If you are new to business and are operating in a very specific location, say your home town you will need to understand some very basic local marketing strategies. Let’s begin by defining marketing

Definition of Marketing

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. American Marketing Association

This does not mean that marketing is responsible for the actual sale or exchange of value for good and services that by definition is sales. Too many new business owners confuse the two and this leads to so much friction and disappointment when working with a marketing company. Their job is to get you contacts, and leads nothing more, unless they have promised you specific sales volumes. It then is the responsibility of the business owner and their sales team to close the leads.

Most small local business owners that I work with are just getting started or in the “start-up” phase. Typically they don’t already have a list of 1000 or more people that they KNOW want their service or product. In most cases, they have not even sold their first 100 customers yet, and that’s okay. This is why as a new-to-business entrepreneur you need to understand one of the most common ways used to generate leads when you don’t already have enough new and repeat purchases to operate profitably.

Generally, a business will choose pricing strategies to attract more customers and increase the likelihood sales. Let’s talk about a powerful pricing strategy known as the loss leader, which can help increase profit margin by offering certain profit items at a lower price to attract more customers and drive sales of other goods. This is also commonly known as an entry point offer.

Imagine this: you walk into a store, enticed by an introductory pricing offer on a product. Retailers are offering free samples to attract customers and clear out inventory. You’re not just getting a great deal at Dollar Tree; you’re getting it at a price lower than what it actually costs the store. This is because Dollar Tree uses loss leader sales to attract customers and make a profit on other items in their inventory. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, that’s the beauty of a loss leader.

So buckle up and get ready to discover how leveraging loss leaders can give your business a competitive edge!

Introduction to Loss Leader Strategy

The loss leader strategy is a clever tactic employed by businesses to drive customer traffic and boost sales volume. This strategy sends a clear message to customers that they are getting a great deal, often through discounted prices or special offers. By enticing customers with these deals, businesses can increase their overall sales volume and encourage repeat purchases. Additionally, businesses can use cookies to track customer behavior and personalize their marketing efforts, further enhancing the effectiveness of the loss leader strategy.

A loss leader is when a company intentionally sells certain products below cost to attract customers during a sale. Dollar Tree is known for using this strategy to drive foot traffic and clear out inventory. The goal is simple – buy inventory, generate additional sales, and foster customer loyalty through targeted messages after the sale. Service businesses often use coupons, discounts, and buy-one-get-one strategies with the same goal in mind. They want to increase their visibility, increase the size of their lead list, and bring in first-time buyers to their store in order to later upsell their products or services that they do make a profit on such as memberships or packages. For these local businesses, the upsell is critical to make the loss leader expense worth it.

Often the products or services are being sold below what it costs to obtain them, in order to acquire new potential customer information. If you are a service provider, you are looking to create a list of people who are interested in your offer but have not purchased yet. These people are called leads. This marketing strategy is typically employed to gain new leads. Marketing is not responsible for converting these leads into sales however, that is the job of the sales team. It is the job of the sales team to send follow-up messages and calls to customers especially where local services are involved to get them to come in and use the service. This particular strategy is to attract customers with these low-priced items or discounted services in the hopes that they will also purchase other profitable products or services.

Driving Customer Traffic and Increasing Sales Volume

The main goal of implementing a loss leader strategy is to lure new customers into a store or onto an online platform by sending them a targeted message about the benefits of the products or services offered. This can be done through various means, such as email marketing or social media advertising. Additionally, people who visit websites that are properly set up to tag their visitors to create audiences can help you re-target these visitors with your ads in the future. By offering products at incredibly low prices, businesses create an irresistible temptation for potential buyers. This brings in a surge of customers who might not have visited otherwise.

Once these customers are enticed by the attractive prices, the hope is that they will be tempted to explore other items or services offered. This can lead to additional purchases of higher-margin products, ultimately increasing overall sales volume.

Careful Planning and Understanding Consumer Behavior

For the loss leader strategy to be successful, careful planning and a deep understanding of consumer behavior are essential. Businesses must analyze their target market and identify which products are most likely to attract attention.

