The coupon approach is not usually an appropriate strategy for firms interested in attracting customers who aren't price-sensitive. However, for smaller practices or those offering standard services where the customer is relatively unable to differentiate between providers, they can be useful.
Seth Godin has a thing or two to say about coupons...why they are good, and what mistakes to avoid when using them. He says:
Coupons are a surprisingly subtle invention. Now that anyone can offer them (because now anyone can have a store), it's worth a second to think about what they're for.
1. Coupons allow you to offer different prices to different people.
There's a reason that most coupons are not trivially easy to find or redeem. By trading effort for a discount, the marketer says, "if you care about price, I'll sell it to you cheaper, but you have to prove it." Hence the original idea behind Priceline. It was intentionally awkward to use so that the airlines could be confident that only the fare-obsessed would use it.
2. They provide the shopper with a totem.
With something tangible in hand, the shopper feels as though they have the power to go make an exchange. It's not just about trading money for the object or service. It's about trading in this thing I have in my hand (or pasted onto my clipboard). If I don't buy the thing, I've just lost the value of my totem. Now the purchase isn't just about spending money... it's about realizing the value of a thing I possess--or losing it forever.
3. A coupon can mean now.
Give me a coupon and I am forced to make a decision. Will I buy the service or product before the coupon expires or gets lost, or should I forfeit this thing of value?
1. Don't do a coupon unless you can execute properly.
It needs to be big enough matter..And it can't destroy the product and what it stands for. No coupons for high-end plastic surgeons, please. Why? Because those that don't want to use the coupon might see it, and its very existence means the surgeon is no longer who you thought they were. No coupons for Tiffany's either.
2. If you make the use of the coupon a hassle, you've blown it.
He offers a personal experience example that rings of bait and switch. Be careful to be clear about what is and what is not included with the coupon.