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Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Mar. 7, 2013 5 years ago

MY TWO CENTS: The couponing conflict; or, To cut or not to cut?

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More local businesses are realizing that offering a rewards program to customers really does pay off.

BY DIANE MICHAEL | CONTRIBUTING WRITER

When it comes to offering coupons and discounts, there are a lot of schools of thought. But it’s always a good idea to take note of what bigger businesses than yours are doing, and most multi-million dollar companies reward their customers with specials several times a week — in several ways.

Being a coupon-lover, combined with an electronic marketer, my inbox attracts about 100 emails per hour — many from local businesses offering buy-one-get-ones and other specials. Maybe you’re not too keen on giving out the email address you’ve managed to keep personal since 1997 all willy nilly, but think again when a business asks you for it. You could really save big bucks!

Many companies are catching on that rewarding their customers creates loyalty, retention and referrals. But for consumers, all of those emails can make for an overwhelming amount of notifications from their cell phones and inboxes. If that sounds like you, try creating a free email account meant only for rewards programs. That way, when you’re in the clipping mood or you’re heading out to eat, you can still stay in the loop with local specials and rewards.

And if you’re a business owner, don’t be scared off by the idea of becoming a “couponing company.” Just look at LuLu’s Oceanside Grill, which offers my favorite loyalty program. For every hundred or so points you build, you can choose to either grab a gift certificate on your way out, or even a free flight. Or, you could be like me and hold out until you reach 5,000 points, at which time they’ll name a menu item after you.

I, for one, can’t wait to order my first “Callan Group Cosmo” (only 3,200 points to go!).

Business owners can also incentivize patrons to come in sooner by making coupon expiration dates two weeks or so from the date of receipt. Through creative concepts and strategic marketing, your business doesn’t have to fall into the negative stigma sometimes associated with couponing. Do it right, and your business can be thought of as savvy, proactive and anxious to see its customer more often.

Remember: The whole idea of rewards is NOT to give away money; it’s to build relationships. Ariel Beckner, a local Account Executive for Lamar Advertising, for example, says she’s now a loyal Staples customer, thanks to its rewards program.

“I consider myself kind of a coupon expert,” Beckner says. “Always save your ink cartridges — Staples off of Granada will give you $2 per cartridge and the next month deliver a gift certificate to you through email. It makes you feel good to save and know that they are being recycled!”

Like Ariel, you, too, can get into the couponing spirit by asking local businesses about their programs and becoming a part of them. Save some money, build relationships, create loyal customers — how did this stigma thing ever get started, anyway?

*Diane Michael is the communications director of The Callan Group, a custom newsletter company in Ormond Beach. Visit www.thecallangrp.com.

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