Tips on How To Write an Effective Coupon

How to Write an Effective Coupon

Having a coupon is a great way to enhance any marketing campaign, or rid yourself of excess inventory. While coupons are easy to write, there are a few common mistakes that are often made. Below are a few tips to help you avoid these mistakes and write a more effective coupon.

Title

Tips on How To Write an Effective CouponAn effective title for a coupon is short and to the point. Use the body of the coupon to give the details on what the customer is getting. Use the large bold font of the title as an opportunity to grab attention. Good words to use are “Free”, “X% Off” or “$X Off”, start out with telling the customer how much they’re going to save!

Body

Use the body of the coupon to explain what the offer is for. The best coupons just simply list out what the customer will get when they redeem this coupon. Don’t leave anything out, and don’t be vague. An example would be “Oil change includes x,y, and z premium oil extra”

Disclaimer

The disclaimer is the fine print that lists out anything that would void your coupon. One per customer, not valid with other offers etc. Try to keep this section as short as possible. A long disclaimer with a bunch of rules may turn off your customer and they may avoid using the coupon all together.

Expiration

The expiration date is one of the most overlooked part of a coupon. If you pick an expiration date that’s too long, customers are more likely to place them in a pile “for later” and then completely forget about them. However, if you use a short date like 7 days, there’s a sense of urgency to use the coupon as soon as possible, making it less likely that your coupon will be forgotten.

Coupon vs. Special Offer

This is not necessarily a tip, but a mistake I see often. Special offers disguised as coupons. While special offers are a great alternative to coupons, because they don’t have that sense of urgency, they’re not as effective at tracking a campaign. The two main difference between the two can be answered by these two questions. Does it expire? and Can anyone get this price? All coupons expire, and the only people that can get the coupon price is if they have the coupon, or at least know about it. If you’re offering an oil change for $35 anyone that walks into your store then “Get an oil change for $35” is not a coupon.

A strong coupon offer can help enhance any marketing campaign, so take your time and make sure you get the best results. Part of this is writing an effective coupon that draws your customers attention, and entices them to come to your store.


IMG_9375_600x600Michael Baaske is the Digital Product Coordinator at PowerSites®, and with over 7 years of experience in PrePress and print media, Michael has seen some good, and bad coupon offers. PowerSites® is an all inclusive website-hosting, creation, and marketing solution that helps local businesses establish their brand, drive leads, and track success, that’s a leading resource in print, online and mobile for hyperlocal advertising, and brand management with our Business Directory Listings.

How to Prepare an Emergency Plan for your Small Business

How to Prepare Your Small Business for an Emergency

In light of the unpredictable, like Hurricane Sandy, you should take the time to review your plans to protect employees and your small business in the event that a natural disaster strikes. Whether the disaster is a fire, flash flood, or some kind of crazy earthquake, any natural disaster will greatly impact a small business, and employers must learn how to be ready.

Start with an Emergency Fund

How to Prepare an Emergency Plan for your Small Business
To protect your business, you must set up a nest egg, have coverage and have plans arranged. If you don’t have one, start saving now. You don’t have to devote $5,000 monthly to the fund, but every little bit helps — set aside $15, $20 or $100. Here’s some basics:

  • Pick a bank that caters to your small business.
  • Track all of your money and manage all of your cash flow. Try a service like American Express for small business credit cards instead of your personal card.
  • Resist temptation: As much as you want to treat all your employees to a nice meal, use that money for a back-up plan, instead.

Plan for any Potential Natural Disasters

Nothing is as unexpected and sudden as natural disasters. You can never be prepared enough, so if you’re at risk for any one of the following disasters, take necessary steps to get ready:

Hurricanes: Protect all windows with storm shutters or nail plywood over, and place masking tape over the windows to reduce the risk of flying glass. Bring all outside furniture and decorations inside; unplug all equipment and turn the gas, electricity and water off.

Tornadoes: Establish a person in charge of monitoring weather alerts; have an interior location set to gather for all employees; keep blankets in your shelter; take immediate cover when you hear the term “warning.”

