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3 Things Cyber Monday Can Teach You About Marketing

It's the most hyped shopping event of the year after Black Friday. And marketers are pulling out all the stops. Here's what you can learn from them.
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Next to Black Friday, Cyber Monday is the most hyped shopping event you can find. Retailers and manufacturers go after the dollars that shoppers are willing to spend on bargains, particularly if they don't have to wade through crowds. The masters of marketing go all out, and as they do, there are important lessons that small business owners can learn about marketing.

1. Have the right compelling offer set 

All good marketing starts with a strong offer. Cyber Monday simply emphasizes it. But you learn in direct marketing (and online marketing is one version of it), there is no such thing as a single good offer for all customers. One offer targets a particular customer or prospect segment. That's why a Staples or a Walmart has multiple offers. 

Obvious when you think about it. You can employ the same tactic. Take a look at some of your more popular products or services and then work backwards to determine what type of people are most interested in them. You needn't guess if you talk to customers who purchase those items and get into a conversation. Ask them why they chose that instead of something else. You'll start to build pictures of the consumers who do business with you. Now you can create a set of offers for a given marketing campaign that will help attract different segments of people. 

Also, remember that some offers aren't strong in the same sense, but are necessary. For example, many online retail sites advertise free shipping. That's not an offer in the sense of something that will make a consumer what to take action. Free shipping, in this case, is a hurdle clearer. Make sure you have your own hurdle clearers in place so you don't lose sales. Just know that you'll need something else to get people in through the door. 

2. Create a sense of urgency—but don't deny gratification

Few things say "Buy now!" to a customer like a deadline. Maybe it triggers customers’ survival of the fittest instinct. Whatever the reason, putting a cap on when someone can redeem a special is a powerful marketing aid. Cyber Monday acts as a natural limit—get the specials today only. In addition, some companies are running their own flash sales, with deals that last an hour or so and then are replaced by something else. 

However, smart retailers want to keep selling past today. That's why companies like Amazon are advertising that different Cyber Monday deals will keep running all week long. The lesson for small businesses is to increase the urgency of promotions by limiting availability. But don't necessarily cut off late customers completely. You could honor coupons or specials for a bit after the advertised period as a courtesy. Even keep a second promotion in your back pocket—not as good as the first, so you keep the urgency in the future, but something that shows consideration to the customer. 

3. Promotion is nothing without spotless execution 

Few things like online specials can show how fragile an operating infrastructure can be. Target has had several outages over the last few months, including a memorable one when a special on clothing by Italian designer Missoni crushed the company's systems. On Black Friday, Walmart's web servers rolled over and died. Maybe someone pepper sprayed them.

The problem can stretch far beyond the virtual world. Maybe products don't arrive on time for promotions or a marketing campaign mails late, cutting down on the response time for customers. Or, worst of all, employees don't get the proper warning, information, and training to handle consumer questions. You're far better off with a decent promotion that appears flawless to customers than a great offer that trips up. 

Master these basics with a twist and you can pump up your marketing, and your profits. 

 

Last updated: Nov 28, 2011

ERIK SHERMAN | Columnist

Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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