What to do when a promotion is too successful

March 29, 2017

This post is part of our Marketing & Promotions for small business series. Explore more better business tips and tactics here on the Clover blog.

Promotions can help your business grow, but only if they are fully thought-through. Runaway promotions can cut into your profit margins or test your ability to keep up with demand. Knowing when to end a promotion (and how to do it gracefully) is just as important as knowing when to run one. Here are some tips to winding down promotions successfully.

Know when to stop a promotion

Promotions are exciting when they work, but keep an eye on results to determine when to pull the plug. Here are a few questions to help determine whether a promotion should be retired:

Did the promotion achieve its goals? If it isn’t achieving the results you were looking for, don’t be afraid to kill the promotion. If it’s working, but slowly petering out, it might be time to retire it and try the promotion again in a few months. (See our series on setting goals to plan out your next promotion.)

Are the results worth the efforts? If you’re selling widgets like hotcakes, but you’re not able to keep up, consider stopping the program until you figure out a better way to support it.

Are you making money or losing money? Not all promotions are designed to make money. Sometimes your goal is to increase leads in your email database or try out a new product. But all promotions take time and effort to run, so you need to determine a break-even point for every promotion. Marketers do this by estimating how much each lead is worth to them and weighing that against the time and costs of running a campaign. Take a look at average ticket prices and the likelihood of customers returning, and that will give you a good idea of how much a new customer is worth to you.

If you’ve decided a promotion is no longer working for you, it’s time to break the news to customers.

Quick recovery responses to disappointed customers

As soon as you decide to end a promotion, advertise that via social media, your website, and within your storefront using signs. Use upbeat language that focuses on how they can take advantage of future promotions. Here are some ways to break the news online:

  • “Whoa! Our buy-one-get-one promotion has already sold out! If you missed out, don’t worry, we’ll put you on the preview list for our next promotion. Sign up here.”
  • “Oh no! We’re out of stock on the items you ordered. We’ve ordered more and expect delivery on the 5th. Click here to confirm you’d like to receive it when it comes in.”
  • “Unfortunately the XYZ promotion has ended, but we’re planning more. Follow us on facebook to be notified when we’re running our next sale.”
  • “Thank you for shopping at Claire’s. This promotion has ended, but check out our current promotions here.”

If a customer is in the store and unhappy, apologize and offer a different promotion.

  • “I’m sorry, that promotion has ended. I can offer you 5% off our regularly priced items today since you’re a loyal customer.”
  • Or consider offering a freebie: “I’m sorry, we no longer have that in stock. How about a coffee on the house instead?”

If the promotion has generated a significant number of unhappy customers, consider recovering goodwill with a targeted promotion. Clover’s Promo app, for example can help you win back customers who were unhappy with an automated win-back campaign.

Tips to prevent future promotion problems

As soon as you wrap up a promotion and finish fulfilling orders, conduct a post mortem. Determine whether it was successful and worth running again, as well as whether there are things you should never do again. (Check out this post on how to learn from previous promotions.) When thinking through your promotional strategy, consider these tips to avoid being “too successful” again.

  • Limit the number of items a customer can buy through the promotion.
  • Give a specific end-date for the promotion.
  • Use language that gives you an out. “For a limited time only” or “While Supplies Last” aren’t just legalese—they help you gracefully back out of a promotion gone wild.
[image: Happy Hour à Paris by beyrouth on flickr]

To learn more about Clover, visit