Five Easy Year-End Promotions to Help Hit Budget Targets

As we enter the fourth quarter, many companies are reviewing year-to-date results. Some may get very concerned about making their full-year numbers. This is a pervasive phenomenon in my experience.

Even if you’re ahead of your budget, you may be “volunteered” to generate extra revenue to help the company’s weaker areas. If you’re behind budget, you must find ways to ensure the holiday season meets expectations. With such business challenges as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and higher energy prices, many will be playing catch up this year.

Revenue Generation Analysis

To better understand the challenge you face, conservatively project your Q4 2005 revenues:

  1. Calculate year-to-date run rate: run rate = (revenues to date)/ number of months

  2. Forecast full-year results using run rate: full-year forecast = run rate x 12

If your firm’s revenues skew toward the fourth quarter, this should understate results. Adjust your projections by applying your typical fourth quarter uplift percentage.

Five Ideas to Increase Revenues

Brainstorm potential campaigns that leverage the upcoming holidays to make your customers’ lives more rewarding. When developing these programs, allow yourself the freedom to think of your online business in broader terms. Consider working with a company that sells complementary products. A cookware company might partner with a food company, for example, and give away special branded recipes. Of course, the broader your reach, the longer the lead time to establish the appropriate business development deal. At a minimum, you’ll start thinking differently for your first quarter promotions.

Here are five suggestions that can achieve both goals quickly and cost-effectively:

  • Add Halloween, Election Day, or Veterans’ Day promotions to your marketing plans. Since you’re adding them late in the game, you need a short turnaround that doesn’t cannibalize your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa-related sales. Other underexploited holiday ideas that can break through and distinguish your firm are Winter Solstice, Fall Back (for changing the clocks), and First Snow. Tie these events into your product line for the greatest potential.

  • Include RSS feeds to distribute marketing promotions, if you don’t already use them. To keep your feeds interesting, incorporate a mix of special offers and product-focused information. Support these promotions throughout your Web site and in site footer links.
  • Send sponsored e-greetings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Go beyond a hackneyed “Thank you for your patronage” message to give something special to engaged customers. If you’re a travel site, include more than just a travel widget. Send a sponsored card with links for flight tracking and driving directions. Your customers will find your communication useful even if they didn’t purchase tickets from you.
  • Give holiday purchasers a coupon for use after January 1. Many retailers experience lower sales after the holidays. Give customers a reason to come back. Position it as “We think you deserve a gift!” Remember to mentioned it can’t be combined with other discounts.
  • Create tie-in offers. This promotion can be used on a media site in a special sponsored section giving users a free subscription, on an e-commerce site as a purchase with purchase (where customers receive a deal on a related product), or coordinated with a sister or non-competing company to offer customers something they find useful.

To augment the value of these promotions, include forward-to-a-friend functionality. Use humor to make your promotional piece more viral. Make sure recipients register on your site before obtaining the promotion’s value to help grow your house list.

To aid word of mouth, ensure your site is optimized to gather customer feedback. Additionally, make sure your customer service reps know you’re interested in gathering this input. Encourage them to do so.

Assessing Promotion Results

A new incremental promotion may not yield the same revenue as an existing one. Consider other delayed sales factors, such as the January coupon option. Bear in mind if an incremental promotion is placed too close to an existing one, it may erode the other promotion’s sales. To assess the promotion’s results:

  • Measure direct results. Track customer response, revenues, and new registrations associated with the campaign. To assess results from the January sales coupons, you must wait until results are complete.

  • Analyze results of adjacent promotions for potential cannibalization. Check your marketing calendar to determine whether this promotion hurt the performance of baseline marketing efforts. Assess whether revenues from all the relevant campaigns, less marketing costs, were higher.
  • Read related customer feedback. Use the feedback to determine customer sentiment regarding your new marketing campaigns.

With limited lead time (and a restricted or nonexistent budget), your creativity in developing and turning these additional promotions around will be your greatest asset. Consider these limitations when reviewing results. Though you may not be able to compensate for a difficult year, you can help put your firm on a better trajectory for the coming year.

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