Huge companies spend millions of dollars on focus groups and marketing afficionados to create promotion campaigns and coupons that will bring buyers in the door. As small to medium business owners - we don't have that luxury...or do we? Small business owners need to start employing their observation skills and with a little homework - you'll come up with coupons and promotions that rock!
Definition of a Good Coupon (and a Bad one!)
Some people spend their whole marketing careers creating the definitive "Good Coupon" (ie: a coupon that brings the customer to you and yet doesn't cost too much in profit) and avoiding a bad coupon (usually a coupon that gets no response). Small business owners can see a dramatic improvement in their profits by offering a good coupon. To make a good coupon, you need to think like your customers. That bears repeating and emphasis - THINK LIKE YOUR CUSTOMER! What would make you clip that coupon and go use it? What kind of coupon calls you to check out a business if you've never used them before? What coupons do you skip?
Be Specific About What You Want
Its amazing how many small businesses don't think about what they want their coupons to do. If you don't know exactly the response your want your coupon to generate - I can guarantee...it doesn't either! You have to be specific with the goal of EACH coupon you offer. Do you want new customers? Do you want your regular customers to come in more? Do you want to move a specific product? Do you want people to refer you? Make sure you focus and build your coupon to answer one specific goal. If you are offering several coupons be sure to define each one with dotted/hashed lines or with colors so it's easy for the customer to identify which ones might interest him or her.
Discount Something that your Customer is Actually Interested InA coupon advertises a discount for a limited period of time on a product or service. You may have an low cost/high profit item that you WANT people to purchase however if that's not the item that is currently bringing customers in the door, your coupon (unless it is a very deep discount) is not going to be as effective. An example of this is a hair salon that only gives coupons on their products - not the hair services themselves! My Advice...Get me in the door with a coupon on a hair cut or color (probably the reason I'm coming in the first place) and when I see how fabulous I look - THEN I might actually buy the products.
Be Careful When Limiting Who Can Use the Coupon
People dislike fine print. There's nothing I despise more than when I take a coupon and try to use it only to learn that my coupon does not apply to me because I am an existing customer. Why would you not want to reward your current customers for shopping with you? If you only offer an incentive for new clients - then why should they become a reoccuring one? If you are discounting a service that only a very limited number of people can use, make sure you are offering a variety of coupons at the same time that together will include everyone. If you are requiring a minimum purchase amount for the discount to be viable - make sure it's just above or at the average price point people buy from you.
Create Urgency with An Expiration Date
Expiration dates create an sense of urgency that your customer will need to act quickly to use and benefit from the coupon. Experiment with expiration dates. A date that is too close can be disastrous if your marketing strategy doesn't get the coupon out in time. Plus it doesn't give people enough time to redeem it. A date too far away will be forgotten. Depending on your advertising, what your discount is and the nature of your business, 2 weeks to 1 month can be a good time frame for a coupon expiration date. Online deals can expire more quickly than ones that require in-store purchase.
Offer a Discount not just a 'Coupon'
Statistics show that people don't respond if a coupon's face value is too small. I recently saw a coupon for a medical office that offered $1.00 off an office visit. Their visit costs, on average, $35.00 so their coupon gave me less than 3% off. That doesn't make me want to respond to that coupon at all. In fact I was almost turned off to the business itself for offering such a bad coupon. This is where you need to put your customer hat back on. If you see 10% off, 15% off or 20% off coupons - which do you respond to? You may cringe at the idea of offering a 20% off coupon but think about successful chains like Macy's which focus millions of dollars on this marketing strategy that people come shop with them more if they believe they'll save with their coupon.
Create a Coupon Strategy and Go For It!
If you want to do a semi annual or annual deep discount coupon then plan it out and market accordingly. If you want people to consistently check your website or store for coupons then offer a variety and consistently market them. Look at what larger companies in your industry or ones like yours are doing. If it works for them - it might work for you! Whatever you decide - plan it out and execute it. That doesn't mean you can't modify your plan as you find coupons that work or fail. It means you are taking an active role in this side of your marketing strategy.