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Energizing the Incentive Sales Promotion          Print the current page
by Brian Chmielewski

Sometimes a good targeted ad placement, ingenious creative, and a compelling offer aren't enough to bring promotional performance to an acceptable level. More often, prospects seek an extra inducement to encourage the desired action associated with your campaign. For this reason, offering some type of special incentive - a sweepstakes drawing, contest giveaway or a free gift, can make a difference.

Front End - Encounters With Perceptive Space
Even if you're new to the Web, you've certainly surfed into sweepstakes promotions and probably have even entered a few along the way. While the concept of incentive-based promotions seems simple, you should be cautious in the steps you take toward implementation. Participating in sweepstakes or contests will provide some insight into how to build your own promotion, but there are several details and precursory steps that might go unnoticed to the untrained eye. Here are some tips to guide you in developing your own incentive- based promotion.

* Always test a segment of your audience with no special offer. This will establish a control group to benchmark against when measuring what effect the promotion made on response rates. Without a base from which to start, you'll have difficulty identifying whether increases in response actually occurred and, if they did, whether the associated return of investment outweighed the cost of the promotion.

* Avoid making open-ended promotional calls-to-action. Promotions that inspire immediate action through time or space limitations (i.e. register by August 31" or "the first 100 people to respond") will convert quickly into thousands of potential respondents, whereas open-ended campaigns tend to trail in potency.

* If your promotion involves a free gift or giveaway, no matter how small the cost, place clear limits on the total quantity to be distributed. When running a tiered-winner promotion, it is always best to clearly identify the methods by which the grand prize, runner-up and consolation prizes will be drawn. Choose a drawing date for your prize that provides enough time to appropriately audit contest participants according to the rules and guidelines.

* When choosing a giveaway item, it's best to select an original item that appeals to the type of targeted recipient that will give you the greatest return on investment. While Palm Pilot giveaways are very popular, and they do drive good response rates, they are not the right choice for every promotion. For instance, loan institutions should present cash prizes and travel sites should offer partially paid or free travel packages as incentives. This type of tender association between incentive and industry respectfully drives more targeted prospects when coupled with tight targeting of ad placement and marketing message.

* Announce your winner(s) publicly and as frequently as you have them. Incentive-based programs that involve regular win cycles are more popular and drive greater traffic repositories for your site. Consider adding a graph or two in your sweepstakes rules stating that winners must provide you with a photograph and testimonial.

Back End - Prepare for Contingent Events
Promotions often increase response at the expense of lead quality. As such, they're best implemented when your priority is lead volume, not quality, and when you have structured follow-up campaigns in place to maximize the value of every response.

You can minimize the effect that promotions have on lead quality by making your offer relevant to your core product or service. Offer a discount for first-time buyers, or a free book that addresses the same issues that your product solves (for example, a book on search engine strategies to promote an search engine optimization Web service.)

On the Web, it's sometimes best to only introduce the special offer on the back end of the campaign, at the splash page. In this way, you'll generate only those responses attracted by your core message, and the free gift will increase your conversion rate - the percentage of people who actually act upon your desired call for action.

Marketers should beware, there are several entangling concerns that may burden your objectives. Here are a few to consider.

* Legal disclaimers
Raising promotional steam from sweepstakes in global currents requires attention to state, federal and international statutes. Since your promotion may have a broad demographic reach, you must investigate legal guidelines to avoid any uncalculated repercussions. Some states require you to be insured and bonded within their jurisdictions before you may consider any resident participation in your contest.

* Applicant profile accuracy
Expect some applicants to subvert your goals by providing falsified information about themselves. While your agenda may be to discern user experience or preference data, the participants' agenda is to quickly and privately submit their entry to your sweepstakes. To fairly guard the authenticity of the information being provided, consider an opt-in method of gathering information. This will frequently guarantee authenticity of the email address, postal address and perhaps the name and phone information of recipients. Be sure to clearly identify to your visitors that accurate postal and email information is required for verified entry into your contest. Include this information into your rules.