I excitedly took my children to have a look at school holiday swimming lessons this morning at my local pool. It’s a great deal, $25 for 5 days week of 40 min sessions, the venue is close to home and only the pool entry is additional. As I lined up to pay my entry fee, I overheard another parent asking the desk attendant for some further information about the same lessons I was looking at. The reply came with a very heavy dose of noticeable resentment:

“They are not run by us, so I can’t tell you anything. You will need to speak to the instructors themselves”.

Apart from the obvious issue where the instructor was submerged in the pool surrounded by children doing their best to stay afloat, I was not comfortable interrupting mid-lesson when other parents had paid for their attention and time.  I called the program organizers later and took it upon myself to educate them on my experience.

Unfortunately, they were not surprised. Apparently it is not uncommon for pools that host these government-funded programs to refuse to assist or cooperate on any level apart from providing the venue. Reasons listed revolved around “taking away business from their in-house programs”.

The obvious question is,

Why agree to host a program that attracts new clients to your venue if you are only going to discredit it, damage your brand and sabotage your marketing opportunities?

Lets clarify this as a marketing strategy.

In this example, key target market clients (local parents with kids) are arriving on your doorstep and want/need to use your product / service (the pool), and additionally have another need for your additional sub-services (swimming lessons).  The promotion (special price) offered by the contractor  has attracted them to your venue and in this case, with minimal (if any) advertising or labor expense to you. The special offer will end in 5 days, however these clients will need to buy the service (swimming lessons) again – obviously no child will be an Olympic candidate after 5 days.

The marketing tasks undertaken should have been to engage with as many clients as possible – then convert these hot leads into sales by offering further information about your in-house after school lessons, perhaps promote a special price for participants if they sign up before the end of the $25 program.  Customer service guidelines and scripts should have been provided to in-house pool staff, assisting the creation of relationships with parents and children. Communications (eg: flyers, loud-speaker, kiosk attendant) encouraging potential clients to return for more lessons and becoming part of the pool community could have created repeat visitation for many a Summer to come.

Instead the venue presented itself as unhelpful and disinterested.

Another example of self-sabotage is often encountered when a business offers a discount coupon or special deal. This may be on a large-scale, through on-line companies like Groupon, Spreets and Scoopon, or on a smaller scale if you are self-promoting your own special offer. Customers are attracted to your offer because you are promoting an amazing package or experiences at a heavily discounted price. The offer represents a chance to experience something new without a large financial investment, and therefore limited risk.

What’s the marketing strategy?

You are trying to attract new consumers who are excited to receive such a great offer, and want to experience your business.  The goal when attracting these clients is to increase trade, book repeat appointments/sales and gain valuable word of mouth endorsements.

Additionally, there is the exposure to you may receive via social sharing of the deal to friends and family on-line.

The problem arises when these clients are treated as an inconvenience because they are not paying full price.

Common damaging activities include:

  • Your perception of the customer is of somebody “cheap” and this attitude transfers to your employees.
  • A lack of appropriate booking times available to use the voucher (sorry Monday at 10am is just not workable for most of us – would you schedule a day of leave just to fit into the plans of a place you’ve never been?)
  • Employees who are oblivious to what the special deal actually is (and proceed to argue about it? What’s that all about!)
  • Phone calls not returned or significantly delayed after the customer’s message has mentioned a voucher – or an obvious lack of priority toward voucher holders.
  • Employees complaining about the inconvenience of the trade influx (“it’s just soo busy…. I can’t wait until the deal is over….”)
  • The whole experience being made so damn hard that the desire to take up the offer has now subsided.

Is this how you envisaged the outcome of your special deal marketing strategy? Did you actually get a return on the investment you made? Or were your best intentions sabotaged by those around you, or even yourself?

Turn every opportunity into a positive experience – after all, you are running a business that sells SERVICE.

Read more about Tough Cookie Marketing at www.toughcookiemarketing.com – Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to hear more quick tips for marketing in hospitality and service industry businesses.

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