Ask the Experts

Ask the experts: Use coupon promotions wisely to grow your business

CorrespondentApril 8, 2013 

Sherré L. DeMao, founder of SLD Unlimited Marketing/PR based in Denver, N.C.

HANDOUT — handout

  • Need advice?

    Do you have a small business issue? If so, let us know. Email Shop Talk Editor Jessaca Giglio at

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 it’s 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 doesn’t 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 wasn’t significant to customers.

“When we changed that same dollar amount to a donation in the person’s 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.

“Today’s shopper has gotten very deal conscious,” Shinas said. “They shop around, and I think it’s a necessity to offer coupons to draw in customers.”

Shinas said they offer free shipping, seasonal discounts and monthly deals, although customers can’t get coupons for nothing.

“You have to earn the discounts,” he said. “They have to like us on Facebook, tweet about it or share.”

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service