You've heard of the campaigns where dads get free perks on Father's Day, or the effort where military personnel get discounts around Memorial Day. Lately, however, giant food chains are using an even more direct approach to the perennial push strategy--they're targeting customers within specific professions.
Throughout June and July, Krispy Kreme is offering free coffee to teachers when they purchase one item at full price. Earlier this month, Chipotle ran a campaign where nurses got a burrito with the purchase of a full priced burrito at any of its stores. The southeastern restaurant chain Shoney's gave free meals to police officers last July, and Starbucks allows employees to give free brewed coffee to first responders, like police and firefighters.
"The idea is simple," says Chipotle spokesman, Chris Arnold. "People love our food. So for regular customers, these promotions are a nice way to say thank you for your support. For people who haven't tried our restaurants, it's a great way to let them see what we're all about."
This kind of focused marketing campaign is understandably popular among larger chains that maybe cover more of the map and want to appeal to members of a profession more broadly. However, the strategy does hold potential for smaller companies too--particularly because it is so specific, suggests Jeffrey Hirsch, president and founder of the Right Brain Studio, a marketing insights company in Los Angeles. Of course, there's still an expense attached to the strategy so you should proceed carefully. Here are five ways of implementing your own laser-focused marketing effort:
1. Select a group you respect.
You need to pinpoint a group in your local area that is affiliated with a cause that you respect, suggests Hirsch, who is also an adjunct professor in the graduate communications program at the University of Southern California. "If you look at these kinds of professions, they're always these really respected, hard working [people]," Hirsch explains. "Sometimes the professions [include] people who put their lives at risk, who are completely underpaid and generally under appreciated."
2. Pick your push.
The key difference between regular push strategies--for instance, more general appeals to, say, Millennial customers or new moms--and those that target certain professions is that the benefit from targeting small segments isn't necessarily financial, says Hirsch. Instead it enhances the company's image, especially considering that most of the targeted jobs are community-based professions.
3. Explain your reasons.
Hirsch sees these efforts as a way to help companies stand for something bigger than the rational, tangible product it sells to the world. As cynical as you can be about companies and their motives, it comes down to being humane. "We have to sometimes take a step back from that and understand that there's real human elements running these companies and people do want to give back," says Hirsch.
4. Seek authenticity, always.
One way that you can come across as authentic while using this job-focused technique is to stay consistent in what the giveaway stands for. The giveaway has to be part of a pattern and a broader operating philosophy that frequently reinforces what your company does for customers, employees and stakeholders. Being dedicated to a cause for the long term may resonate further with your audience.
5. Don't shortchange anyone.
Hirsch also suggests doing away with buy-one-get-one offerings or coupons that come with a catch. The campaigns should be a truly altruistic act where companies are giving something without conditions or strings attached. Otherwise, he adds, "It seems more like a promotion than an act of goodwill when [companies] put a requirement on the group that they're targeting."