Spontaneous Promotions


January, 2017—

Not all sales have to be drawn-out events.
Here’s a quick and easy alternative.

Here’s a fun in-store promotion that I think can attract a flood of people to your store; it’s called Free Frenzy.

A Free Frenzy promotion is, literally, when you give something away for free, and it causes a frenzy in your store. Here’s how it works:

Tie the Free Frenzy promotion to something already happening in your business like a holiday sale, vendor promotion, or anniversary event. It gives a nice lift to your advertising that’s already out there and differentiates yours from everyone else’s. We tied ours to the fact that we’d won our newspapers Reader’s Choice Award for the seventh year in a row; Free Frenzy was our way of thanking our customers for voting for us.

Promote Free Frenzy only on the day you’re going to run it—no more than 8-10 hours prior to your giveaway, otherwise prospects may wait to purchase to see if they’ve won. You’ll need to coordinate your advertising and your sales staff. It’s also helpful to maintain a good email list that you use regularly as well as a responsive social media presence so you have a bigger captive audience to announce your contest to.

Conduct business as normal until the contest is announced. Let everyone know on that day at a specific time you’ll be drawing names to see who wins what. Maybe you’re giving away a $2,000 gift certificate. Maybe it’s a series of winners getting free pillows. You determine the number of prizes and what those prizes are. Should anyone who just bought win, you should credit their purchase accordingly. Our policy is if the order is open, even if paid in full, but not yet delivered we credit any prize amount won.

The biggest mistake retailers make with fun contests like this is to ruin the goodwill created by adding a “weasel clause” (this isn’t to say you’re a weasel, but it’s what prospects and customers think) so only you benefit in all possible scenarios.

The Free Frenzy contest ends when all participants have a numbered contest ticket (the simple kind you would find at Staples will work just fine) and you draw the winning number(s). I’ll leave it up to you as to whether your shoppers must be present to win.

We wanted to attract a store full of people for photo opportunities and to create excitement so we stipulated that the winner must be present to win.
If you take photos and video in your store you should protect yourself by having everyone who participates sign a photo and video release. This is a simple one or two paragraph form your attorney or simple Google search can provide. Have each participant sign a copy to get their contest ticket. Keep these on file in the off chance someone takes exception to your posting their picture on your social media.

This contest is not just about giving away merchandise; it’s about holding an outrageous promotion that drives new traffic into your store. Take the time to gather as much prospect data as possible—names, emails, addresses. We opted to hold a “second chance” unannounced and unpublicized additional drawing for everyone who gave us this information; last minute we had several people sign up, imagine that! Now that we’ve captured their information we can market to them and get them back in the store when they’re ready to purchase.

For our Free Frenzy, we gave away prizes totaling $2,700 in retail value, because we were promoting seven drawings tying into our seven-time Reader’s Choice Award announcement.

Our grand prize winner had bought from us the day before, so on the surface it was disappointing to credit a sale already written by $1,000, but once we realized this person had brought three other couples into our store because of the Free Frenzy promotion we felt a lot better about the contest and its results. Two of these referrals from our contest winner bought and one is working with us on a larger $5,000+ sale. That credit against a written order went a long way for us immediately and will pay us dividends down the road.

I’d love to hear your feedback and how you plan to run your own Free Frenzy contest.

About the Author

Jeff Giagnocavo
Jeff Giagnocavo is owner of Gardner’s Mattress and More in Lancaster, Pa., a multi-unit destination boutique mattress store. He also co-wrote the book Mega Mattress Margins and Retail is Dead and created the industry’s only turn-key, done-for-you, sales-and-marketing machine called Automated Mattress Profits that creates, captures and converts prospects into paying customers.