By strategically selecting loss leader products or services, that are popular or highly sought after, businesses can maximize their chances of capturing the interest of potential buyers. For example, if a video game console manufacturer offers one of its consoles as a loss leader item, it may generate significant buzz and attract hordes of gamers eager for a good deal.

Pros and Cons of the Loss Leader Strategy

As with any business tactic, there are pros and cons associated with employing the loss leader strategy:


  • Attracts new customers: The allure of discounted prices can bring in new customers who may become loyal patrons.

  • Increases sales volume: While profit margins on loss leader items may be slim or nonexistent, additional purchases made by attracted customers can make up for it.

  • Builds brand reputation: Offering exceptional deals can help establish a positive brand image and generate goodwill among customers.

Definition of Loss Leader Pricing

Loss leader pricing is a strategy employed by businesses to stimulate sales and generate customer interest in other products. It involves setting prices below the cost of production or acquisition, with the intention of absorbing losses on the promoted item while making up for it through increased overall revenue.

In other words, you are willing taking a loss aka no ROI (Return On Investment) on the promotion of the loss leader in return for growing your leads aka contact list. Many times these new leads are not quite ready to purchase yet and will need to be nurtured until they are ready to buy. The real return happens when some of these new leads become buyers of your bigger ticket items. Bear in mind the conversion rate for cold traffic or people who don’t know a damn thing about you is about 1- 2% from your website according to Ruler Analytics.

Stimulating Sales and Creating Customer Interest

The primary objective of loss leader pricing is to attract customers and encourage them to make a small, initial purchase. By offering a product at a significantly reduced price, businesses aim to grab the attention and contact information of potential buyers and entice them into their stores or websites. This strategy creates an opportunity for customers to experience the value and quality of a particular product or service, which may lead to repeat purchases in the future.

Increased Revenue Through Cross-Selling

While businesses may incur losses on the discounted item itself, they anticipate generating additional revenue from related products or services that customers purchase alongside it. For example, a grocery store might offer milk at a lower price than its competitors, knowing that customers are likely to buy other groceries during their visit as well. The loss incurred on milk can be offset by the profit made from selling other items.

Let that sink in… before you have a discount offer you MUST have something else to sell that either goes with it or increases the total purchase value and average customer lifetime value. For service providers, this could look like having a couple of tiered multiple-session packages, or even bundling products and services and offers as an upsell. An upsell is when you encourage customers to purchase a comparable higher-end or more expensive product or service to the original offering. For example, when you are asked to supersize your fries or drink, that is an upsell. The upsell offer for service providers could also be a membership. A cross-sell is offering something that is related to or complements your original offering. For instance, some massage therapists will also have a rack of lotions, sugar scrubs, and other self-care items for sale along with their massage packages.

The point is you don’t lead off with only a loss leader such as a discounted first-time appointment and consultation and expect your business to be profitable. By it’s very definition you are willing to take a loss to acquire a new potential customer’s contact information.

Importance of Effective Pricing Analysis

Implementing successful loss leader strategies requires careful analysis of pricing dynamics. Businesses must consider factors such as production costs, market demand, competition, and consumer behavior before deciding on the ideal price point for their loss-leading product. A thorough understanding of these variables enables companies to strike a balance between attracting customers with low prices and ensuring profitability in the long run.

Pros and Cons of Loss Leader Pricing

Like any marketing strategy, loss leader pricing has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at some:


  • Attracts new customers: Lower prices serve as an incentive for potential customers who may have been hesitant to try a particular product.

  • Increases brand awareness: By offering discounted items, businesses can create buzz around their brand and increase visibility.

  • Boosts overall sales: Loss leader pricing can lead to increased foot traffic or website visits, resulting in higher sales of other products.

Benefits of Implementing Loss Leader Pricing

Implementing loss leader pricing can offer several benefits for businesses. Let’s explore the advantages in more detail:

Increased Foot Traffic

By offering attractive discounts on popular items, businesses can entice customers to visit their stores. Who doesn’t love a good deal, right? This strategy can lead to increased foot traffic as people are drawn in by the discounted prices. And once they’re inside, there’s a higher chance that they’ll make additional purchases beyond the loss leader item.

