There’s nothing new about businesses using Discount Coupons, Shopper Dockets or similar. They’ve been around for a long time.
But why is it that some work far better than others?
There are a number of reasons for this but it would take quite a deal or explaining to cover everything.
Let me therefore, cut to the chase and give you some worthwhile pointers should you ever consider trying a discount docket of some type.
Some people, as much as they’d like to use them, wouldn’t be caught dead producing a discount coupon. It’s a pride thing.
There are some situations where people feel very comfortable producing a coupon and other situations where they don’t. Eg. On the plus side, coupons for take away meal deals, video movie hire, hair care offers, dry cleaning offers, meat and bread offers and so on. On the minus side, people are less likely to use a coupon at a clothing store, shoes store, hardware store or similar unless it’s a really spectacular offer.
Coupons should not be thought of as merely a means of giving people a discount.
Coupons should be designed and used to increase your overall sales or at the very least the amount someone spends with you in any single transaction.
Coupons should also be used for introducing new customers. Every new customer could then become potentially a regular customer and be worth hundreds of dollars to you into the future.
Coupon offers should at least appear to be a good offer. People aren’t fools.
Offering a free cup of coffee with a meal at an expensive restaurant simply won’t cut it.
Offering what appears to be a great meal deal at a takeaway food outlet will attract lots of people. It’s all about how you package the deal and how you present it. Eg. If you say Family Meal Deal – Chicken, chips, peas and corn for $20, some people will likely respond. However, if you say Family Meal Deal – Chicken, chips, peas and corn for $20, you save $3.80! – you’ll probably do considerably better.
When considering suitable offers, package in things where your profit margin is highest. Eg. Chips, rice, soft drinks, labour and bread can often be included to bulk up the overall value of a package deal but often costs you little to provide in the first place.
Done right discount dockets present businesses with a great marketing tool. If you’d like more specific advice about what to offer in a discount docket, feel free to email me via the’ Contact us’ facility.
Over the years, I have run a multitude of business promotions for all manner of reasons, the latest being an 8th Birthday Celebration for our Community publication. We offered a prize of $10,000 worth of furniture and/or bedding from a leading local furniture store. The winner could choose whatever they liked. Great prize eh? I thought so!
It was a brilliant prize and gave all 60 or so participating businesses the opportunity to thrill their customers no end. I mean, just think about it, you go into a shop, buy something and then get offered a coupon to fill in where you could win the $10,000 prize. I ask you – what customer wouldn’t appreciate that? Would that not also go a long way to exceeding any customer’s expectations and cause them to think well of you?
I also ask you, what business with that opportunity to give wouldn’t knock themselves out to make sure every customer that came into their business got an entry? Sadly too few.
Would you believe that although several of the participating businesses gave out a bucket load of entries to their customers, many didn’t. In fact when we collected the entries from one takeaway food business in the promotion, the total number of entries in the box totalled about 20. They placed the entry box over in one out of the way corner of the shop and left a pad of entry coupons nearby for people to fill in. From a business point of view, that’s absolutely crazy, particularly when you consider the business had recently been taken over by new owners and the previous owners did not have the best of reputations.
The new owners have the shop looking terrific, the food looks very fresh and inviting and the people behind the counter seem very friendly and efficient.
These things alone will all work in their favour as they set out to build new customers or regain previous customers, and as the word of mouth gets around but imagine how much quicker this process would happen if they had also given every customer the chance to win our $10,000 prize?
Who knows what the goodwill alone would have done for them.
The food shop mentioned was only one of many where the number of entries in the entry boxes when we picked them up, suggested that the participating business did little or nothing to capitalise on the opportunity the promotion provided. Very sad really.
The moral of this story is quite simple – if you pay good money to participate in a business or shopping promotion like the one I’ve mentioned, PARTICIPATE by not wasting any opportunity to thrill your customers… every one of them.
I’d even go so far as to say, to go a step further. Give thought to how you can use such promotions to even greater advantage. Anything that will help you build your customer base should be considered and if you do that, you might be surprised with the creative ideas you come up with.
