23 March 2020 Tips & Tricks

The 3 building blocks of a world-class promotion

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Whether a promotion is successful or not can depend on so many different factors, from obvious ones like the quality of your contact list to unswayable ones such as the weather. While you can’t make it rain, you can make sure you incorporate these 3 things into your promotions:

1. Clear Offer

The first rule of a promotion: there needs to be a very clear offer. By very clear, we mean let them know what they get and how they will get it.

Whether you are offering a dollar amount or a percentage, whether your offer is valid on everything or just a selected category, whether your deal expires the next day or by the end of the month - tell them exactly what they are getting. 

Then, always give clear instructions on how they can redeem the offer. Make sure they won’t overlook the offer code if there is one, tell them when and where to put it, always include a clear call to action, and leaving nothing to doubt.

Imagine the frustration when finding out only in the checkout process that the discount is actually not applicable to the items in the cart. Or that you can’t actually activate your offer. If people are confused they don’t buy.


✅ What the offer is

✅ When will it expire

✅ How they redeem it

✅ Show example products, ideally with personalized suggestions and before/after price

✅ Clear CTAs - affirmative, clear and verbs.

✅ Contact email/phone number if they have any questions (ideally set up emails so they can reply)

2. Reason Why

Always tie your promotions to a reason. For example, end of season sale, holiday promotion, to say thank you, etc. Why is the reason important? To add credibility and build trust. If you don’t tie it to an occasion it will seem like you are overcharging the rest of the year.

With a reason in mind, they are more likely to believe the deadline and act on it. They are less likely to believe there’s another promo just around the corner and won’t wait around for sales in the future. And lastly, they won’t think you are just desperate to make a sale.

Additionally, sharing a reason why is a great opportunity to build a relationship with your customers. Be transparent, tell them what’s happening. You have some amazing new products coming in and that’s why you’re doing a clearance sale? Great! Share that info and keep your customer base up to date and engaged.

Some ‘reasons why’ include:

  • Slow month sale - “this is historically a slow month for us”
  • Customers only - “thank you for your loyalty”, “we are celebrating a company milestone”, “because loyal customers like you built the business and we wouldn’t have made it here without you”
  • Non-buyers only - “we’d like you to try our products”, “it’s more profitable for us to convert you now, our customers love our products and buy again and again”
  • Lost customer offer - “you didn’t buy in a while and we want to win you back”
  • Marketing test/experiment - “we don’t know if we will do it again”
  • Upsell offer - “because you bought X we want to give you Y at a discount. You’ll get more out of X with it.”
  • New product - “we want your feedback so we’re offering a special discount, all we ask is you leave us a review”
  • Product range clear out - “we need to make room for new items”
  • Moving warehouses - “we want to clear stock”
  • Celebrating a holiday, season, or promotional event (e.g. January Sales, Easter, Black Friday, etc.)

3. Hard Deadline

You have probably heard it before: “I don’t need time, I need a deadline.'' Deadlines are crucial to getting things done.

That’s true in the e-commerce shopper environment as well. Tell them how long the promotion will be on for, use the power of scarcity to get them to take action now. 

Remind them in every email and right before the promotion ends put an even stronger emphasis on the approaching deadline. This means use urgency and scarcity in your language, not just in the body of the email but also in the subject lines.

According to our data that last stretch is usually when you see the most action, up to 4.5x sales increase - turns out leaving things to the last minute is a common quirk in us humans. One you can capitalize on.

For bonus points, use a “double deadline” if possible. This means you communicate a hard stop deadline, but also mention the threat of stock running out. This doesn’t have to be a hard sell, language such as “first come first served” is effective here. 

The trick with deadlines is to keep them credible. If you offer a believable and specific reason for the scarcity (WHY is the deadline on X, WHY can you only sell 4 more with this discount?) the more credible the deadline becomes.

E.g. If you only have 20 in stock and this email is going out to your 500 best customers you expect to sell out quickly because you’ve never offered such a low price on this before and rarely ever do sales - that creates real, believable scarcity that will cause them to act now. Just saying we expect to sell out soon doesn’t have the same impact.


Never assume your audience will already know the details of your promotion or still remember from your last email or some post on social media. Tell the entire story including the 3 elements above. Every. Single. Time. 

This way you make it as easy as possible for your contacts to buy from your store and you will get the best results.

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Corin Camenisch

Marketing Manager at Pathfinder

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