Promotions require planning sufficient supply

01/25/2013 09:36:00 AM
Denise Donohue

Denise Donohue, Donohue AssociatesDenise Donohue, Donohue AssociatesI popped into the fancy-schmancy bakery around Halloween to spruce up my dinner plans.

While I was picking up my dessert, I overheard the 20-year-old cashier sweetly answering the phone while leaning on the counter, revealing a dangerous amount of cleavage.

But the shocking part was what she said.

I quote: “Well, no, we don’t have any right now. You didn’t order ahead? (tut-tut sound) We are baking tomorrow morning, but we’re limiting what we’re making. I don’t know if you will be able to have one. Depends on when you get here.”

I was so shocked I almost corrected the cashier on the spot: “Tell her she’s the customer, we’ll fill her order somehow. Stay late if you have to — she wants to buy!”

But then I remembered: It weren’t my store.

Don’t sell them short

Raise your hand if you think there’s any valid reason to get customers jazzed up about your product, and then when they call with an order, you tell them supplies are limited and she will be lucky to get one.

Aha! I didn’t think I’d see any hands.

Several take-home points are relevant here. First, by not having the item the baker ...

1. Had epic failure — at least on this day — to take advantage of all the free publicity she’d earned.

2. Made the customer feel uncertain, and maybe even embarrassed she didn’t call, say, last year to place the order.

3. Encouraged the customer not to visit the bakery since the item’s availability was expressed as a crapshoot.

4. Possibly lost the phone customer for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays — the year’s most important sales window.

5. Possibly lost the customer for life.

Two other training points come to mind:

 

  • Are your phone people fully trained on what to say in a shortage? Will they suggest your order is a crapshoot?

  • Are your production people getting feedback from order takers? To make up an example, do production managers know that callers are asking for pre-cut veggies twice as often as the rubber-banded veggies?

 

By promoting to the hilt, our baker implied she was a top-drawer supplier who would have plenty of delicious product available. But she couldn’t deliver on that promise, damaging her reputation in the process.

Does this mean you shouldn’t promote?

Heavens no. But engage in market planning first. What if everything goes right in your promo? Will you have enough fruit/veggie/chopped salad to meet your projections? (Barring a natural disaster, of course.)


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