  • More customers visiting the store

  • Potential for higher overall sales

  • Opportunity to showcase other products and offerings

Customer Loyalty

When customers benefit from loss leader pricing and find value in the discounted items, they may develop a sense of loyalty towards the brand. They appreciate the savings and quality of products they receive, which can lead them to become repeat buyers. It’s like having a favorite restaurant that always offers great deals – you keep going back because you know you’ll get a good meal at an affordable price.

  • Building trust and loyalty with customers

  • Repeat purchases and increased customer lifetime value

  • Positive word-of-mouth recommendations

Competitive Advantage

In today’s competitive market, it’s crucial for businesses to stand out from their competitors. By implementing loss leader pricing, companies can differentiate themselves by offering lower prices on popular items. This attracts price-conscious consumers who are always on the lookout for a bargain.

  • Setting yourself apart from competitors

  • Attracting new customers who prioritize affordability

  • Positioning your business as budget-friendly without compromising quality

Upselling Opportunities

Once customers are inside your store due to the enticing discounts offered through loss leader pricing, it presents an opportunity for upselling. You have their attention; now it’s time to showcase your other products or services that may have higher profit margins. It’s like when you go into a clothing store looking for a specific item on sale, but end up leaving with a few additional pieces that caught your eye.

Purpose and Objectives of Loss Leader Strategy

The loss leader strategy serves several purposes and objectives for businesses. Let’s delve into each one to understand how this pricing tactic can be advantageous.

Attract New Customers

One of the primary goals of implementing a loss leader strategy is to attract new customers. By offering compelling discounts on certain products, businesses aim to capture the attention of potential buyers who may not have visited otherwise. These discounted products act as bait, enticing customers through the doors or onto the website. Once inside, these customers have the opportunity to explore other offerings and potentially make additional purchases.

Increase Market Share

Utilizing loss leaders can help businesses gain a larger portion of the market by enticing consumers away from competitors with better deals. When customers see attractive discounts on specific items, they may be more inclined to switch brands or stores in search of better prices. This increased footfall or online traffic can lead to a boost in sales volume and ultimately result in an expanded market share for the business.

Maximize Profit

While it may seem counterintuitive, employing loss leaders can actually help maximize profit in the long run. Although offering heavily discounted products may result in short-term losses, the overall strategy aims to increase profitability through additional sales and customer loyalty. When customers are enticed by attractive deals, they are more likely to make impulse purchases or buy complementary products at regular prices, offsetting any initial losses incurred from selling a product below cost.

Promote New Products

Loss leader pricing can be an effective tool for promoting new products or generating interest in underperforming items. By strategically selecting certain products as loss leaders, businesses create buzz and draw attention to these items that might otherwise go unnoticed. Customers who try these discounted products and find them satisfactory may become repeat buyers even after the promotional period ends.

To summarize, implementing a loss leader strategy has several purposes and objectives for businesses. It helps attract new customers, increase market share, maximize profit through additional sales and customer loyalty, and promote new or underperforming products.

Examples of Successful Loss Leader Pricing in Retail

In the world of retail, loss leader pricing is a strategy that has been used by various businesses to attract customers and boost sales. Let’s take a look at some real-life examples of successful loss leader pricing in action:

Supermarkets offering discounted prices on staple goods like milk or bread to attract customers.

Supermarkets often employ the tactic of offering deep discounts on essential items like milk or bread. By selling these products at rock bottom prices, they entice shoppers into their stores with the hope that they will also purchase other higher-margin items. This strategy works particularly well for grocery stores because people need to buy groceries regularly, making it more likely for them to return as loyal customers.

Electronics stores selling popular gadgets at a loss to drive traffic and encourage purchases of higher-margin accessories.

Electronics stores are known for utilizing loss leader pricing by offering popular gadgets, such as smartphones or video game consoles, at a price lower than their cost. While the store may incur a loss on these items, they make up for it by enticing customers who are looking for a good deal. Once inside the store, these customers are more likely to purchase accessories or other high-margin items that generate profit for the retailer.