Flooding: Keep computers, electronics and important files raised off the floor; always be prepared to move critical items above flood level during a flood alert; speak with an insurance agent on how to ensure flood protection as most insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. Some floods develop slowly while others such as flash floods, can develop in just a few minutes — so be cautious.

Wildfires: Keep roof and gutters free of clutter and clear of debris; attach non-flammable, fine-gauge screening over any chimneys; keep the grass mowed and irrigated.

Earthquakes: Unlike tornadoes and other natural hazards, earthquakes strike suddenly and without any warning. Preparing for earthquakes involves knowing what to do before, during, and after earthquakes. So, make sure anything with a drawer or door has a latch with a manual release. Use flexible gas and water lines and secure all equipment to the floor or walls to prevent tipping.

Have a Supply Kit Handy

Having a well-designed supply kit can be invaluable to you and your employees during a disaster. However, a basic emergency kit could include the following items:

  • Water
  • Food
  • First Aid Kit
  • Flashlights
  • Radio and batteries
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Plastic bags
  • Camera for documenting damages
  • Duct tape
  • Blankets
  • Tarps
  • Tool kit
Promote Your Business Without Hurting Your Bottom Line

Government Resources to Help Small Businesses

Last year, I attended an event hosted by the Board of Equalization at a local college campus, and I was astonished by the turn out at the event. Over 1,000 people attended to learn about how to start a business. Although the theme of the conference was “Connecting Women to Power” the information shared was good for anyone who was interested in becoming an entrepreneur. I’ve worked in the marketing field most of my career, working for someone else, so I never knew how much went into starting a business. The most important thing I learned (and the most comforting) was that there are many resources out there for people with the desire to start a business.

One such resource is the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. Their site offers information on everything from research and planning to registering for permits. You will find sites to a number of other government organizations that can help you get your business started.

  •  US Small Business Administration – The SBA guarantees loans made to small businesses by private and other lending institutions. You can find out more about applying for a guaranteed loan at their site. You can also find information on how to create a business plan on their site as well as a Business Plan Tool which offers a step-by-step guide. A business plan is usually the first thing a bank asks for when deciding to give out a loan.
  • Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) – The Centers assist with business plans, marketing, finance questions, and other business issues.
  • The California Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Alliance – The leader and champion for CA disabled veterans interested in building and expanding business opportunities and for those entities pursuing partnerships with these businesses.

The Board of Equalization also offers resources such as free in-person and online seminars/workshops on different topics. You can also find Industry Tax Guides on their website. The guides offer information for business owners on tax and fee issues relevant to your business. You can also download a general small business tax guide.

One more note regarding the SBA.gov website. What I liked the most about it, is that there is a community that you can register to be part of. There are discussion boards where you can post questions, as well as a blog that is kept current with useful information such as “10 Essential Ingredients Every Startup Needs”

This is just a short list of some resources that can be referenced when starting a business. There are thousands of other resources (free and paid) that can be of help so do your research but I hope these give you a good start.


Iliana Angel, Marketing ManagerIliana Angel is the Marketing Manager at PowerSites®, an all inclusive website-hosting, creation, and marketing solution that helps local businesses establish their brand, drive leads, and track success. PowerSites® is a leading resource in print, online and mobile for hyperlocal advertising, and brand management with our Business Directory Listings.

How to Utilize Pinterest and LinkedIn Alongside Facebook and Twitter

Social NetworksFacebook and Twitter may be the best-known social media sites, but they’re not the only ones that can benefit small businesses. Among English-speaking social sites, LinkedIn sits at the number five spot, trailing behind Twitter, Trendstream’s GlobalWebIndex reports. Meanwhile, Pinterest ranks number seven. Both sites are growing quickly, with LinkedIn growing at 30 percent, and Pinterest at 20 percent, Jeff Bullas reports. For small businesses seeking cost-effective marketing methods, both these platforms represent untapped opportunities.

Pinterest

Socialbakers has found Facebook posts with photos generate more “Like”s, comments, and shares than any other type of post, constituting 93 percent of the most interactive posts. Pinterest leverages this visual appeal by enabling users to upload images and other media content as “Pins” and organize them on “boards” where others can see them.

