by Carolyn Edlund
Want to offer special deals without running a sale? Consider offering coupons to incentivize purchasing.
As an artist or maker, you should be confident with your prices. Resist the urge to discount too frequently, as it may teach your customers to simply wait for the next deal. It can also devalue your brand and the perceived value of your work if you use this tactic too often. However, if you want to spur sales or jump start the new season with a special offer, read further …
One way to offer a deal to hot prospects (or existing customers) without splashing Sale! all over your website or booth display is to use coupons as an incentive. Coupons should have expiration dates; this prevents “doubling up” on them and creates a sense of urgency for the buyer.
Coupons can be mailed, given out in person, sent to your email list, or shared in advertising. You may also want to attract email subscribers in your website opt-in form with the statement that they will receive notice of coupons by getting on your list.
There are several types of coupon offers to choose from. Will any of these work well with your small business?
Free shipping coupon
We all hate shipping costs, right? This type of offer can really make impact. In fact, the idea of avoiding shipping costs can be more important in the mind of the buyer than a discount. Calculate the cost of shipping as a percentage of an average sale. Let’s say you spend about 8% of the cost of the merchandise to ship the order. A free shipping coupon can work just as well or better than a 10% (or more) discount, so look at this option carefully and see if it’s a good choice for you.
Percentage discount coupon
This offer gives a percentage off the price of the goods, say 10% or 25% or a figure of your choice. You can offer a discount on one item, or the whole order (which might encourage purchasing multiples.) Be sure that you aren’t giving away the ranch, though. Can you afford to take this discount and still be profitable?
Dollar off coupon
Would you rather offer a set dollar amount in your coupon than a percentage of the sale? Consider whether you want to offer it on a minimum order; for example, $10 off any order over $100. A small discount of a few dollars might be offered on an order of any amount, just to gain a new customer. Make sure that you have a strategy for continued contact with these new customers that will lead to repeat and larger purchases in the future.
Free gift coupon
One way to avoid discounting and actually add value to the purchase is to have a small free gift available for coupon holders. For example, you might offer a bottle of leather cleaner when a customer buys one of your leather handbags. Or, include a pack of notecards and envelopes featuring your artwork with the purchase of a painting. That introduces them to more of your work, and encourages them to use the notecards to send to friends, who will then see your art. Make sure your art website link is on the back of the cards.
BOGO or similar coupon
We’ve all seen Buy One, Get One offers at stores. These are deep discounts (50% off). Or, Buy One, Get One Half Off (25% discount). This can help you clear out an inventory of discontinued work, and may be a great incentive at a show or in your online store.
Repeat and referral coupons
Here’s a way to drive more sales plus gain additional customers through offering coupons. For example, you may consider sending two coupons in a shipped order. One is for free shipping or a discount on the next order from the customer who is receiving your merchandise. Include another coupon with another offer, such as Refer a friend! This coupon gives any new customer free shipping on their first order.
Using coupons judiciously can increase your sales and keep your customers opening emails to see what you are offering. Consider whether any of these ideas may work in your own creative business.
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