Online retailers providing free shipping on certain items, even if it costs more than the product itself.

Online retailers have also found success with loss leader pricing by offering free shipping on specific products. Even if the cost of shipping exceeds the price of the item itself, this strategy attracts shoppers who appreciate the added value and convenience. Once on the website, these customers often end up adding more items to their cart since they feel they are already saving money with free shipping.

Clothing stores offering limited-time promotions with significant discounts on selected items.

Clothing stores frequently use limited-time promotions as loss leaders to entice shoppers into their stores or websites. By offering steep discounts on selected items for a short period, they create a sense of urgency and encourage customers to make a purchase.

Legal Considerations for Using Loss Leaders in Pricing

Businesses need to be aware of the legal considerations involved. It is crucial to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations regarding deceptive advertising or unfair competition. Let’s take a closer look at some key legal aspects that businesses should keep in mind when implementing loss leader pricing.

Complying with Disclosure Requirements

Clear disclosures are essential when using loss leaders to avoid misleading consumers. Businesses must provide transparent information about any limitations, quantities, or timeframes associated with the offer. This ensures that customers have a complete understanding of the terms and conditions before making a purchase. By being upfront about any restrictions, businesses can maintain trust and avoid potential legal issues.

Avoiding Price Discrimination

Price discrimination laws may restrict the use of loss leaders as a means to harm competitors by selling below cost only in specific regions or markets. To prevent accusations of unfair competition, businesses should be cautious not to engage in discriminatory practices that could harm other market players. Understanding the local regulations regarding price discrimination is crucial for staying on the right side of the law.

Seeking Legal Guidance

Given the complexity of legal matters surrounding loss leader pricing, it is advisable for businesses to consult with legal professionals before implementing this strategy. Lawyers specialized in commercial law can provide guidance tailored to specific jurisdictions and industries, helping businesses navigate through potential legal pitfalls successfully.

Ensuring Compliance with Consumer Protection Laws

Consumer protection laws vary from country to country and even within different states or provinces. These laws aim to safeguard consumer rights and prevent deceptive practices by businesses. When using loss leader pricing, it is important for companies to ensure compliance with these consumer protection laws. This includes avoiding false advertising claims, providing accurate product information, honoring warranties or guarantees, and addressing customer complaints promptly and fairly.

Mitigating Risks Through Proper Documentation

To protect themselves legally when employing loss leader pricing, businesses should maintain proper documentation.

Defining and Implementing Loss Leader Pricing in Business

In the world of business, loss leader pricing is a strategy that many companies employ to attract customers and boost sales. But what exactly does it mean? Let’s dive into the concept of loss leader pricing and how businesses can effectively implement this strategy.

Determine potential products for loss leaders

To successfully implement loss leader pricing, businesses need to identify which products have the potential to serve as effective loss leaders. These are items that are popular among customers and have high demand. By offering these products at a lower price than their actual cost, businesses can entice customers to make a purchase while also attracting them to explore other offerings.

I would further add that the choice of a loss leader should be something that drives further purchases such as selling candle wicks at a discounted price because you know that the same customer will also need to buy candle wax, possibly candle molds, and scents to put in their candles. Knowing that the purchase of additional items is very likely which do have the potential to make up for the initial losses is what makes the loss leader strategy very powerful.

Calculate the true cost

Before setting a price below the actual cost of the product, it is crucial for businesses to calculate the true cost of these items. This includes considering not only the direct costs but also overhead expenses associated with production, marketing, and distribution. By accurately assessing all costs involved, businesses can determine an appropriate price point for their loss leader products.

Develop a marketing plan

Once the loss leader products have been identified and priced accordingly, it’s time for businesses to develop a comprehensive marketing plan around these items. The goal is to create awareness among consumers about these discounted offerings and drive traffic to stores or websites. This can be achieved through various marketing channels such as social media campaigns, email newsletters, targeted advertisements, or even in-store signage.

