Turning a Daily Deal From One Night Stand to Long-term Relationship


Research shows that getting a deal has no financial or social status boundaries—it’s a human thing. We love the thrill of scoring savings, especially for something with higher perceived value or item we crave—cue the dopamine. According to Mark Ellwood, author of “Bargain Fever,” consumers should never pay full price for anything anyway. Nowhere is that living proof more so than on daily deal sites like Groupon, Living Social, and the myriad of me-toos, now a staple of our online culture. The “half off” lifestyle is here to stay, and we’re ready to pay. But how can vendors get these deal-seekers to come back for more?

Every new customer is gold

Don’t judge a consumer by their cover (in this case, an online deal). The person could be dressed down but actually have money to burn, or poor communications skills but is brand loyal to a fault.  The point is, be nice, gracious, and give the same service you would a full paying customer: making assumptions about a consumer based on a short-lived experience can cost you future business. If you don’t treat them well, they’ll feel it, resent it, and won’t be back (unless you offer another deal perhaps).

Don’t put off deal customers

A few years ago, I tried out a new salon at full price (ironically), and  my stylist spent time on the phone arguing with a deal customer who was trying to set up an appointment before her voucher expired. Instead of trying to fit her into the schedule, the stylist would not budge. In the end, it affected my perception of the salon (not to mention I wasn’t crazy about the cut). Or the restaurant I attempted to use my deal at but the (very) fine print on the voucher prohibited me from cashing in except weekends (which was also accompanied by serious attitude I got from the proprietor). Don’t break your bond with a potential customer before you even have it. I’ve also heard vendors complain about customers that come in “just for the deal and never come back.” Yes, they came in for the great price, but what did you do to keep them interested in doing business with you again? Which leads me to my next suggestion…

Offer incentives to visit again

Besides giving great service, offering something of value is always welcome as a goodwill gesture, either during the deal time or for when the consumer returns. Though not every consumer will not be motivated by the promise of future savings, throw in that dessert at your restaurant, offer a loyalty card at your store, or 20% off for a future service—something that says “I want to continue our relationship and I care about getting your business.” Even if the person doesn’t plan to visit again anytime soon, it will leave them with warm fuzzies, perhaps compel them to leave a good Yelp review, or will want to give a personal recommendation to a friend.

Know your motives for the deal (but don’t overshare)

Each business is driven by different reasons to offer a deal: it’s a slow season, or a new business fishing for customers, to name just a few. But contrast how two vendors handled the goal to reach customers at their new locations: An aesthetician who recently moved her business to San Francisco could not schedule me until after regular-paying clients got in. When I got my appointment, she spent the majority of time telling me how popular she was and this was “just to get new business in the neighborhood.” Contrast that with another service professional who humbly and gently described how people couldn’t find her new location because it was a busy street and was difficult to be noticed. She was grateful for every new customer she attracted, and even sent me a thank-you email for visiting. Which business do you think I will go back to in the future?

These are but a few ways vendors can maximize consumers’ daily deal experience so they will want to come back again (and again and again). Automatically pigeonholing deal customers as cheap one-timers without long-term potential shorts everyone in the transaction and is a missed opportunity for future business.

But daily deal vendors aren’t the only ones that need training on  etiquette, customers need their own lessons too. In a future post, consumers get pointers on best practices for cashing in on their half-off vouchers.


Daily Deals Sequel: Groupon Hangover And Mobile App Madness

Almost two years ago I wrote a blog about the growing online coupon business. At that time the frenzy was in full swing: Groupon was the media darling, copycats were everywhere, and the future was so bright, they had to wear shades (half-off of course). There were, however, naysayers calling out problems with the daily deal model: they were putting small businesses in the red, they only made money for greedy Groupon-types, daily deals were just a phase. They were right. But not completely.

Fast-forward to September 2012: Consumers still love saving money (DUH) and deals are here to stay, but in different incarnations. Groupon has become to online deals what Kleenex is to tissues, but there are major shifts in the landscape.

1) Groupon went from a rock star to has-been: As the deals market became more crowded with me-toos, combined with the “thrill is gone” from consumers. the daily deal concept itself became stale. Groupon tanked after its initial IPO at $20 a share in November 2011 (at last check, its price was a paltry $4 a share) which coincided with the domino effect of lackluster social media company IPOs. LivingSocial, Groupon’s biggest competitor with a sizable ownership by Amazon, has also been steadily eating into its market share. The most recent blow was Starbucks choosing LivingSocial for its daily deal, which sold out immediately and was the biggest revenue generator yet for the company.  Yelp and OpenTable  still offer deals but scaled back on promotion and rely on their core businesses.

