Incentives Vs. Coupons In Your Business – Where Do You Draw The Line?

Discount-CouponAs the new year begins, many business owners start to look at their marketing plans, go over budgets, look at year end numbers, and try to come up with a game plan that will keep people coming in the door.  A common question that comes up when I have marketing conversations with my clients is the topic of incentives. Should you use a “coupon” to get new people in the door? Do you need to give an “introductory offer” to entice them?

This is a very dangerous game to play. The use of coupons and offers can hurt your profits and affect the perceived value of your services. The perceived value of what you do will drop if people soon discover they can get your services cheaper. Discounts are meant to reinforce the idea that the most important thing to consider is price. If you are not in business to be the cheapest offer out there, than a coupon is not for you. Incentives are different. Incentives, when done right, specifically speak to:

Their needs and desires.

Let’s take a look at their needs, specifically their urgent needs. Those are things that they must have right now, usually problems that need to be solved and often things they are wanting to move away from. Their desires are the things they are moving toward. If you address their needs and desires, and then show them the number one result they get from doing business with you, you will will have achieved your goal. Let’s face it, when someone comes looking for the services you provide, they are looking to solve a problem or achieve a goal. Every product or service you offer must have one big promise. You must focus on how to fulfill that promise, thus winning the sale or job.

Now let’s break this down into a simple example. Houlihan’s, a very popular restaurant chain in the United States with 84 locations, has a very simple way of getting people in the door for lunch. It is called “The Nooner.” Simply put, lunch in 20 minutes or it is free. You can read all about it on their website under their menu information. This is a really simple way of giving an incentive, and speaking to the needs and desires of your target market. Houlihan’s caters to the “corporate” crowd in most locations. Typically, these people have only an hour for lunch which includes drive time. They need good food and fast. Houlihan’s has developed a tasty menu that can be prepared quickly, thus enticing people to visit them for lunch. And if they fall down on the job, it is free. There is no coupon. There is no loss of money unless they do not do their job. I will report I have never seen this happen. They get me in and out and on my way. When I worked for corporate America, this was key. I longed for a great place to escape to for lunch, but I had “the man” watching to make sure I got back on time. So I got a great meal for a great price in a flash. They focused on what their target market needed, and met the need. And the results I got were tasty! Better yet, I wanted to go back for more. Even better!

So your job is to be like Houlihan’s. Figure out what your client’s needs and desires are. What is the number one biggest result they get from working with you? Address those concerns and provide a way that they can do business with you that will alleviate those needs and desires, and solve their number one issue and you will not need a coupon. Their incentive is to achieve what you promise they will achieve if they work with you. No coupon required. Trust me, price your services fairly, deliver on the number one biggest result, and they will not care if there was a coupon. And the value of what you provide will speak volumes.

**Author’s note: Houlihan’s has some of the greatest marketing out there. Entertaining, funny, and makes you want to come back. They are doing it right. Check it out on their website.***