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$7 Burritos, $4.87 Sodas, $1.29 Candy Bars… And 2-for-1 Car Washes

Half A Dozen Quick Hits To Spark Your Brain And Keep You Ahead Of The Game

Okay, I admit it right up front. There’s no unifying theme to this week’s article. Instead, I’ve taken a different road and cobbled together six different tidbits of marketing goodness into a big, fat marketing pie. So grab a spoon and break out the whipped cream. This is going to be fun!
 
Keep It Simple, Stupid: File this one under the header of “It is impossible to overstate the importance of good design.” A study done by University of Michigan researchers Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwarz showed definitively something that I’ve been preaching for years: If something is hard to read, then people also assume that the content itself is more complex/difficult/complicated than it actually is.
 
They asked college students to estimate how long it would take to prepare a recipe for a Japanese roll; part of the students recipes were printed using Arial 12 point type font, like this and the others were written with Mistal 12 point type font, like this. The results? Clearly in favor of the simple font: an estimated 23 minutes for the easy font vs. an estimated 36 minutes for the ticket one. Think about that for a minute, they estimated the recipe to be HARDER to prepare simply because of a cock-eyed font!

Startling? Not really. Until you look at a lot of the marketing out there with design complexities that unnecessarily gum up the brain’s ability to process information. Take a look at YOUR marketing; carefully consider the type fonts, font sizes, font colors, graphs, pictures, word density, paragraph lengths & justifications, white space (or lack thereof), emphasis tools (bold, underline, ALL CAPS, italics), word choices, and so forth. I call these “mental road bumps” and would encourage you to eliminate them immediately. The implication is as simple as the old adage: Keep It Simple, Stupid!
  
I’ll Give You $7 If You…Never Mind. Just Keep The $7: A guy from a local Chipotle knock-off called “Planet Burrito” recently dumped a stack of coupons off at my office. Each paper in the stack actually included 3 separate coupons… two of them were for “Buy One Get One Free” and the other for “Free Entree With Drink Purchase.” Since their burritos cost about $7 each, the coupons were actually worth quite a bit. In fact, the bearer of the “Free Entree With Drink” coupon could actually walk in there and eat a full meal (with a drink, of course!) for a paltry $1.66 including tax.
 
So what did we do? Naturally, we ate at Planet Burrito for free or half-price for most of the next month. It wasn’t our fault the guy gave us practically infinity coupons. We actually started to feel a little bit guilty. Especially when we looked around and saw that most of the other customers were getting out of there for less than two bucks.
 
So…did Planet Burrito ever once ask me for my name, address, or email? Of course not! They did have an offer on the back of the coupons for a free cruise drawing. Unfortunately, the part where you fill in your name was opposite of the coupons that the cashier would tear off (leaving nowhere to write your name if you did want to enter the drawing), and the cashier never did ask us to fill anything out.
 
Essentially, they gave us $7 every time we came in there and didn’t bother to add us to their database. That’s pure stupidity.
 
How easy would it have been for the cashier to say, “Hey guys, thanks for coming in and trying us out with these coupons. We really appreciate your business. Would you mind doing me a favor? If you’d just take a minute and fill out this card, two really cool things are going to happen. Number one, we’ll automatically put you in a drawing for a free cruise that we’re holding next month (points to poster of cruise giveaway). Second, we’ll send you additional coupons in the future via email and/or text message. There are pens on every table; if it’s okay, Jill (pointing at Jill) will come by in a minute and get those from you.”
 
What percentage of customers would take the time to actually fill the dumb thing out? My best guess is about 70% to 80%. Look at the dynamics: We just gave them a lot of free stuff ($7 worth), I’ve promised to give them more valuable stuff, I’ve said it in a friendly, non-threatening way at the POINT OF SALE, and I’ve made it easy to comply with (with the cards, the pens, and the fictitious Jill).
 
