The 5-Step Formula to Running a Successful Promotion More Than Once

You know how every year, it seems like more and more of the movies coming out are sequels? Time after time, it’s the same characters going on a wild adventure again, and saving the world again, and making a bajillion dollars AGAIN.

Snarky drive-in movie sign

The thing is, though, it’s good business! I mean, Hollywood just does the same thing that pretty much everyone else does: they’re repeating a formula that works.

Every few months, Victoria’s Secret does the semi-annual sale. Every March, H&R Block starts showing way more commercials. And every Black Friday, stores all over the U.S. offer bargains so ridiculous that people are willing to eat Thanksgiving dinner in a tent on the sidewalk outside.

These businesses are just repeating what works! They’ve got a system for taking a promotion that helps them score big and doing it again and again.

And when you’re done reading this, that’s what you’re going to do, too.

Isn’t repeating a promotion kind of like cheating?

I know, I know – you want to be totally original, all of the time. (I mean, being original is part of the fun of being an entrepreneur in the first place!) But good business sense isn’t just about trying something new every single time and hoping for the best – it’s about making progress, and learning from what you’ve done in the past.

A successful business promotion isn’t like an amazing meal that you get to enjoy once and then never again – it’s a recipe that you can make over and over again! Just like those movie studios do every time they put out another sequel, you can repeat a promotion later on, and you can usually expect to do just as well as you did the first time – if not even better!

Think of your promotion like an ice cream truck.

Back when I was mini-Laura, my neighborhood had this ice cream truck – and being a kid growing up in the heat of Austin, Texas, this was a BIG DEAL. There was pretty much nothing better than scurrying after that thing as it rolled through, a dollar clutched in my teeny-tiny fist, so that I could get one of those orange Flintstones push-ups. (Don’t even act like you don’t know what I’m talkin’ about.)

Now, I didn’t get to hit up the ice cream truck every day, but I could always count on it coming. The driver had a route that worked for his business, and he stuck to it. He wasn’t thinking, “I should never take the same route twice, because that’s too predictable!” He knew where his customers were, he knew what they wanted, and he made sure they knew what they could expect from him. More happy customers, more profits for the ice cream man, more brain freeze headaches for mini-Laura.

That’s why you should think of your promotion like an ice cream truck – even if you’re offering the sort of thing that a person only buys once, like a book or a course. Because even if your core audience stays mostly the same over time, the same people aren’t always ready to buy! It’s just like an ice cream truck that always goes through the same neighborhood – some people buy the first time around, some people buy the second time around, and depending on what you’re selling, some people buy EVERY time around!

Treat your promotion like an ice cream truck

At some time or another, everybody has seen a sale going on and wished they had the money to take advantage of it. Everybody has seen a product become available for a limited time, only to be disappointed when it ran out of stock before they could buy.

Whether the thing you’re offering is the sort you only buy once or something people can buy over and over, giving everyone another chance at scoring a deal is a rock solid strategy.

So, how do you approach repeating something that worked for you in the past?

1. Wait before you repeat

There’s no universal rule to how often you can offer a promotion, but you should be as patient as you can – start out by looking at something that worked for you sometime last year.

If you offer the same promo on a super regular basis, it makes it less special – and it gives you virtually no time to find a new audience. Part of why repeating promotions works is because over time, your audience changes.

Don’t believe me? Go check your Twitter analytics – for example, I know that for every follower I lose, I gain two, three, or even four new ones. This means that over the course of a year, the makeup of my audience changes dramatically – some of the people who were around the last time I ran a certain promotion are long gone, and a lot of people who weren’t around back then have taken their place!

If I ran the same promotion once every month, people would get reeeaaaallly sick of it – and there wouldn’t be enough new people in my audience to really justify doing it. But if something worked a year ago or so, odds are, it’s worth offering again.

2. Remember – it’s all in the timing

When timing a new iteration of an old promotion, frequency isn’t the only factor – time of year comes into play, too.

A lot of businesses find one thing that works and they stick with it – like offering the same sale every spring, or releasing a sequel in the same horror movie franchise every October.

