You already know that deals kill your brand.
You’ve decided to say no to discounts.
But what should you do instead? Run profitable promotions that keep your brand strong.
Today, we’ll cover 19 strategies for bringing in high-quality customers that are happy to pay full price.
Let’s get started!
Editor’s note: This article comes from years of experience helping clients sell more using high-converting content. If you’re interested in more sales at your eCommerce store, send us a message.
Offer low prices (without lowering prices)
It seems paradoxical. But if you want to appeal to cost-conscious customers with lower prices, you can do so without cutting the price of your main offerings.
1. Launch a low-price introductory product
If your main product is too expensive for the average consumer, consider launching a separate low-cost, no-frills version or even a separate brand.
This strategy is especially effective during a recession, write John Quelch and Katherine Jocz in an article from Harvard Business Review. The cheaper item won’t affect the image of flagship products but can bring in budget-conscious customers.
2. Discount out-of-season products
Nearly every fashion retailer does this.
When you retire a product for whatever reason, sell the remaining stock at a discount. You get rid of products you’re not selling anymore, customers pay less, but those who want the newest and best won’t hold out for lower prices.
3. Buy back and sell used
If it applies to the product you sell, consider buying back and reselling used products. Creating a program like this requires time and effort, but if you have a durable and expensive product, it will help you generate profit while not diluting the new products your brand offers.
Sell more with add-ons
Discounts offer more for less. But you don’t have to cut prices to make that happen. An alternative promotion strategy is to keep the price the same but increase the value—using the “more” lever in the “more for less” equation.
We’ll call these sales promotion examples “add-ons” since they add to your existing offer. Give them a try with your next round of eCommerce optimizations.
4. Bundle white-glove services
Services are often an easy way to add perceived value to an offer. Many subscription boxes include this kind of care for subscribers. Examples include clothing stylists or wine sommeliers who learn from your tastes and create your next box.
These services add a high perceived value but are usually profitable since they don’t take much time each month.
Consider creating a promotion that—for the same price—includes white-glove service for the shopper.
5. Include a companion product for free
I don’t recommend using a signature product as a free add-on—it’s as good as a discount. But giving away a free product you don’t normally sell with each order can make a perfect promotion.
Relate it to your product if you can—a poster with the purchase of enough books, a protective bag with jewelry, a flashlight with a camping tent.
Often, these are far more affordable than you might think and nearly always cheaper than offering a discount.
6. Partner with a software company
Consider partnering with a software company to bundle an offer with each purchase, like six months of a premium account.
Your best options are software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, where customers pay a subscription instead of a one-time fee. (Examples include Shopify and Zoom.)
For SaaS companies, the software is written and servers are running anyway, so adding users to a premium plan for six months costs almost nothing. But a certain percentage of those users will want to upgrade, and there’s lots of brand awareness for the company.
Partner with a SaaS startup to offer, say, six months of their premium plan to all of your customers during a promotion. You get an add-on for free, the SaaS company gets an influx of new users, and your customers get a valuable service. A win-win-win.
7. Offer free or discounted shipping
Ever wonder why shipping seems impossibly cheap on Amazon? It’s because it is—Amazon loses billions on shipping costs each year.
(The most recent data comes from 2016, but the trend seems to have continued since.)
You probably can’t subsidize shipping rates with investor revenue like Amazon. But you can offer discounts on shipping instead of your product. It still puts money back in the consumer’s pocket, but a shipping discount won’t reduce the perceived value of your products.
Consider cheaper shipping, flat rate, or even free shipping at a certain amount. Or offer shipping promotions instead of discounts to keep your brand’s quality intact.
8. Offer bonus content as a product add-on
Here’s an interesting twist on content marketing—offer content as a bonus for your promotion strategy.
Host a live Q&A with an industry influencer and make tickets only available to customers who make qualified purchases.
If you use this strategy regularly, you can create word-of-mouth around these exclusive events.
9. Give away a free trial of your subscription service
Don’t create a subscription service just for this technique. But if you already have a service—like a monthly product box—offer a free or discounted month (or more) with new qualifying purchases.
Make sure to manage your costs, but this is a great way to offer a coveted reward while also finding new customers for another product.
Programs to implement
If you’re willing to change how you do business, creating a new program can be a great way to find potential buyers you wouldn’t otherwise.
The following types of promotion will require more marketing efforts on your part, but they can be wildly effective for your brand.
10. Let customers pay with something other than money
This sales promotion technique is a little out-of-the-box, but it works. Let potential buyers “pay” with video testimonials, product reviews, or something else you need instead of payment.
If you have a relatively new brand, you’ll quickly realize that a free product in exchange for a testimonial is often one of the best deals you can make.
11. Offer member-only deals
Do you treat every consumer the same right now? By adding a “member” step to the customer journey, you can share special deals with insiders or even newsletter subscribers.
