Tag Archives: marketing

The Side Effects of Discounts

discountI recently shared my experience with my office supply chain’s enticing coupons offers. The result was a short-term increase in my buying habits, followed by a prolonged lull.

In like manner, years ago, my Internet hosting company embarked on a similar strategy. Their approach was offering discounts. Depending on the offer, it would be 10 to 30% off for a specific product purchase or for a certain level on spending. Each discount offer was time-sensitive, lasting from a few days to a couple of weeks.Not only had their incessant discount offers trained me to expect to not pay their standard prices, they had also lost money. Click To Tweet

They had sent me 10 such offers for four weeks; that averages one discount about every three days. Whenever I needed to buy something from them, I know there was a discount that would apply.  I simply picked the best, most applicable one and saved money—on every purchase.

Not only had their incessant discount offers trained me to expect to not pay their standard prices, they had also lost money, as I would had made every purchase anyway.

While I was enjoying the savings, I was left wondering, “What were they thinking?”

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

The Side Effects of Coupons

A couple of years ago my preferred office supply store embarked on a creative strategy to sell me more stuff. And it worked—for a while.

COUPONSThey started emailing me coupons that offered nice discountsif I spent about 50% more than what had been my typical historical purchase. Not wanting to pass up a good deal, I used their coupons, buying what I needed now and stocking up for the future. If anyone were tracking the results of their marketing efforts on me, they would have been pleased; there was at least a 50% boost in my spending with them, likely more.

The problem was that my growing stock of office supplies would already cover me for the next several years. Aside from ink cartridges and batteries, I’m nicely provisioned. I had enough printer paper, file folders, highlighters, paperclips, staplers, rubber bands, pens, and what not to last me a good long time. In fact, I don’t think I would needed to buy file folders or paperclips for the rest of my life.

So, after enticing me to increase my purchasing for a couple years, they were paying the price of that short-term gain. I was buying next to nothing.A coupon today could result in a no-sale tomorrow. Click To Tweet

When I received my $15 reward certificate, I had trouble finding anything I neededeven though it would be free! Of course, that just further forestalled me from actually buying something from them.

If you multiply my experience by the thousands of others who received similar coupon promotions, I suspect that corporate was scratching their collective heads over what happened; it wouldn’t surprise me if careers where made and lost over this whole ordeal.

The lesson to be learned is that a coupon today could result in a no-sale tomorrow.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Opt-in Email Marketing: Proceed with Caution

Companies that use opt-in email marketing need to do so carefully. Years ago, two companies that I “opted in” to receive messages did it wrong—so I voted with the cancel link and opted out!

email marketingI had happily bought from both and eagerly accepted their requests to opt-in to receive promotional emails. I don’t know how often they were sending messages, but it seemed like a reasonable amount.  If I were to guess, I would say it was once or twice a month.

When Christmas season approached, there was a definite increase in frequency to about once a week. Still, that was okay. One sent a coupon for a 20% discount and the other an offer for free shipping. Using these promotions, I placed orders with each. I was pleased with the results.

As Christmas approached, the flow of messages increased even more, as did the urgency to act. I assumed I would need to tolerate their push for Christmas sales until after December 25th, when things would return to normal.

Things didn’t go back to normal. Soon I was receiving a message every day from both companies. When my irritation hit my breaking point, I opted out. Relief at last.Enduring an email message everyday, just so I might have a valuable discount in six months is not worth the frustration. Click To Tweet

I would likely have ordered from both in the future, but it might have been months. Enduring an email message everyday, just so I might have a valuable discount in six months is not worth the frustration. Unfortunately for them, they are now off my radar screen, so if a competitor shows up at the right time, I could end up buying from them instead.

I’m sure that each time these companies sent out an email blast, they were rewarded with orders. However, if many otherwise-satisfied customers reacted as I did, the cost of these short-term sales will be a long-term loss of customers.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

When Customer Rewards Programs Go Bad

Ten years ago, I have signed up for the “rewards” program at my favorite office supply store. In addition to mailing me coupons and emailing me special offers (which is how I bought a paper shredder for $10), they also keep track of my purchases, which allows me to earn quarterly discounts.When Customer Rewards Programs Go Bad

Conceptually, this is a great business idea. It promotes store/brand loyalty and gives me an incentive to not consider their competition.

When I was emailed my recent statement of activity, I actually looked at it. I wanted to make sure that the recent ink cartridges that I returned for recycling had been credited to my account. They had not. Nor was the purchase that I made that day. Looking through each statement for this year, they had a record of only one purchase.If rewards program has gone bad—and as a result this customer could go away. Click To Tweet

Why do they scan my card? Since charges don’t end up in my statement, scanning it seems to be largely an exercise in futility.

