Cats, Cars, and Cuddles: How to Reduce Inventory and Raise Revenue

For this promotion, making a modest financial gift to the Humane Society while Uber delivers kitten’s right to my office seemed like a no-brainer.

When I first opened the email I thought it was a joke.

Uber Kitten Email

Nina, the local manager for Uber in my area, was letting me know that they were partnering with the Humane Society to deliver furry, lovable kittens for cuddle sessions … for a small $30 snuggle fee. Wow … Really? (I thought excitedly.)

The fact is, I love cats (don’t tell my dog)… but my husband is not a big cat fan — especially after our last 12-year-cat-from-hell stint with the Tasmanian devil that I took pity on and rescued from a shelter. That little bundle of evilness barely let me scratch its head before he raked his incredibly long and sharp claws across my hand and arm. But that’s a story for another day.

For this promotion, making a modest financial gift to the Humane Society while Uber delivers kittens right to my office seemed like a no-brainer.

It turns out that other cities across the US were doing the same thing — as well as in Canada and Australia. The Humane Society/ASPCA/Local Shelter, partnered with Uber drivers to try and help raise money and increase adoptions.

West Michigan reported that their shelter raised nearly $1,000 during their four-hour event — and 83 percent of their participating kittens were adopted. In fact the demand was so high they couldn’t even make it to all the businesses!

In 2013, the first year of this cross-promotion, three cities raised $15,000 and found homes for 100 percent of the traveling kitties. So that makes it a definite win-win.

Uber, who has had some challenges in Australia when they were accused of charging $100 for ride fares during a hostage crisis in Sydney, seems to have created some positive press for a change.

Personally, I love cross-promotions like this. The Humane Society wins (with both gift revenue and an increase in adoptions), businesses win (employees who aren’t allergic to cats get some much-needed kitty cuddle time), and Uber wins with increased awareness and a chance to generate some goodwill.

Now, if only I could sneak one of these sweet little kitties past my dog (and my husband), and they’d have a win-win-win-win-win!

Make Me an Offer — But Set My Expectations

What’s the ideal offer expiration date? Any good direct marketer knows that you have to test and learn what works for your brand, but in the early days of direct mail the rule of thumb was six to eight weeks (long enough for the recipient to receive the offer in the mail, write a check and mail it back).

What’s the ideal offer expiration date? Any good direct marketer knows that you have to test and learn what works for your brand, but in the early days of direct mail the rule of thumb was six to eight weeks (long enough for the recipient to receive the offer in the mail, write a check and mail it back).

But now that brands can communicate with customers instantly via email, text, Instagram and Facebook, offer windows can be shortened to a hours. And, when positioned appropriately, can drive a quick hit of revenue.

But here’s a case of what NOT to do …

On Friday, September 4, I received an email offer from Travelocity to click the link which would reveal how much I’d save (with the promise that it would range from 10 percent — 75 percent off on hotels). Given that I travel a lot, and I often book with Travelocity, it was an offer worth my click time. Plus, the button was kind of fun with a “Surprise Me” action message.

Naturally I was disappointed when I learned I had only earned 10 percent off and with another click had deleted the email message from my desktop and my memory bank.

But two days later, on Sunday, September 6 at 6:50 pm, I received another Travelocity email. This time the subject line was “Don’t Forget to Click. Reveal. Redeem.”

Given that it was a long weekend I didn’t check my emails until Monday, Sept 7 and, since I had completely forgotten about the earlier Travelocity email (since my inbox is filled with hundreds of email exchanges a day), I clicked the link in this email too. Only this time I got the message “Sorry! The Coupon is no longer valid” with a little clock icon reinforcing that time had run out.

My first reaction was that somebody at Travelocity had screwed up. Surely any email offer was going to last more than a day or two.

First, I found the original email offer in my deleted folder and it told me the offer expired on September 7. But instead of telling me I only had a few days or 72 hours, the email just gave me a calendar date — which, at the time, seemed like the distant future.

The September 6 email also noted that the offer expired on September 7 … but it should have said “24 hours” which would have given it the sense of urgency it deserved.

Instead, this Travelocity customer had a negative experience with the brand — and all over a potential 10 percent savings.

The point is, it’s critical that you think carefully about your offers, their activation windows and how you position it in your communication. Travelocity could have created a lot more interest and excitement if their original subject line had said “72 hour sale” in it … and their follow up email had “Final 24 hours of our sale.”

Motivating your target to act is one of the many challenges facing marketers today, so if you’re going to include an offer, make sure you give it the urgency it deserves.