Walk through any shopping Mall on any given day and chances are you’ll find that every second business is having a sale happening in one form or another. In many respects, one could be forgiven for thinking that a lot of businesses simply wouldn’t do any business at all if they weren’t having a sale or discounting something.
On the other hand, I think it’s also fair to say that many shoppers are reluctant to buy anything unless they are, or at least feel they are, getting a discount, a saving or a bargain. In fact, saving money is so important to some shoppers that quite often when they buy something, they’re more inclined to tell you how much they saved before they tell you how much they paid for something.
These trends now see a lot of businesses offering more discounts or running more sales, just to keep up with shopper’s demands. One can’t really blame them for discounting when so many people seem reluctant to pay full or normal price for items in these modern and very competitive times.
The problem with discounting however, is that it could be impacting on your business in ways that are not really helpful. Even giving what by today’s standards may today be considered a small 10% discount, can add huge pressure to your business bottom line. Let me explain –
Eg. Let’s say you sell lawnmowers and each mower costs you to buy say $300 and you sell them for $400. Your profit is therefore $100 or 25% of the sale price.
If you sell 10 mowers your overall profit is $1000.
If however, you offer the mowers at 10% discount, your retail price therefore drops to $360, in turn your profit drops to $60 or around 16% of the sale price. If you sell 10 mowers, your overall profit drops to $600.
In other words to make your original $1000 profit, you are going to have to sell more than 16 mowers at 10% off to make the same profit. Of course offering 10% off may get those 6 extra sales, or even more, but that’s always a gamble.
Another consideration is how GST may impact on these numbers as well. For this simple example, I haven’t considered any GST impact.
Discounting is very much a part of doing business these days but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I would encourage you to exhaust other ways of tantalising customers before resorting to discounting.
One option is to ‘value add’ rather than discount. In other words, rather than discount, see if you can add a bonus opportunity of some sort.
By adding value or a bonus, you won’t be reducing your sale price at all and depending on how you do it, the impact on your profit margin will be less dramatic as well, and your customer will still feel 10% better off.
Let’s use the lawnmower example again.
Instead of offering a 10% discount, offer a $40 bonus pack instead.
You could say with each mower sold, you’ll receive a fuel tin, a pair of safety glasses and a pair of safety ear muffs and possibly a leaf rake.
Of course this is just an example of what could be done but what’s more important to note is that items like those I’ve suggested, that is accessories, generally have far greater profit margins than say bigger items like a lawnmower. It’s very possible that the four items I mentioned could retail for $40 in total, yet your purchase cost could be as little as half or less than that, let’s say it’s $20. On that and while talking about spare parts or accessories, we all know that if you bought all the parts that went into a $30,000 car separately, the cost could be $100,000 or more.
Sell 10 x $400 mowers at 10% discount and you’ll turnover $3600 and make a profit of $600.
Sell 10 x $400 mowers and throw in a $40 bonus pack for each and you’ll turnover $4000 and your profit margin will be the full $1000 less the cost of the Bonus packs (say $200), in other words $800 net.
Your customers are still getting a 10% bonus but to provide it, your cost is now nearer $20 than $40.
$800 is better than $600 any day and all it takes is a little imagination.
So you’re not a lawnmower retailer?
This same principle can be applied to almost any business. Here are a few thought-provokers –
A takeaway food outlet could offer a large serve of chips with orders over $20.
A hair or beauty salon could offer a take home product as a bonus. Your product suppliers may provide you with product at the right price for such a promotion.
A clothing, shoe or gift shop could offer a bonus $20 gift card with purchases over $200. The gift card is of course is to be spent at the shop giving it and there’s every chance the customer will spend considerably more when they come back to use it. If they don’t use it, nothing is lost.
A butcher shop could offer 2 loaves of bread with any purchase over $30. To do this it’s simply a case of arranging with a nearby bakery to purchase a series of gift vouchers for 2 loaves of bread. Chances are the bakery sells the bread for around $2 a loaf and you’d be able to purchase the gift vouchers from them for half that. It’ll also drive people to the bakery and that could lead to greater sales. An enterprising butcher would also arrange a reciprocal deal with the baker where the baker gives out a $2 gift voucher for a purchase over say $12. The $2 gift voucher can be redeemed at the butcher and so the cycle goes on.