It makes me wonder if their competitor—whose store is right across the street from them—has a rewards program that works better and could actually capture all my purchases.

I’m sure that it’s not the goal of their rewards program is to drive customers to their competition, but that could very well be what happens.

Sadly, their rewards program has gone bad—and as a result this customer could go away.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

A Disconnect Between Marketing and Technology

I was a loyal customer of a national office supply chain (they’ll remain nameless to protect their otherwise good image). I was a preferred customer, which entitles me to special discounts and occasional rewards (on those rare quarters when I buy “enough” product.) They also send me an email, seemingly weekly, of sales and special offers.

Ten years ago,  I scanned their latest missive and noticed deals on paper shredders. I’ve been using a light-duty model for years and it’s showing its age as it groans through the documents I feed it. I figured that when it shredded its last page, I would replace it with a heavy-duty model.

Incredibly, they were offering an “on-line only” price of $10 for a light-duty model, similar to, but better than my old faithful.  At $10, there was little to lose; the super-deluxe model could wait.

I went to their website to place my order. I entered my email address only to be informed that they had no record of it in their files.There was an obvious disconnect between what Marketing was doing and IT's ability to support them. I wonder how many sales were lost as a result. Click To Tweet

How curious. They had just emailed me that morning; obviously, someone had a record of my email. Unfortunately, the marketing department and the IT (information technology) department were not operating from a common resource.

I was going to abort my order (one explanation why e-commerce shopping charts are abandoned). However, out of a sense of adventure, I forged on. I placed my order without logging in; at it’s conclusion I was asked to sign-up to receive email alerts. I entered my address and they happily took it.

There was an obvious disconnect between what Marketing was doing and IT’s ability to support them.  I wonder how many sales were lost as a result.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Beware the Survey Turned Sales Pitch

Several years ago, as I was mowing my lawn, a stranger pulled into my driveway. He approached with the determined look of a salesman. With no way to make myself scarce, I waited as he approached. He was taking a survey. Suspicious that it was really a guise for a sales pitch, I hesitated, contemplating the most effective way of returning to my lawn-mowing mission.Finally I consented out of a sense of expedience.Beware the Survey Turned Sales Pitch

Question 1: “Do you think that right here today there is air pollution?” Answer: “Yes.”

Question 2: “Do you think the air in your house is better, worse, or the same as the air outside?” Answer: “The same.” (Actually I recall hearing that it is usually worse, but I was taking a calculated middle ground.)

Question 3: “Do you and anyone in your family suffer from asthma or allergies?”  Answer: “No.”  (Real answer: “Some allergies,” but I didn’t want to give Kevin too much encouragement.)Although pizzas and movies are very high on my list of preferred things, I suspected that even after enduring a 35-minute sales spiel, there would still be a catch, so I declined. Click To Tweet

Kevin said he would enter me into a drawing, asking for my name, my bride’s name, and my phone number. Knowing that all three pieces of information are readily available, I supplied them, but determined to provide no more. Fortunately that was all he asked. I was now registered to be in a quarterly drawing for 1,000 gallons of gas and a daily drawing for two pizzas and eight movies passes.

Three hours later Meg called from “Southside” to tell me that my name had been drawn—imagine that. This was playing out as I suspected, so I went along. Kevin wanted to personally come out and give me my prize. A time was set and then Meg said that Kevin would get a bonus if I listened to a brief sales presentation about Rainbow products. (Brief, by the way, is “35 minutes—depending on how many questions you ask.”) Pretending to be unaware, I asked what Rainbow was and Meg hesitated, “Well it’s like cleaning the air with water.”

Unfortunately collecting my prize was contingent on spending 35 minutes will Kevin. Although pizzas and movies are very high on my list of preferred things, I suspected that even after enduring a 35-minute sales spiel, there would still be a catch, so I declined. “Do you want me to give your prize to someone else?” Meg implored with a feigned incredulity.

“Sure,” I responded, “go ahead.” I wasn’t any closer to my pizzas and movies—but at least I had enough info for my blog.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Responding to Email

My website FindaCallCenter.com features a directory of call centers. All the information listed has all been submitted by the businesses themselves.To ensure the information is current and accurate, I periodically email each call center, asking them to review and confirm their information.Responding to Email

The lack of response—and the slowness of response—to my recent verification effort was appalling. Only 25 percent responded to my first email message, while 11 percent of the addresses generated a failure notice. The majority of those responding did so the first day, but many trickled in over the next week.

