begin to push back. Consumers will begin to ignore your calls. And I can only hope that the best marketers and companies that provide real value to their consumers will prevail.

Free Shipping vs. Discounts

“For whatever reason, a free shipping offer that saves a customer $6.99 is more appealing to many than a discount that cuts the purchase price by $10.” – David Bell, Wharton School of Business

It’s true. Customers value free shipping. It’s a simple fact that every marketer must understand when we think about pricing and promotions.

What does it cost to ship your product?

Maybe your shipping cost is standard, maybe it varies based on the quantity of the order or the destination of the shipment. Regardless, there are several strategies that companies employ with regards to shipping costs.

You can charge the consumer what you are paying, the break even philosophy. You can charge the consumer more than it costs you, the profit philosophy. Or you can offer free shipping, no matter what.

Why offer free shipping?

Free shipping sells. It’s a tried and true selling point for products of all kinds. Many companies make a living out of promoting the ‘free shipping all day, every day’ line. But if that’s not for you, using free shipping as an incentive can be a very worthwhile effort.

Use your email marketing to generate a special promotion, free shipping today only, to drive a high volume of sales needed to meet forecasts.

Or use free shipping as a way to increase the value of each sale. Many ecommerce sites will promote “free shipping on orders over $xxx”. If the cut off is $100, someone who is making a $20 purchase may not be intrigued enough to spend another $80. But someone who has $70 or $80 of stuff in their carts are sure going to take notice.

Why not discounts?

Discounts can still work, but depending on what your shipping costs are, free shipping has been proven to work better. There is no real reason that marketers and business analysts point to when they try to explain why this is the case. It just is.

What if you don’t charge for shipping?

If you don’t charge for shipping, you’re ahead of the game. But why not promote it? Consumers who have never purchased from you before will take notice if they see “Free Shipping on all Orders, No Exceptions”. If you don’t charge for shipping and you’re not promoting it in as many places as possible, you are missing a huge opportunity.

I want to hear from you…why do you think ‘Free Shipping’ works so well as an offer?