“Here you go – 20 percent off anything in the store,” the saleswoman said. She handed me a slip of paper with the discount printed on it.

Getting coupons is nothing new. Most of the retailers I patronize hand them out when you make a purchase. It’s a nice “reward” for being a good customer. What I’m not accustomed to is getting a coupon for being a bad customer – which is what had just happened.

You see, I hadn’t made a purchase. I had just returned a jacket for a full refund. That’s the opposite of what a retailer wants its customers to do!

To make things more interesting, the 20 percent off coupon came with a catch: It was only good for the next two hours.

This retailer was making the best of a bad situation. Here was a customer who had actually pulled the trigger and made a purchase. A customer who was willing to spend money… but, for whatever reason, was not satisfied with something she’d bought.

So instead of just handing over a refund, the store’s marketing team had come up with a way to recoup the loss: Give that customer an incentive to buy again. And put a time limit on the incentive, so she has to buy right away. (This deadline-driven approach is a powerful direct-response technique known as “scarcity” which creates a sense of urgency. This is also a form of a “fast-response bonus” that you often see in promotions which offer a special premium based on time limit.)

This idea is easy for an Internet marketer to emulate. Every time a customer returns a product, consider offering him a similar product – something he may like better. You don’t have to give a discount – although that would certainly sweeten the deal. But if you do, put a deadline on it so it encourages the customer to respond to your new offer quickly.

One caveat: You need to do this the right way, or not at all. I’ve written before about how frustrating it can be when a sales person is focused only on selling and not on your problem. What made this sales technique so pleasant was that the sales person waited until after she’d fully solved my “problem” – needing to return the jacket. If you try this tactic, make sure it’s only after you’ve fulfilled your customers’ needs.

[Ed. Note: The more opportunities you give your customers to buy, the more likely they are to spend money with you. Discover 12 profit-accelerating marketing strategies in Michael Masterson and MaryEllen Tribby’s Amazon.com best-seller, Changing the Channel: 12 Easy Ways to Make Millions for Your Business.]

 

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