If you think this picture looks strange, you're right, it does. It was 34 degrees yesterday in New Jersey, and there was a line outside of the local water ice place a mile long.
Water ices, or italian ices, as they were called where I grew up, are frozen fruit treats that are a great on a hot summer day. But it's FREEZING in NJ, why are these people standing in line?
As you might have guessed, Rita's is the name of a big chain of Water Ice stores that each year has a special promotion to kick of the season. Free Water Ice for Everybody!
It's really a pretty ingenius marketing strategy. I drove by the place and stopped with my son. I actually ran into my wife there who had the same idea. Clearly it's a big customer draw as you can see from the picture above. Not only does this build brand awareness but also a ton of customer goodwill. Who wouldn't want to return to the nice folks that gave them free treats?
At Billtrust, we've experimented with the "give it away" strategy with mixed results. In the early days we tried a "free for three months" strategy that didn't amount to much. When companies make big business decisions about something that is core, a few months free doesn't get people excited. However, our Earth Day promotion has worked very well. Each year on Earth Day we offer clients a free insert for their bills to promote the benefits of electronic billing. Two big differences in these promotions. The first promotion was an offer to prospects (companies we were not doing business with), the second was to customers. The second big difference is that when you give away something for free, you've got to make it easy for the recipient to say Yes.
We've all seen the infomercial gimmicks of try this product for free and we know there must be some catch. What's brilliant about Rita's promotion is that there are no strings attached, why wouldn't you want a free water ice?
So what's my new Spring resolution? Think about what else Billtrust can give away for free.