2) Alternative deal sites, niche markets and buy outs, oh my: As the daily deals market became saturated, Groupon and other companies started hawking national and local offers with a longer shelf life. New business models and after-markets also popped up; sites curating a city’s “best of” deals such as Dealery and Yipit, or expiring, unwanted deal sites such as Couprecoup and FatWallet. There were also many companies renamed, bought, funded and vertical niche start ups in clothing, food, and other services, as seen in this 2011 Deals InfographicMarqeta, a different concept altogether, uses a discount card that rewards loyalty to its vendors.

3) Mobile apps rule: No surprise, smartphone apps is the fastest growing area in the deals segment. Location-based apps such as Mobsav, Yowza and others offer national and local deals but most consumers are still uneasy with companies tracking their whereabouts. Companies already on mobile-friendly turf, like Foursquare and Facebook Check-in Deals (formerly Facebook Deals), have a built-in advantage. Some location-based apps combine offline shopping habits with mobile apps to discover discounts when a consumer is approaching that desired item. These apps all operate differently but the premise is the same: Vendors like Swarm and Spotzot knows who you are, what you want to buy, and will “activate” when you are near the location of your holy grail. Not ok with Deal Big Brother watching?  Scoutmob offers free half-off deals (yes, FREE!), a cheeky brand personality, and entertaining, useful e-newsletter. Scoutmob only charges the vendor on redemption, so it’s a win-win for the deal-bearer and the consumer. Credit card companies like American Express are also getting in on the action and benefit from having a solid social media presence. Groupon and LivingSocial have added mobile apps to their menu but operate the same way as the website.

So what’s next?

Deals will continue to transform with new technology and consumers’ behavior and preferences. The market will also continue to shake out: Some deal apps and sites will thrive while others will go to the coupon cemetery. A glaring weakness and missed opportunity for all of these companies offering deals (other than location-based apps) is good target demographics —sounds counterintuitive but true. Knowing subscribers well would arm companies with a goldmine of data to offer relevant deals. In a recent experiment I did, Groupon is the only company that asked for even the most basic information. Either these companies are not marketing-savvy enough, worry that consumers will bail if there is an avalanche of questions, or are too busy focusing on the bottom-line to pay attention to their customer. All. Bad. Ideas. Having subscriber access to email is a privilege and a gift. If the balance of interest tilts, these companies could lose their coveted spot in subscribers’ in boxes.

And like all good marketing campaigns, closing the loop on deal usage is the next frontier. Deals present tricky ROI math: companies may know how many deals were sold but not how many were actually used, or redeemed by a mobile app but not tracked, or sold on a website. Or any other number of scenarios. A recent deal by Coca-Cola and Auntie Anne’s hopes to trailblaze this path but it will take long-term data to show true bottom-line value to both the company offering the deal and the vendor distributing it. The ROI results could provide compelling data that could easily shape future deals for customers.

In the meantime, I’m still waiting for a deal to upgrade my site on WordPress.

2012 Marketing Wishes and Caviar Dreams

It’s that special time when self-anointed marketing experts look at the biggest trends of the year and give their unadulterated snarky opinions, and marketing sages look into their logo’ed crystal balls and predict what will happen for 2012. But alas, enough about other marketers. From my slightly jaded journalism-cum-marketing POV, here is what I want and don’t want for 2012. And the soothsayer in me knows that none of these will actually  happen…or  will they?

QR Codes Should Be Banned Until They are Easy (and Worth It):  Everyone and their marketing mother was talking about QR (Quick Response) codes in 2011 as if they were going to reach Facebook proportions, but it’s clear now that their stickiness factor is weak (by the way if you don’t know what a QR code is my point is made). Several reasons they haven’t taken off: (1) Many people still do not know what they are (2) When they do, motivation is not high enough to scan the code since it takes some effort. Even though QR codes are plastered everywhere from posters to mailers to web sites, T-shirts and more, reading QR codes is still not an automatic function on mobile phones and users have to download an app typically. QR code readers need to be built in. Humans are essentially a lazy bunch and won’t bother otherwise, including moi. The second part of the equation is that whatever is at the end of the QR code scanning process is worthy of receiving, but that’s a whole other marketing wish (more here on my earlier QR Code blog post).

