Tap The Button, Get A Food Pellet

It distresses me to see that a number of dot com businesses have been built on incentivizing web surfers to view advertising or sign up for special offers. After all, the goal of most online promotions is to begin a relationship with a potential customer who is interested in an advertiser’s product or service. Many promotions are designed to de-emphasize “tire kickers” and others who are driven solely by the notion of getting something for free.

So what’s the deal with sites that cater to the tire kicker and offer up a portal of links to free promotions?

You may have seen outdoor ads for Cybergold. They’re the ones who appeal to consumers by prompting them to “get paid for doing it.” All sexual innuendoes aside, the “doing it” refers to checking out promotional offers on the web. To many online marketers, the notion of tying in with Cybergold to get your promotion in front of a larger number of eyeballs is appealing. But look at what Cybergold is trying to do – They’re trying to push the incentive rather than the potential relationship.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Cybergold is building a culture around rewards. The surfers who come to the site are coming there for just that – the reward. As a result of listing your offer there, you may get a bunch of unqualified prospects that might not have otherwise responded to your offer. Instead of being motivated by a genuine interest in your product or service, some might be motivated more by earning a cash reward for their behavior. Does this seem misguided to you?

I hate to make it seem as if Cybergold is the only site out there that is creating a community around tire kickers and sweepstakes junkies. Look around. There are more and more popping up every day.

  • Freeshop.com – It bills itself as “Your source for thousands of free and trial offers.” Intuition tells me that Freeshop surfers are preoccupied with getting something for nothing.

  • Mypoints.com – Gives users the option of surfing through the offers themselves or having them conveniently delivered to one’s mailbox. At least MyPoints allows you to specify interests and makes some attempt to deliver targeted offers.
  • Free.com, thefreesite.com, etc. ad nauseum. You get the picture. This category is growing like a weed. Don’t believe me? Search “free stuff” at AltaVista.

While offer placement on these types of sites may seem appealing at first, keep in mind the objectives of your promotion before diving into an advertising relationship with them. Also think about the following:

  • Is my offer an incentive in and of itself, or does it require additional incentive weight to stimulate trial

  • How can I track the lifetime value of new customers generated by my promotion? Will I be able to tell whether a customer develops a relationship with my company that goes beyond the trial offer?
  • Do I think that my offer is engaging enough that almost anyone willing to try it out will be likely to start a business relationship with my company?

Use caution before paying to have your offer in front of these types of communities. Better yet, test these audiences against other audiences on your media plan and track the resultant customer relationships. You may find that the “something for nothing” crowd is more trouble than it’s worth.

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