Using Coupons Drives Sales for Services or Products

Penny-pincher, Bargain-shopper, Coupon-junkie, and I dare say it-Cheap. Is this what comes to mind when you think of coupon savers? Is this what family and friends accuse you of being when you “clip and save”? If so, who cares, anyway?

Being a little frugal in a tighter market may mean spending a little less on certain items, but it still means spending and it may mean spending more in other areas with the precieved value of saving money.

As direct-to-consumer retailers, we deal daily with the joys of knowing more customers intimately and the fickleness of the marketplace. Because successful farm marketing involves immersion into the local demographics and the local economy, we are a group that is quick to benfit from spikes in consumer interest (such as a new farmers market or community event) and we hurt financially right along with our customers when there is a local economic downturn (like a manufacturing plant closing).

At Aubrey’s Natural Meats, LLC, we live near a relatively affluent area of central Indiana. However, I’ll be honest; our retail price beef sales at this summer’s farmers markets were off while our more wholesale-priced sales (such as quarter and half beef) were stable to slightly up.

Why? Customers told me that it was price per pound that made the difference. While some individual customers chose to spend more money, their purchase cost less per pound giving them a feeling of saving money.

If your business is suffering from either tighter margins or consumer confidence concerns, you’ve got to help your customers see value to stay profitable. So, when things get frustrating, try coupons – a tactic that both sellers of services and products can use.

Consider the following tips which I’ve broken down into suggestions for your side of the business, and ideas for marketing coupons to the consumer.

For you:
l Don’t over discount – know how much you can afford to take off the price – keep a close eye on cost of goods sold!
l Set a timeline – if you leave te coupon
open ended, you run te risk of being out of your product or worse, holding inventory too long.
l Have parameters and publish them –
keep the rules the same for everyone to avoid complaints and other problems.

Market to your customer:
l Bundle a coupon with another sale at full price for more return.
l Get your message out – don’t have coupons ready at point of sale – email customers in advance to take advantage of preorders.
l Train your customers – if coupons are successful, consider having a monthly or weekly coupon promotion to keep driving sales.
l Publish a coupon calendar – print or email your coupon specials and rules (as above) in advance of when they’ll be out or consider making magnets or some other reminder token.
l Partner with another vendor and combine coupons or discounts.
l Use a rewards card – give customers a punch card that acts as a coupon when they achieve enough sales.
l Try a “coupon crawl” – partner with several vendors of non-competing items at the farmer’s market. When they use your coupon to buy a product, you give them a coupon for the next vendor, where thay can then redeem it for a savings and vice versa. One great way to do this is matched with recipes so that the items purchased create a complete meal – all at a coupon-saver price!

To your prosperity!

Reprinted with permission from Farmers’ Market Today, November/December 2008

Sarah is a freelance writer on agriculture and rural lifestyles and the author of “Starting and Running Your Own Small Farm Business”. For information or to order the book, write Sarah at 8570 N 750 W, Elwood, IN 46036 or email her at [email protected].