Social Media Tipping Point: Even Klout Lost its Clout: Let’s face it, most marketers are pretty fascinated with social media. It’s enabled a whole new sandbox to play in, but we also need  to show some restraint: Just because there are the tools out there doesn’t mean every company has to engage on Twitter 24/7, Facebook feed overload, and YouTube mania. Marketers should pick and choose carefully those social outlets that resonate with their audience (and test, test, test). Also stock those outlets with the freshest, greatest content possible on a regular basis. Which reminds me…

Learn How To Write For the Web: It pains me both as a former journalist and a freelance writer to see all the growing, embarrassingly poor prose on web site copy, online coupons, email campaigns, blogs and just about every other orifice of the web. I’m not sure how the most global opportunity for the written word could be hijacked by so many atrocious, mangled sentences. I think it’s wonderful that the web provides a platform to reach so many but it should be used with care, and most importantly some training.  For those without formal training, enroll in a writing class. If you have an employee that is a horrible writer and can’t change, fire him or her (ok that’s harsh, maybe they’d make a better editor? or html coder?) And lastly if you are not happy in a writing job yourself, make it your new years resolution to do something you enjoy. If you care about your readers, you won’t let us suffer your pain as well.

Big Corporations Acting Like PR Idiots:  Think Netflix. I mean Quikster. I mean Netflix. Or Lowes removal of an ad on a Muslim family reality show.  Or Bank of America’s $5 transaction fee.  PR (and plummeting stock) disasters are usually the fault of the company itself. It typically a involves a predictable four-step recipe: 1) Make a big mistake 2) Don’t admit the mistake 3) Make yet another mistake to try to recover from the first blunder such as blaming consumers, investors, the media, or anyone other than your own company 4) Admit guilt with your PR tail between your legs and apologize after you have been flailed about by aforementioned-blamed. And with social media helping to spread consumer unhappiness like wildfire, companies must learn to do this and quikster. I mean quickly.

Make Marketing Proud in the New www (Wild West Web): This was a banner year for web marketing:  not only social media but mobile marketing, gamification, online deals, you name it. As someone from the traditional marketing times, I am personally overwhelmed learning all the technologies, trends, and “new rules” but enjoy that we have such great room to grow in this new frontier. It’s exciting and also offers the chance to produce better, more layered and sophisticated marketing programs using a hybrid of online and offline strategies. Marketers have more opportunities than ever to be creative, explore ideas, measure successes, and yes, also produce complete flops. So let’s take the time and energy to do things right.

Don’t Forget Who the Boss is:  No, not the woman or man with the windowed corner office — the person who buys your products or services. They are also the king and queen of your world. This is why you are racking your brain to come up with campaigns to engage with them, keep them happy, and treat them like gold.  And lest we forget, our customers and prospects have never had such a panoramic platform to display their happiness or unhappiness, be it on your company’s web site, review sites, chat rooms, or blogs, which means we are more accountable than ever.

Let’s make everyone–most of all ourselves–proud in 2012 and have a happy marketing new year!

Milk To Relieve PMS Campaign Strikes A Nerve. Period.

If you blinked, you may have missed the controversy this past month over a “Got Milk” campaign “Everything I do is Wrong” which featured men suffering from the misery of their wives and girlfriends’ PMS symptoms and offering milk as the panacea. Clearly the intention was what we’ve all joked about-women are  bitchy around their period and take it out on their guys. And now the men–the victims here–can fight back by offering their partners a full serving of the Milk Elixir to relieve their PMS symptoms  (I personally think there wouldn’t have been such a backlash if it had been Chardonnay but that’s another story).

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the agency for the Got Milk campaigns since 1993, designed the tongue-in-cheek web, advertising, and billboard campaign. They shut it down almost as soon as it went up after the deluge of complaints that hit their website, Facebook page, and other social media. Critics asserted that the campaign made men look like the ones suffering, not the women. In other words, the ads were sexist and soooo not funny.

As an aside, there were also some complaints about the scientific validity to back up this noble claim about milk. But the heart of the controversy wasn’t about truth in advertising, it was about perception.

What I found interesting about all the hoopla is that is five years ago there was a full-fledged TV commercial that had the exact same PMS gimmick. But guess what? No one complained, or at least enough to pull the commercial before the end of its run. This is likely because there wasn’t the powerful social media everywhere like now. In 2011, thousands are able to make their feelings known swiftly and strongly and get an immediate response.

The agency even redirected the everythingidoiswrong.com site name to gotdiscussion.com to put a more “forum” spin on it. However, even a cursory review of the site will reveal, other than a two paragraph apology, that they are still cashing in on the negative publicity. What’s that saying…any publicity is good publicity.

This campaign also caused me to examine my own feelings: was I personally offended as a woman? Did I think the campaign was funny? Was it “good” marketing? I questioned what exactly about the spin on the PMS caused such an uproar. Certainly it wasn’t that we were joking about PMS and periods, that’s been done a million times in jokes and media. Nor that it is a fairly awkward product to advertise, next to Depends undergarments and hemorrhoidal solutions.

