Tips to Creating Successful Online Promotions

There are no guarantees when creating an online promotion, but in working on many promotions over the past few years I’ve come to understand what generally works and what doesn’t. The following are some of the best tips I’ve come across when developing a promotion:

• Targeted offline media often can be more effective than online media. While banners can bring results because they offer an immediate payoff, targeted offline media, such as radio advertising during peak drive time, can be much more effective for your promotional advertising dollar.

The standardized banner is often overlooked by the average consumer looking for specific content via a search engine or destination Web site. While banner ads can often be invisible to consumers online, a radio advertisement during peak drive time can cut through much of the clutter and have a dramatic impact on the promotion. Similarly, instore displays and “take one” materials in an offline environment can often catch consumers during normal purchase behavior and get them thinking about your product or service. Ideally, they will take your URL home or to work with them to learn more about the product or service.

• The best e-mail list is the one you’ve collected. Seth Godin, vice president of direct marketing at Yahoo Inc. and iMarketing News columnist, calls it permission marketing. Regardless of what you call it, you’ve started a relationship with your customers when you get their permission to market to them in the future. As long as you don’t abuse that relationship, you have a gold mine of relevant customers who are likely to purchase your products and services now and in the future.

Use your promotions to collect information, but do it wisely. Don’t ask for information about your consumers that you have no plans to use for their benefit. Give consumers a reason to let you market to them, and then build their trust. It takes time and money to build trust, but very little abuse to destroy what you have built.

• Why do you want to run a sweepstakes? That’s the first question your promotional agency should ask you, and the first question that a surprising number of companies cannot answer. “Because my competitor is doing one” is not an acceptable answer.

Sweepstakes, contests and games are tactics. As we learned in Marketing 101, first comes the objective, followed by the strategy and then the tactics. If you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish with your promotion, how will you ever know if you achieve it?

• A law degree does not make you a promotional lawyer. Many Fortune 100 clients with legal departments on staff still consult with promotional agencies and outside legal counsel to write the official rules and screen all the promotional copy.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming your lawyer is an expert in promotional law. You wouldn’t go to your family physician for heart surgery, so why would you go to a contract or copyright lawyer for promotional law?

One of the main reasons clients use promotional agencies is because promotional laws change and no two sweepstakes are exactly alike.

When in doubt, ask the experts. Lack of knowledge of a state’s promotional laws does not make you exempt from them.

• Instant-win games are more engaging than sweepstakes. But sometimes you want to give consumers something more than an entry form and a submit button.

That’s where instant-win games come in. Online consumers prefer instant notification, so give it to them.

Whether you use a Java scratch-off game, a roulette wheel, slot machine or your own creative execution, you’ll find that instant-win games drive your consumers back to your Web site. More importantly, the game is fun. Filling out an entry form may not be fun, but using your mouse to reveal your prize is engaging, entertaining, and compelling.

• If you take time to plan, it shows. As the old saying goes, “Fast, Cheap, Good – pick any two”. Just because you can slap a promotion together in two to four weeks doesn’t mean you should. You’re used to moving at lightening speed when it comes to online development and execution, and you believe your promotions are no different.

While it’s true that online promotions can be put together faster than traditional print-based promotions, they still require lots of planning. Companies that give themselves and their agencies time to come up with the best possible execution are the same companies that reap the benefits of excellent word of mouth and above-average participation.

Try it yourself and see the difference. The next time you are planning a promotion, give yourself and your agency more time to plan and think through the strategy. You’ll see what an immense difference it makes.

• When online, do as the users do. David Oglivy once advised his clients on how to select an advertising agency that was right for them. He suggested they look for the ads they liked and then call up the magazine, newspaper, or radio station to find out which advertising agency did the ad. The same holds true for online promotional marketing.

If you are looking for ideas for your next online promotion, think like your consumers. Go online and see which promotions attract your attention. How did you find out about the promotion? What did you like about the promotion? Think about how you can apply another company’s promotional marketing concepts to your own products and services.

Finally, don’t worry about using ideas that have been used in previous promotions. Remember what Thomas Edison said: “Your idea needs to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you are currently working on”.

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