When Good Sales Promotions Go Bad Murphy's Law offers the insight, but only the best managers act in anticipation to mitigate its effects. Here's how.

By Phil La Duke

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


A time-tested method of attracting new customers is a sales promotion. Typically a company runs a sale or an incentive to attract new buyers into its stable of customers. Promotions are a terrific way to introduce your company and offerings to people who will ideally become loyal customers. The danger of a sales promotion is that if it goes sideways -- and the road to success is littered with the smoking ruins of companies whose promotions failed -- you not only have wasted time and money, but you may have permanently tarnished your brand and reputation.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

The primary, if not sole, purpose of a promotion is to garner a good reputation and a sense of value for your offerings. Nothing wins customers over quite like letting them "test drive" what you sell, ideally for free or with some incentive to opt in. Unfortunately if the tryout creates anything less than a stellar impression you risk forever alienating customers.

Related: To Grow Your Customer Base Focus on EOA: Early, Often and Always

People usually don't judge companies by whether or not something goes wrong; something always goes wrong. Instead, people tend to judge companies by what they do to fix things if they do go wrong. And while we may not be able to control all the things that could ever possibly go wrong we can do our best to make things right.

The time to fix problems is before the promotional campaign launches; the key is proper planning. Start by working out a simple failure-effects analysis. While failure-effects analysis sounds complicated it need not be. Conducting a failure-effects analysis is as simple as asking yourself several simple questions:

What could go wrong?

Brainstorm with your team all the things that could possibly go wrong from production delays, to computer meltdowns, to…whatever. This should provide you a good list from which to work.

Related: A Strong Balance of Confidence and Paranoia is the Best Offense

Are we making sure things don't go wrong?

Knowing that something could go wrong and doing nothing to stop it is irresponsible and soft-headed. For everything that could go wrong you should think of a way to prevent that from happening (it doesn't mean you will do all these things, but at least you will have options.)

What are we going to do if it happens anyway?

Sometimes even the best efforts at prevention fail and here is where you ask yourself what you're going to do to make things right by the customer if you do screw up.

How likely is it that a given failure will happen?

Remember all those things that could go wrong that you came up with in your brainstorming session? Well now ask yourself, realistically how probable is it that each one will happen? (It probably will happen, it might happen, or it probably won't happen). If it will probably happen then implement your preventive measures.

How bad will the failure hurt us?

If something that can go wrong is likely to ruin you promotion and forever tarnish your brand, you had better implement your contingency that you identified in your plan, but if the failure is something that will cause a minor irritation to a particular demographic then don't worry about it. But if something is probably going to go wrong and the result will be catastrophic implement both the prevention and the contingency.

Related: It Takes Leadership

Phil La Duke


Phil La Duke is a speaker and writer. Find his books at amazon.com/author/philladuke. Twitter @philladuke

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