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Show Highlights

Recently, Float On ran a big discount for the summer season. It’s become a bit of a tradition and the mailing list every year that gets this notification is really large.

In this episode, Ashkahn and Graham share the success of the sale, as well as comparing it to the previous few years. They dive into the real numbers from the shop and the impact of changing just a few words and numbers on the sale to get it to perform as best as possible.

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Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)

Graham: Hey, welcome to the podcast, everyone.

Ashkahn: Hello, nice to see you here today.

Graham: Yeah. Sort of. Sort of seeing, not sort of nice. It is very nice to be talking to you.

Ashkahn: Very nice to sort of see you.

Graham: I’m Graham.

Ashkahn: And I’m Ashkahn.

Graham: And collectively, we are Grashkahmn. And today’s question is: “I got an email recently about a sale you were running in your shop.” Cool, well thanks for joining our mailing list. “How did that go?”

Ashkahn: Great.

Graham: Yeah, it went really well.

Ashkahn: Thank you for asking. So, background …

Graham: We run a float center over in Portland, Oregon.

Ashkahn: Yeah, my name’s Ashkahn. So we’re not huge into discounts, which you probably know. Have you heard any other-

Graham: Like literally any other episode that we recorded.

Ashkahn: So we don’t do a lot of discounts. We have memberships, we have our full price floats. We have some special deals worked out with certain groups of people, and stuff like that. We have some programs where we’ve given away free floats. But we’re not into just kind of doing a bunch of sales or discounts, and stuff like that.

Graham: As an ongoing marketing strategy.

Ashkahn: But, one time a year-

Graham: Well, so we run two big discounts a year.

Ashkahn: Yeah, in different ways.

Graham: Yeah, in different ways.

Ashkahn: So we’ll talk about the other way briefly, which is in December we run a holiday discount, which is just kind of on our social media, we email our mailing list, it goes on for an entire month. It’s just to really encourage people to buy floats as gifts for people for the holidays.

Graham: Kind of just throwing fuel on the fire of already good holiday sales.

Ashkahn: Yeah. So we do that, and then on the other side of the year, and usually sometime-

Graham: But one other thing about that, one other thing, which is it’s done as gift cards. So it’s really incentivized. We kind of encourage people to think of-

Ashkahn: Yeah. We really phrase it as a gift card thing.

Graham: This is something you’re giving to someone else, not like you’re stocking up on floats for yourself.

Ashkahn: We even lie to people and tell them that-

Graham: That yeah, they’re going to hell if they buy gift cards for themselves.

Ashkahn: We tell them that the gift cards don’t activate for 24 hours so that people don’t just immediately buy them for the appointments they’re coming in for. Which is a lie, they’re active immediately, but we just-

Graham: I don’t even think we have a way to do that in our system.

Ashkahn: We don’t. We have no ability of making something like that happen. But that’s what we say. So, again, it’s phrased and encouraged to be something that’s meant for buying gift cards as gifts and stuff like that.

Graham: And then-

Ashkahn: And then, on the other side of the year, it’s usually sometime in June, we run kind of a big one day sale. And this one’s a little bit different. It’s pretty much the best deal we offer on a sale the entire year.

Graham: Yeah, the entire year, yeah.

Ashkahn: So we have certain memberships and stuff like that that’ll get cheaper in price than this thing does.

Graham: Pretty much if you buy like 52 floats all at once, you can get a cheaper price.

Ashkahn: But yeah. So once a year we do a “slam out, just come and get them” float deal.

Graham: And we’ve done this every year since year number two. ‘Cause what happened was year number one we had the summer, and all of the sudden our float tanks were just empty. Because we found out the hard way that there’s a big dip in attendance during the summer months. So then going into the summer, every single year after that we kind of plan to do this very orchestrated, big, concentrated sale so that we could both pull in some money to get us through the hard months, and also fill up our tanks when they’re naturally more empty.

Ashkahn: And it only lasts a day, so we email people with no warning, morning of, and tell them they have one day to buy floats at this price, this ridiculously cheap price. But you can buy as many floats as you want, it’s just kind of a 24 hour sort of deal. And we secretly leave the discount code active for another day.

