For One Month Only!: The Art of the Limited Time Offer


A year after Shobha Tummala opened her second New York City spa, the
entrepreneur issued a limited time offer – a special price for just one
month – on Brazilian bikini waxes. It was a way, Tummala says, to get
existing customers to try a new service.

“We had an
existing client base and we wanted to motivate them to switch to us for
this service,” says Tummala, whose salons specialize in a centuries-old
method of hair removal from India called threading. “They were already
going to be here for their other appointment. By deeply discounting
that service, we believed that if they tried it, they would switch to
us” for waxing, too.

Tummala limited the offer to only a
month because customers come back within that time, if not sooner, for
their next threading treatment. In one month, she’d hit every customer.

limited time offer is only as good as its limits. Businesses that are
always deeply cutting prices on services or products become known as
discount houses, but higher-end companies can judiciously use a limited
time offer as a tool to promote a launch, open a new location or keep
customers in the off-season.

This summer, Beverly Hills
Club, a full-service exercise facility in Beverly Hills, Mich., offered
a “join free” promotion to fill the seasonal gap when many existing
members put their memberships on hold to head outside for warm-weather
activities. This limited time offer – no initiation fee for two months
– is one way to pull in new members.

“New? We Want You!”

Tummala’s limited time offer was issued in 2004 through her spa, Shobha; New York Magazine
and Two years later, Shobha was cited for offering the
best Brazilian bikini wax in New York City. The promotion worked.

there have been times it hasn’t worked for Tummala. When she tried to
snatch business from other salons by charging less than the competition
for a limited time, Tummala saw a bevy of new customers – and then
never saw them again.

“It boosts your sales that one
time,” she says. “If you’re adding a service, if you’re adding a new
product, if you want customers to experience something new, it works
really well.” In its five years, the Shobha company has grown an
average of 70 percent every year, Tummala says.

reason to issue a limited time offer is when you launch your business,
especially if it’s an unfamiliar concept, says Sharon Gaffney,
co-founder of LetsMeetOut,
which launched in August. For the first couple of months, Gaffney is
offering free memberships to her site; she’ll end the offer once the
site has “a good community of people,” around 2,500 members.

a brand new concept, a site that bridges the gap between online dating
and social networking,” says Gaffney, who is based in New York. While
memberships will eventually reach $9.95 a month, people can join for
free for a limited time to get a sense of what it’s all about. “We
wanted to build a buzz and build membership. Sometimes people are not
ready to try a new thing and they may not pay for it. We thought it was
important to offer a free membership so people could understand it, get
to know it, join the site and tell their friends.”

Has it worked? Three weeks after a “soft launch,” the site claimed 300 members.

Don’t Miss Out!

time offers can also create a sense of urgency, says Eric Lituchy,
president and founder of, an e-comm store he
started in 1997 that specializes in gift baskets and gourmet presents.
And no one likes to miss out on a deal.

“Consumers tend
to procrastinate,” he says. “Limited time offers give them a reason to
respond” so they don’t feel like they’re missing an opportunity.

often uses the limited time offer in his Internet, catalog and print
marketing efforts. “They are highly effective,” says the entrepreneur,
who declined to release sales numbers. “Whenever we print a consumer
catalog, we offer a discount for orders placed by a specific date.
These offers are also beneficial in spreading out our call volume, so
the call center isn’t inundated with calls the week prior to a specific
event or holiday.

“Two weeks before Valentine’s Day, we
may offer 10 percent off any order placed before February 7,” he says.
Whenever you offer a special, keep it simple and focused. “Limited time
offers  aren’t appropriate for complex orders that require a lot of
lead time,” he adds.

But, if you act now , you can creatively and effectively use limited time offers  to boost your business in a big way, and not for a limited time only!

Lynne Meredith Schreiber is a freelance writer at StartupNation.

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