Incorporating Freebies and Fun on Your Business Website

These onsite business marketing techniques are designed primarily to increase time onsite, to encourage repeat visits, and to increase your ROI. To use these techniques effectively, you need to publicize their existence on web clearinghouses with master lists of links to coupons, free offers, games, and contests.

Coupons and discounts

Coupons and discounts work offline and online, particularly when your target audience has a bargain orientation — but even high-end audiences like to believe that they’re getting a deal. Although most coupons are never even used, they improve branding and name recognition.

The online execution of a discount occurs with a promotion code that users enter during the checkout process on your website, whereas a coupon may be printed for use at your own, or another, bricks-and-mortar store. You need to determine how the cost of these discounts will affect your gross revenue and the average dollar value of a sale.

Not all shopping carts can accept all forms of discounts. You must ask your developer what your software can handle before you establish your discount plan. For example, some sites can discount a total price by a percentage, but can’t discount a specific product or by a flat dollar amount.

Some can't tie together two purchases to execute a complex instruction, such as Buy one at full price and get the second at half off. Some carts can’t handle promotion codes at all.

Free offers

Free is marketing’s four-letter word. You can tie a free offer to another purchase, such as a two-for-one deal, or to a product that’s paired with a purchase, such as Free socks when you buy shoes or Buy one shirt and get a second free.

Or, free can mean a separate promotional item shipped as a reward for taking an action, such as Free bracelet when you sign up for our jewelry newsletter.

Include in your marketing budget the cost of promotional goods and their differential shipping expenses.

Be careful! Dockers was burned by its ad for a free pair of pants during the 2010 Super Bowl. Within seconds, responses overwhelmed the website, which barred incoming traffic or produced server errors. Irritated visitors quickly tweeted their frustration or posted angry messages on Facebook.

For want of adequate web infrastructure, an expensive advertisement was lost. You should also check with your shipping department to make sure that it can package and track the shipping of promotional items.

Games and contests

Online games and contests often carry an age or gender appeal (or both). The right game matched to the right audience can result in significant traffic to your site and many repeat visits.

For this strategy to pay off beyond traffic, you might want to sell advertising on your site or provide another business rationale for the game. It also helps to tie the award, if any, to the audience. Many games don't include prizes, but most contests do.

Some contests are games of skill (for example, trivia or interactive contests); others, such as sweepstakes or drawings, are simple matters of luck.

Whenever you include a contest or sweepstakes on your site, be sure to include a detailed page of rules and legal disclaimers. Consult your attorney if you have questions; some states have strict rules.

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