Product Marketing

Purchase incentive fulfillment

written by Steve Lange

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Purchase incentives are an every-day occurrence. We see them everywhere, from simple coupons to instant rebates to frequent flier miles.

Does your business offer a purchase incentive as a marketing tactic? How much good does it do for your business… really? Does your fulfillment deliver the goods?

I’m a geezer who remembers mailing in breakfast cereal box tops for plastic Moon Rocket kits. These were great marketing tools in the Sputnik age. However, sometimes those Moon Rockets never arrived. And boy, was I one angry little kid! I quit eating that brand of cereal… that showed them!

Incentive fulfillment is now an industry in its own right, with good and bad offers and good and bad businesses. We all know the good examples, such as the rebate checks that arrive in three weeks instead of eight weeks. They leave us with a good impression of the offering company.

When fulfillment is slipshod, or poorly delivered, or misrepresented it is the offering company that loses its good reputation, not the fulfillment company. For example, my wife recently decided to try out a different brand of home product because it offered a $15 rebate. However, when the rebate arrived, it was not a check but a voucher for credits at a third party redeem-for-product website. What the….!?!? Grrrrrrrr!

None of the products offered were of any interest to us so she passed the credits along to her sister. Unfortunately, the third party website company deducted credits for transfer, and deducted credits for checking the credit balance, etc., until there were not enough credits left to redeem a pack of facial tissues (to say nothing of the shipping and handling).

And who is getting the bad rap for this scam? Not the fulfillment company, not the people who sold this system, and not the third party website that we would never have visited (and never will again). Nope. All the frustration and ill will that was generated by this thoroughly unsatisfactory purchase incentive falls squarely on the product company. The incentive may have gotten them one sale from us, but they’ll not get another.

So this marketing tactic backfired. And any good impressions chalked up by other marketing expenditures by the product company were wiped clean off the board. Money wasted.

If you are going to offer a purchase incentive, decide if you really want to offer something of value, and whether your goal is to attract repeat customers instead of simply a bunch of one-time sales. Then, (I hope you are choosing the high ground) find a reputable fulfillment company with a good track record, and a commitment to serving you and your customers well.

Steve Lange

about the author

Steve Lange

Steve Lange is Senior Editor at Palo Alto Software. He recently received the Entomologist EXCELlante award in recognition of searches for bugs in product tables and features. Outside of work, he is a polymath and information generalist who enjoys seeking and finding intuitive correlations in information between different fields of study. A voracious reader, he has been known to scrawl edits in the archaeology, history and aviation books he reads for personal pleasure. Naturally, Steve is an inveterate player with words, having a Pollyanna-ish preference for polysemous polysyllabic polyphonic vocabulary and regularly puts the "p u" back into pun.


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