UMAI social circle cpg podcast

#45: How to decide on your promo offer (ft. Carley)

Hi there, CPG friends! Welcome to Episode 45, where we’re diving deeper into how to choose a successful promo offer for your brand. With Q4 just around the corner, it’s time to gear up and make some serious cash! And guess what? We’re here to equip you with the best tips and tricks to make this sales quarter your most successful one yet.

Today’s episode is extra special because we have our amazing team member Carley Jones joining us to share her promo expertise and insights. Together, we’re going to unleash six revenue-driving tips that will help you pick killer promo offers, and set the stage for a profitable Q4.

So buckle up; next stop: choosing your Q4 promo offer. 🎉


Let Us Break It Down For You…

[0:59 – 3:50] Introduction to Planning Your Q4 Promos
[3:56 – 5:55] Tip 1: Test Promo Offers First
[6:54 – 9:09] Tip 2: Determine Your Promo Profit Margin
[9:10 – 13:59] Tip 3: Determine Your Web Needs
[14:00 – 20:06] Tip 4: Keep it Simple
[20:07 – 22:42] Tip 5: Test Messaging
[22:43 – 28:34] Tip 6: Don’t Overdue Sales!
[28:35 – 30:03] Closing + How to Work with Us!

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Join UMAI’s Facebook Group: CORE 

#45: How to decide on your promo offer (ft. Carley)


Alison Smith: [0:17]
Howdy, listeners. We’re Alison.
Karin Samelson: [0:18]
And I’m Karin.
Alison Smith: [0:19]
And we love growing CPG brands.
Karin Samelson: [0:22]
We’re the founders of a digital and social media marketing agency, Umai Marketing, and creators of The Consumer Goods Growth Course, where we’ve helped grow dozens of brands to six and seven figures.
Alison Smith: [0:32]
We’re former in-house marketers turned consumer goods marketing educators, who’ve set off on a mission to provide CPG founders and marketers with actionable strategies that drive community and sales. We’re talking real results.
Karin Samelson: [0:46]
If you’re wanting to learn simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies needed to drive real brand growth, without breaking the bank or sacrificing your social life, then this is the podcast for you. Let’s get into today’s episode.
Alison Smith: [0:59]
Welcome to Episode 45, Six Tips for Picking a Killer Promo Offer. We’re going to be talking about our promotional offers to get you ready for the lovely Q4 season. Q4 is generally, the biggest sales quarter for brands like yourself to make a large chunk of change. So we are here to get you prepped and eager to put together the best sales quarter yet. Today is an extra special episode, as we have our team member, Carley, on with us today. Welcome, Carley.
Carley Jones: [1:41]
Thank you.
Karin Samelson: [1:43]
Yay, Carley. How are you doing today?
Carley Jones: [1:47]
I am good. I’m excited to be on my first podcast ever.
Karin Samelson: [1:53]
Ever, I know.
Carley Jones: [1:55]
Glad it’s with you guys.
Karin Samelson: [1:56]
How have we not had you on? I don’t know. But for anybody who’s listening, leave a extra special review saying Carley was your favorite guest ever, so it can live on. But Carley Jones has been with UMAI for a really long time. How long has it been now, Carley? Three years?
Carley Jones: [2:16]
Almost three years.
Alison Smith: [2:19]
Almost three years. I’ll file it.
Carley Jones: [2:20]
The end of this month.
Karin Samelson: [2:21]
Oh, it’s so crazy. We’ve only been around for five, so more than half of that time. And we’re so thankful for her. Carley started on as our marketing coordinator, creating a lot of content for us. She has a side hustle, she’s amazing at photography, and then she moved into account management. So, a lot of our old clients definitely know Carley, and current clients, really. Now, she is our project manager here at UMAI, and she helps us execute some amazing promos for our current clients.
Carley Jones: [2:53]
Yeah, it’s crazy. Time flies when you’re having fun. I can’t believe it’s almost three years. Thank you, guys.
Karin Samelson: [3:00]
Three years is a long time.