Promo calendar

If you’ve never repeated an old promotion before, make sure that you consider not just WHAT a successful promo was, but WHEN it was. Could the timing have been a big influence in why your promo was a success in the first place? Or do you think that it could go even better if you moved it? Changing as big a factor like this could really drain the mojo out of a once-successful promotion – or it could make it even more popular than before.

3. Ask who you’re marketing to

I already mentioned that the makeup of your audience can change a lot over time, but when I asked who you’re marketing to, I’m talking about who you are actively pursuing. If you’ve ever created Facebook ads, you know what I mean:

Setting up Facebook ads

Simply put, you have a lot of options for who you’re marketing to. If the audience you marketed to last time paid off, then great – but could it be bigger? Could including or excluding certain demographics make your promo more profitable? Or did you already find the sweet spot?

You’ve probably noticed that some commercials play a lot more on certain TV networks than on others. There’s a reason that Proactiv advertises so much on MTV, and why you don’t see many ads for Barbie dolls on Fox News! Once you figure out which segments of your audience are the most profitable to market to, stick with it. The hard part is actually figuring that out, which is why you absolutely need to do the next thing on this list:

4. Crunch the numbers BEFORE you start

I get it – crunching data is confusing and tedious if you don’t know how to do it. But it HAS to happen!

If you look at a promotion that was successful last year and say, “This promo brought in a lot of money, so I’m going to do the exact same thing again,” you’re oversimplifying it – and that could spell disaster.

Get your data first

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” – Sherlock Holmes

Every campaign or promotion has a million different moving parts, including parts that YOU didn’t set into motion. Maybe something you did was great for lead generation, but bad for immediate profits (or vice versa). Maybe an ad got tons and tons of clicks, but none of those visits led to conversions. Maybe all of the traffic you got wasn’t from the ads you placed, but from a totally random mention in someone else’s Twitter.

Unless you’re breaking down your data, you might never know why something you did was popular – or how you can repeat its success! At LKR, we perform a thorough post-mortem on every single promotion we run, breaking down every click, ad, traffic source, customer, and so on. I’m always telling you to do what works and ditch what doesn’t – and you can’t do that unless you KNOW what those things ARE!

This is why you need to start sifting through data from the last time you ran your promotion. This doesn’t have to be scary, either – if you can run a business, you can EASILY understand this sort of key data. Start with some digging in your Google analytics and your Facebook Insights, so you can see which of your strategies were the best sources of traffic and got you the most leverage on social media. What types of blog posts associated with your promo were the most successful? Which social media updates got shared the most, or drove the most traffic to your site? This info is readily available and easy to find – you can worry about the super-sophisticated type of analysis later on, once you’ve gotten the hang of the simple stuff.

(If you’d feel more comfortable leaving the numbers alone and hiring a data junkie, you can do that, instead – finding a freelancer is easier than you think.)

While things like data analysis require a relatively meticulous touch, there’s still a little bit of wiggle room you can take advantage of, so don’t forget this last-but-not-least step:

5. Simplify wherever you can

Part of the appeal of repeating a successful promotion is that you don’t have to start from scratch – so don’t!

Yes, you could get your design on and whip up some new Facebook ads. And write a million new promotional tweets. And draft a new promotional email sequence. And learn to speak Mandarin Chinese and fly halfway around the world and go around knocking on doors handing out brochures.

But why would you? You KNOW that you’re going to be addressing new people in your audience. You KNOW which aspects of your campaign worked last time around, and which didn’t. And you KNOW that airfare to Beijing is wicked expensive!

Work smarter, not harder

It all adds up to one thing: there are a lot of aspects to a successful promotion that you can and should repeat. It saves a ton of work, it minimizes the number of variables that could get in the way of your repeated success, and it just plain makes life easier – so you may as well go easy on yourself and simplify wherever you can. (This is one of those things people are talking about when they say, “Work smarter, not harder.”)

So, where do you start?

Think back – got a promotion or a campaign from your past that sticks out in your mind as a big victory? A short-term sale? A lead-gen campaign? A new-customer special? Take a look at your numbers from the past year or so and pick out a few notable successes – then start breaking down just what made them so successful.

When you can identify what made something successful before, you’re ready to start thinking about the five steps I listed above – and that means more big wins for you and your biz!

Got a promotion that your business runs on repeat? A little something that works year after year? Share your success story in the comments below!

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About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.