A few weeks ago I got a letter from Citi about my credit card. Included was an exciting offer: for every dollar I spent on the card, I’d get a bonus 0.2 ThankYou points.
Now, I’m a numbers guy. It’s my job. But let’s remember that as a country, we’re pretty bad at that math stuff. Decimals and fractions are the enemy. So why not go for the “one extra bonus point for every $5 spent” angle?
Promotions work when they make sense. There will always be people willing to pay you less than your asking price – that’s not the issue. A good promotion:
- Is intuitive. As in, I don’t have to do math to figure it out, and it should be impressive at face value. 0.2 is not.
- Reflects positively on the brand. For instance, I’ve bought a couple items from SuperJeweler and been very happy with their quality and their service. I get emails from them every day announcing some special offer or another. But the ones that catch my attention are the “Whoops, we goofed!” emails they send about once a month. The premise is that they mistakenly offered a product at the wrong price (although they don’t always tell you what the alleged mistake was). To make up for it, they offer a different item at a steeply discounted price… just to say sorry. It’s a nifty approach if you do it once or twice, especially if it’s legitimate. But if you do it once a month it sends a different message: Don’t buy from us, we’re incompetent.
- Is genuine. If you just go from one sale to the next, you’re not promoting anything. You’re training your customers to never pay full price. Like the car dealership I drove by today that was getting an exterior facelift and had two banners hanging out front:
Open during construction! (Okay, good to know, although pretty obvious from all the cars out front.)
Construction Sale! (Wait, what? Really?)
So the next time you think about running a promotion, ask yourself what you’re promoting. If you’re just trying to move product, go for it. But if you’re trying to promote yourself and your brand, be careful you’re not doing more harm than good.