Carley Jones: [3:03]
A very long time. Very, very proud of that, and all of the growth and stuff that we’ve had. So yeah, thank you guys so much for having me. I know that it’s a super, super busy time. It’s Q3, so we’re all gearing up for our Black Friday, Cyber Monday campaigns, but just keep in mind that these tips can be applicable for any sort of promo, throughout any quarter. Keep that in mind as you’re listening to this or watching it.
Our recommendation is, typically, one major promo per quarter, with smaller segmented offers each month, and we’ll obviously get into this a little bit more, but Black Friday, Cyber Monday should be your biggest sale of the year, to really, really end that year strong. So, let’s get into our six tips for picking a killer promo offer.
Tip number one, this is, test promo offers ahead of time for big sales seasons. We typically don’t recommend testing new offers on Black Friday, Cyber Monday. You really want this sale to do well and testing offers can go really well or really bad. So, do it ahead of time, figure out what works for your audience, really.
So, let’s say that you want to run a tiered offer for Black Friday, Cyber Monday. We’d highly recommend testing a smaller threshold during a Memorial Day sale or a Labor Day sale, to determine which of those tiers would work best, and then replicate that offer later on with different pricing thresholds. This can really, really help you determine what your audience is going to respond best to.
Alison Smith: [4:49]
Yeah, I will say, not only what you just said, Carley, to help understand what customers will respond to, but also there’s so many different web apps and things that have to get integrated and it’s just almost like a trial run for you or your team too, to make sure this isn’t going to be an absolute shit show day.
Carley Jones: [5:12]
Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely a lot easier if you’ve tried something before and you know what apps work, and you know what customer service issues you could potentially have, and then rework from there. So, definitely important to think ahead and test ahead.
Karin Samelson: [5:28]
Yeah, and who wants to be stressed out during the holiday season? These are literally called Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday promos. No one wants to worry about this. We don’t want you to worry about it, so.
Carley Jones: [5:39]
Karin Samelson: [5:40]
We have a wide variety of folks who we chat with and learn alongside, and some brands are brand new. Brand, brand new. Either they haven’t even started their branding, they just have this concept, or they’ve just launched last month. So, what advice would we give to a new brand that just launched and doesn’t have very much sales data to work off of?
Carley Jones: [6:04]
And we’ve experienced this a few times as well, as an agency, and we definitely recommend starting with building email leads and test segmenting offers there. Your best bet to determine what’s going to work with your audience is to run some sort of email AB test, with a percent off offer versus a dollar off offer. And the winner of this test can really help determine which type of offer would be good to move forward with. Regardless of if your audience is a hundred people or 50 people, you can always see what the winner is and move forward from there. Like we said before, I mean, it really is all about testing, when it comes to that.
Karin Samelson: [6:43]
Now, we can go in-
Alison Smith: [6:45]
That’s our motto.
Carley Jones: [6:47]
Yeah, just keep testing. That’s what we always say, and it’s definitely one of the biggest rules that we abide by.
We can go into tip number two, now. This is, determining your promo profit. To do this, you will have a formula. You’ll need to first determine your gross profit margin. To get this, use the formula net sales minus cost of goods sold or COGS, divided by net sales. Then you’ll need to pull in your average order value. This can typically be pulled from Shopify or some sort of reporting software. And once you know your gross profit margin and your AOV, you can then play with percentages and dollars off, to see which offer will fit within your profit margins. We do have a calculator for this. I’m not sure if it’s something that we’ve shared, but definitely can. This could help determine a tiered offer like we mentioned before, where it’s a multiple dollars off or percent offs, that are stacked on one another. Or, even be used to help determine a free shipping threshold as well, just based on your profit margins.
Alison Smith: [7:57]
Yeah, so that calculator that Carley just mentioned, it is our Break Even Calculator. We’ll add it to the show notes, so that you guys can input all your numbers. And it’ll basically, tell you how much you can spend to acquire a customer, what your profit margin’s going to be. And also, I know we just threw a lot of formulas and weird abbreviations and things at you, so we’ll break all of that down in the show notes. No need to make notes, it’ll all be there.