Pins create a way to visually build your brand. You can pin images associated with your company logo. You can also post graphics that position your expertise or support your sales theme, such as quotes or infographics with statistics.

Pinterest can help generate leads. Your Pins can attract followers from within Pinterest. You can also link your Pinterest account to other sites to attract followers from there.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn boasts 200 million users, including 74 million from the United States, according to its site. It provides the business-oriented equivalent of Facebook, which can boost your brand in several ways.

Customizing your URL will distinguish your page from competitors and from others with similar names. Ideally, choose a URL consistent with a domain name representing your brand. Use a service such as WebHostingBlueBook.com to locate a good URL domain name.

Your profile’s headline field lets you describe what makes you and your products or services unique. Other fields establish credibility by citing your professional credentials and displaying references.

LinkedIn also provides promotional opportunities. You can network with other professionals in your field or your target market by using the site’s private messaging and groups features. Participating in group discussions and sharing content gives you a way to establish your expertise and build business relationships.

The above methods can also serve to drive traffic to your other social media platforms. For instance, you can include links in your profile. You can also share content of interest to groups you participate in, where appropriate.

Integrating Your Social Toolkit

Pinterest and LinkedIn work best when used in conjunction with your other social media tools as part of a single toolkit, rather than viewing them in competition with Facebook and Twitter. You can integrate your Pinterest account with your Facebook and Twitter accounts for cross-platform sharing. Likewise, you can use your LinkedIn profile to link to your Facebook or Twitter pages, and vice versa. You can also share content from these social media hubs with your LinkedIn networks.

You will get the most leverage out of using these social media tools if you track your results. Sprout Social provides one way to do this by integrating management of your LinkedIn page with your Facebook and Twitter activity and providing you with analytic feedback on the results of your campaigns.

How to Prepare an Emergency Plan for your Small Business

How to Prepare an Emergency Plan for Your Small Business

In light of the unpredictable, like Hurricane Sandy, you should take the time to review your plans to protect employees and your small business in the event that a natural disaster strikes. Whether the disaster is a fire, flash flood, or some kind of crazy earthquake, any natural disaster will greatly impact a small business, and employers must learn how to be ready.

Start with an Emergency Fund

How to Prepare an Emergency Plan for your Small Business
To protect your business, you must set up a nest egg, have coverage and have plans arranged. If you don’t have one, start saving now. You don’t have to devote $5,000 monthly to the fund, but every little bit helps — set aside $15, $20 or $100. Here’s some basics:

  • Pick a bank that caters to your small business.
  • Track all of your money and manage all of your cash flow. Try a service like American Express for small business credit cards instead of your personal card.
  • Resist temptation: As much as you want to treat all your employees to a nice meal, use that money for a back-up plan, instead.

Plan for any Potential Natural Disasters

Nothing is as unexpected and sudden as natural disasters. You can never be prepared enough, so if you’re at risk for any one of the following disasters, take necessary steps to get ready:

Hurricanes: Protect all windows with storm shutters or nail plywood over, and place masking tape over the windows to reduce the risk of flying glass. Bring all outside furniture and decorations inside; unplug all equipment and turn the gas, electricity and water off.

Tornadoes: Establish a person in charge of monitoring weather alerts; have an interior location set to gather for all employees; keep blankets in your shelter; take immediate cover when you hear the term “warning.”

Flooding: Keep computers, electronics and important files raised off the floor; always be prepared to move critical items above flood level during a flood alert; speak with an insurance agent on how to ensure flood protection as most insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. Some floods develop slowly while others such as flash floods, can develop in just a few minutes — so be cautious.

Wildfires: Keep roof and gutters free of clutter and clear of debris; attach non-flammable, fine-gauge screening over any chimneys; keep the grass mowed and irrigated.

Earthquakes: Unlike tornadoes and other natural hazards, earthquakes strike suddenly and without any warning. Preparing for earthquakes involves knowing what to do before, during, and after earthquakes. So, make sure anything with a drawer or door has a latch with a manual release. Use flexible gas and water lines and secure all equipment to the floor or walls to prevent tipping.

