Coupons as Gifts are Not Cool.

November 27, 2011

Dear Santa, I've been nice. Please bring me 25% off business cards.

Every morning I open my Gmail account to at least 25 emails from companies who I have purchased from. I sometimes unsubscribe to control my inbox, but there are a few companies that I am interested in what they are selling and I want to hear from them. As the holiday season gets into full swing, I am noticing that more and more companies are offering me a “gift” which is really just a sale designed for them to make more money. Many of these so called gifts come with offers to add my credit card that will be charged unless I cancel my subscription, etc.

These are not real gifts, but marketing tools designed to get me to buy. Do they work? Sure, if I was interested in their product then a coupon or preferred price is always nice. As we all know, deals are designed to accelerate sales of products that are, many times, over priced to begin with.  As a marketer, I know that you need to collect contact information from customers or potential customers so that you can keep in touch with them.  In many cases, companies already have customer information which allows them to send this type of email. By collecting credit card information, they often get additional business from people who are too busy to or forget to cancel. So essentially people end up spending money by accident. Not cool.

Imagine if I told you that I was giving you homemade cookies as a gift. I asked for your address and asked for a credit card to cover the shipping and “handling” fee.  The cookies are free, however. After all, they are a gift.  It doesn’t sound right, huh?  Neither does calling your coupon/special/sale/promotion a present.  I value marketing. I love it, in fact.  But don’t treat me like I am an idiot my dear product and service providers. Treat me like a valued customer and get a little creative in your messaging.

The other thing that I am seeing is happy holidays messages that include a sales pitch. “We wish you a wonderful holiday season and remember, we have the best tires in town.” You just used “the most wonderful time of the year” to sell to me, but you tried to mask it with a warm greeting. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t ask Santa for printer ink/video services/tax preparation/free shipping. Not cool.

This season, if you are going to try to increase revenue, be transparent about it. If you want to let you clients know that you appreciate them, do it without any reference to your products or service and make it as personalized as possible. Say a simple thank you.

Now, I’m off to send out holiday cards to my clients and my colleagues.  Because I simply want to wish them Season’s Greetings.  That’s cool, right?