But, okay. So for newer brands or brands that haven’t launched yet, but they’re prepping for launch, they have no idea what their AOV is. They can just use their COGS to understand how much they can discount or spend to acquire a customer and break even, right?
Carley Jones: [8:48]
Yes, you can definitely just go off of that cost of goods sold. That’s a really good base to make your profit margin off of, to really help determine what’s doable for your brand. And it’s also good, because once you have an idea of what your offer can be, then you can actually get into the nitty-gritty and promo logistics, and all of that.
So that kind of segues us into tip number three, which is, determine if a promotional landing page is needed. This will really depend on what your offer is and how robust that offer is. If it’s a simple 15% off site-wide sale, the answer of needing a promotional landing page is probably no. A website banner with a clear CTA would more likely suffice in that instance. But, if you really, really want to hit it out of the park for a sale like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, we definitely recommend it, having a landing page, regardless of what that offer is. This makes it super, super simple for your customers to purchase and get the discount that they are actually looking for. It just keeps URLs simple. It keeps your homepage simple. It really, really simplifies the whole process, whenever you have that landing page.
Alison Smith: [9:59]
Yeah, absolutely. Because you can hide things like menu at the top, so people aren’t going off and clicking off. It’s just like they’re there, they’re focused, they know where to click, and that’s all you want.
Carley Jones: [10:11]
Alison Smith: [10:14]
But, yeah. So let’s talk more about web stacks. Love some apps. So what are your favorite apps and software? What are we currently using for landing page builds?
Carley Jones: [10:30]
There are so many, and honestly, it really just depends on what integrates seamlessly with your Shopify plan, if you’re using Shopify. Personally, I prefer Show Grant Shogun. It’s an app that integrates really, really seamlessly with most Shopify themes. So we usually will use that for promo landing pages or early bird opt-in pages that are related to promos.
We’ve also used PageFly in the past. It can be a little bit tricky to use this platform, but it does have a drag and drop feature that makes the actual design and build of a landing page super seamless. To keep it easy, you can also just do existing product pages that you have, or collection pages if it’s a site-wide sale or something, and make super slight edits to headers, to include the sale offer language. You can also include price markdowns on the actual page or creating a percent off banner in Canva to add to the page. The possibilities with that are super, super endless, and usually look a lot more natural because it’s an actual product page for your site that matches your theme. But whatever you decide to do, just keep it simple.
Alison Smith: [11:43]
Another one of our mottos. Yes, keep it simple, smarty. That’s like, it’s so easy as a marketer or just a business owner, entrepreneur, to just be so into shiny object syndrome, wanting to test it and do it all. So we often have to remind ourselves when we’re building out promotional launches, wait, someone always asks, “Is this too complicated? How do we just make this really streamlined and easy?” And generally, when you do that for promos, your revenue’s going to be higher because if you are confused, your customer is likely going to be confused.
Carley Jones: [12:28]
Alison Smith: [12:31]
So I will also mention some other apps that we’ve used in the past and we like to. And this just kind of goes back to why you want to test your promo before, because sometimes you’ll want to use Shogun for instance, but it doesn’t connect with another app that you need to use for this promo. So that, it’s so important to make sure everything’s going to work together. So some other ones we are Instapage and Zipify. I think Zipify, is that Ezra Firestone’s? I think that might be his product. And then also-
Karin Samelson: [13:08]
Hey, Ezra, give us some commish if anybody use Zipify.
Alison Smith: [13:13]
Yeah, we need that affiliate. And then also we wanted to share our little sneaky tip to find what your competitors are using for their promos, or just all the time for conversion rate optimization. So to do this, all you have to do is go to your competitor’s website and then right click with your mouse, and then choose Inspect, and then it’ll just be a bunch of code and stuff. But in that code, you can actually find out exactly what your competitors are using for popups, or any plugins, or anything that will help with conversion rate optimization. So if you feel like getting sneaky, use that little tip, but okay, let’s get into tip number four, Carley.
