A little creativity and planning can quickly boost your revenue and audience engagement.

When you’ve been in this business a while, you’ve undoubtedly tried a lot of different promotions and special offers. But over time, it can be easy to get into a habit of doing things the same way.

Sometimes it makes sense to go “back to the drawing board” and reinvent new ways to sell and promote your business. To help you do that, we put together this list of five simple, low-cost promotion ideas that can help you boost your creativity and your bottom line. Try one, combine them, or use these as a starting point for your own creative magic, and go forth and conquer the world!

No. 1: Make up random holidays to celebrate.

You can get a lot of traction on social media if you play up random holidays and promote contests or special offers. You can find lists of obscure holidays online or use the ones in the Facebook Business Manager calendar. Or, just make up your own and promote it on social with some fun, witty posts to drive engagement. Here are a few to get the creativity flowing:

  • National Ice Cream Day – special offers on desserts, contests about best/worst ice cream flavor, Build your own Sundae competition, Name our New Sundae competition, “Caption This” posts, Tik Tok Videos of you trying to make the world’s tallest sundaes. There’s so much potential for engaging content.
  • National Kindness Day – I can’t take credit for this. Matt Strelo from Rockin’ Jump O’Fallon and Shrewsbury shared that they held a campaign for Kindness Day. They invited guests to jump for free if the guests would publicly “commit to being kind.” Local news outlets covered the event, and it garnered community goodwill and media attention, ancillary income, and gift card sales. Plus, it was just a nice thing to do.
  • Customer Appreciation Day (or week) – As a thank you to your guests, send email or text campaigns to your customers with the message that you’re celebrating them with special offers, giveaways, and other fun promotions.
  • National “Get Me Out of this House” Day – We’ve been snowed in TWICE in the last two weeks where I live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. We’re out of milk, out of patience, and ready to get out of the house. Watch the weather and take advantage of these kinds of opportunities to sell online gift cards for when the snow melts or exciting bundles to use while the rain is depressing us all.
  • National “Stop Working So Hard Day” – Do you see what I’m doing here? People love to celebrate, even for ridiculous reasons. Get a couple of your team members in a room and brainstorm quirky and fun days to celebrate, combine with an offer, and plan how you’ll get the word out.

No. 2: Rethink your gift card sales strategy.

Sure, you have a bank of gift cards stacked at the guest services counter, and your business likely saw a boost in sales of gift cards during the holiday season. It’s not just because the holidays were here. People always need gifts. But at the holidays, we tend to think more creatively about gifts and experiences.

How can you leverage that thinking at different times throughout the year and maximize your return on the marketing and promotion investment? Often, operators fall back on simple gift card sales strategies like $25 in play for just $20. Yes, it’s simple, but is it as effective as it could be?

I always go back to a few of my favorite Panera gift card promotions. The first is “buy a $50 gift card for 20% off.” Panera earns an immediate $40 in revenue, and the guest receives $50 in value. My average Panera lunch costs me about $13, which means I’ll visit four times and pay about $42 for those four visits.

But other times, Panera will offer the same $50 gift card but with a $10 Bonus Card. To a buyer, these are essentially the same offer. As a buyer, I see that I get $10 in value for free. Winning! For me, now I have $60 in value, which means I’m visiting at least five times, and Panera earns $55 for what amounts, to me, as the same offer. And they’ve got one more chance to offer me the $1 add-on pastry, the coffee subscription, or the new macaroni and cheese sandwich, and so on. And let’s not forget that I’ll invite others to join me at least half the time, thus making my customer relationship even better for the business.

Look at how you currently sell gift cards and develop a new approach to boost gift card sales and customer relationships.

No. 3: Incentivize segments of your community.

Think about groups within your community that you want to recognize, like healthcare professionals, local police, fire and rescue, or teachers, and show your appreciation in a unique way. For example, McAlister’s Deli gives local police personnel free soft drinks when they visit. While you might think they’re losing $2.99 each visit, remember that this offer helps keep McAlister’s top of mind for those groups, they’ll come with friends who pay for drinks, and McAlister’s is building community goodwill and brand recognition.

No. 4: Highlight a noteworthy menu item.

If you’re offering a new menu item, be sure to highlight it in your online and in-store marketing. Leverage social media, email and text marketing, digital and in-store signage, and receipt text to help get the word out. Don’t forget to prime team members to talk about the featured item with every guest in your cafe or at point of sale stations.

No. 5: Make your memberships and loyalty programs work harder for your business.

If you offer memberships or loyalty rewards programs, be sure that you’re continually thinking of ways to increase repeat business and perceived value for your audience. Send targeted marketing campaigns inviting members to attend a special event or take advantage of exclusive offers. Every message should contain a clear call to action and allow buyers to purchase items in-store and online. If you’re not already marketing to these audiences, consider creating a plan to engage with them on a basis you feel like you can do consistently, even if it’s only monthly to start.

Hopefully, this quick list has inspired you to dream up new ways to wow your audience! Use them alone, combine them, or scrap them all and start fresh. Happy marketing!

Do you have a creative idea to share? If so, we’d LOVE to celebrate you! Send us your unique ideas for the possibilities of praise, shoutouts, and maybe even gifts! Share them in the comments, on social, or by email to Sherry Howell at showell@centeredgesoftware.com. 

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