Customer incentives that actually incent

enter to win! keyboard key fingerIf you are going to give stuff to prospects or customers, at least make sure they are actually useful.

Companies spend lots of money on prizes, incentives, giveaways and other “stuff”. But in far too many cases, the “stuff” is generally thought of as “junk” and the prizes and incentives fall flat. Why is this?

First of all, every customer base is different. Urban 20-somethings are going to have vastly different interests than suburban 40-somethings. You need to have some basic understanding of who your target audience is and what they are interested in. I know that sounds simple, but all too often I see companies that have failed to really think about what their audience wants.

Even if you do know who your audience is, many times companies fall back on traditional give-aways or get seduced by bright shiny (cheap) objects and ignore their target audience’s interests. Stress balls can be cute, especially in some fun form like a brain. If they are novel enough they might wind up on a shelf but how many people actually use them? How about the ever popular logo pens – do they make it past the end of the day? Does anyone even write anymore? Coffee cups are useful, but heavy to travel with and how many people need a new coffee mug? Of course, if you can make any of these interesting or novel in design then yes, they can still be relevant. But be careful about things that might make it home but will go straight to the kids to play with. They are probably not going to be customers for a few more years.

How about something new? Maybe a desk clock – doesn’t have to be too expensive? Or a clock with temperature and humidity so people can see if the office really is as hot as it seems? This might get used and is perhaps something not everyone has. USB sticks can be used by everyone but mostly they get thrown in a drawer and never seen again (next to the pen if it was lucky enough to actually make it home).

The other thing to consider that is often a big fail is who benefits. If you are giving out prizes and the winner gets a discount on your product, or a free trial, or a free sample… does your target really care? If they own the company then yes, they care. If they have stock in the company then they might care. But if they are just another salary worker, then it’s the rare employee that gets all excited about saving the shareholders or owners a few dollars.

I was on a business trip recently and stayed in a big brand hotel that was being renovated. I mention this because I assume that was the reason I found a 2 inch cockroach skittering across the floor the next morning. I immediately grabbed my bags (fortunately I hadn’t had a chance to unpack) and asked to be moved to a room on the far other side of the hotel. When I checked out they took one night’s charge off my bill which was nice of them but, as I pointed out, I was the one who had to deal with the giant cockroach, not the shareholders of the company (of which I am not one). To their credit, they then added on some free points to my account which was a good catch but they could have asked me in the first place what would make me happy and make up for my personal unpleasant experience.

So before you offer a grand prize discount, or order another 2,000 pens, think long and hard about who your audience is and what they actually want.


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