Though you can call it a “member discount,” the price members pay should probably be calculated with a fixed percentage (say, 85% of nonmember price). It should also probably be the real price at which you’re willing to sell the product.
12. Offer a money-back guarantee
Some companies offer one. Some don’t. But a guarantee can be a powerful selling point, and offering it during a campaign can be a compelling reason to buy.
Ever wonder why bigger purchases tend to have longer guarantee windows?
In general, the longer the guarantee is valid, the fewer customers take advantage of it. So you’ll have fewer returns for a 30-day guarantee than a 7-day guarantee—and fewer still on a return policy that lasts half a year.
Contests and sweepstakes
Contests and sweepstakes are some of the oldest and most overdone promotion strategies of all time. But there’s a reason for the popularity—this marketing tool works.
That said, there are a few ways to build a sweepstakes marketing campaign that attracts your target audience best without devaluing your brand. Here are some examples.
(Whenever you’re considering sweepstakes, always be sure to check with local regulations. Nearly every country and US state has guidelines for what you can and can’t do.)
13. Give away your own product
One of the first marketing campaigns I ever worked on back in 2011 was a giveaway for a beverage product. The premise was simple—contestants would post pictures of themselves with the product for the chance to win an iPad.
We ran a Facebook Ad campaign that cost many times the iPad price, but the results were pretty dismal in the end. One of the biggest reasons? We attracted people who wanted iPads, not people who wanted the product.
If you run a giveaway, you’ll attract people who want what you’re giving away. Make sure that’s your product.
14. Add a surprise in some products
Imagine an online retailer that randomly includes extra gifts in a few packages. Whether a store gift card, bonus product, or companion product (like tip #5), you can use the excitement to generate extra interest. You can also use it as a promotional strategy.
Plus, it makes a great customer experience!
15. Offer “spotlight” features for winning purchases
It’s easy to forget that even a modest social media presence can be impressive for many of your followers. Whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or another platform, featuring selected customers can be a unique (and free) promotion.
Unless you’re planning on using this strategy for the long term, consider setting a specific timeframe to add the urgency you’d see with a limited-time discount.
It’s no secret that loyalty drives your marketing performance. Leveraging loyalty is a sales promotion strategy that can reap huge rewards.
The premise is simple. Instead of spending your full budget to acquire new customers, consider diverting some of that money to improve relationships and conversions with your best existing customers.
16. Offer a two-way referral discount
Nearly all affiliate marketing offers the referrer a bonus, say a percentage of the total referred sales. This works for influencers and salespeople. But for word-of-mouth marketing, this kind of advantage makes the offer seem biased.
A better way to use this is to split the bonus between the referrer and the new customer. Someone is much more likely to share your product if their friend benefits, too.
To set this up, review your marketing budget and find your customer acquisition cost. You’ll then divide this number equally between the referrer and the referee. For example, if it usually costs you $18 to acquire a new customer, someone can give a friend a $9 referral coupon while also saving $9 themselves.
17. Create a target market for bulk orders
Another place to reward your best customers is with a bulk discount. One of the best ways to position this offer is for a specific segment, like corporate gifts.
Of course, run the numbers for promotional plans like this at your store. But often, the sales volume more than makes up for a slight discount for large purchases.
18. Share a post-purchase discount
Once a customer buys, getting them to buy again can transform the purchasing process from a one-off event to something regular.
Discounts upfront can bring in new customers. But a discount after making a purchase can be a creative and unique way to get customers to buy again. There’s only one rule here: don’t tell about the discount until they’ve made a purchase.
19. Start a rewards program
Finally, consider offering a rewards program for your most loyal customers. The best rewards programs I’ve seen follow a few guidelines.
First, make sure the rewards are your product itself. When you offer bonuses that aren’t related to what you sell, you risk attracting the wrong kind of customer.
Second, make your rewards tied to a future purchase. In other words, they’re not “freebies” but bonuses for the next order.
And finally, set a timeframe to redeem them.
A great example of these ideas in action is the ThriftBooks ReadingRewards program. You earn points on every purchase, which you can exchange for free books on your next order—as long as you place it within 12 months.
I’ve earned $28 in free books, which means I buy too many books.
How to master profitable promotions
You’ve just learned 19 profitable promotions you can add to your marketing strategy.
But if you feel like you’re relying too much on price-cutting discounts, the problem might not lie with the promotion strategy you use.
Discounts by themselves rarely create customers—they merely multiply the conversions on interested prospects. If you feel like you can’t escape couponing, it might not be a discount problem. It might be a customer problem.
And that’s a problem you can solve. Our research suggests organic SEO visitors convert better than visitors from almost everywhere else, including those from paid social media ads.
So if you’re looking to build a customer base that doesn’t need discounts to convert, talk to us.