Promotions can be a powerful marketing tool that can bring you in new customers and keep your loyal ones happy. But, when there's a 'buy one get one free' offer - remember - you, the business owner is the one paying for the "free" item. So you have to ensure YOU Get value too. I spoke with Bryan Heathman who's an expert in online promotion and converting prospects to customers. He told me "The fundamental question you have to ask when you're doing a promotion is: 'What offer will evoke an emotional response from your audience?"
Heyman would know. Several years ago, he started a company called iPromotions, running online promotions campaigns, and has run hundreds of these for large and small advertisers. His book "Conversion Marketing" and his research into the topic comes from his experience in these campaigns.
When you consider promotions for you company, Heathman says "If you are an IT consultant helping small businesses create office networks, you would use a different promotional vehicle than would an owner of a hair salon." The trick is to visualize the target audience, figure out what offers they respond to, and then pick tool to evoke emotional response. How? Take a look at self interest motivators of audience vs the business motivators of that audience. If you're that IT consultant selling $10k servers to a large company, you can offer 2 types of promotional offers. One would be $500 in free cables required to setup the server. But, there's no value to the purchasing manager as individual even if he'll need the cables. Instead, consider offering a free fly-fishing rod if the purchaser lives in an area where that sport is popular. The 2nd offer is more of an emotional response item, and may generate more sales.
I asked Heathman "How do you test the emotional response and see how people will react?" He told me "The size of your organization will determine your appetite for testing and measuring campaigns. For a small company, call up customers and ask which promotional offers they like. This is inexpensive and may be quick and effective. If you do have a team, you can try things like A|B pay-per-click testing using Google Ad Words, or try different offers to different customers."
If you're not sure where to start, Heathman's "promotional tools worksheet" lets you evaluate which offers might work for you. Has promotion and conversion worked for you? Let us know how in the comments.