Graham: Which is such a good tip, too, if you’re ever running a kind of flash sale. You get so many people emailing you the next day being like, “Oh, I missed your sale, is it okay if I kind of get in on that?” And not having to answer all of those emails, if they just go to the website and test the same discount code they had from the day before and it still works, which-

Ashkahn: Or if they just click that link in their email.

Graham: We always have a good number of stragglers who come in. That’s just time of your day that you’re saving by not having to deal with that. Plus, it makes it easy for the staff members or yourself to go in and check people out at the same discount price the next day. So yeah, secret second day.

Ashkahn: Secret second day is a good strategy.

Graham: Pro tip.

Ashkahn: And most years, this is a huge, huge sale for us. We make a decent chunk of money.

Graham: So a good note, I don’t know if you mentioned it already, I didn’t catch it, but we send it out to our full customer list.

Ashkahn: Oh right, that’s the other part of this. So yeah, we have a mailing list that people actively sign up for. And then we have every user account and person and their email that’s ever come and floated with us-

Graham: And given us their accurate email.

Ashkahn: And given us their email. So we don’t by default put those people on our mailing list, we don’t want people to be getting a bunch of communications from us when they haven’t asked for it. But we do, once a year, just decide to be like okay, and we do a full blast to every customer that we have. It’s the only time that we ever do that, is this one time a year email. So we’re sending this out to a list of people that’s, I think, almost-

Graham: We’re getting close to 40,000.

Ashkahn: Yeah. So that’s like 10 times the size of our newsletter list.

Graham: Yeah. And you’re one of those people. So you probably floated with us at some point, maybe during the conference or something like that. And so yeah, the net is cast very wide, and we’ve played around, over the years, with the different amount of discount, but the basic structure stays the same, which is we phrase it as a customer appreciation sale. We keep it really short. It’s usually not more than a couple paragraphs, and it basically says, “Hey, thanks so much for supporting us, you’re getting this email because you came in to float with us at some point. And we’re a small business, and we only exist because of you, and we just wanna offer you a really sick deal on floats that we don’t even blast out to the public. So thanks again, here you go.” We include little details on the exact sale and a link to buy it on our site, and that’s it. Very, very short. So hopefully if we are intruding on people and interrupting their day, at least it’s not very much time and they can see our intentions are good.

Ashkahn: And it works. We get a bunch of people who buy floats on this day every single year. And pretty much every year but one, last year, it’s gone really well for us. We had a weird hiccup kind of the year before, which we’ll get into. But for most of the time, we get a bunch of people buying floats. This year, we were just looking at the numbers, I think we sold about 2,200 floats in a single day, and that number ranges. And every year it typically gets better, because we just have a bigger list of people that we’re emailing.

Graham: Yeah, so I think this year a mailing list, or our kind of full customer list, went up by about 3500 or something like that, of new valid emails that we kind of collected through the year from people we didn’t already have in the system.

Ashkahn: Mm-hmm. So things we’ve played around with over the years. We’ve played around with different percentages off, and I think the most we’ve done is 50%.

Graham: Which was this year, pretty much. And maybe our 2nd year, yeah yeah.

Ashkahn: And the first year. The first year we did 50%, too. And the least we’ve done was-

Graham: 25?

Ashkahn: Last year.

Graham: Last year was-

Ashkahn: Something like that. 25, 30.

Graham: Last year was 30%.

Ashkahn: 30?

Graham: Yeah.

Ashkahn: I think that’s the least we’ve ever done. So that’s kind of the full range of discounts that we’ve offered.

Graham: Yeah. And just kind of looking at the last three years, I mean if you guys have time, do you wanna sit and listen to us talk about this for a little bit?

Ashkahn: Yes.

Graham: Okay, great. Great. So let’s go through then just kind of the last three years of how the sale went for us. Our big June sale.

So two years ago, we brought in around $75,000 from the sale, which is great, and at the time was our biggest single day that we’d ever had. And then last year we brought in more around $35,000, which was kind of a shock. And we’ll get into some of the things that we changed up this year going into it. And then this year we brought in around $88,000.

Ashkahn: Yeah. 89 almost.