Carley Jones: [
Sneaky. I love it. So like Alison mentioned before, she mentioned KISS. So tip number four is, keep it simple. Complicated promo logistics can really lead to a customer service headache. Trust me, you don’t want to launch an offer and then immediately receive 60 customer service inquiries about a broken link, or an invalid promo code, instead of seeing sales or 60 happy customers. It can really, really just put a huge damper on things. And if your promo isn’t successful from the start, it can be really, really hard to come back from that, because then you’ll have to send oops emails or an oops SMS, which can be successful. But if you don’t have to deal with that stress, just make sure that things are running smoothly ahead of time by keeping it really, really simple.
We almost always will recommend utilizing automatic discounts for most offers when it’s applicable, to avoid that probable misspelling or user error that comes along with using promo codes. No matter how simple a code could be, like Welcome 15, you’re still going to get customer service inquiries about it. You’d be surprised. So if you can avoid it, definitely do so.
If you do have to use a promo code, we highly, highly recommend creating something called an addended link. Shopify will actually automatically make this for you, now. They used to not, but now they do. You can actually make these yourselves with a Google URL builder or something, and use it across platforms to promote your offer. What it does is it attaches the code, whatever you made in your platform, to a unique URL, and applies that code to someone’s cart automatically, as long as their cash is clear. If it’s not clear, it won’t automatically apply it. So there can be some issues there, but it does avoid the promo code debacle that sometimes happens.
Karin Samelson: [16:07]
Yeah, and if you’ve been selling online or have ever done a promo before, you know how easy it is for people to make mistakes because it’s a constant. You’ll constantly get people like, “Why isn’t this code working?” It’s like, “Well, because you didn’t put it right.” So just making it super easy for them so that you make more money. And we’re all about working smarter, not harder, and keeping it really simple. And we know that apps can make our lives so much easier, and make a really positive difference in our campaigns. So what apps would you recommend to make this process just even more seamless for potential customers?
Carley Jones: [16:45]
Yeah, so some apps are better than others, so definitely do your research. Do it on your own. Look at the Shopify store, look at what reviews people have, and also just ask around to your network and see what people are using. Testing apps ahead of time is really going to ensure that there are no bugs. The last thing you want to do is install an app, thinking it will work on the day of a promo, and then it goes live and it crashes your checkout page. That’s happened. That’s happened, because some apps do have bugs.
So some of my personal recs that have worked well for our clients in the past, there’s an app called Bundler that works with most Shopify themes, and it allows you to create sort of mix and match bundles and stacks discounts on top of them automatically. So it can be a really, really easy way to make bundles for your page.
There’s an app called notably, Tiered Discounts that does exactly that, and it’s one of my favorites. It does operate using codes, but it actually applies to the cart automatically, and stacks to create a really, really awesome tiered discount feature. And, it pops up when you’re getting close to that threshold. It’s just super interactive and it’s done really, really well for some of our Black Friday, Cyber Monday promos.
Karin Samelson: [18:04]
Carley, real quick, what is a tiered discount?
Carley Jones: [18:07]
So it’s like anytime that there’s a percent off or a dollar off discount that’s stacked. So let’s say you do 10% off 35, and then 15% off 45, and so on, and so on. You can have as many stacks as you want with this app, which I found really interesting. But, we’ve found that over the years of using these tiered discounts and this app in particular, that the mid-tier code, so whatever your middle offer is, if you have three, usually gets the most uses out of the higher and lower tier codes that aren’t used as much.
This can really help with AOV, if your pricing thresholds are set a little bit higher. So knowing your profit margins comes in handy when developing discounts like this. So yeah, just a little tidbit that your mid-tier is probably the one that’s going to be used the most. So make sure you set that threshold where it’s going to help your AOV out a little bit, because there’s just something with consumer behavior and consumer psychology where it’s like they see the lower one and they’re like, “Oh, I want to spend a little bit more and get a little bit of a better discount,” but then maybe the higher one’s too much. So the mid-tier one just comes off a little bit more appealing.
