Using Discount Offers to Market Your Local Business

*Note: When Adility asked me to write a story about their service, I asked them to provide a special offer for our readers to go along with it. Read the article for a pretty sweet deal they are running just for All Business Answers readers (because you rock!).

You have likely heard of sites such as Groupon which offer daily deals on local businesses. You probably have also heard of other local based sites and services, such as Yelp, City Search, and Foursquare, which allow you to target local customers, for a price. You can also post special deals on local profile sites such as Google Places.

A Lot of Options

While local advertising on sites like these make a lot of sense, all of the choices can be a bit intimidating. Your management costs and fees can really start to add up as well. This is where a business called Adility can step in and help you sort everything out and bring in new customers with your discount offers and gift cards.

At first glance, Adility supplies small businesses with a way to market their business using gift cards and value cards (which offer a discount to purchasers). But Adility does far more than that. What they provide small businesses is a way to distribute their special offers over a wide but local audience online, as well as in local retail locations. Once you dig in to what Adility is really providing, I think you will be tempted to give them a try.

What is a Discount Offer

First, let’s talk about discount offers. These are offers that you make to provide certain services or products at a discount. You would probably put limits on these special offers, perhaps only opening them up to new customers, for instance. For instance, you may want to provide $50 worth of dry cleaning for the discount price of $25. People can purchase your special value card and use it the next time they need dry cleaning.

Now, why would you want to sell $50 of something for $25? Well, it is a way to bring in brand new customers. It is a way to get local customers to switch from a competitor to you. It is a way to create some buzz for your small business. And yes, it can pay off in spades.

Life Time Value of a Customer

The pay-off is related directly to the lifetime value of the customer. Are you confident that if you get a new person to try you out one time you can hook them? Can you provide an experience so great that they will wonder why they didn’t discover you before, and will want to tell all their friends about you? If so, using a special discount to get them in the store is a no-brainer.

Consider This Before You Offer a Discount

There are some things to think about before you become discount offer crazy. Thomas Cornelious, CEO of Adility, was kind enough to share some tips with me, which I will paraphrase.

  • Keep the special offer simple. The last thing you want to do is provide a great offer but make the person who bought the discount card jump through a lot of hoops to redeem it. You WANT people to redeem your value cards, because the true value for you is to gain a new loyal customer. Some businesses make it hard to redeem discount cards because they want the cash flow up front from people buying them, but they don’t actually want to deal with the customers.
  • You are advertising. The whole process of the discount card is an advertising process. The sale is not made after they buy the card. True success is when the card buyer uses the card and has such a great experience that they want to return. Keep in mind that people redeeming these cards are often new to your business, so take time to explain everything and to introduce them properly to your business.
  • Have a plan to get them to come back. A promotion can bring in new customers in droves, but if none of them come back you will be lucky to break even. Consider offering another special offer once they come in to get them to come back. Customers that come three times are often more loyal, developing the habit of visiting your business.
  • Get personal. When someone comes in using a new customer special discount offer, you know that they are new. Take a moment to get to know them. Give them the kind of personal experience they can’t get at big franchises. Treat these new customers as royalty, and you will really wow them into becoming long term customers.
  • Don’t over-extend yourself. One “problem” with using discount offers is that they can bring in too many customers. Make sure you have the staff on hand to handle any increase in customer volume. Also, consider putting a cap on the number of discount offers that you sell.

How Adility Helps

Adility acts as a sort of broker, helping small businesses distribute their gift and discount cards. They offer a free program which comes with one distribution channel. This is how your offer gets in front of customers, and Adility has a lot of great online partners that they can distribute your offer through. Adility’s premium program runs around $49 per month, which gives small business owners full access to all distribution channels, both online and at retail locations. This package also has some extra benefits, such as a flash commerce site which is branded to your business so you can send prospects directly to your offer and promote it via social networking.

Through the process, you stay in full control, picking where to show your offer, how many offers to put out there, and more. There are other costs involved. For instance, coupon sites take a portion of every sale you make. If you decide to distribute your cards through local retail locations, there is some cost involved with getting cards printed. Adility makes it rather easy to manage all of the different costs and rolls all of the distribution sites into one campaign so you can manage it. Think of it as Google Adwords, but for gift and discount cards.

This type of promotion can bring in a lot of new customers to your business, all while paying for itself. If you just get one visit from everyone who buys your offer, you won’t see much financial benefit. But if a portion of the buyers come back again and again, you will have made a sound marketing investment.

Ready to give Adility a test run? They are generously providing a free 6 month trial just for All Business Answers readers. This offer is limited to the first 100 people who sign up for it, so you better act fast! All you need to do is visit Adility.com and sign up for the 30 day free trial. Then send an email to support@adility.com with the code AllBUS to get your free trial extended to 6 months.

Bradford Shimp is the publisher of All Business Answers.

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