Avoid marketing mistakes that scare off customers

Tips for entrepreneurs: Stop for a few minutes and think about your offer and your clients.

By
February 20, 2012 22:19
Mother and son shopping

Mother and son shopping 390. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

This is one of those pet peeves of mine: how enterprises of all sizes quite literally push away their customers, especially customers who have money in hand and want to spend it!

Here’s how they do it: “Come take a test drive and enter a drawing to win a FREE car!”

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Or, in another industry: “Visit our gym today and enter a drawing to win a year’s membership, FREE!” What’s wrong with these offers? They drive buyers away and attract freeloaders who don’t intend to spend a dime with you. Never offer your client something for free that they came willing to pay for.

Bonuses yes, but the item itself? No, and here’s why: If I am coming into your mattress shop to test a mattress, then psychologically, I’m here because I am willing to pay money in exchange for something to sleep on that will, in my mind at least, enable me to sleep better.

(Ever notice that many famous mattress companies start with the letter S, like Sealy, Simmons and Serta? Let’s see if you can guess why. E-mail me your response and one lucky responder will get something, but NO, it is NOT a free consultation... That’s the point of this article!) Offering me that item for free in a drawing gives me an excuse not to buy, because “Maybe I’ll win, and then I’ll get the mattress without having to spend a dime!” The mattress seller should be offering a free vacation; the car dealer a free vacation. But the travel dealer? He needs to offer something like a car! On the other hand, people with no money to spend, hoping to get something for free, will show up and take your free offer if they win, and you’ll never get a dime out of them. They come to win, not spend!

Create offers that sell
Whenever you are sending out any kind of letter or e-mail, or if you’re writing an article or advertisement for a publication, stop for a few minutes and think about your offer and your clients. When you want to use your information to communicate with your clients or potential clients effectively, first determine whom you want and expect to read it, and then determine what action you want them to take.

Finally, decide how you plan to engage them and work with them so that they respond in the manner you would be happiest about, which is usually something connected with their spending their money to buy your product, or hire you.

Offer items not connected with the product you’re selling. For instance, when a store offers a free product, it should be placed in the back of the store for the same reason milk and bread are never near the front entrance: so that customers have to go by things they didn’t come in to buy.

It’s how stores capitalize on “impulse buying.”

(If you are a mom-and-pop operation or a store owner who has never thought about why things go where, or if you are a retailer, grab a copy of Paco Underhill’s terrific book The Science of Shopping. It’s a great read with terrific insights that will help you boost your income immediately.) Your buyers will go to the back of the store for the free item and along the way will see other, unrelated items they need and want. If you sell shoes, don’t waste time putting them near a sock display. Put them next to sporting goods or snacks.

They’re going to buy socks anyway. However, they may not have thought about the equipment or food until they see it.

The same technique is true for pricing. If you try getting people to sign up for a service or product at “Just $49.95 a month, pay for a year and attend the two-day seminar free!” – you’ll have an uphill battle and few sign-ups. Why? Because people don’t like to commit to long-term billing commitments.

Whether someone is a criminal and is stealing something, or is thirsty and wants a drink, human beings need to justify their actions before they act, especially when it involves spending money. So getting someone to shell out money every single month for something they can’t justify is going to be hard! Even if you’re only asking for a soft amount like 50 bucks, it’s a hard sale to make.

However, change that same offer to some thing like: “Attend the self-improvement seminar for just $495 and get a free year’s subscription to the Magic Banana Hat Newsletter, monthly information guaranteed to change your life” – and your potential customers will justify the fee in their minds as a one-time expense with a yearlong benefit. Then if they decide your offer is worth it (and your services and products prices ARE justified... right?), then you will be coming from a different angle altogether. You’ll have a much better chance of being taken up on your offer.

Extra tip: If you can also frame the offer as an “investment,” rather than a “cost,” you stand a much better chance of a positive reaction as well. An “investment” is something that “keeps on giving dividends and benefits.” A “cost” is something you have to pay for, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. You “invest” in a car. It brings you convenience and so many opportunities for other things. However, you have a “cost” for gas, which you pay for and use once.

There are no options. Gas is something you have to buy.

The importance of packaging
How you package your offer, freebie, sweepstakes or mattress to a customer also makes a major difference. When you go to see a home for sale and the seller just so happens to have fresh cookies baking in the oven, a fresh clean smell in the air, flowers on the counter and a candy dish full of some expensive candy or chocolate, it is quite often (gasp!) done solely for the express purpose of the ribbon-on-the-gift effect.

It’s the packaging makes you more inclined to take the action that the seller is hoping you take. If you don’t believe me, then try this experiment. Take two books, or two small boxes of candy. Wrap one nicely in colorful paper and ribbons, and don’t wrap the other. Give each to a friend or client. The one that is wrapped nicely (less than 50 cents or a dollar’s worth of paper and ribbon!) will bring the more enthused or appreciative response. Hand your wife a bouquet of flowers with nice green tissue paper and a ribbon around them instead of just a handful of flowers and see what I mean! We can do this with products without the paper and ribbons by creating a “value add,” or the perception that something is special.

An easy way to make this happen is to approach someone in a different industry and do a swap: “I’ll promote one of your cruises for a giveaway for my car dealership, and you can give away a one-year car lease to your cruise clients. Each of us gets exposure to an audience that is not currently in the hot zone [ready to buy]. They may not have thought about wanting that item, but they will see it as a valuable gift nevertheless. And we each get our own company name and logo exposed to a new group of potential clients.”

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Issamar Ginzberg is a rabbi, businessman, public speaker and marketer.


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