How to Use Discounts as a Marketing Tool

by Asaf Darash,

A consistent question I receive from Regpack clients is “Do you think offering discounts is worth it?”

I assume they ask me because we have over 5,000 organizations using our software, so we must see some sort of trend or get feedback from others about whether this method works.

Being an information-based company, we test everything based on data and the answer to the question of “ is worth it?” unfortunately is “it depends”. (Sorry to disappoint you but that really is the answer 90% of the times when you really dig in).

Is offering worth it? It depends on…

Like I have said so many times: “every organization is different”!

This basically means you need to test the specific problem you are dealing with for your specific organization and not rely on some “general rule”.

This article shows that 68% of consumers reported that digital coupons have a positive impact on a brand and that they encourage customer loyalty. Pretty great stat and pretty unsurprising when you think about it. People love to “save” money and to get a good deal, so if they have a discount code for one product over another, this might sway them when they are deciding which product to buy over many other factors. More stats include:

  • Digital coupons push people to shop now instead of later.
  • Nearly 30% of consumers used a digital coupon immediately upon receiving the offer.
  • 91% of desktop users redeem a digital coupon within several days.
  • More than 90% of smartphone and tablet users redeem their digital coupons within several days.

From this information, we can understand that offering a coupon via email or through a social media post can up the chance that they will choose you, and fast. Especially if there is a time limit on the code and you make it easy for the to redeem it – meaning you offer an easy link, an easy to remember or type code, etc.

Below I look into ways you can push your discount codes, when appropriate times and places you can use them, and how to measure their success.

As always, what works for one organization may not work for another, but like all things “marketing” you have to try, sit back and see the results and then of course, modify as needed. There is always a “sweet spot” for your organization and a little patience will always show you what that is.

New Client Deals

Consider special deals for new clients. If a new client books his first session with you, upon signing up and paying, automatically offer a discount or coupon for another session or future event. This can help customer loyalty and ensure your first-time client turns into a returning client!

“Coupon Codes” are not the magic word here, what is important is that you give the client an incentive to make another purchase while you have them on your site and with the intent to buy.

You can do this with automatic discounts for multiple orders or with coupon codes. It doesn’t really matter as long as you find the most optimal way to get them to make that extra little order. Check with automatic discounts and with coupon codes and see what works best for your audience.

Early Bird Discounts

There are many ways you can offer a discount to clients and potential clients. One way is through your website and in your marketing materials. Offering an early bird discount or a discount for registering early can push people who might be on the fence towards pulling the trigger. If they know they probably want to go and now know they can save some money by just registering by Friday instead of in the next 2 months, they probably will.

So go ahead and offer an early bird discount. You benefit because you get cash fast, you drum up interest and the sense of urgency for your program or event and you fill your spots faster! This is a great thing to start off your social media marketing plans, introduce your program or event WITH the early bird discount and dates as a way to generate buzz and interest.

Again, “Coupon Codes” is not the magic word here. Actually, in this specific situation, you should automate the process and have your online registration software automatically add the discount to their cart based on the day they registered (see this post about how to do it).

That way you are making sure you do not get any angry emails from people that did not have the code handy or just lost it. Note that you should have the system add a discount and not just present a reduced price. Let’s say the application fee is $100 and you are offering a $50 discount on early bird registrations.

Don’t present the application fee as “$50” but rather present it as $100 and then add a $50 discount to their cart (automatically) so the total presented will be $50. People like a great deal but more than that they like to see they are getting a great deal. Having a line at checkout that says “You saved $X!” or “Discount applied” goes a long way! They might even brag about it to their friends and give you some free marketing!

Coupon Codes and Incentives via Social Media Engagement

I am pretty sure I do not need to explain the importance of social media. It is the marketing tool that will give you the best bang for your buck.

Taking social media to another level, you can offer a discount to those who share your event or program information on social media. Make sure to create rules in order to monitor this, like having the user use a hashtag or tag your page in their post so you can see it was done.

This is a great way to get more exposure for your event or program and just exposure in general to your organization by connecting with “2nd connections’ of your contacts on social media platforms. It also works to just get your current clients or potential clients connecting with you on social media so you always have them as an audience for your future posts and future programs.

Referrals and Discounts

This isn’t a new idea but something I’ve found isn’t being done all that often anymore.

Offer a discount to your loyal clients who refer you to more new clients! Email your clients and offer them a certain $ amount of % off their next program if they refer a friend (who you can confirm you made a sale with obviously!). Not only does this reward their loyalty, but can be an incentive for them to sign up for another program or event, especially if they weren’t sure they would or not.

