Whether you’re a restaurant, ecommerce site or plumber, starting coupon campaign can be a major step towards building a loyal customer base. For this guide, we asked experts to share their best coupon advertising ideas. We also uncover the best places to promote your coupons, including both online and offline options.
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If you want to skip ahead to a section, here’s what we’ll cover:
- How to Write Coupons
- How To Get The Most Out of Your Coupons
- The Best Places To Distribute Coupons: Online
- The Best Places To Distribute Coupons: Offline
How to Write Coupons
1. Use LocalSaver to see what’s popular in your industry
See what the most common coupons are for businesses in your industry. When you sign up for a free account with LovalSaver, they show you 3 popular deals. You can launch coupons on popular websites through localsaver, or just use the ideas as inspiration. Follow this link to signup, or read our guide for more information on LocalSaver.
2. Run the numbers to find the optimal discount
Sherry Holub, JV Media Design
The first thing I recommend small businesses do is run the numbers. That is, make sure you won’t actually lose money with the offer. Lower offers, such as 10% might be better suited to rewarding existing customers, but may not be enough to entice new customers. What would be an offer that would benefit them or drive them to want to walk through the door/go to the website and make a purchase? 2 for 1 coupons are great for businesses like restaurants or entertainment venues (as long as the business is still making money by giving one away for free).
3. Research your loyal customers
Lisa Chu, BlackNBianco
Coupons and discounts has a tendency to attract one time customers looking for a great deal. It’s best to avoid their voices when you write a business marketing plan as they will drive down your prices and not be a repeat customer. On the other hand offering coupons for repeat customers is a great way to build an authentic relationship with your customers and keep your profit margins healthy.
4. Let them spend it however they want
Mike Catania, Promotioncode.org
A good coupon is a site-wide offer. 3% off your total order is going to vastly outperform a product-specific offer, even if it’s marked down to 50%. Consumers want to feel like you’re accommodating them and the best way to do that is to provide a deal where they have some flexibility.
5. Write coupons that people click
Jeremy Levi, MarsMedSupply.com
10% gets looked at, 15% sounds good, 20% and up will get people to stop what they’re doing and open your email. I hate when people don’t put the offer in the headline of the email or promotion and make people dig. It frustrates buyers and you lose them; get straight to the point and don’t beat around the bush.
6. Focus on getting customers through the door
AJ Saleem, Suprex Learning
The most expensive part of my business is actually getting the customer (retaining customers is a lot easier.) The coupon offer that I have been using for my company is a FREE hour of tutoring; this offer tempts a customer to come into my business because of no risks but at the same time allows me to gain their business. This method has been getting around a 80% retention rate after a customer uses the coupon as opposed to a 65% retention rate from customers that find me off of the internet.
7. The More Information The Better
You’ll obviously want to include your logo, but never presume your customer or client can connect the dots. The more information, the better. So tell them your company name, logo, address, website, email address, phone number, and EVEN directions to your premises.
8. Don’t Forget the Expiration Date!
Mike Catania, Promotioncode.org
If you’re going to submit your coupon online, be absolutely sure to include an expiration date. Some coupon sites are notorious for not pulling down expired offers so include the expiration date in the description as well as the expiration date field.
How To Get The Most Out of Your Coupons
9. Split-test Your Coupons
Chris Barr, Every Door Direct Mail
To get the most out of coupons, you have to constantly split-test your offers. Split-testing is the process of distributing multiple offers to the same target audience, and gathering data about coupon redemption rates (sales). For example, if you distribute a flyer with (4) unique coupons, you may find that one particular coupon generates 75% of the sales. Once you identify a winner it becomes your control coupon. From there, you should continue split-testing until you beat your control. Rinse and repeat.
10. Use Coupons to Convince Hesitant Customers
Brian Stumbaugh, Barefoot Solutions
We’ve seen the most coupon advertising success by pushing out the coupons via retargeting email, Facebook Ads, and Google Adwords campaigns. We identify customers that have abandoned carts or filled out forms partially without submitting, and then target Facebook and Google Adwords ads to those customers as well as sending them an exclusive offer via email. We’ve seen promising conversion rates via those channels with customers that otherwise would have been lost leads or sales.
For more information, check out our guide to Setting Up a Facebook Ad Retargeting Campaign.
11. Bring Them Back with a Double Offer
Chris Fehrmann, G/O Digital Marketing
If a customer found you through an offer, research shows that they’re likely more loyal to their pocketbooks instead of your business, and will search for more offers in the future. To curb this behavior, you can create a double offer. A double offer is a secondary offer that compliments the first. Ask yourself the same questions you did for the first offer, but also ask yourself what you would want after that first service. By answering that question successfully, you’ll be on the right track to double up your offers for greater business – and start converting deal aficionados into a loyal customers.
The Best Places To Distribute Coupons: Online
There’s many different coupon sites out there for local businesses. What’s unique about LocalSaver is that you can get listed on 14 different sites, yet manage and edit your coupons all from 1 control panel. LocalSaver is the only way to get on exclusive websites, like Coupons.com.
It’s only $9.99/month to distribute coupons, but you can get started with a Free 1- Month Trial.
This billion dollar startup is highly influential in the marketplace. If you want to reach frugal-minded consumers, you must have a local presence on Coupons.com. This company allows you to advertise your business via printable coupon. Coupons are one time use, with a maximum print out of two coupons per computer. You can definitely control quantity with this service.
