“And now from Norwich, it’s the quiz of the week…”
And in kicks the rather catchy theme tune that you won’t be able to get out of your head…. ( WATCH IT HERE! )
Sale of the Century was shown on the UK television channel ITV, between 9 October 1971 to 6 November 1983. Hosted by one of the most quintessentially english men on the planet, Nicholas Parsons, it was quite a complicated game. Three contestants start off with £15. Questions are worth different values starting with £1, later increasing to £3, and finally £5. The question is asked and players can buzz in at any time. Correct answers add the money to their score and incorrect answers subtract the money from their score with only one player allowed to buzz in on each question.
At six points during gameplay, all contestants would be offered the opportunity to purchase merchandise at a bargain price. The first player to buzz in after the prize was revealed purchased that prize. (In so doing, a "losing" contestant might not advance to go shopping at the end of the show, but could leave the show with a considerable haul for one day's play.) All prize values were rounded up to the nearest pound before being subtracted from the score of the player who purchased the prize. Each instant bargain was hidden behind a curtain; the announcer would mention the price, and then the curtain would open as the prize was revealed. If a contestant buzzed in before the curtain opened, it was declared "No Sale", the contestant would have the price deducted from his/her score (but not win the prize), and the other contestants could then buzz in.
Nowadays getting a bargain seems to be far easier. Voucher schemes such as ‘Groupon’ and ‘Wowcher’, never ending TV advertised ‘Bargains’ and ‘Sales’, plus websites such as Amazon and eBay mean that getting a bargain are less than a credit card payment away. But when should businesses realise that sales, bargains and special offers have lost their magic? What are the rules of engagement when it comes to offering special offers?
What are you trying to achieve?
Start with clearly defining what you want to accomplish with your Flash Sale. We all want more bookings, but it is important to decide what kind of bookings you want to generate.
- Is this a season start sale? If so you probably want to get as many people booked on trips in the immediate future who will then become return customers and/or brand ambassadors that will spread the word (boost your TripAdvisor ranking).
- Is it an increase in sales to get the cashflow moving? If so work out what you can sell, and still make a profit or what you can sell, without losing the clothes off your back.
- Did you just launch a new trip/ new product / new service and want to get the word out?
- Do you want to move guests from busy days of the week and give them an incentive to book on days you are not busy?
- Is your goal to build business during your low season?
- Do you want to get more customers from your competitors?Decide on one goal, and run one sale, with one message to achieve that goal.
KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
Don’t overcomplicate your sale, your goal is to get bums on seats. Sales that make the customers jump through hoops and perform complicated tasks to earn a discount have their place, but they won’t generate the hype that you are trying to achieve with a flash sale. But feel free to add a simple fun factor or game to keep people engaged.
Define Your Target Market
Be very clear which customers you want to target. There is no right or wrong way here, but the better you understand who the sale is targeted to, the better you can focus messaging. This will depend on your existing customer base. The more focused the target group, the easier it will be to develop the message and the hype. On the other hand, don’t try to ‘jump’ to a new target market without a refresh or rebrand of your product or service. If you currently attract ‘middle aged men’, jumping to ’25 year old women’ might be stretch, no matter how good your ‘offer’ maybe.
Choose a Date and Length of Time for the Offer
Learn and research a specific time that your target group is ready to spend money. It can be anything from a holiday to the start of football season. Try timing it right before a big event nationally or locally. Piggyback on major players who are already marketing to your ideal customers and clients and try to snaffle some of the interest.
For example: offer a limited discount for anyone attending conference X, sporting event Y, or concert Z. This lets you take advantage of other keywords to boost your message. Look for times when other companies are also making a large hype OR look for times when NO other company is making any hype. Both will work depending on your target group and message.
Keep the time window short and concise. Don't run a 3-day sale. Your goal is to create a sense of urgency and "I can't miss out.” Another very important rule when running flash sales - keep them special! Don’t run a new sale every single week, keep each sale unique, time them to boost your brand at the right moments to ensure customers don’t get bored of a repetitive message. How many times do you walk into a supermarket and see the same products on the ends of ailses? They no longer become special offers. People get wise, and buy enough until you run the next event.
Be Careful as not to Devalue What You Sell
I came across this in the driving instructor industry a few years back. During the economic slump, some Einstein decided you could swamp the industry marketing with offers of 5 driving lessons for only £30. That’s 5 hours of driving lessons for less than £6 per hour. Great if we back in the 1970’s, but when an average lesson costs in excess of £15 per hour to run the car safely and legally, this was a stupid proposition. Not only for the customers who begun to think this was a ‘going rate’, but for the self employed instructors who felt they had no choice but to match the offer and work, whilst losing money for every driving lesson they gave. It sent many to the wall and they left the industry.
Now in an era where costs are rising on all fronts, these self employed business people struggle to increase their pricing so that they can have a fair days pay for a good days work because the stupid sales offers devalued the training they undertook, the risks that they take and the value that they offer. It’s not just in this industry either. Some furniture stores have almost become a running joke amongst advertising executives. Whilst they are happy to take their TV and Radio advertising money, it seems that some national companies permanently have ‘special offers that must end this weekend with up to 80% off’. Question is…were they over charging in the first place or is the standard that poor they need to shift a stack of units to empty the warehouse?
So running a Flash Sale can be an easy way for your company to get a boost of bookings, sales and appointments and is a great tool to add to your Marketing Toolbox. Don’t get discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t generate the Black Friday mob, (infact that may well be a good thing), like all things with social media and developing your brand, you need to build it over time. My recommendation is that if you have to do one, plan one, try one, evaluate the results and then try again. Each time will result in an increase in bookings, sales and appointments and an increase in your fanbase. Just be careful not to set your value bar so low, that it becomes what your known for.