Although more and more establishments are taking advantage of such programs as Groupon and Living Social, many of these firms – and their employees – come to regret the experience. Failure to manage these programs properly can destroy their value. Before you run an online promotion such as Groupon, ask yourself these questions:
  • What are the short-term and long-term benefits of this promotion? How does it fit into your overall marketing plan? Are you prepared to lose money on the deal short term to capture a long-term customer?
  • How will you staff around the promotion? A few days after the promotion hits, you can expect a mass influx of customers. Bear in mind that business might also peak in the last few days of the promotion as people scramble to cash in their coupons.
  • How do you position the promotion to your team? Why should they get on board with it? What's in it for them? If you're running a restaurant, how will you prepare employees to deal with more business, and unfamiliar, possibly annoying customers? Will you be helping them with additional staffing and/or paying overtime? Anticipate employees' potential concerns and resistance before you launch the promotion. Get them involved in ideas that can make it a success.
  • What type of training will you provide to make sure the promotion goes according to plan? For example, when a restaurant customer presents a server with a Groupon coupon, will they react with a smile because they see a new customer and the promotion is working, or a frown because they anticipate a poor tip? Train servers to say something like “I'm glad to see that you've taken advantage of the Groupon promotion! My name is Amy, and I'm here to give you great service today. Please let me know how I can help. Have you been here before? (The idea is to start getting important information about new customers). Offer customers some type of “cheat sheet” to fill out and then attach to the coupon they hand in. Remember, you want to capture as much data as possible to know if this is truly a first-time customer or just someone taking advantage of the current discount.
  • How will you help the customer recognize that the wait staff lives on their tips or salespeople on their commissions? For example, I've heard that many Groupon restaurant customers offer lower tips, especially because they base their math on the cost of the coupon. You might want to show a recommended tip on the bill (15% of a normal bill = X. 20% = Y).
  • So that you're on top of managing the promotion, plan to get feedback from your staff right away, and be ready to make changes on the fly.
  • Know how you'll end the coupon customer's experience. At the end of the visit, you might have employees say: “Thanks for visiting us today! You know, if you give us your e-mail address or phone number, we'll e-mail or text the great specials we offer on a regular basis. If you have a business card, we'll enter the information into the program or I can give you a card to complete. If you want to discontinue receiving these promotions at any time, just cancel the notifications.” If you're running a restaurant, put a notice on the menu or bill to the effect that “Many customers love taking advantage of our frequent promotions. If you haven't signed up for our notifications, please ask your server about this.”

Promotions are great. The right ones can help grow a business quickly – and destroy one quickly, too! Make sure to plan your promotions well and include your entire team in the process.

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