July 24, 2019

Free Refill Marketing

I’m sitting at the food court in the mall eating lunch, and I just had a very interesting conversation with the manager of Sbarro Pizza. It seems that while most food court eateries don’t offer drink refills, Sbarro does. In fact, they even went so far as to remind me that I can get a refill when I paid for my food.

Anybody who’s ever worked in fast food knows that you’re not supposed to advertise the refill. It’s all about maximizing profits. So why did this manager go out of the way to remind me? Simple: brand marketing.

What better way is there to market your brand than to have your customers carry around a giant cup with your logo on it while they’re shopping? You’d be surprised how much that free marketing can influence a customer.

After thinking about it for a second, I couldn’t help thinking about Google Adwords. I know what you’re thinking – that some of the connections in my brain have gone haywire – but hear me out.

When most small businesses think of Google Adwords they seem to focus on one metric: Cost per click. If you’ve ever done SEM for clients you’ll know what I’m talking about. Even if they’re getting 150% ROI out of it, they still cringe when they hear something like $3 per click. I suspect that the cost per click focused mentality also has a lot to do with why many small businesses aren’t advertising on Google. It’s a shame.

What the Sbarro cup reminded me of was the branding potential of Google Adwords. The best part of using Adwords for branding is that it doesn’t even require people to click.

Let’s look at an example. Suppose I type in “hair style.” I’m going to get results for various hair styles, but I’m also going to get ads for hair salons. I’ll most likely see “Jeff’s hair salon – first haircut free” in the ads, and skip it over while I look at examples of hair styles. I’m not yet in the “looking for a hair salon” part of my buying cycle so I’ll click the result about different styles.

Fast forward a few days. I’ve already figured out how I want my hair cut, and on the ride home from work I drive past Jeff’s hair salon. I think to myself: “hey, I’ve heard of them” and stop in for my free hair cut. Jeff didn’t pay me anything, but the mere fact that his company name was showing up resulted in me coming in for a haircut – even if I didn’t really remember how I’ve heard of him.

This type of stuff happens all the time – and larger brands excel at it. Think about a Nike or Pepsi commercial. Think about the crazy commercials you’ve seen during the Super Bowl. They’re not selling you something, they’re simply putting their brand’s name out there to get you thinking about it. There’s a reason for that – it works!

Your small business might not have the marketing budget of national brands, but you don’t need it. Thanks to Google’s ability to only show your ad to local customers you can achieve the same result – for less cost than giving out free refills!

About Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones is an SEO from Detroit. By day he works as a manager of SEO & Analytics at SapientNitro where his team performs SEO for Fortune500 clients. By night he's either playing hockey or attempting to take over the world with his own websites - which he would have already succeeded in doing had it not been for those meddling kids and their dog. The views expressed here have not been paid for and belong only to Ryan, not any of his employers or clients. Follow Ryan on Twitter at: @RyanJones, add him on Google+ or visit his personal website: www.RyanMJones.com