Have a Supply Kit Handy

Having a well-designed supply kit can be invaluable to you and your employees during a disaster. However, a basic emergency kit could include the following items:

  • Water
  • Food
  • First Aid Kit
  • Flashlights
  • Radio and batteries
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Plastic bags
  • Camera for documenting damages
  • Duct tape
  • Blankets
  • Tarps
  • Tool kit

Social Media Monday: How to Use Facebook to Gain Email Subscribers

For this installment of our Social Media Monday series, PowerSites is providing you with some tips on using Facebook to grow your email list.


Facebook is regarded as something brand new and different in marketing, but the truth is that it’s really just one more way to ask for permission, and one of the most effective means we have of doing so. These seven tips will help you to make the most of Facebook as a way to enhance, improve and reach out with your email marketing campaign:

A Permanent Home for Email Content

A lot of people read through an email once and then delete it. By using Facebook as a permanent home for email content, you have a place where people can rediscover the old pieces they liked, and new users can check out examples of what they’ll be getting.

Your email service provider probably has some great Facebook apps that you can put to work for you. Check it out and see if they have anything that makes it easier for people to sign up through your Facebook page, and automatically integrate into your email database. You never know until you take a look at what they have for you to use.

Improve Your “About” Page

Improve and optimize your 150 word “about” description so that readers really know what it is that you’re all about. A lot of people click here first before reading more than one or two of your posts and updates, so this will be a tremendous help in winning over new readers.

Create Updates About Your Newsletter

Make sure to give your readers an update where they can use the comments as a thread to discuss the newest newsletter. When you send out a newsletter, create a post about it on your Facebook page, and pose a question that will engage your followers. It’s a good idea to figure out when most of your followers are online so that you can update them then and make sure that you’re reaching them while they’re actually up and about.

Promote Posts

Promoting posts isn’t always helpful, but at times it can earn you a lot of new readers. Promoting a post costs a little money but reaches out to a wider audience. This means more people, including people that may not already ‘Like’ your page, will be seeing what you’re sharing. Make sure that you’re promoting something special, not just another update, but a story that really resonates, and will catch the attention of someone scrolling through their News Feed.

Make it Better

Finally, make your email marketing content, and your Facebook content, better. Your content may even be good enough, but it can always be better, and every time you make it better, you stand a chance at gaining new followers. Don’t rest on your laurels. Improve your content so that when you share it with a wider audience. It actually matters.

Remember that Facebook is not magic, it’s just one more tool that you can use to grow your subscriber base and social media reach. When used appropriately, the results are endless.

Consider all the outcomes of your coupon campaigns.

Don’t Lose Money on Your Coupon Campaigns

When marketing with coupons, there’s always a risk of overspending on the savings. It can be tempting to push the coupons until you’re actually losing money, until you’re operating at a loss. Coupons only work as a strategy when they work as a strategy.

The end goal of a coupon campaign is to make less money per sale, but to make more sales and to turn on new customers in the hopes that they’ll actually become regulars, and not that they’ll just use the coupon before never buying from you ever again.

  • Can you scale quickly?

    Some small businesses are a better fit for coupons than others. Coupons are obviously great if you’re selling eBooks. If your staff has to pick up the pace and make more hamburgers after a promotional effort, then you need to consider if they’re up for the task. How easily can you scale what you do?

  • What can you afford?

    For those with a lot of money on hand, it’s not a bad idea to actually break even on every sale just to make sure more people are trying things out. If you don’t have the funding to fall back on or if you can’t foresee a high conversion rate, on the other hand, then you may simply be wasting effort. Be careful in pricing your coupons.

  • Consider all the outcomes

    Consider all the outcomes of your coupon campaigns.A big mistake you can make with a coupon effort is to allow users to double up or use multiple coupons to effectively take you for all you’re worth. Make sure that you’ve written the appropriate disclaimers on all of the coupons, and that people won’t be able to use them along with other coupons or double up in order to take a bigger discount than you’re able to afford.

