Creating On-Brand Promotions in Your Small Business

By Chelsea Kallman, NAMA Blogger

‘Tis the season for finding a good deal. With the holidays over, most shoppers are finished buying gifts for others, which means now they’re shopping for themselves, and everyone wants to pay the best possible price.

But what if your brand is considered luxury, craft, or indie? How can you actually afford to give deep discounts like Walmart or Amazon?

In short, you can’t.

Here’s what you can do: create promotions that tie your customers back to your brand and create loyalty for the future.

Look at Small Business Saturday and Record Store Day. Both are rooted in making small businesses thrive, and according to this article published by Nashville Business Journal, this one-day-a-year brings in $16.2 billion dollars. That is not a small number.

The lesser known (yet still recognizable) Record Store Day gets the fan base of record collectors excited. There are special releases just for RSD, plus fans learn of new music and celebrate the bands and artists they already know and love.

Bringing this idea to a smaller, more personal level is Steadfast, a Nashville-based coffee roaster and cafe, which recently ran a Free Coffee Day promo.

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Steadfast is unique. It’s beautiful. Not only is the coffee and food delicious, but the service is impeccable. It is a curated experience.

Even still, this coffee shop decided to give away free black coffee all day long, and one lucky winner now receives a free bag of coffee every month for a year.  

Why?

To build their customer base.

I spoke with Dani Stewart, content specialist with ConvertKit, the brains behind the promotion. (Full disclosure: she’s also conveniently my good friend and the wife of Sean Stewart, one of Steadfast’s co-founders and operating partners.)

ConvertKit came up with this promotion with Steadfast’s mission in mind: to give back to the community.

When coming up with this promotion, we knew it needed to be something that put the customer first,” said Stewart. “Yes, the goal was to grow the Steadfast email list, but it had to be done in a way that served and celebrated the community.”

While keeping true to Steadfast’s core values, the group assessed the best way to captivate Steadfast’s guests attention is through email. Stewart says this is a business owner’s most valuable asset because it’s the only way to directly communicate with an audience.

Steadfast collected emails by using ConverKit’s app that plugs into the coffee company’s website; opt-in forms were linked to from social media and email content.

With all the new algorithms and overpopulation of social media, there’s no guarantee that your messages are being seen by audiences in those channels. But with email, you know you’re in their inbox, and that’s a safe, usually guarded, and privileged place to be,” Stewart said.  

Jamie Cunningham, partner and general manager of Steadfast, explained how they chose an email campaign because of its directness.

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Not only that, but they’re able to learn more about what their customers are interested in by seeing if they opened the email, redeemed a code, or even unsubscribed.

“We want our email correspondence to be an extension of our in-shop customer service: personalized and meaningful,” Cunningham said.

Because this promotion was marketed as a “Celebration of Nashville” — and frankly, because Steadfast’s coffee is incredible — people got pumped. They ended up collecting somewhere around 1,000 email addresses, plus media outlets Tweeted and Instagrammed about it.

At the end of the day, Steadfast’s loyal customers ended up loving them even more, and I would dare to say they ended up gaining quite a few new customers, as well.

It might seem like a lot to give away free coffee all day, but to Steadfast, it was worth it. The coffee was given in exchange for an email address. This information was volunteered, rather than gathered out of necessity, like when you have to enter your email address to use Wifi.

“Ultimately, we want to have tons of fun and connect with guests, both old and new,” Cunningham continued. “Giving coffee away was a great way to create some buzz and grab the attention of folks that we likely had never reached before.”

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Now Steadfast can go and use the newly-collected email addresses for future marketing campaigns and new product announcements. The coffee company even used the list to promote its monthly coffee-subscription as a holiday gift idea.

Convince and Convert wrote a blog that echoes exactly what Dani says. It talks about what marketers can learn from sports marketing fan engagement.

The basic idea is this: the best way to convert anonymous users into a registered fan is to give out incentives. Whether you’re a sports team or a local coffee shop, this idea works.

Building loyalty gives your fans (or clients) a deeper experience. You allow fans to become a part of the story., and they’re excited to be a part of something they care about.

The Winnipeg Jets are cited in the post for creating something called “Jet Points.” Fans receive points if they’re season ticketholders, and they can receive more points if they opt to pay with a check instead of a card. This not only saves The Jets’ money on credit card fees, but fans get special points to spend on memorabilia in the Jets store. It’s a win-win.

Promotions have to be worthwhile on both ends. It has to be thoughtful, and it has to be something clients truly want.

Jamie offered one last piece of advice for small business owners interested in creating promotions:

At the end of the day, I believe, guest are attracted to the heart of the business, the values. So fight hard to be you and to connect with guest who like you for who you are. They are the ones that will come back again and again.”