Alison Smith: [19:18]
Yeah, it’s always great to give people choices, but lead them to what you want them to do. And with our tiered discounts, I believe how we think about it is when there’s three tiers, the first tier is usually around our normal AOV, and then the second tier is like 20% or so more, and then we go from there for the third-highest tier, if that’s helpful for anyone. When you’re actually trying to set these, obviously, test them for your own business, every niche is going to be different. All these talks about apps is making me hungry, too.
Karin Samelson: [19:59]
Oh, my God.
Alison Smith: [20:00]
I’m like, mm-mm, apps.
Karin Samelson: [20:03]
Whoever is editing this, please keep that. Please keep that in.
Carley Jones: [20:07]
Now let’s move into tip number five. So this is, pay attention to how the promo is worded. How the offer is presented to a customer can really make or break the potential of getting a sale. For some, 15% off is less attractive than a dollar off offer and vice versa. Testing, like we mentioned in step one, will really help determine what your audience responds best to. With our clients, it really just depends. Some of them, percent off offers work better, some installer off offers work better. It really, really just depends on that audience.
Creating a sense of urgency is also key to adding to your promo messaging. Someone is way more enticed to buy if they know a sale ends in 24 hours, versus a sale that lasts seven days. For instance, they may see one of your emails and not buy, since they know the sale is going on through end of month. So keep hyping that scarcity, and set a time limit until that sale is gone for good. It’s really, really important to have that sense of urgency across your promo assets.
Karin Samelson: [21:17]
We as consumers, we’re not just marketers, we’re consumers too. And if you give me a deadline, I’m going to want to purchase. I don’t want it to end without me getting something I’ve been looking at. So I love that tip. And even more so, what do you feel about timers on emails or on the website’s cart pages?
Carley Jones: [21:40]
Definitely recommend having something, some sort of countdown timer. There’s a ton on Shopify. There’s some that can even be integrated with your email platform. The one that I am used to using is called Countdown Timer Ultimate. There’s so many, but it can really, really get the message across that this sale is ending soon and you need to make your purchase now. And definitely recommend having that on either your main website page, where it’s just a timer that’s ticking. I’ve even seen them on the little header bars. Not header bars. Those are called something way more legit than that, but like the top bar.
Karin Samelson: [22:20]
Announcement bar.
Carley Jones: [22:21]
Yeah, announcement bar on your webpage. Definitely having them added to your cart at checkout so people can see when that sale is actually ending. And then of course, on those product pages or your landing page like we mentioned before, to create that sense of urgency. So that app was called Countdown Timer Ultimate. We’ll have it linked in the notes. But yeah, now it’s time for our final tip and it’s a big one, so keep that in mind.
Tip six is, don’t train your audience to expect a sale. You’re probably thinking that we just spent all of this time talking about promos, and best practices, and what to do and what not to do, but please, please, please remember to use promos sparingly throughout the year. You do not want to train your audience to only buy when there’s an offer on the table. They’re just going to wait till you send the next promo email or they run across your next promo ad. And that can really, really hinder getting sales.
Timing for promos will almost always vary, but you don’t want your customers waiting for the next week long sale to purchase. You have to create that, “I need to order now,” feeling, since they don’t know the next time that it’ll be discounted. Obviously, we all know consumer behavior. People are expecting a sale on Black Friday, Cyber Monday. That’s a little bit different. Sometimes they will wait, but other times they’ll be like, “Okay, I need this now. I’m going to buy.” Getting customers to buy at full price will be a year long effort.
But keep in mind that, promos can still sweeten the deal for certain customer segments. So if you have people who’ve never bought but keep engaging with you or adding to cart, this is when those abandoned cart emails will come in super handy with offers attached, or enticing returning customers to buy after a certain period of time that they haven’t. So, that’s where win back offers will come into play. It really, really just depends on being strategic and not always offering a site-wide sale, all the time to everyone.
Alison Smith: [24:25]
We talk about segmentation all the time, but it’s just so important to hit the right person with the right offer at the right time. But it’s also so easy to fall into kind of like a dopamine trap with promotions, as a brand owner or marketer. You’re sending your list a really great promo deal, and then a ton of money rolls in within a 48-hour period. And it feels good, and you’re like, “Wow, I want to do this all the time and just get a huge cash infusion.” But really what Carley’s talked about is, what you’re doing is you’re training your list to expect it all the time if you continue to do this. And then sales are just going to start dwindling between these periods, and you’re going to be attracting only low value customers, versus creating a brand that’s full of super engaged lifetime fans.
