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How to Build Exposure for Your Small Business with Social Coupons

How to Build Exposure for Your Small Business with Social Coupons

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: February 23, 2012 Updated: August 6, 2015

Social coupon sites have been around for a few years now, and they still continue to attract and perplex small business owners. Companies such as Groupon, Living Social and EverSave have created a marketing phenomenon, delivering huge benefits to consumers – but not always delivering the return on investment that businesses might have expected.

If you’re exploring the use of social coupons, here are some tips for assessing whether they will work for your business and how to plan a successful campaign.

What Can Social Coupons Do for Your Small Business?

Used correctly and with some planning, coupons can help market your business, build awareness and reach new customers. In fact, coupons give your business a unique opportunity to provide a taste or a trial service to an entirely new group of prospective customers.

Whether you’re looking to fill seats during a quiet time of the week or hoping to sell inventory that’s gathering dust, when you weave social coupons into a broader marketing strategy and use them in a way that offers the most benefit for your business, they can be a useful part of your marketing toolkit.

The Drawbacks of Coupons

Of course, coupons have their drawbacks. The truth is, many small business owners lose money thanks to the steep discounts they have to make (around 50 percent) and the equally steep price the coupon sites will charge you for the privilege. Operationally, social coupons can also be a huge challenge for small businesses that aren’t prepared for a sudden surge of new customers.

Despite these drawbacks, if your business is the right fit for a coupon campaign and you’re prepared and ready operationally, then social coupons might be something to consider.

Are Coupons a Good Fit for Your Business?

Before you jump on the social coupon bandwagon, step back and decide whether it’s a good fit for your business:

  • Do you fit the ideal coupon profile? Coupons work best for local businesses with a very specific service or niche. Good matches are restaurants, hair salons, hotels, spas, pet grooming services, yoga studios, and so on.
  • Can your business quickly scale to handle the response? According to the Hispanic Chamber e-Commerce, 90 percent of these coupons are redeemed. So you are going to need to train your staff, and possibly bring on extra staff, and make sure your operations can scale up quickly and seamlessly to deal with the additional traffic and processing of coupon codes. Without this effort, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot.
  • Can you afford it? Social sites will typically take 50 percent of what you earn on an already discounted offer. So weigh your goals and run your numbers internally. Do you have enough profitable business coming from other product lines or time periods to supplement the cost of offering a discount or special offer?

Get the Most from a Social Coupon Campaign

The difference between a profitable coupon campaign and failure comes down to planning. Here are some tips for planning your campaign:

  • Pick the right service/product to offer – The offer needs to be enticing while providing just a taste of what you have to offer. You don’t necessarily want to give away the best seats in the house or the best dish on the menu, so limit the deal to showcasing or offering something you do well, so they’ll come back another time for more, without a discount. 
  • Limit the offer – You don’t want to flood your business so much that you can’t cope with the new business or run out of inventory. Clearly define and limit your offer (e.g. $20 for a 30-minute massage, limit 1 per person, subject to availability and must be claimed between certain dates). Also include clear exclusions (e.g. alcohol with a meal).
  • Research and decide on the best day to run your coupon – This one is up to you. You know your business rhythm and the resources you have to support the extra traffic.
  • Negotiate –Try to negotiate with the coupon site to see if it will take a lesser share of your deal. If the offer is compelling and the predicted volume is high, it can happen.
  • Exercise caution – Don’t devalue your business with too many coupons, too frequently!
  • Have a plan to keep these new customers coming back – How will you continue to nurture these customers? Do you have the resources to do that? Can you get their contact information and add them to your email marketing list? Consider a social coupon appreciation raffle at the point of sale or check-in (but be discreet – you don’t want to upset your non-coupon customers).

For more marketing tips, shared ideas, or to get your questions about social coupons answered, visit the SBA.gov section about Marketing & Advertising.

About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley