by Terry Young
Running constant specials lessens their impact
This can easily come under the heading of spam, even though they often aren't meant to be.
Last month I covered one of the most annoying and frustrating things about the internet, email spam. However, many companies don't realize that they can also be seen as spammers simply because of how frequently they run specials and send out emails. While I am the first to understand that any business needs to generate income, there is a very fine line between being annoying and appearing uninterested.
From my own inbox I know that there are companies, even very large ones, who send out specials emails several times a week. This is far too frequent. Firstly, the emails become less important to the recipient, so much that they delete them without looking at them. After a while they become plain annoying, and the prospective customer will either unsubscribe from your emails or mark you as spam just to get you out of their inbox.
When that happens you have lost the customer who originally signed up with you because they liked your company. They will now also view you negatively.
The other side
Furthermore, if enough people mark you as spam on public email systems like Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, and AOL, this will affect your ability to send to anyone else on those systems in the future, as your domain IP address will be blacklisted as a spammer.
The other side of the 'constant specials' coin is that after a very short time, people become indifferent to your specials and they lose the urgency aspect, especially if your specials include very similar items.
The viewers know you will be having another sale very soon, so unless they just happen to need that thing that you're selling right now, there is no rush to jump on this one. Even if you do add a line like 'expires tonight,' it will have no effect because the customer knows you.
Another trick that customers see right through is if you deliberately mark items up, and then have a 'special' price exactly the same as they would pay everywhere else. That is the fastest way to lose credibility and customers.
So how often should specials be used? That completely depends on your business type. If you are a retail business, with constant new products, a reasonable period for specials is every week, as long as the specials do not include the exact same items. It's the same with restaurants or other food industry businesses: once a week is acceptable, as long as the items are different each time.
For a service company, weekly is much too frequent. Ideally, service-based specials should have a reason. For example a tax company offering low-cost end-of-year tax returns around tax time. The rest of the year, there isn't much reason to run more than one or two specials.
The less frequently you have sales, the more impact they have, because the viewer knows that this special really is a limited thing and that they have to act fast. This is why we only run a sale once a year, to celebrate our anniversary.
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Terry Young is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing and Design. Since 1997,