Getting customers to plunk down cash or credit cards remains a painfully slow process in this struggling economy. And that’s precisely why it’s important–and always will be–to lure potential buyers with promotions. In fact, coming up with attractive promotions has become a bigger deal than ever.

When done correctly, promotions get customers out of a holding pattern by giving them an incentive to take action before a limited-time offer expires.

1. Target your effort
Promotions can spur purchases by established customers, reel in new customers, draw customers from competitors, get current customers to buy differently, and stimulate business during slow periods. But rarely can one promotion accomplish all of those objectives at once. As a result, you must decide which of the following is most important so that you can target your effort:

  • Do you want customers to purchase more frequently, buy in greater volume, or   be attracted to new or different offerings?
  • Do you want to lure new customers into your business?
  • Do you want lapsed customers to give your business another try?
  • Do you want to boost business during slow hours, weekdays or particular seasons?

After carefully and thoughtfully defining the audience and the change you want your promotion to inspire, ask yourself this question: If you offer a time-limited incentive, is it likely that the customers you’ve targeted will respond? If so, continue to the next step.

2. Plan your incentive
A well-thought-out, properly targeted promotion prompts customers to take action by offering one of these incentives:

  • Price savings, including discounts, coupons or added value offers
  • Samples or trial offers to provide a low-risk way to try new products or services
  • Events or experiences to generate crowds, enthusiasm, sales, publicity

As you decide on your incentive, keep these facts in mind:

Price offers must be strong enough to compel, but reasonable enough to keep your business out of red ink.

Coupons always make a comeback in penny-pincher markets, which means they’re hugely popular these days. Even young consumers and affluent shoppers–groups that traditionally shun coupons–are using them, boosting the typical 1 to 2 percent redemption rate by nearly 20 percent.

Samples work in all lines of business to let customers try before buying. The key is to sample products that are so great they’ll win raves and repeat business.

  • Online-based businesses need to promote free samples prominently in an effort to attract links, visitors, site registrations and publicity.
  • Retailers can turn sampling into promotional events. Think of Costco on weekends.
  • Service businesses would do well to give away mini versions of their offerings. For example, five-minute shoulder massages or one-hour home decorating consultations.

Events and experiences draw customers for celebrations, product launches, special appearances or presentations, and other activities that combine entertainment with brand and product presentations.

3. Know what you want to achieve
Promotions work especially well when consumers are in need of a jolt to take buying action. Just be clear about what you want to achieve.

By knowing the potential bottom-line impact of your promotion, you’ll have the information you need to allocate a promotion budget, dedicate staff time and invest the energy necessary to host a strong promotion that will deliver business-boosting results over the time period it covers.

Typically with most franchise concepts, such as Outdoor Living Brands, the marketing and branding support to create these types of promotions is at your fingertips


If you feel the time is right to nourish your entrepreneurial spirit, consider looking at a franchise instead of trying to go it alone.  There are many reasons you may want to consider franchising as an alternative to starting your own business.  Books and articles are being written each day emphasizing why franchising is a good idea.

As a Franchise Recruiter at Outdoor Living Brands, I find many of the same driving factors that have future business owners looking to become involved in a franchised business. 

  • Training – you don’t know what you don’t know.  So allowing a successful franchise organization to guide you through the process of figuring it all out is crucial.
  • Marketing – knowing who your target market is and how to reach them can make all the difference in the beginning of your business and through-out it tenure.
  • Help Getting Started – what do you need to do to start a business?  Sound like a simple enough question to answer, but again, you don’t know what you don’t know.
  • Brand Recognition – if you are starting from scratch with a name no one has seen or heard before, the touch points needed to get your brand recognized increases.
  • Lower failure rate – with a dedicated team of professionals working with you, you avoid making the same mistakes they may have made when starting out, so your ability to succeed is increased.
  • Faster Return on Investment – if you are constantly infusing capital into your business to compensate for rookie or novice mistakes, the amount of time it takes to recoup your investment grows.

Take advantage of the experience of others and investigate the opportunities franchising affords you.  There are many franchise concepts available in multiple arenas and finding the one that works for you may be easier than you think.  Check out the websites of some of the businesses that appeal to you.  Your future endeavors could be a click away.

As Vice President of Branding and Marketing for Outdoor Living Brands, a fun part of my job is speaking with new business entrepreneurs around the world who are considering investing in one of our outdoor living franchise concepts. Last week I had four such telephone conversations (assisted by WebEx technology so they could see my desktop) to discuss marketing opportunities in our available territories for Archadeck (America’s leading builder of decks and custom outdoor living spaces), Mosquito Squad (America’s leading mosquito and tick control franchise) and Outdoor Lighting Perspectives (America’s leading architectural and landscape lighting franchise for both residential and commercial clients).

But it’s the third conversation that comes to mind this morning as I write this. While reviewing the Archadeck branding and marketing system to this potential new Archadeck franchise owner in Texas, I noticed that he was especially attentive…and silent. When I asked if he had any questions, his response was “uh…no…I’m just overwhelmed with happiness.”

As a lifelong entrepreneur who has started and operated many successful businesses throughout his illustrious career, he said that our Archadeck marketing system was like a dream come true. “I know how to start and run a success business…but I fall short when it comes to knowing how to market them.”

For anyone interested in becoming a franchise owner within the Outdoor Living Brands family of outdoor living concepts, the good news is that the innovative and thorough marketing system that supports and guides local Archadeck businesses is also true for Outdoor Lighting Perspectives and Mosquito Squad. Each of our brands has a proven system of marketing and lead generation tools to help new franchisees launch and successfully run their outdoor living business. In addition to continuously updating our catalog of marketing and lead generation artwork templates (for brochures, sales sheets, door hangers, postcards, vehicle signage and much, much more) our in-house marketing team of strategists, copywriters, graphic designers and creative thinkers are always available to support our franchise owners to help bring their marketing vision to life.

For example, with Lyme disease reaching epidemic proportions throughout many areas of the United States, our franchise owners in the Washington DC area, Rhode Island, and Northern Virginia have asked us to help articulate new strategies to communicate how well Mosquito Squad barrier sprays kill dangerous and annoying mosquitoes and ticks. These strategies include conventional media executions in print, broadcast and direct mail, as well as more forward-thinking ones in interactive social online media.

Well, that’s it for today. My blog posting rule is with morning coffee on weekends…and I just finished my second cup. If our paths should cross again during a discovery phone call as you explore an Outdoor Living Brands new business franchise opportunity, I look forward to speaking with in person. All the best.