A few weeks ago, we sent an email coupon for bring your friend and “buy one, get one free” bagel with cream cheese, and I’m having mixed feelings about this promo to be super real. And in the spirit of celebrating and learning from failures, I am sharing this with you and opening myself up to getting roasted on the Internet! (I must be a masochist.) 

If you’re on our email list or have bought something at our shop, you probably have received some of our email coupons. Email coupons generally do really, really well for us – you get to try something new or the surprise of a free treat you love, and I get to see your lovely faces. From a marketing perspective, we get above-average open rates and respectable conversions on our email coupons, and anecdotally we know that coupons generate excitement among customers. I could wax poetic for hours about email coupons!

The fun part about DIY Marketing comes when you learn that a marketing opportunity that you thought would be fun and engaging doesn’t perform to expectations.

With the Spring menu change, we sent a coupon for a free bagel with cream cheese for a friend if you bought one for yourself. The motivation for this promotion is that you Rebelle fans get to share something you love with someone you like! So, in the spirit of sharing, we asked that you bring a friend into the store to redeem the offer for the free bagel. Experiencing Rebelle isn’t about being brought a foil-wrapped bagel in a bag by someone – really, what I am asking here is that you bring a friend to experience the whole shebang. See our shop, interact with our team, listen to our music, salivate over the pastries, hang out with a friend. All of this adds up to the Rebelle experience.

 Looking at how this promo went, I can see my promotion did not have the desired effect. You live, you learn, you do it differently. I think I either confused customers with this promotion, or a few people tried to game the promo and I noticed.

 I did a post-mortem on my promotion:

 What are some of the issues we saw?

Someone tried to redeem the same unique coupon several times during the same week. Some people said they had their friends in the car outside, or that they’re bringing it to a friend at work, or something else. I’m sure the truth is somewhere in the middle, but it was hard to parse out if this stemmed from genuine confusion about our coupons or just people trying to get smart with the freebie. I received a handful of unfriendly emails too.

How did it impact us?

Turns out this interaction really just puts my staff in an uncomfortable jam. I’ve seen my team members politely show a customer where on the coupon it asks to bring a friend to redeem the offer, and the responses range from “Oh, I hadn’t noticed that!” to customers angrily demanding their free bagel. But what if I hear about the incident and disagree with how they handled it? So now having two people to please, the customer and me, and ambiguity about how to please both (or who takes priority!) is just too heavy to deal with in the moment.

But outside of that, how did it perform?

The rub here is that this promo was really, really good. We got an above average open rate and the email brought in twice as many people as we had expected. Financially, I have every incentive to do this again.

What are we doing differently?

I’m going to brainstorm new promotions to help launch our new menu. This one just isn’t doing it. It’s complicated for the staff and the intent behind it is getting lost. There’s a “there” there, though, and I want to figure out how to execute the spirit of this idea better.

Tell me: Do you have any fun ideas for promoting our new seasonal menu?