Special offers have played an important role in how small businesses attract new customers and bring in repeat business since long before the term “online marketing” ever existed.

Before email or Facebook, Twitter or Google, there were coupons in the local paper, annual sales at the local retail store, and news of special promotions spread through word of mouth.

Today, there are a number of new ways businesses can run special offers that just a few years ago would have seemed impossible. This is great news for small business owners looking to grow their business and increase foot traffic throughout the entire year.

But, it also introduces some new questions that need to be considered before planning your next offer.

1. What type of offer do you want to run?

Two of the most popular types of offers being used by small business today are coupons and local deals.

You’re probably pretty familiar with coupons.

You come up with a special discount you think your target audience will love, you use the tools available to you to get the word out, and you wait for people to redeem it either in-store or online.

Local deals are similar to coupons in that you offer a discount on products or services, promote it to the people who matter most to your business, and then wait to see how many people redeem your offer. Unlike coupons, with a local deal, a customer has to pay for the offer up front. So, rather than redeeming a 10 percent coupon when making a purchase at your store, they will purchase a “$10 for $20” voucher ahead of time and use it toward a future purchase.

As you may have seen, local deals generally come with a steeper discount than traditional coupons as a way to encourage customers to act on the offer.

Both coupons and deals are great for bringing customers into your store, but what type of offer you decide to use will really depend on what you’re hoping to achieve.

2. What is the goal of your offer?

With more options, it’s important to make sure you’re establishing what you want to achieve before creating your offer.

Are you looking to generate new revenue right away or boost foot traffic over a long period of time?

With a local deal, you will get paid up front, which means you’ll generate instant revenue when someone clicks to purchase your offer online.

On the other hand, when offering a coupon, you won’t have the chance to collect revenue up front. But you could have more opportunities to bring people into your store who may want the chance to see your products and preview your services before committing to purchasing a deal voucher online.

Understanding your goal from the start should make it easy to pick the right type of offer. Your goal should also dictate the terms of your offer, the discount you provide, and the length of time you decide to let it run.

3. How are you going to promote your offer?

When you do decide on the type of offer you want to run for your business and have a clear goal in mind, it shouldn’t take long for you to create an offer your customers will love.

Regardless of how great your offer may be, if no one hears about your offer, it’s unlikely you’ll ever fulfill your marketing goals.

The good news is, today’s digital world offers plenty of cost-effective methods to get the word out to your target audience online.

Here are a few ways you can promote your offer:

  • Send a targeted email to your email subscribers
  • Share your offer on Facebook and encourage fans to share
  • Promote it on your website or blog
  • Offer it to customers in your store

4. How will you measure your results?

One of the biggest differences between offers today and offers you may have run in the past is how easy it is to track your results.

In years past you may have “kept track” of your offer based on how many paper coupons you’ve collected from customers in your store. Today, there are easy-to-use tools that can help track the results of your offer from start to finish.

With SaveLocal from Constant Contact for example, you can monitor how many people purchased your offer and collect information about every customers that comes through your door as a result. There’s even a mobile app you can use to manage your redemption right from the palm of your hand.

If you’ve already been managing a contact list for your business, this is a great chance to keep track of the customers that purchase deals or redeem coupons at your place of business. If you haven’t, this is your chance to grow your contact list.

Start planning your next offer!

With summer over and autumn making its mark, it’s time to start planning for the future.

If you think offers may play a role in your marketing efforts in the days, weeks, and months to come — you need to make sure you’re asking the right questions.

You also want to make sure you have the right tools to put your offer into action. Whether you’re planning to send a coupon or local deal to your most loyal customers for the first time, Constant Contact can help. Find out how today!


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