At the time of writing this, many small business owners, particularly retailers, are struggling for sales or turnover. We are clearly going through a time where consumer confidence is quite low and this in turn is impacting negatively on business turnover. I think it’s fair to say that many operators, myself included, are caught up in the uncertainty of things at the moment and it’s difficult to know exactly what to do. Many businesses still have the expenses rolling in each week or month and with reduced sales or turnover, keeping cash flow under control can present a serious challenge.
When caught in a situation like this, generating cash can become a necessity and when this happens, businesses often resort to putting on a Sale of one sort or another. You only have to walk down a city main street or through a shopping centre to see that almost every shop has sale signs slashed across their windows.
Having a Sale is good, and not just at times when you need to generate some quick cash. For this item however, I want to concentrate on technique and suggest some strategies for those times when you may find yourself having to have a cash generating Sale. Using a Sale as a routine business builder we’ll discuss at another time.
By way of suggestion, let’s lay down some simple steps to follow –
Step 1 – Determine what outcome you’re trying to achieve.
Simple question I know but if your answer is simply to raise cash, I suggest you think that through a bit more. You need to also consider what other impacts the exercise may have on your business.
How much cash do I need to raise?
What method will I use to get the word out?
How much advertising or publicity will I have to do and how much is that likely to cost?
Are my expectations realistic?
If I achieve my goal, how will this affect my overall profitability and how is it likely to impact on my sales after the ‘Sale’.
Step 2 – Consider alternative ways of raising the necessary cash you need.
The most common method most businesses use is to offer a huge discount, often across the store or on all stock, and then advertise it heavily on one or more media. Decisions like this are often made in what can best be described as a state of panic.
This method may well raise the required cash but often it can prove to be very expensive and in some cases, there may be no profit at all or even an overall loss when the end result is known.
Before committing to a strategy like this, consider this….
How much time do you have to achieve your goal? If you have time to manoeuvre, use it.
How can I make less sales but bring in more money? Instead of offering 50% off, would buy one get one free be better?
Do I need to offer one flat rate discount across all items? Up to 50% off storewide sounds better than 25% off storewide and will not stop customers from coming in and looking. The varied discounts will also let you discount items appropriately and according to their likelihood of selling. If you offer one discount across all stock, you can bet your booty that customers will buy all the good and easily sellable stock first. Why give them 25% off prized merchandise when they’ll still buy at 15% off?
Step 3 – Consider the time frame.
Customers generally respond better if a measure of urgency is involved. Two or three Sales during a given period could generate a better result than say one month long sale.
On the matter of time frame, consider this….
Most Sale activity happens within the first couple of days of a Sale starting. People know that the early bird catches the worm. I suggest a 3 -4 day Sale is best with Thursday to Saturday or Sunday best. For a short Sale, you can also crunch your advertising into a shorter time frame which will either save you money or allow you to create more impact with bigger press ads or more frequent radio/TV ads.
Planning an immediate follow up Sale can also be a good strategy but if you do, you need to plan for it and book any advertising you need ready to go. Eg. Your Sale is on Thursday to Sunday but on Monday, you run ads that say something like “Due to the outstanding response to our Sale, we’ve extended it for 3 more days, you still have time to get up to 50% off etc.”
Running consecutive Sales each weekend over 3 – 4 weeks can also be a good strategy. You just need to come up with different themes for each Sale. Eg. Up to 50% off Winter Clearance Sale, followed by a Stock Reduction Sale, followed by a Manager’s Superseded Stock Sale, followed by an End of Season Sale. If you think that’s overkill, think again. Customers are very gullible as Harvey Norman proves week in week out. They Sales tripping over Sales very week.
Step 4 – Think about how to and where to advertise.
Simply throwing money at advertising may seem a good idea but in my experience, with a little thought or by being a bit smarter, you can often achieve a better result for less money or at the very least, get more bang for your buck overall.
A few thoughts to consider….
