Over the past week I have been working with a client on attracting new customers to his business. The other day he contacted me to let me know he had been approached by a popular coupon site requesting that he participate in their service. They recommended he offer one of his services at a 50% discount leaving him break even at best. The sales person said he should be able to make up the difference through increased customer repeat business and offering other services. As we discussed the implications of participating in such a program, the client pointed out that the service the coupon site wanted him to discount didn’t really offer the opportunity to sell other services as it was all inclusive. In the end he realized the coupon site and the customer were the only ones to benefit by his participation.
In Apples to Apples I wrote about focusing on price and the dangers it creates for building loyalty. Business leaders need to focus on one of two things: either being the best or being the cheapest. There is nothing wrong with either strategy. Either approach could help you grow your business, it’s just a matter of which one you want. If you choose to compete on price, you have to make up for the difference on volume and efficiency. Most businesses fall short because they are unable to generate the volume of sales to drive price down or they are unable (or unwilling) to become ultra-efficient. Besides, you have to sell a lot of widgets to make the profit on volume. On the other side, being the best provides its own challenges. It requires a higher degree of discipline. You have to be in tune with who your customers are and clearly understand their needs. Service is critical to those who want to be the best because the emphasis is on the experience.
Many businesses find themselves in the middle which is where these coupon sites take advantage of their prospects. By promising to generate traffic, they lure you in by getting customers into your doors. But are they the right customers? If they are, how is what you are offering going to be far and away different to get them to come back? A recent NY Times article highlighted some of the challenges these coupon sites are facing and why they are waning in popularity (http://nyti.ms/coupon_loyalty). While the sites manage to attract customers in, they will often not return because they will just go back to the site and get another coupon for somewhere else. It’s hard to drive loyalty when you force your customers to focus on price. In the end, everyone loses.
Want more customers? Know the following:
- Know who your customer really is. Learn all you can about them. Understand their needs, wants and desires.
- Get focused. Understand your purpose and how it serves your customers best. Communicate that message to your target audience.
- Target. Not everyone is your customer so place your energy with your target audience. Go after them with pinpoint accuracy.
- Solve their problem. What issue do you solve with your client? How is it quantified? Focus on how your solution is the best.
- Know why you are different. The trap of being just like everybody else or trying to be all things to all people will lead you to sales mediocrity. Focus less on what you do and concentrate your efforts on how you do it. What experience do you create? How is that different from what your competitors will do?
- Tell a good story. Relate to people through stories and analogies. Share past experiences and successes. Frame it in a way that your prospect could see themselves working with you or using your product to address their needs.
While coupons may be a tempting way to get more people through the door, they often just create more work for you without the profit. The customer may benefit but the business does not. Become more focused and purposeful about what you do. Offer an experience like no one else and watch your sales grow.
Want to learn how? Check out Apples to Apples: How to Stand Out From Your Competition. Available now in hardcover and on Kindle!
2 thoughts on “Killing Customer Loyalty One Coupon at a Time”
Another thing to keep in mind with coupon sites is that many MANY businesses really lose a lot of money in that transaction. Most brick and mortars can not afford to give up 75% of a sale without a loss. When the internet does it’s magic and drives in hundreds of customers all at a loss, the business owner gets hit hard.
The one good thing that coupon sites can do for a business owner is show them the power of the internet to drive new clients to their door. Like this author points out it doesn’t have to be done on price but they do need to be able to find you. Too many business owners don’t realize the vast amount of people who use the internet to find their local businesses. If you are not in front of them because you haven’t had your website or Google places page optimized you don’t get the new customer, your competitor does.
Awesome post, Dan!
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