Assume for a minute that over the course of a month, they could get 1,000 people to fill in the card. Then the next month, instead of scratching their head and trying to figure out how to get more new people into the restaurant, they could leverage their database and email and/or text offers to the people who already know them, ostensibly like them, and probably would come back again, if prodded. It’s too easy.
 
As it is, they still have no idea who I am even though they gave me $49 worth of free food last month. So sad.
  
No, Really. I Wanted 44 Cases Of Soda Anyway: My local grocery store, Safeway, is a master of using sinister pricing strategies against me. And even though I HATE IT, I have to admit, from a marketing perspective, it’s brilliant.

It has to do with how they price their sodas; even though the details change, it always goes something like this: The list price for a 12 pack of Sprite (or any other variety) is a usurious $4.87, but if I buy 2, they give one free.  So essentially, they extort me into giving them $10 for soda , when they know darn well that without their onerous pricing scheme, I’d walk out of there with one 12 pack for three bucks. That’s a $7 increase—enough for Planet Burrito to treat me to lunch!
 
Obviously this kind of strategy is nothing new…but I wonder how many smart marketers out there (like, ahem, you) never really thought to apply similar pricing models to their products or services. It’s not just a grocery store thing, you know.
 
What if a dentist priced whitening, cleaning, and sealing at exorbitant prices individually, but made them collectively affordable when buying all three? How about a car wash upping their price per wash by a few bucks, but then actively selling a 3-pack, 5-pack, or 10-pack at a discount? One wash, $12; Three washes, $24. That’s buy 2 get one free—same as Safeway. 10 washes could be even a better deal at just $69… almost HALF PRICE. This is all assuming the target price was $8 in the first place. Especially given the fact that statistically speaking, some of those pre-sold washes would never be redeemed anyway.
 
A professional (Attorney, CPA, consultant) could do the same thing with their hourly rate. Carpet cleaning companies can and do do this with the number of rooms purchased. Same thing for window washers, babysitters, florists, office equipment dealers, and plumbers. Or in other words, pretty much anybody that sells their products or services in any kind of definable units. How about YOU?!?
 
The Psychology Of The “Wink, Wink” Deal: Don’t be freaked out by the terms, but something called “Endowed Progress” and “Artificial Enhancement” could mean improved marketing results and customer loyalty.
 
Researchers from the Wharton School of Business discovered that they could increase a customers’ participation in frequency programs by simply giving them a head start. Case in point: A car wash required 8 purchases and punches on a card to earn a free car wash. They discovered that when they gave a customer a card with 2 out of 10 required punches already “pre-punched,” that 34 percent would persist with the program and complete the additional required 8 punches. Contrast that to those who were given a card that only required 8 punches in the first place—the same number as required on the other card—but with ZERO freebies. The final redemption rate plummeted to a mere 19 percent. Holy mackerel!
 
There are several reasons why this head start story works. One is that “endowed progress” (their term, really) makes people think “hey, I’m already 20% of the way done, I might as well keep going.” The other has to do with the psychology of the “wink, wink” deal, which simply states that people act differently when they think they’re getting a special, personalized favor. 
 
My friend David used to exploit this in his business when he’d tell his favorite prospects that the contest on his website had a programming error, and that if they’d hit their back button on their browser, they could enter the contest as many times as they wanted without having to re-enter their information. “You can enter that contest 2, 3 hundred times in a minute if you can click fast enough… and you’re almost for sure going to win something in our weekly drawing.” Sure enough, he’d track the prospect entering the contest 2 or 3 hundred times, and surprise! They’d win a $100 Outback Steakhouse gift card. Wink, wink.
 
Bottom line is this: Everybody wants a win. Everybody wants a head start. Everybody wants an inside deal. So give your prospects a win, a head start, and an inside deal.
 
I Swear, Office Depot Wants To Rip You Off: While standing in line at Office Depot recently, their cash register display of various kinds of candy bars got my stomach growling a bit. Then I noticed the price: each of my three favorites—Snickers, Kit Kat, and Twix—were $1.29 each. Sheesh. A buck twenty-nine? For a lousy candy bar?
 
