On July 12, Build-a-Bear Workshop, which has stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., tried out a marketing promotion called "Pay Your Age Day." It was such a hit it failed.

The idea of it sounds great — children get to walk in with a parent, create their bears, and pay only how old they are. The bears and other stuffed animals usually start at $10-25, before optional accessories are added on.

People were waiting up to six hours in the U.S. and eight in the U.K. for this deal, which became such a huge event that the stock of items sold out. The company, in an unprecedented step, actually shut down its stores across both countries.

The cries of outrage were heard all over social media and news networks — featuring crying children and even more frustrated parents.

As the old adage goes, you should learn from other people’s mistakes. The Build-a-Bear marketing team had a fantastic idea but clearly didn’t think it through.

Supplies could have been sent out earlier and in greater number, a focus group or "test run" could have been implemented so they would’ve known how big this would get, and they could have even run the promotion in a case-by-case basis.

How can your company have a wildly successful promotion that doesn’t also fail spectacularly?

The most important part of any promotion is planning, and well in advance. Here are some additional useful tips:

  • Create a marketing campaign/project plan that includes the tasks that are necessary to really get the promotion to work properly. This means test runs, terms and conditions, and "plan B" actions in case something goes wrong with plan A.
  • You have to market your promotion well, of course, but target it to audiences and demographics. Creating buzz is great, but do it properly. Don’t just create a generic ad and post it to millions of people. mean what you say and plan for it.
  • Figure out what you can and can’t do. Is your business going to go blow out its profit margin just because you offered a "Buy One Get One" deal on a whim? Don’t let that happen. Talk to financial gurus, do your research and see what is actually an option for your bottom line.
  • Doing the "just for today" promotion is great if you have plenty of employees and stock (especially if you’re selling to crying babies), but if you don’t, then don’t do it. Doing a promotion for a week, or even a month, can help weed out any issues of long lines forming and frustrated customers.

These are just a few tips to make sure your promotion doesn’t turn out to be a fiasco. You want to build a business that inspires trustworthiness, because at the end of the day, your profit will only increase if your customers are happy and feel that they can trust you.