  • Educate Your Staff

    None of these rules will help you if your staff doesn’t know what they’re doing. Make absolutely certain that they know what sort of coupons to accept and how to accept them. A staff that doesn’t know how to run a coupon campaign puts you in a position where you might as well be giving things away for free.

  • Accept Competitors’ Coupons, but Carefully

    It can be a great promotional tactic to accept your competitors’ coupons, but a disaster to accept them without prejudice. Don’t accept all  of your competitor’s coupons, or you may be paying out the nose for a promotion that they can afford but you can’t. Offer to accept competitor’s coupons but make sure to double check expiration dates and limit what those coupons will cover.

Running a coupon campaign doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a lot of pitfalls that can get you if you don’t plan ahead, but by and large, if you plan according to what you can afford and according to the market you need to reach, it shouldn’t be impossible to come up with a campaign that works for you and your customers.

Small Business Tips: How to Increase Traffic to Your Store

Small Business Tips: How-To Increase Foot Traffic to Your Store

There is a lot of focus these days on selling online. For many small businesses however, it is still about getting people in the door. If this includes your small business, here are 7 ways to increase traffic to your storefront.

Get involved in your community

Small Business Tips: How to Increase Traffic to Your StoreYou can do this by giving a portion of your proceeds, for a period of time, to a local charity or by staging an event. The event doesn’t even have to be at your place of business, but make sure you hand out cards, coupons, or flyers. Create a press release for local media and solicit the help or participation of other area businesses.

Network with another business for cross-promotion

See if a local pizza shop is willing to put your coupon or flyer on their pizza boxes. In exchange, you can offer them some of your products or services or similar promotional exposure in your place of business. Other businesses that can be a valuable resource to hand out flyers and coupons include area car washes, drive-thru beverage stores, and fast food locations.

Use social media

Social media is a free way to build a network of people whom you can immediately make contact with to offer specials, share information, and promote events. It is the modern version of word-of-mouth advertising. Facebook, of course, is huge but don’t forget Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Ask for advice and be willing to take it

Have friends, relatives and fellow business people take a look at your store from the outside and ask for their input. Is your signage attractive? Are your window displays interesting and inviting? Does it convey a positive image? Ask them “If you were me, what would you do?” You may get some imaginative feedback that can inspire you!

Share your products or services daily

If you are a hairdresser, deliver a free haircut coupon to a local business or office every weekday. This can also work for candy shops, florists, oil changes, restaurants and more. If you can’t give away an actual product or service, give a gift certificate in a specific dollar amount. People love getting free stuff and it’s a sure-fire way to create street talk.

Offer referral incentives

Ask your current customers why they do business with you. After they give you the reasons, thank them and ask if they wouldn’t mind referring your business to others. Create an incentive for each referral that comes in. This creates more loyalty to your store while expanding your customer base.

Advertise

It may sound simple but it works. Find the appropriate media channel that will help you in marketing your business. You should definitely have a website, and should also be advertising in print and online.

Getting increased foot traffic these days takes imagination and effort, but it can prove to be very rewarding. Perhaps it is time to get re-energized about your business and begin to look for new and better ways to do things.

How to Create a Marketing Plan

How to Create a Marketing PlanCreating a marketing plan can be a simple process. Any business or organization that spends the time creating their marketing plan will see many benefits. An online presence is incredible and easy to position with an enthusiastic marketing message. Identify the ways you enhance the lives of your target market and determine the greatest presentation that ignites your passion.

Marketing plans are great ways to see the best direction for your company. Plans should include the following:

  • Target Market
  • Demographics of Paying Customers
  • Promotions and Public Relations
  • Product Descriptions
  • Services
  • Online Marketing
  • Timelines
  • Financials

Creating a signature statement for the company is part of the marketing. This is part of the product descriptions. This is similar to an elevator speech with a few power packed statements about the company, the benefit’s to customers, and what great need it serves. What need is the business addressing and how are the customers’ lives better with the company’s products and services being provided. Practice making this inspirational. Rehearse your statements and check with others to obtain feedback on the message you are using to describe your company. Does it inspire them to jump for your number or search through your website? Do they want to quickly learn more about your company?

