Online Couponing – Does It Make Sense for Your Small Business?

Over the past month I have been very blessed to have helped all three major Canadian TV networks with a story on Online Coupons. Many small business owners are asking about the effectiveness of Groupon and other services and if it is a fit for their small business.

Are these online coupons right for your small business and should they be part of your small business marketing strategy. The correct answer really depends on your business, your goals and what you are looking to achieving.

Online Coupons is definitely something you don’t want to throw up against the wall and see what sticks online coupons. You must plan, decide, prepare and execute. The keyword here is Follow Up. Once you get someone in the door, this is where the hard work starts, how do you get them back? You need a way to follow-up and constantly engage with the market.

What must a small business do to prepare when thinking about running an online coupon campaign?

Find a small business marketing consultant who can help you with understanding the pros and cons about running a campaign with Groupon, LivingSocial etc. Don’t trust the sales people yet. They want your business and they are paid to sell you a campaign.
Know your target audience. Do you have a business that couponing makes sense. Most business to consumer type of business offering will fit but not all. Know your market.
Do you really need more business? Better question, do you really need more low margin business? Couponing is a marketing expense. It is something you do to gain long-term clients.
Do you have any additional services you can up sell to your coupon customer? This is the do you want fries with that? What high margin products can you offer when that new potential long-term client comes in for the deal-of-the-day.
Keep in mind the flood gates may open, do you have enough staff and supplies to handle the new business.
Coupons online is not a get rich quick type of marketing strategy. Focus on delivering exceptional service so you can win them back for another visit and this is where you charge your normal prices for the service. You are always going to have folks who just come in for the deal-of-the-day and never have intentions to come back. WOW them as well. Never underestimate the value of exceptional service.

If you don’t deliver exceptional services you run the risk of this whole thing backfiring on your business. Negative word-of-mouth and bad business reviews online will last longer than the sweetness of the new business rush.

There are many services to choose from out there. Do your homework. One of my marketing consulting clients recently ran a coupon deal through Kijiji and it was a horrible experience for this small business. It was a great example of a salesperson who wanted the deal and provided poor service to their client. Items were posted, key messaging was missing and it turned out to be a horrible campaign. They are trying again with Groupon.

Groupon is the 800 pound gorilla in the online couponing game. In my opinion, they are the best ones out there with perhaps the best reach into the Calgary market. Groupon doesn’t pay you right away. Expect the trickle effect with payments to your business. They pay 30-60-90. Can you float a 90 day receivable in your business?

There are lots to know, prepare and understand in the online couponing game. Do your homework, be ready and if you need help, find a marketing consultant who understands coupons and how to prepare your business.

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