Need help with understanding what your cost per lead would be? Or what your ad spend would look like to acquire enough leads to make this strategy work? I have a quick video and calculator showing you how to figure this out.

Monitor sales data and analyze customer behavior

Implementing a loss leader pricing strategy doesn’t end with offering discounted products; it requires constant monitoring and analysis. Businesses should closely monitor sales data related to their loss leader items and evaluate customer behavior patterns. This information will help them gauge the effectiveness of their strategy and make necessary adjustments if needed.

By studying sales figures and customer insights, businesses can determine whether their loss leaders are generating additional revenue through cross-selling or upselling opportunities. For example, if customers who purchase loss leader items are also buying other products at full price, it indicates a successful implementation of the strategy.

If you properly use a CRM such as the Local Growth System and track what offers your customers are purchasing and their actual lifetime value your efforts can be calculated fairly easily. It does take the commitment to document what your customers are purchasing as they do so.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Loss Leader Strategy

To determine the effectiveness of a loss leader strategy, businesses need to assess various factors. This evaluation process involves measuring foot traffic, monitoring sales volume, calculating profit margins, and tracking customer retention. By analyzing these aspects, companies can gain valuable insights into the impact of their loss leader pricing on overall profitability and customer base.

Measure Foot Traffic

One way to evaluate the effectiveness of a loss leader strategy is by analyzing foot traffic. This involves comparing the number of customers attracted during periods when loss leader pricing is implemented versus regular periods. By examining this data, businesses can determine if their promotional efforts successfully enticed more customers to visit their stores or websites.

Monitor Sales Volume

Assessing sales volume is crucial to understanding how a loss leader strategy impacts overall sales. Businesses should analyze whether there was an increase in sales during or after implementing a loss leader pricing strategy. This analysis helps determine if the discounted items not only attracted customers but also led to increased purchases of other products at regular prices.

Calculate Profit Margins

While loss leaders may result in temporary losses due to lower prices, it’s essential for businesses to calculate profit margins accurately. Companies must assess whether the increased sales of other products offset the losses incurred from selling loss leader items. By evaluating profit margins, businesses can make informed decisions about continuing or modifying their loss leader strategies.

Track Customer Retention

Another crucial aspect of evaluating a loss leader strategy is tracking customer retention. It’s important to measure whether customers who initially purchased loss leaders became repeat buyers or continued purchasing other products at regular prices. This data provides insights into how effective the promotion was in building long-term customer loyalty and expanding market share.

Assessing Customer Feedback and Reviews

Customer feedback plays a vital role in understanding their experience with loss leader promotions. By assessing reviews and gathering direct feedback from customers who have taken advantage of these offers, we can gain valuable insights into their perception of the pricing strategy. Positive feedback suggests that customers appreciate the opportunity to purchase expensive products at discounted prices, while negative feedback may indicate dissatisfaction or concerns about hidden costs or quality issues.

When assessing these metrics, businesses should also consider external factors such as competitors’ strategies and market conditions that may influence results. Conducting surveys or gathering feedback from customers who participated in the promotion can provide valuable insights into their buying experience and the impact of the loss leader strategy.

Risks Associated with the Loss Leader Strategy

The loss leader strategy, although effective in attracting customers and increasing sales, comes with its fair share of risks that businesses need to consider. Let’s take a closer look at some of these risks:

Potential profit loss

One of the main risks associated with the loss leader strategy is the potential for short-term losses. By selling products below cost, businesses may initially face a decrease in profitability. This occurs when customers are solely interested in purchasing the discounted item without buying any additional higher-margin products.

  • Businesses must carefully analyze their profit margins and ensure that they can absorb these short-term losses.

  • It is essential to evaluate whether the overall increase in customer traffic and potential upselling opportunities will compensate for any initial profit loss incurred from offering loss leader products.

Negative brand perception

Implementing a loss leader strategy carries the risk of negatively impacting a brand’s reputation if customers perceive it as consistently offering low-quality or cheap products.

  • Customers might associate low prices with inferior quality, leading to skepticism about other products or services offered by the business.

  • Maintaining consistent product quality and ensuring that the discounted items represent genuine value for money can help mitigate this risk.

