Friday, February 18, 2011


Whether you're promoting a drawing, a contest, or a coupon it's important to create a sense of urgency.

Most people are so busy they'll put off almost anything until the last minute. And I mean almost anything.

Today, for example, I just made an emergency appointment with my dentist. I've been putting off fixing a lost partial filling for a while. This morning, I lost the rest of the filling -- and I think I cracked my tooth. I was even going to put the emergency visit off until next week -- except I'm in a little discomfort.

Perhaps I'm over-the-top, but I think you have many customers like me. (I've been meaning to join Procrastinator's Anonymous, but I keep putting it off.)

So, I suggest you make your deadlines or expirations obvious, even obnoxious.

Don't use small print. Use big type and bright colors so no once can miss it.

I have a wastebasket full of promotional offers that have spoiled because I didn't notice or remember the expiration date.

Another great way to get customers and prospects to not neglect your promotional offer is to make the deadline memorable. Holidays are good memory pegs. People also are more likely to remember and respond to a deadline or expiration date on the last day of a month over the first. (i.e. March 31 vs. April 1).

Psychologically I think that works because you know you can't wait until next month. Or maybe you just think about it more. I really don't know why it works. But in my experience, it works.

Try to make it as hard as possible for your target market to put off doing business with you. Even make it a little painful to put it off.

Ouch! Oh yeah, I've got to get to an appointment...

Takeaway: Give your prospects an incentive to act now. And make your promotional deadline memorable.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Chicago-based Groupon is the fastest growing company in the world. 

Groupon (a combination of "Group" and "Coupon") has succeeded by making coupons hip. Their business model is simple: email members a chance to buy one exclusive discount offer a day at a featured retailer or restaurant and split the revenue with the advertiser. It's win-win-win: members get deep discounts, advertisers pay nothing, and Groupon makes top dollar for their services. Advertiser make their money on add-ons and repeat business.

The smart brand has relied on social media and social networking for it's growth.

I get it. I'm a Groupon member.

Groupon is also know for a quirky persona and offf-beat sense of humor.

That quirkiness has got them into PR trouble with an ad campaign launched during last Sunday's Super Bowl.  Critics say the spot featuring actor Timothy Hutton  is insensitive to the oppression in Tibet.

So, after trying to make excuses for the spot, they've decided to pull the entire ad campaign. Quite a misstep for their first TV ads for a company that turned down a $6 billion buy-out offer from Google and may and launch an IPO in 2012.

So, what's that all mean to you?

Be careful not to offend customers it can sour your relationship.

Takeaway: Think twice before you speak -- or advertise.

Friday, February 04, 2011


About 21" of snowfall here in Chicago has eaten into my work schedule. Shoveling out has left me no time to create a new tip for this week. So, I've created a remix of a tip from my 2006 blog archives:


My first car was a1972 Chevy Chevelle.

It was gold and primer gray. I lovingly tried to restore the decaying car with fibre glass repair and Bondo until the rust hole in the back floorboard became big enough to lose a passenger. I continued to drive that car, as I put myself through my second year of college.

One summer, the muffler fell off in the middle of traffic. I stopped, jumped out, threw the muffler in my trunk and drove on.

The next day, I visited the local "Rick's Quick Stop Muffler Shop"  It's slogan vowed: "We'll only replace what's needed."

At the counter I met Rick, the shop owner. He welcomed me, gave his tech my keys and offered me a cup of coffee. After a few minutes the tech called me into the bay to look at things.

"You need a whole new exhaust system," he said. "Look at that hole there, the thing is falling apart. I don't want you breathing all that carbon monoxide."

I took my key and firmly tapped at the area around the pin hole he showed me. It was solid. I continued tapping my way up and down the exhaust system. It was solid.

I quietly walked back into the waiting room. 

"So, should I write up an order for you?" he asked. 

I brought him back and tapped along the area from front to back.

"Your tech said I need a whole new system," I said. "This looks like it will last longer than the car to me. What do you think?"

"Well, I want my guys to sell stuff, you know," he replied.

"Sorry. Not to me," I replied. "I want you to "Only replace what's needed." This car isn't worth a new system. If it lasts me to the end of summer I'm happy."

Rick begrudging did as I asked. The car lasted another year and I lived.

There's sometimes a conflict between "selling stuff" and "serving customers". And that tension often can destroy long-term gains for a quick sale. 

Perhaps the book "The Ultimate Question", puts it best: "Bad profits are about extracting value from customers, not creating value" for them.

Creating value creates fanatically loyal customers.

I know at least a dozen people who, without being asked, rave about Costco (a hero in the "Ultimate" book). You'd think they were paid to shop there. "High quality, low price," is the retailer's mantra.

But providing value isn't always about low prices. My fellow Apple Computer fans pay a premium for what we feel is an unparalleled user experience. The value outweighs the price tag. Apple has created the kind of value that builds loyal customers at a premium price. And they are consistently profitable.

In the new economy of 2011, customers are demanding more for their dollar. They don't want to get "snowed". And if you take advantage of today's connected customer, it will end up on social media review sites, like 

Rick's muffler shop is no longer in business. In fact, I think my old Chevy lasted longer than his shop did. Sad. He made a good cup of coffee.

Takeaway: How can you increase the value of your brand? What sales or marketing techniques do you need to change? Are you being 100% forthright to earn 100% of your customer's loyalty?