Why Maya Angelou Is A Groupon Marketing Master

March 15, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

We all like getting a good deal. It’s exhilarating. That feeling that you’re somehow beating the system by getting something for LESS than actual value. You want to share that feeling with friends. It makes you feel proud that YOU were the one who found the deal and that, despite all your transgressions, you’re still a good human for passing a great deal on to others. That’s the power of a good coupon. That’s what makes them viral. It’s why Groupon could turn down a $6 billion offer from Google and why Facebook and Google are tripping over themselves to get into the deals space. When you do it right, coupon marketing inspires action and creates good brand DNA.

It’s when you do it wrong that you make your customers feel like dirty, dumpster-diving street urchins.

I won’t pretend to be a huge Groupon user. I’m signed up to get Albany-specific deals but the only offer I’ve actually purchased was one that promised me free bagels [Long Island girls are serious about their bagels]. But I stay signed up because I like to keep an eye out for how small businesses in the area are using the service. And this morning I was excited when I saw that Flavour Café, one of my most favorite Troy, NY haunts, was today’s featured deal. Or I was until I saw what they were offering.

$7 for $15 worth of coffe, sandwiches and more at Flavour Café & Lounge

Yeah. I’m not going to redeem that. The idea of running down to Flavour to save eight bucks and to SIT THERE while I do it (the offer is dine-in only) makes me feel cheap. If I wanted to feel cheap, I’d give a few ex-boyfriends a call. I want to feel woo’d.

As a small business owner, coupons and social coupon sites like Groupon, Living Social or Yelp Deals can be useful. They allow you to convert customers who are on the fence and who maybe need a push or, at least, a lower barrier to entry to give you a try. Groupon is not a remarkable service; it’s a local email list. You can create your own or choose to use Groupon’s – that’s your choice. But, either way, you’re only going to entice someone to take action by making it worth it. Don’t make them feel dirty.

To succeed in coupon marketing you need to create an offer that is compelling, that is unique, and that doesn’t make me feel like a cheapskate just for printing it out. Because that’s not a feeling I want to share with my friends.

You wouldn’t know it by their offer, but Flavour Café is a kickass café in Troy. The owner Charlie is always trying new things – whether it’s “Charlie’s Cupcakes” that are almost the size of your head, soft-serve gourmet sundaes, new bands, or the fortune teller that shows up for weekly readings – he’s constantly experimenting and looking for ways to bring in new customers. And I’m sure Groupon is just an extension of that, but the offer created fails. It fails because it’s void of any personality or excitement. And without it, there’s no spark. It’s just a generic save-a-couple-bucks coupon. That’s not sexy. Most people won’t notice it, and the people who do aren’t the kind you want to attract to your business. Fail all around.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking coupons, getting people to like your Facebook page or building up Twitter followers. People don’t want your old marketing on new platforms. You gotta give ‘em something to go a little crazy about. Something that makes them feel better about themselves by associating with you.

You can do that by offering something that is unique, that breeds excitement/quirkiness and that will tease customers with scarcity. That’s how you create a good Groupon deal, how to create a compelling marketing message, and how you get people to do anything. It’s not rocket science. It’s marketing, repackaged for the flavor of the month. As Maya Angelou once said and @KarenBaglin tweeted today: People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

That’s the rub. And you need to make me feel a whole lot better than a street walker to make me do business with you. Even if you do serve the best Almond Joy latte in town.

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