Over the years I've seen some incredible efforts put into promotional offers. Many of them were complete flops. Almost every time, the challenge was in the complexity of the program itself. Just because the idea sounds really good in your head doesn't mean you can convey the message to your target audience.
Here are some solid questions to ask as you plan your 2014 promotions:
- Is the promotional offer easily understood? I've seen so many programs that absolutely aren't understandable. So often 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 friend, family member or associate read what you've written. Do they understand the offer?
- Does the promotion have solid 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 chosing to add hours of coverage to his wedding package instead of discounting the cost. Regardless of what your offer is, it has to have 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 Bay Harbor Island, Florida, a retirement community where the average age is over 70, is missing the target by at least 40-50 years! Pay attention to the things that are 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 by itself is going to be effective, but used together you're able to weave a web around your target. Also, remember to always try and bring partners into your promotions. Having another company involved gives you an ambassador to help spread your message.
- Is the program different from your competitor's? It's really hard to not do "me too" programs and sometimes they're a necessity, but 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 flops. I even saw one situation where the program was actually 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 an under $40 purchase. The market went mad, because all you needed to provide was your receipt and the UPC code off the box. I remember one 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 nightmare. Nobody spent enough time before the program went to press simply 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 the program a success. This is also 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 or promotion.
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.
"Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations." Steve Jobs
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