For the second email message to the remaining non-responders, 13 percent replied, but only one third did so within one day, with the rest taking up to five days. For the third and final email only 5 percent responded.

Altogether, only 37 percent responded at all; 13 percent had non-working email addresses; 50 percent apparently received but did not bother to reply to any of the three messages. Furthermore, of the minority who responded, only about half did so on the same business day.Few consumers will be patient that long. Stand out and strive to respond within an hour—and the sooner the better. Click To Tweet

We live in a world that expects a response and wants it immediately. The above dismal results—which are likely applicable to all industries—suggests that merely responding to email on the same business day would make your organization stand out.

How sad. Few consumers will be patient that long. Stand out even more, and strive to respond within an hour—and the sooner the better.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

The Difference Between Good and Bad Marketing

Several years ago, I setup a Website for a local nonprofit organization that I helped. I registered three domain names for it: the main one, with two alternatives. The first ended with .org (as did one of the alternates). I also registered the .com version of their main domain name in case someone typed .com out of habit or error.  All three pointed to their website.

When the domains were up for renewal and I opted not to renew the one ending with .com. Keeping it seemed like unnecessary overkill.Good marketing produces better results and elevates the industry. Click To Tweet

Then the email solicitations started rolling in. Apparently, there are a number of companies who monitor expiring domain names for one of potential value. Upon seeing that the .com version was available and that I had already registered the .org counterpart, they thought that I might be interested in it, offering to help me buy the exact domain name that I had allowed to lapse. They suggested that I allow them to help me snatch up this great domain name before someone else did, thereby pushing the cost up.

I have to respect their business model that monitored expiring domain names, identified owners of existing domain names with a different extension, and contacted registered the owners via email. Yet why didn’t they take one more step to eliminate contacting the prior owners who had purposely let the domain name expire?

Given the relatively inexpensive nature of email, it’s not a big deal. However, I am much more an admirer of an elegant marketing campaign over a brute force one. After all, it is the marketers that cut corners and execute their craft badly that make it harder for everyone else to be respected and trusted.

Bad marketing might produce results, but it pulls the industry down. Good marketing produces better results and elevates the industry.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

What Does “New and Improved” Mean to You?

When you hear the phrase “new and improved,” what is your first thought?

Being the slightly cynical person that I am, my initial reaction is that someone is trying to dupe me with a marketing tactic. I suspect that nothing substantive has been changed, but lacking anything substantial to proclaim, they fall back on trumpeting that their product is “new and improved.” It must be that some people are sucked into this ruse or else why would marketing folks persist in perpetuating such a ploy?

Therefore, I quickly dismiss all claims of “new and improved”—unless it is for a product that I use—then I panic. When you hear the phrase 'new and improved,' what is your first thought? Click To Tweet

Although “new and improved” sometimes seems to only apply to the packaging, that phrases still produces fear and trepidation in me when referring to products that I use. I worry that “new and improved” actually means “we’ve-changed-this-just-enough-so-that-you’ll-no-longer-like-it.” Unfortunately, personal experience backs up that concern as being a realistic one.

The logic behind “new and improved” probably assumes that existing users will continue to buy it—even if the packaging has changed so much that only the brand name is recognizable. The bonus kicks in from people who never used it, but are predisposed to try anything new, as well as those who didn’t like it before, but will give it a fresh look. Therefore, I guess we are stuck with “new and improved” products.

Still, “new and improved” does nothing for me; I’ll take “tried and true” any day.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Socks?

There’s a certain brand of wool socks that I like. Okay, I really, really like them. I’m wearing a pair right now. I wanted to try a different style, but the local outlets didn’t carry it.

Though I prefer to buy online and bypass the “experience” of going to a store, sometimes I want to check the product in person before making a commitment. You can’t do that in cyberspace.

So I ordered one pair for my tactile evaluation. For some reason I expected free shipping. This was not to be. To unite me and my $13 socks there was a $7 shipping charge. There were no other options.

I placed my order on Friday. Saturday my socks arrived courtesy of FedEx Saturday delivery. Really? It wasn’t like this was a sock emergency. Three-day ground would have been fine, even parcel post would have been acceptable.

I took time to communicate my frustration with the manufacturer, because, well, I’m a bit passionate about their socks and when you care about something, you take time to share concerns. The rep understood my complaint and agreed, saying other customers told her the same thing. She planned to bring this up at their management meeting later that week.

Two months later I placed an order for more socks. There’s still only one shipping option and it’s still $7. Really?