So why then does this Kotex U tampon commercial “work” about tampons and received  praise from women? It’s also satirical and poking fun at something we all know but don’t really say out loud.  I’m guessing it doesn’t raise the ire of women everywhere because the people making fun at themselves are the people who are affected — not someone else. I can make fun of me, but you can’t.

So maybe if the Got Milk campaign had featured women joking about their PMS symptoms and how milk helps them to deal with their men better, we might be praising the campaign instead and asking our significant others to pass the milk.

Cracking the QR Code for Marketers

I recently got into a debate with a marketing colleague about whether people know what QR codes are and what to do with them. She works for a company that uses them a lot so assumes QR Codes and usage are commonplace. Me? I’m a bit more skeptical but see their value too. (And if you are in marketing and haven’t heard of QR codes, you should know they are even hotter than saying “Facebook” three times fast.)

QR code, which stands for “Quick Response” code, is the latest trend to infatuate marketers and is helping to reshape lead generation techniques, add some spice and color to a campaign, or just have some flat-out fun. Originally used in Japan car factories to track parts, QR codes have the same functionality as bar codes, but can hold much more data because they are two-dimensional – contrast 30 pieces of data with 7,000. In other words, a lot of information can be transmitted to direct people to a destination of a marketer’s choice, including – a web site, contact page, text message –  the possibilities are endless. QR codes have become popular in the past year due to the rise in smart phones and downloadable QR reader programs (warning dumb phone users: do not try this at home, or anywhere for that matter).

My first take on the QR code was that it is simply the Web 2.0 way to contact a company by capturing email, phone number, or web site address. But I discovered that this was a narrow view: QR codes have much more depth and range of use, which means more creative and flexible ways to reach and drive prospects towards action.

Ironically,  the major place you’ll find QR codes is in the real world, but the only way you can use a QR code is online .Which leads me to an assessment of how QR codes play out in reality with the general consumer: tepid at best. For now. It seems that the audience intended for all the QR hype is lagging behind marketers, except for the tech-savvy and Gen Y’ers, It is second nature for them to click away anytime, anywhere. Several surveys I’ve seen confirm this: only about half of Americans have even heard of a QR code; and less than 30% have downloaded QR readers to their smart phone.  Many times when I see a QR code, explicit instructions spell out what to do, as in “Scan this code into your phone with a QR code reader”. When QR codes become more commonplace and phones start having built-in readers, I suspect their usage will be much more common. More survey results here.

So what are some of the benefits of QR code usage in marketing campaigns?

They can certainly help accelerate how and when prospects capture information they might not otherwise. Say a woman is walking by a billboard featuring a gorgeous purse (for man insert cool electronic gizmo here) the person begins salivating but doesn’t have time to write the name of the brand or anything other information. Just point a smart phone at it with the QR reader and Shazam! – capture all the data from the QR code.

Another great and timely characteristic of QR codes is that they are “green” without even trying. Just as printed brochures have become dinosaurs in the digital age and with our heightened awareness of natural resources, QR codes fit well the mindset of our time.  Picture yourself driving by a house for sale that piques your interest. Instead of seeing the typical For Sale sign with a rack of house flyers, the sign only contains a big QR code. You lean out the car window and scan it, which takes you to a video of a virtual house tour, along with all its stats and price. Nice.

And when it comes to QR codes, creativity has no limits: get entered into a sweepstakes, download a coupon, become a Facebook fan, make a purchase, and that’s just scratching the surface. Speaking of surfaces, you can put a QR code on pretty much anything-paper, clothing, glass, and plastic, to name a few. I even saw photos of a QR code on an apple and cupcakes too. Yum. You can also create patterns that spell something out (BBC does a cool one) or suggestive of an exotic hotel destination (palm trees) or apply different color patterns. Which is exactly the beginning of the downside of QR codes: even though the interest, cool, and fun factor is high, the intent of the QR code is not always obvious.

Consumers may be able to identify a QR code but they don’t necessarily know what they’ll get when they do scan it. Some QR code destinations are obvious, but others are clear as mud. An example of this is Google’s “Favorite Places” program. Members of the program place the promo sheet in their restaurant window to display their Favorite Places “status” on a map grid with a large QR code. But if I were walking by,  I’m not quite sure what information I’d get by scanning the QR code. It turns out it’s reviews of restaurants, but for me, and I suspect others, that is not intuitive. Prospective diners will still need directing, and that’s a problem for a split second decision-making that often occurs for us humans (research shows it takes us about 3 seconds to determine if we are interested in an advertisement, for instance). Sometimes consumers like to be surprised,  but not when they are on an information-seeking mission.

