Why You Hate Running Promotions

by Lucy Wilkinson
09 February 2015

Why you hate running promotions… (and how to learn to love them)

Prize promotions and competitions are often considered the lowest common denominator in any marketing plan, and most marketers hate running them. Here are the 10 things clients hate about promotions, reasons for this loathing, and how to avoid these nightmares...

1. The Brief: “A promotion isn’t relevant to this marketing brief… I’ll ignore it for a bit until I work out where to start.”

Every department in your business has a different view on what the campaign objective is. Since no one can agree, the marketing brief is woolly and it’s tough to know where to start. The brief gets put on the backburner… until the last minute and then the nightmare begins.

Tip: Plan (and execute) your promotion well to successfully meet objectives for brand awareness, customer acquisition, database build and customer engagement.

2. Strategic Value: “It doesn’t fit the strategy.” and ”My customers aren’t interested

I once took a gamble with Country Living magazine (UK). The Editor wouldn’t allow me to run a prize promotion – it wasn’t a strategic fit and she was adamant her readers were too highbrow to respond. So I purchased a page from the ad sales team, ran a promotion offering the chance to win an Aga, and generated a staggering response. My gamble paid off and the Publisher refunded my ad spend! We developed this to understand what products (prizes) readers responded to, which supported the Publisher’s quest for the right advertisers, provided added value and sponsorship opportunities.

Tip: Don’t approach prize promotions as tactical campaigns or they’ll never fit your (longer-term) strategy. Always consider how your promotion can support ongoing marketing objectives.

3. Marketing ROI: ”We didn’t get the results we wanted.”

Why didn’t your promotion meet expectations? If performance metrics were realistic, there are often simple reasons a promotion underperforms… The call-to-action wasn’t prominent or the entry process was too complex, the prize wasn’t right for your audience, or the advertising channels didn’t drive the predicted traffic.

Tip: Manage expectations. Set achievable KPIs based on real market intelligence (and follow the rest of our advice)!

4. Legal Hoops:”Did the legal team check the T&Cs …?” and ”I need permits? What? Different permits in each state?”

Running a chance-based promotion requires lots of legal hoop-jumping. First you write the T&Cs (an art form and not fun). Then you have to apply for a Trade Promotion Lottery Permit from each state government lottery department. State regulations vary, the application process is painstakingly bureaucratic and confusing, and turn-around times cause delays if your application is approved - you can’t advertise without official permit numbers.

You must also ensure the promotion is conducted according to guidelines, and you can bet your legal team hasn’t got time to help!

Tip: Save time, avoid headaches, appoint a third party to manage this process for you.

5. Prizes:“I don’t know what prizes to offer. I have no time to source any,” and“Surely everyone wants to win a caravan holiday in Wagga Wagga?”

You can’t decide what prize suits your audience to drive a good response and meet marketing objectives. Do you want one big prize or lots of small ones? Prize draw or instant win? You’re also tasked with actually sourcing the prizes (or dealing with excruciating prize suppliers), and delivering them to winners by a specific deadline. Too hard.

Tip: If in doubt, offer cash. Include a major prize to attract attention and lesser instant win prizes to increase engagement. Outsource prize sourcing and fulfilment if you can.

6. Games of Skill Hell:“We don’t have time or budget for permits, we’ll run a 25-words-or-less campaign…”

Games of skill don’t need permits so you run a 25-words-or-less campaign to save time and money without realising how lazy the average consumer is. Your audience isn’t willing to make the extra effort to enter, so you don’t receive nearly as many responses as you’d like. Or you had a great prize, the campaign was well promoted and generated thousands of entries, and now you have to read every one to properly judge the winner. How (and who) the hell is going to do this?

Tip: Don’t promote a game of skill unless you’re prepared for (often) low response and high admin.

7. Painful Prize Draws, Winners and Prize Pigs: “S***! My prize draw is on Australia Day for event tickets that need to be to winners by Wednesday.” and“Why is this winner hounding me?” and ”Don’t the same people enter and win every time”

Your promotion ends and the prize draw is due (which must adhere to legal guidelines and be conducted via an approved process in NSW and SA). To your horror, the T&Cs state that the draw takes place at 5pm on a public holiday, at an old address (where your business no longer resides). What? If you get this sorted, you need to notify the winners and (publish details in a nationally circulated newspaper). Then these winners just become a right royal pain in the backside.

There are online forums that provide competitions listings enabling the same groups of ‘prize pigs’ to enter most promotions, but there are also simple solutions to help combat prize pig behaviour. Consider proof of purchase mechanics and implement entry capping to limit number entries per user.

Tip: Be aware of all legal requirements around draws, winners and prizes or outsource it.

8. Data Debacle:“We captured email addresses and included an opt-in… Didn’t we?” and “We’ve got all this data, what shall we do with it?”

Your campaign was a huge success and you collected lots of consumer data… But OMG! Your developer forgot to include a crucial data capture field in the web entry form, which wasn’t tested, so you haven’t captured email addresses. S**t! You didn’t include an opt-in so you can’t use the data or share it with clients.

Assuming this doesn’t happen, you have all this data, now what do you do with it?

Tip: Ensure data is de-duped and in a format to readily import into your CRM. Compare promotion data to existing customers for meaningful insights and future targeted marketing opportunities.

9. Technical (and Human) Failure: “Did we test the promotion page when it launched?” and “Entry form was down. We have hundreds of complaints… and they’re all over Facebook”

Technical issues or human error can destroy your promotion, and you will never want to run another.

Your website might buckle with too much unpredicted traffic – your campaign could have performed phenomenally but consumers couldn’t access it. Or you think your promotion went well, but forgot about reporting, web tracking wasn’t implemented so there’s no way to determine the impact. Your web entry form or ‘thank you’ emails aren’t responsive and mobile users have had a really poor experience with your brand.

And two major (yet not uncommon) disasters - the call to action, web URL or SMS number is incorrect, or the campaign wasn’t even promoted, so no one entered. All that hard work, time, money and frustration - for diddly squat.

Tip: Clearly brief your technical team on all requirements. Conduct thorough (multi-device) testing. Check, check, check promotional materials and schedules. IF something goes wrong, be ready to manage the onslaught.

10. Ownership:“Does anyone know about our Win a Car promotion?”

You hate managing competitions so much you delegate to your junior Marketing Coordinator as a ‘learning experience.’ They suffer the aforementioned pain and they’re off sick at campaign launch, and now no one knows what the hell is going. Remember, promotional marketing campaigns generate consumer interest and therefore consumer queries.

Tip: If you delegate, appoint a trusted agency or partner who can be responsible for your campaign and satisfying your consumers.

Salmat has provided digital promotional marketing solutions for over 20 years - we can alleviate this pain. We provide T&Cs and permits, entry mechanics (SMS, online, social), reporting and analysis, and campaign extensions to support lifecycle marketing, customer feedback and data services.

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About the author
Lucy Wilkinson

Lucy Wilkinson, Client Services Director for Media and Brands at Salmat Digital, has over 16 years’ experience in media and digital marketing in UK and Australia. Lucy has worked with some of the largest global media brands globally to conceptualise and deliver digital and mobile marketing strategies for clients. Lucy was previously Head of Mobile at ninemsn, and at Salmat Digital, she leads the client services team providing a range of digital solutions to clients including News Ltd, FremantleMedia, Network Ten, Sony and Foxtel.

More articles by Lucy Wilkinson