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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Marketers: Create a promotion that actually delivers

Buy one, get one free. Spend $25, get $5 off.

We've all seen this kind of promotion, and as a marketer you may have even offered similar ones to your clients.

In this type of economy, it's not uncommon for businesses to offer promotions as an incentive to get their customers to act, say experts.

But if they're going to create a promotion that actually delivers, businesses need to truly understand who their core customers are and what influences their buying decisions.

"A good promotion is relevant to the consumer," explains Don Schultz, co-author of "How to Sell More Stuff!" (Kaplan, $22.95) and president of Agora, a marketing consulting firm in Evanston, Ill. "In too many cases, promotions are planned by retailers and sales organizations based on what they want to do rather than what the consumer wants."

A winning promotion

To create a winning promotion, you need to know what motivates your target audience, he notes.

Promotions can include price offers, coupons, contests, samples, etc. They generally provide "added value" to the consumer, says Schultz, such as a price reduction or some other giveback or reward, like free shipping.

"You're giving something of value that is now going to make someone make a buying decision," explains Roy DiMarco, president of Harrison Leifer DiMarco, a Rockville Centre-based advertising agency.

Optimally that something of value should be relevant to your target audience's needs, he notes.

For example, the firm's client Didit, a digital ad agency in Rockville Centre, launched a promotion last year offering prospects the chance to cut their Google search ad spending by 25 percent without losing any business or else Didit would cut them a check based on a negotiated, predetermined amount.

Didit snagged eight new clients from the campaign within a four-month period, says Mark Simon, the agency's vice president of industry relations.

"We didn't have to cut any checks," added Simon, noting the incentive was unlike many competitors' offerings.



With so many promotions out there, it's important to differentiate these days, says DiMarco. That could even be in the way you deliver your promotion (i.e. priority mail versus standard), he notes.

"You've got to cut through the clutter," he says.

That's sometimes easier to do in the business-to-business market, where you might be dealing with smaller niche markets and can tailor promotions more. On the business-to-consumer side, you often see more generic blanket promotions based on overall price cuts, like 15 percent off.

Just keep in mind that price cutting can be dangerous if not well thought-out.

Seriously consider the economics of your offer and whether your bottom line can handle it, says Bonnie Carlson, president of the Promotion Marketing Association, a Manhattan-based nonprofit trade group.


How to promote

"You don't want it to become a runaway offer," she notes, adding you should have a realistic idea of how many people will take advantage of the offer.

Set clear objectives/goals and always measure results, she suggests.

"You should be very much on top of the financials as to why you did it and if you'd do it again," says Carlson.

Be prepared to try different offers, advises Matt Hisiger, owner and executive chef of Panama Hatties in Huntington Station.

The restaurant offers customers promotions via quarterly e-mail blasts and postcard mailers.

For instance, it might offer customers $20 off their dinner check if they spend $100.

"You need to see what offers work best," says Hisiger. "It has to be something good for the customer and your business."


Winning promotion tips



  • Set realistic objectives



  • Be clear on customer restrictions/limits



  • Create urgency with an expiration date



  • Differentiate



  • Measure results


Sources: Don Schultz; Roy DiMarco;Bonnie Carlson

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