But the bigger question about QR Codes is whether the technology driving the marketing or the other way around? In other words, are we being blinded by a shiny new object?  QR codes are an impactful tactic that can be used as part of a campaign, but building a program around one is more of a novelty and will wear off. In other words, there has to be some marketing beef to a campaign, not just sizzle. And likewise, dropping in a QR code into a marketing campaign can’t just be an afterthought. It  has to be well-integrated  to make sense to the reader and add value to the message.

There is no doubt that the newfound use of QR codes adds a whole new dimension, literally, to marketing and  is a great way to move the prospect through the interest and  engagement level quicker. But at the end of the day, QR codes are essentially a mechanism to drive the prospect towards a call to action – otherwise it’s about as effective  as a bunch of squiggly line in a box.

No Death by PowerPoint With Cool Presentation Tools

I went to a conference for meeting planners earlier this year and the most crowded sessions were not about hotels, contracts, or the latest trends in catering, they were on event technologies. Then again it shouldn’t be a surprise given the times we live in and all the new communications tools for marketers these days. I became very excited by all the possibilities for meetings, from “hotel keys” that not only open your room door but also manage room functions, to new social networking tools and mobile apps specifically for events. But the ones that really stood out as something I can use right now were the alternative presentation technologies. Marketers are supposed to be “creative” and about ideas but we often fall victim to the dreaded, predictable format of PowerPoint aka Death by PowerPoint. There are now more opportunities available to develop presentations in more creative, thoughtful and unexpected ways while holding the attention of audiences – here are are a few of the biggies.  They are great to know about for internal or external live  events, as well as communicating ideas to online audiences.

Pecha Kucha

PechaKucha seems more like a movement than a technology but it’s both- PechaKucha means something like “the sound of chit chat” in Japanese  and is based on the premise of 20 images for 20 seconds each with audio – no shorter and no longer. This has spawned a vast social network with PechaKucha nights around the world where 20 artists, authors, and anyone else enamored with this format can come together and show their own Pecha Kucha creation. So even though Pecha Kucha is more of an art form, it can be used in the business world. The nice thing about Pecha Kucha is that it is both a rigid yet flexible medium-it has all the ingredients  to be creative  but also make each slide count. Unlike PowerPoint, the tendency for bloated decks is difficult – you have to pare down your story or in some cases recreate it. So in a way using this format can be both a challenge and a gift and will also make you think out of the Microsoft Office Suite and that’s well…sweet!



Yes, another “P” word….Prezi is a tool that can be seen as a blank canvas — you can tell a story  the way you want and guarantee your presentations stand out from the crowd. Using text, images, video, Flash files, line drawings, and zooming in (one of the coolest features), and other unusual effects, Prezi will make audiences sit up and watch a narrative unfold. It’s also great tool to encourage people to focus on a point you want to make while keeping the images flowing (I was getting dizzy from viewing samples so make sure to limit the  zooming-a little goes a long way). Prezi also works with PowerPoint by importing slides from a ppt. deck and following the instructions to can give it a whole new life. There is also a library of presentations on the Prezi web site that you can use to customize and get inspiration from and even a “Prezi for Dummies” out there.  Prezi is free for the basic usage, and step up is $59+/year.


Pico Projectors

From the presentation itself to the medium to display it, there are projectors that are the size of the palm of your hand, or even better, integrated into smart phones. Pico projector formats were a hot item at CES this year and will continue to be a growing market with our insatiable desire for mobile technology. With the popularity of the iPad and other portable display mediums, more and more vendors are getting in on the action, with models starting at $99. Since last year, the Pico projector market is selling a million units a year, and as more mobile phones have them integrated, these numbers are expected to grow exponentially. There is one projector that seems to be designed specifically for Paris Hilton:  iGo released a gold-plated Pico for $1,600, tricked out with lots of bells and whistles. In general Pico projectors are not suitable for large group presentations, but they are great medium for small meetings, impromptu presentations, and handy to have in general. And let’s face it-small gadgets are just plain CUTE!


So what’s the  bulleted list we might put in a PowerPoint “Summary” slide (besides the fact that everything I’ve mentioned starts with a “P”-let’s hear it for alliteration)

  • New presentation tools make the story the center stage, not the format. By having a blank canvas, you have ultimate control of what the audience will see, hear, take away– and most importantly remember.
  • Alternative  presentation formats push us to tell our story in a different, creative way and encourages our mind to be more open, maybe even developing new or other ideas we wouldn’t have thought of using PowerPoint
  • Being in marketing means understanding and using the latest technologies for our field so I will be going to a Pecha Kucha night soon and getting me a Pico projector  (but uh…not the gold-plated one)