‘Tis The Season To Get Groupon

In this year of brandicides, there was one company who did nothing wrong from a public relations standpoint, but has still lost a lot of sway.  While there are still thousands of businesses and millions of customers using it, I have hard from many social media savvy business owners that they don’t much see the point of Groupon. Many see the service as a loss of revenue and nothing more.

But, despite some claims I’ve seen to the contrary, Groupon is not going away.  And, chances are, if you’re not using it as a small business, you’re missing out on customers.

What it comes down to is that Groupon is  lot like any other social media.  The ROI isn’t going to suddenly appear.  A small business is not going to make money on the Groupon itself. Where the money comes from is when the *new* customers return. That is, if they return. One big complaint that I hear from businesses on Twitter is that people use the Groupon and never come back.

While there are some people who are cheap (to be blunt) and will never return to an establishment, these are the same people who would only use a paper coupon to frequent a business. The key thing to look at where ROI is concerned is that you placed your name in front of a bunch of eyeballs. Even people who don’t purchase the Groupon saw the name of a business they might never have physically passed.

Secondly, while the Groupon customers are in your store, it’s a chance to get them on your e-mail list. My brother and I recently went to a Middle Eastern restaurant in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington D.C., we were given a card to fill out for a chance to win a free meal – which of course appealed to the money-saving aspect of a Groupon user – and, of course, in return, we gave up our contact information. Which is, of course, the life blood of a social media small business.

Here are some more tips on using Groupon up to its best practices:

1) Groupon is not for businesses that do not get repeat customers. If you’re a hotel that’s not in a touristed area (and working through Groupon’s special travel section), for example, you’re getting all of the costs of running a Groupon with none of the benefits. However, Groupon does give the options for blackout dates where you can help fill unfilled rooms at usual slow times. And these rooms would have gone unsold.

2) Consider using Groupon Now instead of a full fledged Groupon. In larger markets, Groupon Now is a great way to cut through the clutter. What this underused service consists of is companies choosing to run short-term, same day deals. They are localized by GPS so a person can look at who is offering a deal at any given time nearby. If someone is eating a late lunch, for example, they can see who is offering a deal at that moment. This drives tech savvy customers (who studies have show are opinion makers) to your business as opposed to dozens of others. And increases the likeliness of them telling their friends. These can even be set to only include certain things on the menu so it’s like a speechless suggestive sell.

3) Upsell customers if this is an option. A mistake that a lot of small businesses make when they offer a Groupon is offer their top of their line service at discount prices. A better thing to do is offer a low or midline product and make higher level services available to customers for an upgrade (at the usual price differential). Or a business can have signage for the top of the line services in eyesight of the customer while they’re enjoying their reduced cost service. People might return just to try to the top of the line service they’re now curious about.

4) Treat Groupon customer as well (or even better) than other customers. The worst Groupon experience I ever has was having to order off a special Groupon menu (which was not advertised in advance). This left a bad taste in my and a lot of other people’s mouths (and it showed in the Yelp reviews). If you give anyone lesser service because they have a Groupon and are not paying full place, they are not going to come back. That’s a guarantee.

Groupon can’t be seen as the be-all, end-all of a marketing campaign in itself and I fear that some business owners do just that. But it can definitely be a valuable piece of an integrated marketing campaign if used correctly.