Q: How can I use coupon promotions to draw customers to my business?
For many companies, coupons have become an integral part of doing business.
Whether its 25 percent off an item or a buy one get one free offer, discounts are a way to draw customers, even if it means taking a hit on the bottom line.
But marketing expert Sherré L. DeMao, founder of SLD Unlimited Marketing/PR, based in Denver, N.C., and author of 50 Marketing Secrets of Growth Companies in Down Economic Times, warns that businesses must be smart about the discounts they offer.
I see a huge mistake being made with couponing because too often coupons are done the wrong way because a business doesnt understand who they are reaching, DeMao said. You have to know who your market is and how they view money and use money.
The most effective coupons will increase customer traffic without severely impacting profits.
DeMao can list numerous examples of coupons gone wrong. She cites one high-end clothing store that offered customers $50 off a purchase for a referral. The mistake was that the average purchase was around $1,000, and a $50 coupon wasnt significant to customers.
When we changed that same dollar amount to a donation in the persons name, it just went beautifully, DeMao said.
Customers often prefer value-added coupons to discounts, DeMao said.
One business owner she worked with switched from offering percentage discounts to giving away a free bottle of special wash with the purchase of a lingerie outfit. The customers responded well, and the business owner saved money because she could buy the lingerie wash at a good price in bulk.
Jack Be Natural, an Internet business based in Ballantyne, regularly offers discounts on its natural baby products.
John Shinas, who owns and operates Jack Be Natural with his wife Stacy Shinas, said that the business does not sell unique items, so they must offer coupons to stay competitive.
Todays shopper has gotten very deal conscious, Shinas said. They shop around, and I think its a necessity to offer coupons to draw in customers.
Shinas said they offer free shipping, seasonal discounts and monthly deals, although customers cant get coupons for nothing.
You have to earn the discounts, he said. They have to like us on Facebook, tweet about it or share.