Monday, February 28, 2011

How to use Special Offers Effectively

Win New Customers without Sabotaging Profitability

There's no question about it, special offers and discounts can be a great way to win new customers, boost short-term revenues, move stock, fill excess capacity, and achieve other business goals. But how do you use them effectively to get the best results?

Don't be Half-Hearted!

Firstly, if you're going to use an offer, make it an attractive! Not many people are going to change their buying habits for a 5 or even 10% discount. If you're looking for offers to really drive more new customers, you need to think of the discount you're giving away as the cost of acquiring a new customer. Yes, in the shoft-term your margins might take a hit, but think of the discount as part of your marketing investment. If your customers generally go on to generate a lot of repeat business, then you can probably afford to be very generous with your new customer offers.

Choose Your Audience Carefully

Secondly, you need to think where you're going to promote the offer. If it's only promoted to people that have signed up to receive offers (eg Groupon/Scoopon/Spreets), you want to tread carefully. This market is looking for the latest deal and is likely to continue that behaviour. It would probably take a pretty sensational experience to persuade them to become a loyal customer (they're likely to continue shopping around for a better deal elsewhere). If you can present your offer to people that fall more naturally into your target market (but still need a little encouragement to give you a try), then you're likely to be much more successful.

Be Smart when you Craft your Offer

Thirdly, try different ways of packaging up your offer. The same effective discount could be presented as...
  • 25% off!
  • Save $50 (when you spend more than $200)!
  • 2nd person dines for HALF Price!
  • Kids eat for FREE
  • 2 courses + a bottle of wine to share for only $99!
  • Dine with us and see a movie for FREE
What sounds more effective to you? They might each cost you the same, but they'll sure to get a different level of response. You could also incentivise repeat business. For example, "start your weekly clean this week and get your 3rd week FREE", or "Get your Nails done today, and Get a Voucher for the next Manicure FREE".

The type of offer that works best will vary depending on your audience and your product/service, but often;

  • Percentage Off is the least enticing (unless you're able to give away more than 30%)
  • Dollars Off sounds more attractive (even if you need to put a minimum spend as part of the offer conditions)
  • Something Free is even more enticing, so long as it's something customers actually value (free delivery, buy something - get something else free, buy 2 - get a 3rd free, etc - but please don't throw in a canvas bag!)
  • Bundled offers can be exceptional (if done well) - the beauty industry often does this well with various "pamper packs", but why don't restaurants do this with the nearby cinema, or gyms provide a massage every 6 months, or computer services bundle in phone-support or virus protection?
  • Give-Aways and Go-Into-the-Draw to Win can be good, but the give-away or prize needs to be spot on (and fairly large for a Draw-Prize)

Businesses on can use Special Offers to effectively target people that value quality and good service (the ideal type of customer). The offers you include on your profile are emailed to the members that have elected to hear about the reviews and offers from business in (and servicing) their areas. These are an extremely effective way to get more exposure and win new customers. So make sure you're making use of it and changing your offer frequently to keep it fresh and test what works best.

Special Offers combined with positive customer reviews? Unbeatable!