Your existing customers will in all likelihood represent your best market. Do whatever you can to let them know about any Sale you’re having.
Make sure that any ads you do have a strong and clear message, that they’ll quickly get the reader’s, listener’s or viewer’s attention and that they say something well worth seeing or hearing.
Step back and imagine yourself in the potential target market’s shoes and ask yourself, “would I respond to this?” If the answer is no, change it to what you would respond to.
When you place or buy ads, the trick is to reach as many people as you can for as little as you can but to do so without jeopardising the level of impact. Keep in mind, it’s the audience that you’re buying so always go for the best value for money when placing ads and not what at first glance, appears to be the cheapest price. (See more on this in The Price is not always right -Advertising Know How April 15th).
Always negotiate strongly with your media rep., you’ll be surprised how much they’ll discount their prices if you play extra hard ball with them. Keep in mind they’re just like you and me much of the time and are desperate for the business. Push real hard, you never know where it will get you.
Make sure you fully utilise your front windows, in store signage and any other opportunities to both catch people’s attention and show people who respond to your sale that something BIG is happening.
If you have Facebook, an email contact list or some other social media or network connection, make sure you use that too.
Step 5 – Make sure respondents have a great experience.
It may be a Sale event but it’s also a chance for you to win and keep new customers. Make sure that everyone who comes into your business during this Sale or at any time, leaves after having a great experience. The real value of your Sale may over time, prove to be in the new customers you introduce. Don’t blow it!
Need more advice?
Feel free to email me if you have any questions or would like some advice more related to your specific type of business. Use the contact or feedback tabs to email me.
I’ve been helping a local cafe owner work his way out of a business downturn. Until about 6 months ago, this particular cafe was very popular but following a couple of changes of chef, the standard has dropped and the customers have voted with their feet.
When I started to consider what had contributed to the downturn, I found that the chef was only part of the problem. For me, the bigger problem appeared to be that the cafe owner had become complacent and while he was still providing very similar to what had served him so well over many years, the world had moved on. Cafe customers were now going elsewhere because a number of other new cafes had emerged and many were offering more imaginative meal options with more modern methods of presentation.
It’s not my intention here to go into how a cafe should frame its menu or present its meals but rather to make the point that customers have expectations and no matter type of business you’re in, if you fail to meet a customer’s expectations, you run the risk of losing them to someone who does meet them.
In the case of my cafe friend, I told him that the very first thing he should aim for is when he or his staff put a meal down in front of someone, the first reaction from the customer needs to be “Gee that looks nice!” Of course they may not always verbalise it but their body language will often say what they’re thinking. I think it’s fair to say that if you don’t get this part right, you’re going to struggle to keep them from going somewhere else next time or at worst, more often. Generally speaking, customers will only go elsewhere when they’re not being satisfied where they’re at.
The principle here can be applied to any number of businesses and doesn’t necessarily just relate to first impressions. The bigger topic is overall customer experience. What you should ultimately aim for is to send your customer away with them feeling they’ve had an experience that they’d like to have again. You may not get everything absolutely spot on but the more you please your customer the more chance you’ll get them back again. Just try to make sure those thinks that really count are right. In the case of my cafe friend again, if the cafe environment is good, the staff are pleasant, the food tastes superb and the cost is acceptable the customer may simply accept the less than spectacular presentation. Now try to imagine how much happier again the customer would be if the presentation matched the rest?
Despite how the practice of sending letters through the mail is rapidly declining, there still are billions of letters sent to people by all manner of businesses.
Many of these businesses use printed envelopes, typical of those that have the business name and address up in the left hand corner.
If that sounds like you and you still have reason to buy one or several boxes of printed envelopes on a regular basis, why not use those envelopes as part of your marketing?
Instead of doing what most businesses do, that is print their name and address etc. in the top left corner, why not use more of the space to print a more meaningful marketing message on your envelopes? It costs no extra to print more on the front of envelopes unless you choose to use extra colours.
You’re smart so I’ll let you think about the possibilities but here are a couple of thought provokers to start you thinking. In both cases, the cost to print either option is exactly the same.