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What Makes an Effective Coupon

Coupons are a great way to increase clientele but must be directed to the customers needs.
Written Oct 01, 2010, read 6091 times since then.


Some people spend their who marketing careers creating the definitive "Good Coupon" (ie: a coupon that brings the customer to you and yet doesn't cost you 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 coupon. To make a good coupon, you need to think like your customers. What would make you clip that coupon and go use it? What kind of coupon calls you to check out that business if you've never used them before? What coupons do you pass on?

Pick A Product/Service to Discount that your Customer is Actually Interested In

A 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 a deep discount) is not going to be as effective.

Don't Limit 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 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.

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.

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 sad coupon. This is where you need to put your customer hat back on. If you see 10% off, 15% off or 25% off coupons - which do you respond to? You may cringe at the idea of offering a 25% 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. Whatever you decide to do - 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.

Learn more about the author, TONI RYAN.

Comment on this article

  • Junk Removal - Dumpster Rental 
Bothell, Washington 
John Davies
    Posted by John Davies, Bothell, Washington | Oct 04, 2010

    I use coupons in my business and we advertise $20/off each pickup if they schedule online. Its interesting to hear that most people would rather see a percentage off.

  • Software Developer 
TEL AVIV Israel 
John Hendly
    Posted by John Hendly, TEL AVIV Israel | Mar 14, 2011

    very informative article about making the best out of coupon marketing. A lot of good common sense here, especially liked the point about creating the urgency effect, such as using an expiration date. As a coupon shopper, I can say that when ever I see a coupon without an expiry date I just take little notice.

    To add to this point, these days it seems a new tactic of creating this urgency effect is by having the coupon or deal advertisement run only for a given time period, best example would be groupon, besides for the sharing effect. another example would be sites like offerpop or offering tools which are more coupon focused.

    Anyway great article here, we'll be looking out for some more.