Graham: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Ashkahn: And then the day afterwards this year we brought in like another 7 or $8,000.

Graham: Yeah. Yeah. So we-

Ashkahn: Every year has followed that same upward tick, except for last year. So yeah, and I guess we should say, too, about 2016, so not last year but the year before, that was the second lowest discount percentage we did. So we started at 50%, and we started lowering the percentage of a discount we were giving all the way ’til the last year, 2017. And then in 2018, we bumped it back to 50%

Graham: Yeah. And 2017 was 40% off. Or sorry, 2016 was 40% off. 2017 was 30% off, and then this year we did a little over 50% off. So yeah, this year was both our biggest sales day and the biggest amount of money, and last year was kind of our smallest of the three years. And also a dramatically smaller amount of money.

Ashkahn: And we have a couple theories. I mean it’s a little hard to tell ’cause we only do this once a year, so we have just these very limited points of data.

Graham: If you’re scientists and you get to have one experiment that you run a year on subject. It’s not a great experiment you get to run.

Ashkahn: It’s annoying. But we talked about it, and the best we could come up with was probably a combination of things. One, it was the worst kind of deal we’ve ever offered. So we think there was we probably crossed a threshold where it just wasn’t really enough of an exciting thing for people. Because when you do the math you’re like, okay, if we charged a higher amount and we lose people, we’re still making so much more per float that the numbers balance out. And for years, that was working for us as we were lowering the discount percentage. The numbers still continued to perform better overall in terms of money coming in. So we might’ve just kind of pushed the envelope a little too far last year, was one part of it.

Graham: And another part was the time of the month that we were launching it. So we hadn’t really thought ahead that towards the middle of the month, which is kind of when we wanted to kick off the deal, was gonna be really close to Father’s Day. And we definitely didn’t realize that being that close to Father’s Day was going to mean that we were competing with so many other people that were trying to sell Father’s Day discounts, and Father’s Day activities, and Father’s Day presents. Just our personal email boxes were so slammed with different Father’s Day offers.

And, in retrospect, I think that especially being the kinds of people who don’t want to send out a bunch of emails about sale, again, we usually just send out this single email on the day that we launch it with no heads up at all. We just kind of got lost in a sea of other Father’s Day offers. And so we can never really know if that happened, but it’s a pretty strong working theory.

Ashkahn: Yeah, and a lot of other things were the same. Our email was worded almost precisely the same as it was in the previous years that we sent it out.

Graham: Yeah, we maybe change about 10, 15 words per year. It’s a very similar-

Ashkahn: We sent it on the same day of the week, we sent it around the same time. I mean it was only what, a week later than we did it this year? Two weeks, something like that?

Graham: Yep. And we had a new float center in town, too. With Enso Float being kind of active and going through their summer last year. So we had theories, maybe, that the other float centers in town-

Ashkahn: But that still exists now, and-

Graham: Yeah. I always thought that was less of a good explanation, but that was one of our hypothesis. When you run a sale and it’s about half of the year before’s sale, you start coming up with all kinds of crazy theories, right?

Ashkahn: And this year we really sent out basically the exact same worded email.

Graham: Yeah, still didn’t change much there.

Ashkahn: Yeah. Didn’t change much, didn’t really change almost anything other than the percentage of discount we were giving and sending it like 10 days earlier than we did last year.

Graham: Yeah. But instead of sending it like two days before Father’s Day, we sent it-

Ashkahn: Before-

Graham: June 6th.

Ashkahn: I’d gotten any Father’s Day emails or anything like that.

Graham: Yeah. And again, the 50% off. So total, with our new price, though, the 50% off brought it down to the same absolute price, pretty much, as two years ago in 2016.

Ashkahn: So we did just raise our prices between last year’s sale and this year’s sale. So another factor is that with a recent price change, people were more kind of hungry for a discount. Then they were before.

Graham: Or could’ve been. Yeah. One of the working theories, strong working theory.

Yeah, I mean it’s almost more philosophical, but it is a weird thing about doing this, is you can come up with all kinds of theories, and then next year you kind of get to test those theories and kind of not. And so just like science is about having things that can be falsified, that you can prove wrong, you can almost never get to the point where you can prove any of your guesses absolutely wrong in these scenarios. So you can get stronger and stronger in your hunches, and every year you kind of get a better feel for things, but it’s such an abstract. You just really never know exactly what’s going on and what’s causing certain things with these once a year kind of deals.

