You’ve probably heard of “recession-proof” businesses- those that thrive, or at least don’t dive, when the economy tanks out on us. Liquor sales (no shock there) is one of those industries, along with the less crucial ones like health care, production and distribution of food staples, funerary services etc. However, there’s one facet of the market that’s not only safe from the economy’s occasional swan dives, it actually thrives- coupons and couponing. So if there’s a silver lining to be found bordering the dark cloud of recession, it’s that right now is a great time to attract customers with coupons.
Modern Couponing and How to Use It
This being the aforementioned age of everything digital, the frontiers of couponing (soon to be a major, very dull, motion picture) are being defined on the internet. The net is even redefining the concept of coupons. E-mail distribution, printable coupons from a website, coupons with codes that can only be scanned via apps, click-able banners, online-only coupons, social networking and share-able offers, etc.
The biggest e-players, though, are the “social coupon” sites like Wrazz, Gizmodo, Goldstar, Living Social, and their reigning godfather- Groupon. It’s no secret that they’re changing the economic landscape, with customers numbering in the tens (probably hundreds) of millions, collectively spending billions. Perhaps more appealing, marketing researchers found that social coupon sites were most popular with young, educated, above average income-earning women- a very lucrative market. As a member of that demographic, except for the income thing, I can certainly attest to my own use of them.
As such, consider using one of these services. If you feel like your business isn’t the kind of undertaking that would profit from a social coupon outlet, think outside the box. Groupons have been offered for- plastic surgery and circumcision; a professional, $100 tucking-you-into-bed service; Jeffrey Dahmer’s neighborhood tours, etc. Those sites, Groupon in particular, have established a reputation for odd and non-traditional sorts of coupon offers- so think it over.
What Your Coupon Should Look and Work
The popularity of e-coupons means that there are a lot of them out there. A very deep observation, I know. That means they work but it also means that the coupon-o-sphere is packed. And that means- your coupon has to stand out. You want it eye-catching but not distracting and informative but not cluttered. Including a good photo or illustration is almost never a bad idea for livening up your coupon.
As for the clutter- make your offer clear and bold with a specifically-defined benefit- “Get —– 20% Off!” “Buy Two —– Get One Free!”, or whatever that offer is. Don’t be afraid of white space. People are far more likely to look at an internalize a little text in a decent amount of space than they are a lot of text in less space. Once your coupon is clear, concise and catchy, define its boundaries. Always be clear and absolute about the terms: say exactly when the coupon expires (and if it’s an actual coupon for a good deal, it should expire); clarify that the coupon is limited to however many people at once; only —— customer(s) per coupon; “Deal does not include alcoholic beverages”, and the like.
Create Loyalty and Then Reward It
If it’s possible for you to do so- track your coupons and those who use it. Have customers who take advantage of your coupon give you their information for future deals. If you put your deal up on a number of sites and/or media, track where those coupons that come in for redemption were found. And obviously, focus more heavily on those sources for future campaigns. Coupons are meant to draw business but should be designed to keep it, too.
For the all-important customer-retention, consider coupons that are just available to current, loyal customers. Have coupons that are only redeemable from your Facebook page and/or send offers to your customers by e-mail or snail mail. Send out a note to people that you will be opening your doors an hour early for loyal, appreciate patrons, with coffee and muffins and everything there is 20% for that hour, etc.
Drawbacks and Concerns
This may not sound like a drawback, but beware the possibility that your coupon campaign draws too many customers. It’s not hard to find example on the web of a small business that offers some ambitious deal, gets 500-1000 takers and finds themselves overwhelmed by customer-demand they can’t meet- which is going to lose business long term. Not to mention the obvious drawback of offering a product or service for less money- you’re getting less money from people who use that coupon.
Be absolutely sure your bottom line can handle the hit it’s going to take if dozens, hundreds or thousands of customers take you up on your offer.
Do the research and do the math before you offer a coupon. And if an e-coupon campaign seems like the best way to go, begin with a very conservative run. Remember that not only will you very possibly be dealing with a great number of new customers, they’re going to be paying less for your product or service and your social coupon partner is going to take a bite out of that already-diminished profit. If you have clear-eyed exectations, however, an e-coupon campaign can positively change the landscape of your business, as it has for so many others.
About the Author:
Annie Harrington is a small business owner and freelance writer. In her free time she enjoys writing about small business, business in general, couponing and anything else she finds interesting.