Put off, I turned my attention to several magazines lined up near the register. I picked up a copy of Fast Company with the enticing headline “Ashton Says Follow Me,” which I assumed was focused on Twitter and Tweeting. Intrigued, I searched the fine print of the cover for a page number. Nothing. So I flipped through the magazine to try to find the article. Too many pages. Then I resorted to looking on the table of contents—except all I found was LITERALLY 10 to 12 pages of advertising at the front of the magazine. I finally found a page that had some table of content- looking stuff on it, but only part of it, and nothing about Ashton. I flipped around a few pages before and after that half-TOC page, and found nothing. Finally I muttered “screw it” and put the rag back down. I guess they just don’t want me to find it or read it.
 
All of which got me to thinking this: How many stupid little things do we do that turn our customers off, put up barriers to purchasing, or just irritate the living daylights out of them?

Take the high-priced candy bar. Everyone knows a candy bar should cost somewhere between 50 cents and a dollar. The sweet spot is probably 69 to 79 cents. Do you think it’s too far of a stretch to think that the Office Depot customer will look at the huge premium on the candy bar, then look down at his basket of #10 envelopes, Post-it notes, and Bic pens and wonder if he’s getting (sorry, twice in one article) screwed on those prices, too? I don’t.
 
How much candy do you think they sell over at Office Depot? Do you think it’s an integral part of their profitability equation? Unlikely. Best case scenario, somebody buys the candy and walks out feeling full but plundered. But more likely, they don’t even sell that much candy because nobody wants to pay the price, and they sabotage the good feelings people (might) have about their store…and for what? A lousy 40 extra cents. THAT’S too high of a price. By the way, Best Buy commits the exact same sin.
 
Think about all the little things that go into executing YOUR business. The way the phone is answered. The color, size, and quality of envelopes you mail out. The attitude of the person who takes customer calls. The speed with which you accomplish stuff. How clean your bathrooms are (or aren’t). All of these things—and a hundred others—are all communicating something to your customers. Fast Company is communicating “we’re a heck of a lot more worried about the advertising in this magazine then we are about the editorial content.” What about you?
                              
We’re Awesome, And By Golly, You’re Going To Know About It: Imagine my surprise last week when I was paying for my haircut and saw a clipboard next to the normal sign-in clipboard that said “neck trim only.” I was surprised because I’m the same guy who’s been saying for years—when talking about innovation—that hair cutters should offer free neck trimming between cuts as a gesture of goodwill toward their customers…and as a way to invoke reciprocity and repeat business. But somehow, no barber or stylist that I know of has actually implemented this simple little strategy.
 
Until now, apparently.
 
I was even more surprised to find out that they’ve always offered this service—and that they don’t just trim the neck, they also clean up the sideburns and over the ears. Wow. They’ve always done it, and even though I’ve had my hair cut there religiously for over 5 years now, nobody ever bothered to mention it to me. Can you say, “Communication gap?”
 
Think about how easy that would be to fix: a little sign at each hair cutting station. A little sign at the sign-in desk. A little reminder card that they give out when you pay for your cut. A little tag line at the end of their radio and TV commercials.
 
This probably feels like a repeat of the Office Depot & Fast Company exercise above…but seriously—think about your business. Are there things you do well that you take for granted and never bother to tell your customers about? Did you know that you can rotate your tires for free at Big O Tires? Or that they’ll fix your flats for free? There’s a good chance you don’t, because they never talk about it. Did you know that McDonalds has specialty service from Coca Cola that no other restaurant chains have—that ensures that the syrup/water ratio never gets out of whack? It’s true, but you’d never know it. Or appreciate it. Since they never mention it.
 
We evaluated our company on this criteria and found several areas for improvement.  
 
Take a few minutes and inspect your business—for the things you DO WELL this time. Then simply make sure your customers are fully aware of your awesomeness.

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