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Summary:

I’m composing this at my home-away-from-home in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona, where I’ve come to see Superbowl XLII. Consumers are fickle, and what makes promotions effective can be mystifying. So instead of trying to come up with a recipe for how to market well, I’ve taken my […]

larry2.jpegI’m composing this at my home-away-from-home in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona, where I’ve come to see Superbowl XLII. Consumers are fickle, and what makes promotions effective can be mystifying. So instead of trying to come up with a recipe for how to market well, I’ve taken my 20 years of trying and boiled down the best tips to these 8 Deadly Promotion Pitfalls. (I started with 8 tips, and came up with 16, so Pitfalls Part II will be published in a few weeks.)

Pitfall 1 : throwing the marketing hail mary. If only 30-million-people-would-see-it is a cautionary tale of how not to launch from silicon valley. Be a Tom Brady and throw for 1 to 11 yards at a time, these yield 5-25 after the catch-and-carry.


Pitfall 2
: using what worked in 1999 (and other so called silver bullet case studies/urban myths). Offering $5 for each referral won’t work. In 1999, Paypal bled out over $15 million $10 at a time. Lead generation guys were happy, but what was OK in ’00 won’t fly in ’08. Stop looking for a silver bullet and follow some of the below fundamentals of promotion.


Pitfall 3
: “Umm, no”. We are handing out leaflets at an event. We are building it and they’ll just come. We are putting full color flyers on cars at August Capital’s TechCrunch party. Lets consult the crystal ball: ‘No, no, no, no! Not gonna work.’


Pitfall 4
: Using hot women to promote. This isn’t a pitfall, it works on
many different levels (pun intended).


Pitfall 5
: hiring out and not using a founder to promote. The power of 300. Generals know that a thousand mercenaries are worth 300 committed warriors. In the networked age it’s even more so. I can place a person on a campus and within a year have more sign ups
than a $300,000 campus media campaign at a Barrons-ranked tier 1-5
school. But you have to have a c.a.t. What’s CAT….

Pitfall 6
: Not having a Consumer Advocacy Truth. We picked “interest is for suckers”. And we handed out lollipops to bring the point home. Your truth rises above your silly company (and product!).

Pitfall 7: Praying over promoting. A VC buddie of mine just “sprays and
prays” with his portfolio. We laugh about it privately, but entrepreneurs make similar mistakes when they “dabble promote” vs. systematically marching toward promotion goals.

Do the market-march effectively by…
* Set a promo goal
* Execute plan
* Measure success by tracking
* Reset and tweak goal/plan
Save the praying for Menlo Park Presbyterian


Pitfall 8
: Not having the SSP, or Second stage premium is the premium you give away after the first premium. (Duck9 coincides it with consumer 2nd stage registration.) Ideally, the SSP meshes with the CAT. For example, we give out suckers (or lollipop for my readers in the Orient) for walk-bys in the Green ZONE. Pizza slices to those that submit their cell phone. You get a t-shirt when you re-register online and/or do a pbWiki page. You get a fleece if you achieve a FICO Of 750. The chachkis coincide with the CAT. We at duck9 are gonna trick you into doing something good for yourself.

CONCLUSION; Remember, these pitfalls (and their solutions) took over 20 years to learn. Don’t get demoralized if you can only implement just one. This is tough stuff and we get paid the big bucks NOT to manage, but to promote! Hey, if you get bogged down or log jammed, call me during my office hours.

  1. “Larry Chiang” is from Austin TX and he probably wasn’t even in Arizona. The Superbowl wasn’t in Scottsdale!!!

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  2. Larry,

    Could you please elaborate on the CAT concept…i.e. what is it exactly?

    Much appreciated….

    Cheers,

    Micah

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  3. I am sorry, but “hot women” promotions always works, period.

    5$ referrals also work, if you make $20 from each user giving $5 to the referral is the obvious thing to do IMO. (paypal gained me because of this $5 referral and I have been using them since)

    handing out leaflets in the middle of the dessert is better than not handing out anything in the middle of new york city.

    I normally agree and enjoy all postings on this site, this one however is very disturbing especially if you are a small time entrepreneur.
    calling all these proven tactics “deadly pitfalls” is extremely unproductive and IMO uneducated especially that a lot of huge corporations from ebay, google to GM and McDonald’s have used most of if not all of these so called “deadly pitfalls”

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  4. Micah

    Consumer Advocacy Truths (CATs) are beliefs that are plainly positive and obviously of benefit to your market in a way that tickles positive emotions. Your company serves a community, by providing them with goods, services, or information that they need to stay competitive, happy, healthy, clothed, or any number of other things. Your CAT is a statement that the members of that community will be able to rally behind, or else it will never drive the buzz or WOM marketing you hope to gain. It’s the thing about you that let’s you have the first few minutes of their attention…and then the next few…and then the next.

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  5. [...] use a second stage premium. For example, the first premium you can use to drive registration. The second stage premium (SSP) would be a reward for bumping incremental revenue. See also, Chris Anderson’s latest opus in [...]

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  6. [...] Noon. Codes and compiles well into the early morning. Only wakes up at 9AM for killer content. Fresh in from Europe. Is full of wonderment that 12 zip codes in Northern California contain 90% of venture money. [...]

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  7. I too am a bit confused. Many of these “pitfalls” have worked? Hot chicks obviously works. Things like paid referals and flyers have worked for people…not everyone but for some people, how are those pitfalls if they could work?

    Larry, I’d love to talk directly about how to identify your CAT. I think you are right on here but I’d like some expansion…hope to chat soon.

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