How do you attract new customers, and keep existing ones coming back?
One approach is to offer customer incentives.
What is a customer incentive?
Everyone likes to have an incentive dangled in front of them, but you can’t just use any old “ethical bribe” — it needs to be appropriate.
I was once offered discounts on buying a suite of computers for my school if I persuaded my colleagues to take out an insurance policy!
This was both inappropriate and, let’s be honest, sleazy.
Apart from anything else, what would trying to persuade my colleagues to take out a new insurance policy have done for my reputation?
And where would it put me if they lost money as a result?
But even if the insurance policy was so good it would have sold itself, that incentive was inappropriate for one very simple reason.
The school was buying the computers, and therefore it should have been the school (or an organisation it sponsored) that benefitted from any incentives rather than individual members of staff.
What kind of “ethical bribes” might you offer potential customers?
Some companies have a system whereby when someone buys something, they are provided with a discount code to pass on to a friend.
In the context of ed-tech this idea could be adapted in several ways.
For example, a school could pass the code on to another school with which they have a relationship.
Or, in a secondary school, a department making a purchase could pass the discount code to another head of department.
Another idea, especially for companies who produce content like textbooks, manuals, or software is to have a subscription scheme.
If a school customer pays, say, £100 per year, every new item or upgrade is provided free of charge.
If each item costs, for instance, £20, it doesn’t take long for the subscription to pay for itself.
That’s the advantage from the school’s point of view. The advantage for the company is that it has a guaranteed income.
If the product is complex or is upgraded, providing free training once a year to the whole staff can be a powerful incentive for some schools.
As we know, companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft run certified teacher training programmes.
The great thing about them is that the credentials achieved have currency. That is to say, their “graduates” can use them to make themselves more attractive in the jobs market.
You may not be aware that some smaller companies run similar programmes, whereby some trainees achieve a basic skills level, and some go on to achieve a “master” level.
It can be very reassuring for a school to know that one of its teachers is able to train others in the intricacies of a product.
Is that an incentive your company might offer?
Before the pandemic, wireless network companies tended to carry out free surveys of a school’s set-up, followed by a report on what they needed.
An alternative version of this idea took the form of free audit software by which a school could find out, for example, what software was installed on its stand-alone computers.
We’re all familiar with this concept: spend a certain amount of money and receive coupons giving you discounts on particular products.
Another kind of incentive is access to closed user forums or private Facebook groups, in which users can share ideas and resources, and find out how other users have solved some problems.
Faster support response times
Mailerlite, the mailing list service provider, operates a system whereby free users can obtain support by email, but paying users can get help immediately via live chat.
Access to beta programme
Access to beta versions of products, and the opportunity to test new ones or upgrades, can be an attractive proposition to some potential buyers.
Early access to new releases/upgrades
An extension of the preceding suggestion is being given the opportunity to buy new products and upgrades before they are on sale to the general public.
Amazon has a scheme for Prime customers whereby subscribers can “buy” some ebooks for free a month before they are officially published.
This is a variation on other suggestions here: existing customers are offered discounts on future purchases.
Rather than offer a discount, consider offering a bonus.
Some sellers prefer this because offering a discount could be seen as lowering the perceived value of a product, whereas the term “bonus” tends not to have that sort of negative connotation.
For example, some sellers on the internet will advertise that if you buy this product within the next 3 days, you will also receive one or more free reports as a bonus.
This is a way of encouraging your customers to do some of your marketing for you.
It may be, for example, that you pay them 20% of the value of a purchase by a referred customer.
This sounds like a lot, but the idea is that you will still retain 80% of the value of a sale you might not otherwise have made.
Finally, another incentive might be to offer a free maintenance visit or service visit once a year.
Perhaps this could be one of the benefits of being a subscriber if you decide to offer such a scheme.
Mix and match your incentives
As we have seen, some of these ideas overlap and can be mixed and matched. Perhaps none of them in themselves would be enough to convince a person or school to buy your product.
However, if two companies are offering similar products, it could well be an incentive scheme that tips the balance in favour of one of them.