As important as it is to generating sales, I find that too many small- to medium-sized stores have not taken the time to plan out a promotional calendar for their businesses. I recommend developing a 12-month plan, consisting of at least two different promotions per month, with room for a spontaneous third, if needed. If this is not feasible for your business, a minimum six month calendar plan should be next in line.
If you run only two promotions per month, plan to run the first during week one, and the second during week three, so you are able to reap the benefits of the sales generated largely during the same period in which the promotion originates. In other words, you have the ability to boost sales during a given month by running a "proven" promotion, knowing that the majority of sales generated will occur during the same month the promotion runs. A carefully planned and well structured promotional campaign can win new customers and keep your current base coming back for more. Trying to piece promotions together on the fly often results in missed opportunities, weak offers and unprepared staff. When you do begin to develop your offers, keep in mind that successful promotions have several points in common:
- An intended audience in mind.
- Generate interest.
- Create urgency.
- Create excitement.
- Generate sales.
- Provide great value to those who redeem them.
- Are planned with a clear objective that the business owner wants to achieve.
Intended audience. A well-thought-out promotion has an audience whose attention it wants. Whether that audience is targeted or open to the masses makes no difference, just make sure your message speaks to them in a way that will get their attention and then gets them to act.
Generate interest. Good promotions have the ability to generate the interest of their intended audience. This interest comes via the look of the ad used for the promotion, the copy, the offer, and even the placement of the ad itself. As a simple example, if you decided to increase your new business customer base, you could consider this a targeted campaign toward gaining new customers. Your offer might be, "15 percent off your first purchase with us," and placed in a prominent location throughout your site. Likewise, if your promotion was a mass targeted campaign to move inventory, then you might want to develop a promo along the lines of, "Get $25 off a purchase of $75 or more."
Create urgency. Good promotions have a time limit to them. Once it's over, it's over, and the offer is gone. If you have ever participated in a promotion that expires on xxx date, then you have been exposed to the urgency factor. Putting a time limit on promotions creates buyer interest, and that generate sales. Limited time promotions can perform quite well, yet seeing the good results can often tempt you to keep the promotion running past your initial stop date. Don't do it. Once your customers understand that when you say, "It's gone," it really is gone, and they will respond better when next presented with an offer stamped with a deadline.
Create excitement. A well planned promotion will generate some excitement, which can often lead to referral business, where one person tells others about it and you get the domino effect. I've seen instances where an excited customer lists a well planned promotion on an online bulletin board, and the sales go through the roof. It can and does happen.
Generate sales. Good promotions generate sales. Whether the objective is to attract new customers, win back former customers, or get current customers to repeat buy, the direct result of a well-planned and implemented promotion should, in the end, be sales.
Provide value. A promotion is only effective if it's worth the buyer's time. It must provide enough value to the intended audience that they perceive it as the best choice. Although not the sole options, Internet-only discounts, free shipping offers, and "buy one, get one" offers can be big.
Planned with an objective. All promotions should be planned with at least one main objective in mind. Whether that objective is to move inventory, get new customers, introduce a new product or line of products, or meet monthly quotas, every promotion should have a goal. This objective usually leads the charge in the development of promotion planning, often driving what the exact offer will be.
No matter your store's size, no matter your market, if you have not yet planned a promotional campaign for the coming months, you need to get started. Lack of planning means you are missing out on some enormous opportunities for your business.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce conversion marketing expert and author of a leading Ecommerce blog at www.TheEcommerceExpert.com. He coaches storeowners using his online coaching system, www.EcommerceAmplifier.com, teaching them how to increase website sales using his proven six step process. He can be contacted at 1-866-602-2673.
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