Over the years I've seen some incredible efforts put into promotional offers, with a few being complete flops. Almost every time, the challenge was in the complexity of the program itself. Just because the idea sounds good in your head doesn't mean you can convey the message to your target audience. It's important to keep it simple with minimal qualifiers and text to quickly explain the offer.
Here are some reliable questions to ask as you plan your 2018 promotions:
- Is the promotional offer easily understood? I've seen so many programs that aren't understandable. The problem is too many restrictions and qualifiers, as photographers try and protect themselves from being taken advantage of. Keep it simple. After you write it up, have a few friends, family members or associates read what you've written. Do they understand the offer?
- Does the promotion have strong perceived value? Whatever the offer, it has to have good perceived value. Try your best not to discount, but instead look for added value. For example, years ago, Cliff Mautner talked about adding hours of coverage to his wedding package instead of discounting the cost. Regardless of what your offer is, it has to be of value to your audience.
- Is the promotional offer in line with the demographics of your community and target audience? Your promotion has to be in line with the values of your community. For example, running a baby portrait promotion in a retirement community like Sun City, Arizona is missing the target by at least 40-50 years! Pay attention to things exciting to your target audience.
- How long is the window for people to participate? Personally, I believe in programs with a 40-60 day window. You can't go too short, because of the time it takes to get your message out there. You don't want to go too long because it changes the dynamics of urgency - in short, there won't be any! Longer and shorter promotional windows do work, but it depends on the type of offer and your target audience.
- How are you going to get the word out to your target? Don't rely on just one vehicle to get your message out to your audience. You need to use direct mail, advertising, email, and word-of-mouth. No one method is going to be effective, but used together you're able to weave a web around your target. Also, whenever possible bring partners into your promotions. Having another company involved helps spread your message, reduce costs and make your offer more valuable.
- Is the program different from your competition? It's really hard to create a completely original program these days because so much has already been done. However, as an artist, you want to do everything you can to stay away from programs that turn your work into a commodity item. Look for promotions unique to your area. Or as my good buddy, Terry Clark, once said, "Look at what your competitors are doing and then offer what's NOT being done."
I've been involved in a lot of great promotional programs over the years along with plenty of bad ones. I remember one situation where the program was too simple and too rich. It was in my Polaroid days, and we offered a free companion ticket on Delta Airlines with the purchase of a Polaroid camera. It was under $40 to purchase/invest and qualify. The market went crazy because all you needed to provide was your receipt and the UPC barcode off the box. As an example, there was a classic story about a kid getting a dozen Polaroid's for his Bar Mitzvah, all with the UPC code cut off the box!
The problem with the program? From the consumer perspective it was incredible, but from the corporate side, it was a logistical nightmare. The marketing team never anticipated the overwhelming response. They didn't spend enough time before the program thinking through every aspect of the offer. That's number seven in this post and the last step in putting together a good promotion.
You've got to analyze the cost and the level of work involved to implement and make a promotional offer a success. This is where your network plays a serious role. You can't plan effective promotions by yourself - you need a couple of people to be your sounding board. You need feedback and a team approach to analyzing any special offer.
Even when you've done everything right, things can change, and a program can be less effective than you had hoped. Don't be discouraged. It takes time to build up the momentum for promotions in any business.
It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations."
Photo Credit: © ra2 studio