Contests & Discounts & Deals, Oh My!

I am increasingly curious about whether and how contests, early bird registration discounts and other marketing promotions motivate buyers (donors, event registrants, etc.) to take action.

Duh, Mike, of course they work! Look at all those coupons for Macy’s and Giant and Papa John’s. Groupon and LivingSocial. Happy hour and half-priced wine night! Sheesh… 

Okay. But what if you don’t need to lower prices or give stuff away for free? Jim Connolly ponders that here as does Harvard Business Review here.

I’m thinking about it too as I continue to market the Storming of Thunder Ridge bicycling fundraiser.

Recently, I’ve used some “carrots” to entice cyclists to register for the event.

First, the registration rate will increase on May 1st. Reminders have been shared with bike shops and cycling clubs as well as on our Facebook page. Indeed, there has been an increase in registrations since Tax Day when the “reminder campaign” began.

To further fuel registration, I announced a contest drawing on Tuesday that stipulates that…

  1. if there are a certain number of riders registered by
  2. midnight Friday
  3. everyone who is registered will become eligible to win a prize.

Within hours, registration jumped.

The question is whether these recent registrants represent the buying habits of the majority of our total addressable market?

Meaning, what percentage of buyers is influenced by discounts and prize opportunities?

Or, from a different perspective, is there a significant group of buyers who will participate regardless of early bird rates and contests?

As a cyclist who does multiple events each year, I prefer to take advantage of early registration rates. Who doesn’t like to save some cash? However, I’ve also paid full fare and even paid extra – gulp – for day-of, on-site registration to ride. The point is, if I want to join an event, discounts are a consideration but not the top driver for me to take action.

On the other hand, contests don’t influence my decision-making. I suppose I’m jaded because I’m a marketer. If you’re marketing a contest to me, I am suspicious because I believe your real reason is to collect my contact information so that you can later fill my inbox with crap.

(I’ve also never won any thing in a contest, so maybe I’m just a sore loser!)

In my casual discussions with potential riders for the event, I hear things like:

  • I don’t know my work / family schedule yet
  • I have the information but haven’t gotten around to registering yet
  • And my favorite – I have commitment issues!

I will be polling recent registrants to find out what motivated them to register when they did. I’ll let you know what I learn.

Meanwhile, please share your experience…

  • How do discounts and contests influence your personal decision-making process?
  • What results have you had when offering discounts or running contests?
  • Could you have met your goal without lowering prices or giving things away?
(Image: Tomas)
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