Great Ideas for your Small Business:
Use Coupons to Attract Customers
On a balmy spring evening, i took myself out to the local movie theater. Standing outside the door was a young man in a Häagen-Dazs apron. He was passing out coupons offering a “double feature”—a free scoop of ice cream when you bought one scoop at the regular price. I immediately knew where I was heading after the show.
Ticket stub in hand, I trotted down the block to be the first in line. (I didn’t want to embarrass myself by running.) For a mere $1.85, I savored my calorie-laden pralines-and-cream and coffee-chip double scoop. The kid even let me keep the coupon for a repeat performance. Talk about generating goodwill!
Giving away a free scoop of ice cream brought me into the store for the first time. And, of course, it wasn’t the last. It also proved to me that a coupon is a low-cost way to attract new and repeat customers.
Coupons are great because they are cheap to print and easy to distribute. You can print them yourself on your PC if you don’t want to do anything fancy. Then you can pay to have them stuffed into the local Pennysaver or newspaper. You can also pay the post office to deliver them to local households.
Or you can send an associate to place them under the windshield wipers of parked cars. Although, admittedly, this method can be annoying and produces litter, it’s good for a local promotion. You might also consider giving your coupons to local merchants—and offer to pass out their coupons in exchange.
When you print up your coupons, be sure to code them so you can track response. For example, put an “N” on them if they were placed in a newspaper or “M” if they were mailed to “resident” or “occupant.” But before you run to the printer, think about an appealing offer. Anything “free” works if you have some sort of retail operation. If you own a dry cleaner, you can offer dis- counts on large orders. Any sort of “gift with purchase” coupon will attract customers. It doesn’t matter what you offer as long as it has a high perceived value and will draw people to your door.