14. Email Newsletter
Creating a newsletter is a must for small businesses. It keeps you relevant. When sending out your newsletter, why not include a coupon? It a wonderful incentive for your core customer-base. It doesn’t have to be a significantly high amount (stay around 10%), and it may not even be used, but it will inform the customer that you provide discounts, and they will be more likely to look out for a discount in the future.
Check out Mailchimp, our recommended email marketing program, which includes tools to create and automatically send coupons to customers.
As a typical consumer, chances are you’ve purchased a Groupon in the last 12 months. If you haven’t purchased, you’ve at least considered the option. Group can have a tremendous impact on small businesses, but it’s important to execute your strategy carefully. If you’re considering this route, check out our Ultimate Guide to Groupon for Businesses which explains costs and effective Groupon strategies for small businesses.
LivingSocial is a deal of the day site and is very similar to Groupon. While the two are competitors, many customers shop on both. It may be beneficial to alternate between both and find out which one brings you the most loyal and compatible customers.
Use Yelp Deals to create coupon advertisements on Yelp. You offer a discount, typically around 50% off. Yelp takes 30% off of the purchase price, and you get the rest. It’s similar to the Groupon model, except Yelp leaves you with a greater profit.
18. Angie’s List
Similar to Yelp, Angie’s List allows businesses to create coupons. When a customer makes a search, coupons appear at the top of the results. Angie’s List is an especially good choice for service-based industries like home repair and medical practices, as this tends to be their specialty. For more information, check out our guide How to Use Angie’s List: Advertising Costs and More.
RetailMeNot is a huge digital coupon marketplace. Unlike the other websites we’ve listed so far, RetailMeNot is not typically used for local searches. Instead, it’s used by retail chains and websites (big & small) to share coupon codes. A fun thing about RetailMeNot is that users can directly add coupon codes to the site.
Use Twitter to make quick posts, like flash coupons, for your products or services. If you have an active customer base who’s on social media, they will jump at the chance to buy from you at a discounted rate.
CouponCabin is similar to RetailMeNot. It allows users to hunt for promotional codes, and also search by sales.
Use your own website to promote your coupons. Customers check out your website for many different reasons–they want to know more about your business, they want to read reviews, they want to understand your product, or they want to find a discount. Add a discount with an opt-in lightbox. There’s different ways to do this, but check out Kyla’s tutorial on OptinMonster.
24. Mobile Coupons
Ashley Eckel has a very useful article about how to create a successful mobile coupon campaign. It’s important to diversify your coupon advertising. Study this article to find out how to create the highest engagement.
The Best Places To Distribute Coupons: Offline
25. Local Newspaper
Tom Egelhoff offers insightful information on how to place a small town newspaper ad. Even if you live in a big city, you should probably stick with smaller publications that cater to your core demographic. Most communities have a local newspaper. Place an ad with a coupon for maximum
Valpak is a direct marketing service that sends coupons and ads through the postal service. The coupons come together in a blue envelope, and usually feature local businesses. Prices vary depending on the scope of the campaign, but a minimum of 10,000 houses is required. Expect to pay between $150 to $400 per campaign.
If you don’t want to share ad-space with other businesses, you can send coupons yourself with a direct mailing service. VistaPrint will print, address and mail postcards for $0.40 – $0.60 a piece. Not sure who you’d mail it to? VistaPrint gives you tools to create a mailing list of potential customers in your area. You can narrow down by location, age, and other factors, like hobbies and interests.
For more about this option, check out our guide Best Direct Mail Service: VistaPrint vs. PSPrint vs. EDDM.
We’ve talked extensively about flyers before. Flyers are a direct way of sharing your coupons with customers. You are literally handing them a coupon. Whether the flyer is only a collection of coupons, or if you’re sharing information about your business and adding a coupon as an incentive at the bottom, flyers are effective at evangelism.
Remember to add a special code for your coupons, so that you can note the source when the coupons return to you.
Want to put your message straight into your target’s hands? How about on top of a steaming hot pizza pie? The best part is they’ll see your ad every time they grab a slice. Pizza box ads are reliable and highly effective, making them a great way to advertise your business.
We wrote up a guide to postcard marketing not too long ago. Although the slant of this article was on real estate, you can easily parlay any type of coupon into postcard marketing. The benefit of using postcards is that customers don’t need to open it–all information is readily available.
Many community centers, coffee shops, book shops, and grocery stores have community bulletin boards. Be on the lookout for any in your area. If you see one, pin up your flyer (with attached coupons). Although it may not seem to reach a lot of customers, it will reach those most connected to the community, and who are likely to provide value to your business as an engaged customer.
32. Niche magazines
Can you business gain exposure by placing a coupon in the advertisement section of a magazine in your niche? If so, don’t hesitate to do so. Although you may be a local business, you may be able to sell remotely, or at least build awareness of your company so that your potential customers can know that you exist.
33. Red Plum
Red Plum is a coupon service that’s available online, in your mailbox, in the newspaper, or online. You may recognize it as a coupon circular. It often has brands like Suave, Hawaiian Tropic and Degree.
Very similar to Red Plum, Smartsource is also a coupon service. You can advertise with both, but Red Plum and Smartsource are fiercely competitive and may not allow you to place coupons in both simultaneously.
If you frequently print out receipts for your customers, why not leverage the wasted space on the receipts to advertise a deal? Use the blank space to provide a valuable coupon for the customer.
Similar to SmartReceipt, Catalina ads print up at the point of sale. The difference is that Catalina ads are printed from a separate machine that the POS register.