Marketing Promotion Strategy, a Digital Offer Brainwreck Deconstructed

picture of melting brain, abstract

When strategizing digital marketing promotions, it’s crucial for marketers to align offers made with targeted audiences’ needs. Otherwise, the potential outcome can be compromised, or worse – the process can reflect poorly on a brand tendering the promotional offer. This should seem super intuitive, but in our own daily interactions with social promos that target us, misalignments witnessed can be powerful reminders of what not to do.

In this post, we’ll highlight one recent case of poor execution. We’ll stop short of flaming the brand by name, however, as the platform was once among our favorites and we still use its crowdsourced data while traveling from time to time. Also, we made friends with the account rep who handled my concerns very professionally while I farked with them during our online interactions. You likely know the platform/channel. It’s famous, having been around since ~2004. We will say that LinkedIn is not the channel discussed in this post.

A Digital Marketing Promotion Gone Embarrassingly Wrong
While perusing LinkedIn recently, cynical though I may be, an ad from a major review site’s paid ads platform caught my eye. I was targeted with the LinkedIn ad for obvious reasons. AIMCLEAR is a foundational digital marketing agency, proven platform marketing chops, and the Marty Weintraub LinkedIn profile targeted for the ad in question has keywords and other attributes to hit LinkedIn’s filters. The ad in question offered a $150 credit to test the channel’s ads platform.

Easy, right? Well, not so much.

We’re well familiar with both the online review channel and its ads platform, but rarely advise AIMCLEAR‘s clients to buy their ads for various reasons.  However, $150 is $150, and it would have been lovely to re-gift this credit to a client. Also, I admit to a tepid curiosity as to this channel’s potential paid platform advances, ads targeting, ad units, results, etc.

Uncharacteristically, I clicked on the (fairly) well-conceived ad, filled out the landing page form, and submitted. The landing page did not ask for excessive information – about $150 worth IMHO. I can only assume the platform’s marketers gulped when they received this particular form submission. In their world, the amount of spend AIMCLEAR handles is likely on the high end.

I was expecting a coupon to arrive via email to redeem the $150 credit for the ads platform. Unfortunately for that platform (and its service rep), a simple redemption process is not what happened at all. Turns out the actual progression of events required of me to simply redeem the offer reinforced some hard-earned promotional strategy bruises sustained over the course of 40+ years of marketing.

The first of multiple steps involved a call from a marketing company shill, assumedly handling completed forms for the promotion. They knew little or nothing about matters at hand, only asking me if AIMCLEAR was interested in a “Partnership” with the channel. The fledgling marketer went on to note that if we were interested in a partnership, the next meeting would be with the accounts team. I responded with a simple request to send me the $150.  I wasn’t interested. But much like driving past a car wreck on the freeway, the urge to look at the wreckage was quite strong. So when the account team reached out, I decided to take the second meeting. Keeping in mind what my hourly billing rate might be, we were already past what was reasonable for the now-meager $150 offer.  Still, I decided to consider next steps as getting paid $150 was now a motivator to see how cliche’ this experience could  get and might also keep me entertained.

Meeting #2 was a hoot. Two account representatives arrived on the video call. They came armed with a data rich-deck, ostensibly to convince that the channel’s ads platform is worthy. Before they got rolling, I told them to put their deck away. AIMCLEAR was happy to test the platform with the free $150, that I did not have time for a big presentation. The account reps asked a several deep questions about AIMCLEAR, the tools we use, money we spend on what, and other invasive queries. I declined to answer, explaining that the questioning exceeded the relationship in place. I suggested they simply send along the credit, and we’ll be back to them with any feedback.

The next part melted my mind. The account reps laid out a substantial legal agreement codifying a full-on “Partnership.” The explanation was the reps could not, “Unlock” full features of the offer without a legal agreement in place. Turns out, the platform is really selling a commission program on ad spend AIMCLEAR would generate, combined with inside sales support claimed to be superior to other channels. At this point, the actual offer is not all all representative of what the initial ad and landing page purported.

At this point, I ghosted them. They had already derailed my time in multiples following the supposedly clear offer. The platform reps reached out a couple of times and stalked my LinkedIn profile. However, they were nice enough humans, so I sent a LinkedIn DM to the highest ranking rep in the process. The following details our back-and-forth. It’s anonymized using brackets, only but only because they seemed like decent folk.

Thanks for the outreach and offer of inside sales support. We’re not ready to formalize a partnership at this time. Should this change, we will be in touch:

We suggest [CHANNEL] test a promo sending out straight, targeted, honest, NSA $150 credits, following with a feedback request, then pitching a partnership and contract based on success data.

Frankly, [CHANNEL] needs AIMCLEAR‘s [promotional] marketing strategy more than we need a partnership with [CHANNEL] – by a lot. What followed the landing page offer wasted both of our time.

Still good to connect. Please show this to [CHANNEL] leadership. Over the years, [CHANNEL]’s competitors have been our clients and we kicked [CHANNEL]’s butt.

Marty Weintraub.

The rep wrote back:

What was the ultimate reason why you don’t want to add [CHANNEL] as a platform? I saw you pretty much have every tech platform as part of your arsenal for your clients.

My response:

[CHANNEL]’s tactic tried to fark with me before dancing. In that sense, the offer was misleading. Why would I trust that team to advise us as to our clients? Time wasting, high friction, and poor first contact. Bloated expectations for second meeting. Marketing 101, C-

AIMCLEAR can already use public-facing [CHANNEL] reviews on landing pages…arguably as, or more, valuable because there is no competition on our landing page.

-Search interest in [CHANNEL] is in the dumpster. Not a good bet.
Google trends graph of channel

-[CHANNEL] as a service has not innovated past survival tactics. Search interest will not rebound.

-Unless [CHANNEL]’s marketing strategy changes dramatically – integrated, content, SEO, paid, branding, promos, everything, [CHANNEL] can’t beat Google to survive in America. There is less search interest for a reason. AIMCLEAR could help [CHANNEL]. The above was free advice ❤️. I used to love [CHANNEL] more.

Takeaway Lessons
When strategizing digital marketing promotions, it’s essential for marketers to align the offer with what’s being asked of audiences. Otherwise, the prospective outcome can be negative, even making the company look bush league.

  • Make a simple offer, which this platform initially did. The offer worked on me. THEN, do what the offer says. Don’t attach strings, such as legally binding agreements, without surfacing requirements early. This should be clear in the ad itself or at the very latest on the landing page.
  • Ensure the process of keeping promotional offer promises as frictionless as possible. Minimize steps in the process.  Don’t pile wasted time upon wasted time. Skip additional screenings.  If you ask for enough information on the landing page, no need to send an errand person for an extra screening pass.
  • Save deep, probing, proprietary corporate intelligence questions and legal commitments until the relationship is deep enough to warrant such things. To one of the questions the rep asked, I responded, “Give me $100K and sign an NDA and we’ll consider providing data.”
  • If there are additional screenings, competitive corporate intel, and legal agreements are the goal, offer a LOT more and be up front.
  • Finally, ensure the relative value of any offers made is commensurate with the target audience’s time-value. In this particular case, the target clearly was execs at agencies who charge hundreds of dollars per hour for their time. So an offer of a $150 “credit” has about a 10-15 minute threshold for the effort required for redemption.

We’re grateful to have made friends with the rep, who handled us well while I popped off.  Good news is that there are lessons to learn and opportunities to share what we learn every day through the absurd actions of other companies undertaking marketing efforts.

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