  • Communicating clearly about the reasons behind offering such discounts, such as promotional campaigns or seasonal sales, can also help manage customer perceptions.

Legal implications

Businesses need to be aware of laws and regulations regarding deceptive pricing practices when implementing a loss leader strategy.

  • Selling products below cost may raise concerns about misleading advertising or unfair competition.

  • Failure to comply with these laws can result in fines or legal action against the business.

  • It is crucial for businesses to consult legal experts and ensure compliance with local pricing regulations before implementing a loss leader strategy.

Dependency on upselling

The success of a loss leader strategy relies heavily on customers purchasing additional higher-margin items along with the discounted product. However, there is no guarantee that all customers will engage in upselling.


A loss leader strategy can be a very important part of your marketing arsenal however it should not be used without careful consideration. It is my hope that this piece of education helps you to understand more about business strategy and how to incorporate it into your marketing and sales planning successfully.

As a marketing service provider, I have seen too many new business owners ask me to implement their loss leader strategy only to quit 30 days later because it didn’t make them profitable. These same people were brand new to their niche, did not already have a customer base, and were launching ads into cold traffic. They also did not have any upsells or cross-sells prepared before launching loss leader ad campaigns. They were expecting the loss leader to do the heavy lifting when it was never supposed to do so.

From the actual metrics only 1-2% of these cold leads are actually ready to book and pay when they sign up for the coupon. Most new business owners simply are not armed to “do the math” and to understand what investment levels look like to obtain enough cold leads or how to turn these cold leads into sales. Furthermore, they tend to not have anticipated the time frame it takes to get enough opportunities to upsell or cross-sell for them to start becoming profitable.

There was also no preplanning about how to monetize these new leads with future promotions, or nurture campaigns because these people were too strapped for cash and wanted the cheapest marketing solution possible. The amount of assumptions, lack of adequate planning and initial capital, and expectations on the part of these new business owners ultimately create a lose-lose situation. I really want to help raise the bar and prevent assumption-to-reality misalignment as much as possible because I know what it’s like to personally fund a business that succeeds and also ones that don’t. It’s absolutely heart breaking and devastating, to say the least.

Frequently Asked Questions about Loss Leader Pricing

Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of this comprehensive blog post on loss leader pricing. By now, you should have a solid understanding of what it is, how it works, and its potential benefits and risks. But before we wrap things up, let’s address a few common questions that often arise when discussing this pricing strategy.

Is loss leader pricing only applicable to retail businesses?

Loss leader pricing can be implemented in various industries, not just limited to retail. While it is commonly associated with retail stores offering discounted products to attract customers, other businesses such as service providers or online platforms can also adopt this strategy by offering free trials or introductory offers.

How do I determine the right product or service to use as a loss leader?

When selecting a product or service for your loss leader strategy, consider choosing one that complements your core offerings and has high appeal to your target audience. It should be a popular item that entices customers to make additional purchases once they’re in your store or on your website.

Are there any legal considerations I need to keep in mind when using loss leaders?

Absolutely! While loss leader pricing can be an effective marketing tool, it’s crucial to comply with laws and regulations governing fair trade practices and deceptive advertising. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the specific rules in your jurisdiction and ensure transparency in your pricing strategies.

Can implementing a loss leader strategy guarantee increased sales?

While implementing a loss leader strategy can certainly help attract new customers and boost sales, success is not guaranteed. It requires careful planning, monitoring of results, and making adjustments along the way based on customer response and market conditions.

How can I evaluate the effectiveness of my loss leader strategy?

To evaluate the effectiveness of your loss leader strategy, track key performance indicators such as overall sales, customer acquisition rate, and the impact on profit margins. Gather feedback from customers to understand their perception of your pricing strategy and whether it influenced their purchasing decisions.

Now that you have a better understanding of loss leader pricing and its implications, it’s time to put this knowledge into action. Consider how this strategy may benefit your business and explore ways to implement it effectively. Remember, experimentation is key, so don’t be afraid to test different approaches and monitor results closely. Good luck!