Website Marketing

Marketing a website is as easy as making everything work right. Your company is part of something fantastic and spreading the word to the world through the Internet is such an amazing opportunity. This is done very quickly with a website and a great marketing plan. Advertising is easier when you really understand your target market and customer base.

It is possible to market your online website with multiple search engines. You can create your website with words that are frequently searched by Google or other search engines. Many call this Search Engine Optimization or SEO and it is used to create more traffic for your online presence.

Online marketing is better when you are able to present your message clearly. Marketing a site is faster after your concepts are prepared. Advertising is a fantastic way to promote your website. Most advertising for websites is a short blurb about your products or services. These blurbs could be catchy and enthralling. The short catchy phrases are remembered when they are fun or match up with your customers’ needs.

Timelines are best to create when you’re in a good mood. A timeline includes how many customers you get and how long it will take. Arranging your customer list is as easy as writing it down and demanding it. Predicting the financial projections is important so make sure that you understand what each customer is worth to your company.

Plans are simple if you know what you want to include. You can add or delete depending on what feels right. The marketing for your company should be exciting, and then it’s easier to do. Have fun while creating your plan and make sure you agree it’s superb, and exactly what you want for your small business.

Forget the Phone Book: How to Generate Leads for Small Businesses

How to Generate Leads for Local BusinessesA small business that depends on the Yellow Pages is using best practices to generate leads — for the last century! Today, if you are a bricks and mortar retailer without an Internet presence you might as well not exist.

Knowledgeable marketing people know that “Local Search” results are the most important, and most efficient means of marketing a small business.

Business today is rabidly competitive. Having a major presence on the Internet is not an idea to be “tested”. It is proven to be a necessity to compete on the local level.

Small businesses can achieve a generous amount of effective presence on the Internet leading to solid placement in local searches. Following are some marketing tips so that your small business can more easily generate leads from the Internet. They relate to:

  • Web site
  • Google Place Page
  • Facebook Page

The concept of local search is for your business to show up in the first page of a search when a potential customer is looking for your services or products in a specific geographic location. To show up in the top tier of a local search on the Internet is sort of like calling your company “AA Able Stationary” so that, were it about 30 years ago your business would be one of the first found in the Yellow Pages under stationary.

Web site

Every business competes for high ranking in local search in their specific business indsutry. Companies employing marketing best practices know that for a laser-like marketing campaign, nothing is more efficient than the Internet for finding potential customers at the local level. Savvy marketing people know that print, radio and even TV cannot target customers as efficiently as the Internet. Where finding a business was once relegated to using only classifieds, paging through a phone book or looking through the Sunday paper ads, consumers now also use their mobile devices or home computers to find businesses in their community. The first important thing is to be sure that your website has been optimized for local search.

Have your address on every page. If you are near a landmark–say so: 123 Main Street, opposite the Anytown Post Office; is much better than the business address alone. Include a link to a map and directions.

Contrary to common wisdom, use of keywords frequently does not increase your chances of achieving a high search engine result (SER). In fact, it may harm your site’s ranking. Google, Bing and other search engines use sophisticated search engine algorithms when carrying out a user’s search. Where once key words were king for reaching high SER, that is no longer true. Today these secret algorithms look for a sprinkling of relevant key words, and large doses of descriptive, original content, as well as Meta tags. Key word stuffing is no longer rewarded and can even be penalized.

Google Places Page

Google helps local merchants with a free service called Google Places (formally Google Pages). At no charge merchants may register their business, upload some text about the business, link to your website, link to a map and directions and read ratings from patrons who have visited your business. Customers will rate and review your business through Google+ Local. You can promote and link to your Google+ page on your website, and any other online marketing collateral.

Facebook Fan Page

Social media is the most contemporary marketing technique available. To participate you need to post a business page on Facebook to reach your geographic market. Provide fans and “likes” with a reason to keep coming back such as exclusive “flash sales” or fan page only specials and deal coupons only available on the fan page with a short shelf life. It’s important to promote your Facebook page on your website, and you can even run ads on Facebook to target a specific demographic or geographic location.

Having and maintaining an Internet presence is hard work, but it will definitely pay off when done correctly.