Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. Loss Leader

Every year around the New Year I'll get a few e-mails from some smart retailers who acknowledge my birthday.

For some time now, I've been signing up to receive e-mails from dozens of businesses including Circuit City, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes, and a host of restaurants too numerous to mention.

Some of them send me a simple "Happy Birthday" message... nice... but not really taking advantage of the extremely low-cost of e-mail technology. Others, though, send me a B-day greeting with a coupon. Yippee! A good example is Don Pablo's, a Mexican restaurant chain. Their message stated that they "loaded" my loyalty card with $10 to use up until January 14th.

Am I going to use it? You 'betcha. Am I going to go alone to eat? Not a chance. I'll probably bring the family and meet some friends there too. Those friends, I might add, enjoy copious amounts of Corona beer and margaritas. Cha ching!

Don Pablo's was smart. They used me as a "loss leader" - they'll loose a little money on me but make it back five-fold on the patrons I invite to "dine" with me that night.

Can you identify a loss leader in your business? E-mail me with your industry information and I'll send you back a couple of ideas for free!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Marketing the Weather

"Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." ~ Mark Twain

When the weather outside turns frightful so many people start talking about the temperature, the accumulation, the precipitation, traffic reports, school closings, late openings, and 10-day forecasts.

If there was ever a time when weather is exciting, it's now. Compound bad weather with ecology/conservation and you have a recipe for some exciting marketing opportunities.

Run an ad on the weather channel, invite the local TV station to do a live broadcast from your business, sponsor a contest to guess the average temperature for the month, take $5,000 off the sticker price of an automobile if it snows more than 2" on New Years (buy insurance), or give away free t-shirts to those making the plunge at the local Polar Bear club. You get my drift (snow reference).

Take time today and think how many different ways you can you become a partner with Mother Nature?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Green Marketing

Although I'm only in my early 40s, I can remember reading Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and Mother Earth News as a kid. Making your own solar panels, growing wheat grass, and designing an efficient compost pile were common headlines throughout their pages.

Many of the people photographed to accompany the stories were usually long-hair hippies with tie-dye shirts and bell-bottom jeans. I wanted to be one of those tree-hugging groupies... complete with peace symbol necklace and a guitar flung over my back. But I never became one. I was raised in a conservative Republican family that regularly went to church and registered me into Catholic school for 12 years.

"Loving the environment" back then meant you were a pot-smoking radical. Today, if you don't have solar panels on your roof, aren't recycling every newspaper and plastic bottle, or collecting the rainwater in clunky barrels attached to your downspouts, you're considered out-of-touch.

Open any business publication or turn on any financial show and you'll hear about how companies are going green, getting off the grid, and reducing their carbon footprints. And I can't tell you how many business cards have recently been thrust into my hand that have the words "solar", "green", "audit", and "energy".

Whether we like it or not, it's cool again to be an environmentalist. The concept is not going away. Your business needs to immediately become a team player with the rest of the world. Print on recycled paper, switch to low-flush toilets, reuse what you can, encourage employees to bike to work, and turn off the lights when leaving at night. It's all good, but in regards to marketing, you have to let the world know what you're doing. Of course, it's very altruistic, to save - to conserve - to protect the rain forest... but from a business point-of-view you have to promote every one of your efforts.

(This entry written right after carrying out the recyclables curbside)

Monday, December 8, 2008

What's My Price?

Everybody wants a deal. "What, me pay retail?!" is the rally cry of those who want to spend less than everyone else.

Is there a way for you to create a special club for those customers who are repeat buyers? How can you reward those who come back to you again and again?

On my keychain I have loyalty cards for ShopRite supermarket, Staples, Borders, and CVS, to name a few. When I could, I registered at their websites and joined their clubs. I get their e-mails, coupons, and am privy to their sales. I feel empowered, I feel good, and I even save a few bucks. Most important, I go back to these stores again and again, maybe not even realizing that I could be buying the same products somewhere else at a much lower price.

Smart companies keep close track of their customers and are in constant communication with them. We get brainwashed... "Ooh, that looks nice... I'd like to have that (even though I really don't need it)."

Smart companies also offer an incentive to customers who bring in others to be part of the club... "Earn a 10% discount if you get three of your family or friends to join our loyalty program." Can you say "bribe?"

Build a fort today and start your club and let me know when your next sale is going to be. And if you send me the coupon code I will probably send it to a couple of my friends.