Ashkahn: And it’s hard to even want to experiment that much. This is a huge sale for us. It brings a very serious amount of income for our shop, and making bold decisions to alter something significantly from what it was the year before when things had been working well is kind of terrifying. You’re like, “man, if we’re wrong and this gets messed up, it’s a huge, huge mistake.”

Graham: This is how conservative kind of governments get into place as well. If things are working at all-

Ashkahn: There’s just a lot on the line.

Graham: And it could go into revolt. Let’s not change anything. Okay, so in summary, I guess, just kind of from examining the different years, the big takeaways that I have, so for next year going into it, definitely launching early in June, or just in general when launching a deal, not launching any other holidays that are associated with huge retail sales and stuff like that.

Ashkahn: I should say, I had one other theory from last year.

Graham: Oh yeah, yeah. Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off.

Ashkahn: No, I forgot about it. But I remembered just now. That it got, I think, falsified from our sale this year, which is that Gmail introduced their multiple inbox thing.

Graham: The promotions tab.

Ashkahn: Where there’s now a promotions tab. And I was just like, man, maybe that is just giving us a lot less exposure. We’re just hitting people’s promotion tab, and that’s just not something people check as much.

Graham: Didn’t seem to be the case this year.

Ashkahn: Yeah. If anything, probably there’s more people with that type of inbox sort of sorting going on now than there was last year, and it didn’t seem to be a huge hindrance.

Graham: Yeah. You never know.

Ashkahn: Yeah, it could’ve done even better if it wasn’t for stupid Gmail.

Graham: Yeah, or stupid other float centers in our city. What was I saying before you-

Ashkahn: You were giving a very nice summary of everything we talked about.

Graham: Oh yeah, I was just trying to sum up. Okay, so yeah, I guess just go for it, man.

Ashkahn: Good, good. Yeah. Good luck out there.

Graham: No, so don’t run your holidays. Number two, I would say, is regardless of the percentage, again, two years ago was 40% off, this year was 50% off. In both cases it brought it to just under $40, and at least here in Portland, I’m just kind of taking that as a magic number that spurs on more sales. Even with the 30% off, it brought it up to like $44, I think, was the sale that we had done. So we went from 39 to $44, and now we’re back to $38 was this year’s sale. And I’m just associating something with actually being under that, you’re not handing someone two $20 bills. Right? You’re under the two 20’s mark. And, again, it would take more experiments to confirm that, but from just looking at the last three years, even, next year I’m gonna try to keep it under $40 as well.

Ashkahn: And yeah, I think the other thing that’s important to remember with this is this is built into a larger business model we have of not offering discounts very publicly and very often. So if you’re hearing these numbers, you’re like, “Oh, awesome, I should do a giant one day sale.” Just remember that this is all in the context of us not offering stuff like this very often.

Graham: Yeah. We’re almost eight years old, we have almost 40,000 people that we’re emailing. We only do this private sale one day out of every year. And the only other time people can get general discounted floats is during December. So it’s really just a two discount model, and people know it if they’ve been our customer for a while. They know that we’re serious and we don’t offer other discounts. I mean people were buying 10, 12, 16 floats off of this discount, just to probably stock up for having one float per month until the next year when they could buy them again. So yeah, people stock up during it, too.

Ashkahn: And we do have another episode, actually, about how to not get members to feel like they’re losing out when you offer really good deals like this that kind of compete with your membership pricing.

Graham: Yeah. And if you wanna hear us rant more about discounts, I think we have an entire other episode where we just kind of explain our stance on discounts and why we don’t offer them as much. So yeah, if you have your own episodes that you want to be able to refer to in the future, go to floattanksolutions.com/podcast and send them our way.

Ashkahn: Yep. Send us questions.

Graham: We love them. We eat them up.

Ashkahn: Super happy.

Graham: Eat that up like it’s breakfast.

Ashkahn: Delicious, delicious. Yeah, alright. We’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Graham: Bye, everyone.

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