1. Stayed focused on two or three core promotional messages. Consumers do not have the time or interest to absorb a long list of messages from any one company. Some folks who execute well on “less is more” — Apple, Geico, WalMart, and makers of luxury goods like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Johnny Walker. Also two hospitals — Cleveland Clinic and Lenox Hill in New York City.
See also: 5 Great Home-Based Businesses
2. Humor has never been needed more than in fragile financial times like now. Life is tough enough for most people without advertisers piling on with warnings about the future — medical, financial, or otherwise. Capital One understands the power of humor. So does VW with their highly popular Darth Vader ads. We need to make consumers smile and feel good. Now more than ever.
3. Get the family involved. Offers for the whole family will get more attention in 2012 and beyond. Wanting to spend more time with one’s family has been an upward trend Researchers have been tracking ever since 911. Car manufacturers pay attention to this trend as do resorts and certain restaurants. Having an offer the family can enjoy will help grow your business for sure.
4. Outsource your web management. 2012 is the year to finally stop trying to manage your website yourself. Firms that specialize in web design, management, and content creation can manage your site faster, better, and cheaper than you.
5. Track your customers surfing. What other sites are they visiting? There are software programs now that can tell you. One firm out in front with this capability is Infogroup based in Omaha, Nebraska. See, Warren Buffet has some high tech neighbors out there in the middle of nowhere.
6. Contemplate addressable advertising. Several major TV CABLE providers now allow you to personalize ads to different households and even announce in advance the ads will be geared toward the specific family unit. This relatively new capability has huge potential for building a whole new “channel” of distribution and overcoming the TIVO enabled skipping over of your precious ads.
7. Loyalty programs. There are so many today they have overwhelmed consumers and many just sign up and never do much more than that. Make no mistake — the only loyalty program that really works is a stated discount for every purchase that is visible at the point of sale. Barnes & Noble figured this out a long time ago which is one reason they are still around and Borders is history. Smart supermarkets have similar programs which often vary the discount by item in conjunction with the food distributor. Programs that don’t work anymore are those that require a buildup of purchases before your first discount comes available.
8. One is a lonely number. Think about co-branding. Joining up with another company that has a product or service that together with yours makes for an exciting package. This approach isn’t done very often and that’s a mistake. A simple example is a restaurant in close proximity to a movie theatre complex offering a discounted set of movie tickets for any dinner party of two or more people. From time to time BMW offers two fancy name brand bicycles and BMW bike carrier when a new BMW is purchased. Progressive Insurance co brands in the sense that it also promotes its competitors with the basic theme — may the best insurance offer win from those of us who provide it.
9. Two-way dialogue. If you really want to get consumers involved stop sending e mails that don’t allow a response. The vast majority of companies don’t allow consumers to respond back. How annoying. Be willing and able to hear from consumers via e mail and be able to respond quickly. Quickly means same day. Same approach applies to your phone service. Back to e mail — if you want to stand out with stellar customer service you must encourage incoming e mails with comments and suggestions and create an ongoing dialogue with as many consumers as you can.
10. A simple thank you can go a long way. Make it a New Year’s resolution to call the top ten percent of your customers next week to thank them for their years of loyalty or their first year if they were new customers in 2011. Just thank them. No offer. No selling. If they want to buy, great, but they should initiate the request. Many will not be home — for them leave the thank you message on their answering machine.
11. 2012 is a Presidential election year. Those who track Media Spending predict 2.5 to 3 Billion will be spent on political advertising on TV alone — most of it from July through election day. It will most likely be an endless stream of nasty messages which will be mind numbing and make us all grumpy. Consumers will stop paying attention to media in general except the extremists on both sides. Your business may suffer as a result of consumers “shutting down." You might think about creating promotions during this time that make fun of all the negativity and offer a feel good alternative message. Or, just scale back and wait for the election to be over.
12. Always remember the three basic principles of successful promotion never change. 1) Create visual or sensory excitement. 2) Create real news about your product or service (what’s new, different, special). 3) Have a strong and compelling call to action. And have a very rewarding and successful 2012!
Steve Cone is Executive Vice President of Integrated Value and Strategy at AARP.