So Carley, let’s talk about what the right range of promos for a CPG, D2C brand is throughout the year.
Carley Jones: [25:31]
Yeah, outside of those Evergreen offers, like we mentioned, so the win backs, your welcome email flows, manning carts, all of that, we’d recommend having two to four major site wide sales a year. If you go the two sales a year route, having a summer and fall sale is typically the way to go. Just kind of break it up by season. Fall sale will obviously be the Black Friday, Cyber Monday time, but if you opt for four sales a year, this typically will equal out to one sale a quarter, which is what we try to do for our clients. And, can include New Year’s, Memorial Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and then holiday sales.
These can vary. The timing of these can vary, based on the brand that you have. If you have a brand that is applicable to kids’ products, maybe having a back to school sale makes a little bit more sense, than a Memorial Day sale. Really, really think about what your brand is, and your mission, and who it is that you’re targeting to determine these four sales a year, because it’s going to be different.
This does not mean that you can’t run a promo every month, because you can to specific audiences, just not everyone. Maybe hit your top engaged email list with a flash sale, or entice a non-purchaser segment with the deal that they just can’t refuse and it gets them to buy. The promo possibilities are super, super endless, and you just have to find what works for your audience and keep refining it.
One of the tips that we don’t have on here is really looking back at past promotions. Look at what you did before and see what performed and replicate it again. It can be really, really easy and simple to do that.
Alison Smith: [27:17]
Yeah, so just to kind of recap what Carley just said, because it is so easy and we see it all the time, where people are just like, “Oh, I want to run another sale, another sale.” And then you create so much more work for yourself, too, if you become that brand and you’re just constantly doing that.
So kind of a recap is, we recommend two to four site-wide sales, and that’s where it’s visible on your website. You’re maybe running ads, you may post on social, and you send emails. And even within all those things, you can still segment with email marketing. You still can segment out who exactly you want to send to, to make sure that you’re getting good deliverability. Same with ads. You want to make sure you are spending money that’s going to make money, so you can still do things to kind of reign it in.
But, two to four site-wide promos max a year. Everything else can be to a very specific list, and no one else knows it’s happening on the rest of your list. And that’s really cool. You can get really, really smart with your segmented little promos that you can run.
Karin Samelson: [28:35]
Awesome, guys. Okay. So that was a lot of information all at once. And so, just to recap all of the amazing tips that Carley has shared for us today. Tip number one, test promo offers ahead of time for big sales seasons. Tip number two, determine your promo profit. Tip number three, determine if a promotional landing page is needed. Tip number four, keep it simple. Tip number five, pay attention to how the promo is worded. And tip number six, don’t train your audience to expect a sale.
Alison Smith: [29:06]
That’s right. I hope everyone got a ton of value from these six quick and dirty tips to run a great promo. And if you’re ready to make this year your most profitable year yet, we are now actually taking on our Q4 clients. So we’re accepting new clients for Q4. I believe we have three spots left at the time of this episode. So, if you want to come work with us, you can apply on our website. We’ll help you reach your ideal customers, we’ll help you optimize, strategize, and create high performing social email, and ad content and campaigns for your brand. So to do that, you can book a call with us at If you also go to our website, there should be a little form that you can click on and fill in, and we’d love to chat with you.
Karin Samelson: [30:04]
Thanks for listening to the UMAI Social Circle, y’all. We’re here to support you in your CPG journey, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any new podcast episodes. And while you’re at it, please leave us a review on your listening platform of choice. Shoot us a DM at UMAI Marketing on Instagram, if you have any topics you want us to cover on new podcast episodes.
Alison Smith: [30:21]
And don’t forget to access our free masterclass, where we’re showing you how to create a solid marketing strategy. You can access that at, and we’ll meet you back here for the next episode.

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