Purchase incentives are an every-day occurrence. We see them everywhere, from simple coupons to instant rebates to frequent flier miles.

Does your business offer a purchase incentive as a marketing tactic? How much good does it do for your business… really? Does your fulfillment deliver the goods?

I’m a geezer who remembers mailing in breakfast cereal box tops for plastic Moon Rocket kits. These were great marketing tools in the Sputnik age. Howere, sometimes those Moon Rockets never arrived. And boy, was I one angry little kid! I quit eating that brand of cereal… that showed them!

Incentive fulfillment is now an industry in its own right, with good and bad offers and good and bad businesses. We all know the good examples, such as the rebate checks that arrive in three weeks instead of eight weeks. They leave us with a good impression of the offering company.

When fulfillment is slipshod, or poorly delivered, or misrepresented it is the offering company that loses its good reputation, not the fulfillment company. For example, my wife recently decided to try out a different brand of home product because it offered a $15 rebate. However, when the rebate arrived, it was not a check but a voucher for credits at a third party redeem-for-product website. What the….!?!? Grrrrrrrr!

None of the products offered were of any interest so she passed the credits along to her sister. Unfortunately, the third party website company deducted credits for transfer, and deducted credits for checking the credit balance, etc. until there were not enough credits left to redeem a pack of facial tissues (to say nothing of the shipping and handling).

And who is taking the heat for this scam? Not the fulfillment company, not the people who sold this system, and not the third party website that we would never have visited (and never will again). Nope. All the frustration and ill will that was generated by this thoroughly unsatisfactory purchase incentive falls squarely on the product company. The incentive may have gotten them one sale from us, but they’ll not get another.

So this marketing tactic backfired. And any good impressions chalked up by other marketing expenditures by the product company were wiped clean off the board. Money wasted.

If you are going to offer a purchase incentive, decide if you really want to offer something of value, and whether your goal is a bunch of one-time sales or if you want to attract repeat customers. Then, find a reputable fulfillment company with a good track record, and a commitment to serving you and your customers well.

Steve Lange
Senior Editor
Palo Alto Software