What’s more annoying than visiting a website that smacks you in the face with luridly colored pop-up, screaming through your monitor that this is a limited, super valuable, one time, hot, hot deal? It’s making my blood pressure rise just thinking about it, but these types of rackets raise a good question for business owners: how do we make our promotions look polished and legitimate?
The majority of business owners know about some of the best practices for promotions and pricing, which have been analyzed by psychologist for years. For example, everyone knows that a product that costs $9.99 really costs $10.00 (okay, okay…it’s one penny less than $10). Yet the ugly truth is that many of these tactics are still used today, as they’ve been used for years, because they work – for the most part.
There are also many marketing gimmicks that don’t work. In fact, some promotional offers look downright sleazy, and can have a negative impact on your reputation, not to mention your sales revenue.
To avoid looking illegitimate or less than trustworthy, remember to keep the following tips to make promotions look more attractive and credible.
The Savings and Benefits Must Be Significant
I’ve run across a few online services that advertised savings opportunities that piqued my curiosity. But when I followed the ad and saw the pricing discount on the website, I was extremely disappointed. The actual discount or benefit that you’re providing to your customers during a promotion needs to be significant, or your visitors are going to feel tricked, taken advantage of, and angry.
I was pretty disappointed to see that the discount was next nothing – we’re talking about a 2% discount…what a joke. That wasn’t something I could even begin to get excited about. Now I’m not saying you need to discount your products and services so much that your net profit evaporates, but you do need to make it worthwhile.
Likewise, if you’re trying to promote your YouTube channel by offering free giveaways for new subscribers, the giveaways have to be something that your audience actually wants. To try to be too cheap and give them something worthless like a key chain or a sticker. Conversely, you don’t need to make it such a big promotion that you’re breaking the bank by giving away iPads, because you’ll just end up with a big list of people that want to win iPads, and could care less about window treatments.
I also saw a real estate agent once offering a $5 Starbucks card to anyone who referred a home sale his way. So you make a few grand and I get $5 bucks? Wow.
You Need to Set Time Limits for Promotions
There have to be definite time limits to your promotions for two reasons. First and foremost, a time limit creates a sense of urgency. If your audience knows that they only have three more days to take advantage of a deal, they’ll be more highly motivated to take action than if the promotion is going to last for another 30 days.
Also, setting a time limit (and honoring that time limit) lets your users know that the savings are genuine. Some discounts and promotions are little more than marketing gimmicks, and customers know it. For example, there’s one clothing retailer I despise that always has some “special sale” going on. You can expect to find their clothes marked down 50%-60% every day of the week, which is ridiculous.
Never in my life have seen an item in this retailer be sold at full price. Since the sale is always occurring (though it does go by different names during different seasons), I don’t perceive the sale as special.
Likewise, there are service providers who sell their service at a “discounted” price. The original price is positioned above the “discount” price, with a big red ‘X’ running through it. But they never update that portion of the website, proving that the service is always discounted.
Consumers are smart enough to identify that quickly and therefore discredit it in their heads immediately.
Don’t Let Promo Advertisements Look Cheap
I think we’ve all seen our share of cheap and scammy advertisements, and you need to do your best to make sure advertisements and landing pages don’t have that “scammy scent”. Take the time and effort to make your promotions look aesthetically pleasing, and try to create new promotional content when applicable. Otherwise, your audience might ignore it completely because it looks cheap.
For instance, you might be able to work in holidays or the current season into the artistic nature of your promotion. This means the website, banners, and even flyers or other handout materials. You could cycle them out year round if you wanted, or create new variations each year. The point is that people don’t respond to the same dull ads they’ve seen a thousand time before.
Take a play from Hunter Douglas – they often reuse their promotion names year in and year out, with slight tweaks to the actual products being offered. The name of the sale doesn’t change as often (Season of Savings, for instance, has been used several years now during the holiday season).
Retain Customers with an Exclusive Loyalty Program
People generally don’t like feeling left out or excluded. That’s one reason why some loyalty programs have succeeded in create demand for products, services, and memberships. But the point here is to offer something of value to people who have already done business with you before to offer incentives to return.
Because loyalty discounts are harder to earn that typical run of the mill savings, people value them more. And because you put the thought, time, and energy into saving your returning customers money, loyalty promotions often come across much more trustworthy and credible than those hot, hot deals I mentioned earlier.
An easy way to do this is to have a good CRM and/or email service provider with tagging. Simply give each customer that has purchased with you a familiar tag, like ‘purchase’ or ‘verified client’, and then you can send emails to only those on your list.
Be Creative with Savings and Discounts
The real truth is that you can’t offer savings that eliminate your overall profit, or worse…actually cause your business to lose money. But within those bounds, it’s a good idea to keep mixing things up to avoid growing stale. Instead of offering the exact same promotion on a regular basis, try feeling out your audiences needs and seeing if you can identify any other promotions they would love.
Since we live in the age of social media, you could even poll your audience with a multiple choice question that let’s them feel in control. Naturally, this only works if you already have a moderate following, but your audience is a great source for new ideas if the effectiveness of an old promotion has plateaued.
We did this for one window treatment client – we asked our current newsletter list to fill out a quick survey with questions around how they consume information, and then we offered them a $50 savings for completing the survey. It worked well, generated some new business, and we got some great data about where our customers hung out online.
As human beings, we have been inundated with thousands (maybe even hundreds of thousands) of ads since we were little. Over time, we’ve been able to spot online ads that we can instantly identify as scams. But there are some ads and promotions that don’t quite look like an outright scam, yet are questionable enough to avoid. If you violate any of these best practices, you may be losing trust with your audience. Use the aforementioned tips to make your promotions look more attractive and credible.