When someone has a discount, it feels like “free money” and they want to cash it in 🙂

You can even take it a step further and offer a special “friend of a friend” discount to people who become clients via one of your existing clients as a way to reward that connection and show this new client that they too can get in on this referral discount thing should they then refer you to one of their friends. It’s a gift that keeps on giving… to everyone!

Discounts on the fly!

Consider giving a coupon or discount to someone who emails or calls you, especially if you have a meaningful conversation and they sound truly interested in your product, as a way to entice them over the edge to purchase/sign up.

Obviously, this is on a case-by-case basis, so it takes some work. But with an online registration process in the works, you now have free time to put this attention to detail in your communication.

Random coupons!

Consider offering random coupon’s in varying amounts to your clients at “random” times. If they have been a client for 1 year, send them an email saying how excited you are to have had them as a client for 1 year and as a thank you for being a loyal customer, here’s 10% off (or whatever makes sense for your org).

This goes a LONG way in building brand loyalty, in filling your programs with returning clients who know your brand and might not have thought about signing up again until you messaged them AND most importantly, will keep your organization on their mind when it comes to mouth to mouth referrals and their willingness to recommend you.

Naming Your Coupon Codes

If you give a code for someone to input on your application, make it a specific name so it’s easy to track on your end and feels special or unique to that person. If you give out a coupon code at a conference for conference participants, have it read “abcconf2014” or if it’s for one specific person, say a guy named Asaf, his code can be ‘asaf2014’ or ‘asaf10deal’ (if you’re giving 10% off), etc. You get the idea…

Make sure you note these codes down and any relevant contact information (like who this Asaf guy is!) so you can make sure you track your codes and can run analytics on how your marketing efforts via discount codes are working and where to increase, improve, etc.

Discount Expiration Dates

Consider having an expiration date for your coupon as a push or incentive to use it soon (and so they don’t forget about it!) We already read the stat that nearly 30% of people use a coupon they receive immediately, so take that into consideration.

If you offer a client who just booked one session a discount on their next session, make the coupon good only for the next 2-3 sessions (or whatever makes sense for your org) so they are ‘forced’ to book soon and continue coming back, but in a short time frame.

Say they email you and say that they can’t come to your next session but they’d love to come to a different one (one not covered by the coupon), use your discretion and try give them the incentive even if they’re out of bounds.

You can ‘compromise’ and say they can still use the coupon if they book that session by “x” date. Customers love companies that are flexible and treat them like they are the only client they have – important and worth their time and effort! This flexibility and personal attention is what drives brand loyalty and what keeps clients coming back, and referring you!

Making Discounts Work in Your System

Ensure the software you use to manage clients, onboarding and registration can handle discounts properly.

You want to be able to:

  1. Offer discounts that are amount based, like $10 off.
  2. Offer discounts that are percentage based, like 10% off.
  3. The ability to have a discount apply to a specific product, or the entire cart.
  4. Trigger discounts, for example when someone adds a specific product to their cart, or performs an action by a certain date.

This flexibility is key in executing discounts the right way. Discounts can quickly become a headache if your system won’t calculate and apply the right discount properly. This means not only frustrated clients who didn’t get their deal, but it means lost time on your end making it right one by one. No good! Make sure the software you are using can support your discount strategy!

Conclusion

I’m a big fan of coupons and discount for your business. A well pricewell-pricedcan increase your profits exponentially, as well as garner new business and keep your current participants coming back for more.

Don’t put your profit on the line just for a few extra clients though. Make ‘specific’ coupons as opposed to Groupon like coupons that give a rock bottom price for your services or one specific product (session, workshop, etc) as opposed to your ENTIRE product line. Say you’re a camp – you can offer 10% the first 2 weeks (of a 4 week session) or a 25% discount for 1 session when you book 2, etc.

This is what trial and error is all about — try a few different options that you think make the MOST sense for your organization and see what happens. If one drums up more business than the other, consider dropping the low performing one and trying yet another option to see what that brings in. Eventually you will find a sweet spot of what brings more clients and is worth your time and energy for more profits, and what just doesn’t jive with your organization.

And my last bit of advice is one I give ALL THE TIME: Check out what your competition is doing! There is no shame in sniffing around at the strategies of other organizations. They may have done some great legwork for you! If you find that it’s pretty standard in your industry to offer an early bird discount or a referral fee at a certain price or percentage point, start there! It’s probably working for them and might work for you too!

Good luck!

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About The Author

Asaf Darash

Asaf has extensive experience as entrepreneur and investor. Asaf has built 3 successful companies to date, all with an exit plan or that have stayed in profitability and are still functional. Asaf specializes in product development for the web, team building and in bringing a company from concept to an actualized unit that is profitable.