If you are a small business owner or manager, you’ve probably already gotten a call from one of the daily deal sites. Now there is a right way and a wrong way to use daily deals. Recently, TechCrunch has reported on the wrong way to do daily deals – ie., using them as a Hail Mary to pay the bills today and hoping things work out by the time all of the deals actually come in.

This post will provide you with some great tips on how to use daily deals the right way – a way that allows you to create repeat customers. So let’s get started!

Phase I: Preparation

The first thing you need to do before using a local deal service is start to collect email addresses from you customers. You can start doing this yourself with a company like MailChimp, or you can hire someone like us to do it for you. Along with the email collecting, you should have a Facebook and Twitter set up for your business with consistent updates and tweets going out. You should then announce to your customers that they need to connect with you to get exclusive information and deals. You should have all of this – “Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Email” – all over the place! On receipts, on table tents, on your door, at the counter – everywhere.

And of course you have to start emailing you customers, most of which will just want coupons or other free stuff. Unless you have something extremely cool going on or are providing useful information to your customers, do not write to them about your business. They liked you enough already to give you their email. Let’s try to keep it that way!

Instead, brainstorm some deals that are good for you and send out at least one a week. The goal here is to throw your customers a bone without breaking the bank. Once a month though, send out a great deal that maybe isn’t quite as great for you. Be sure to include links to facebook and twitter in every email as well. And if you don’t have a facebook and twitter for your business yet, you probably want to get with the program! (Not being mean… just sayin’)

Oh, and one last thing about collecting emails and driving people to social media sites. This is very important! You must get buy-in from your employees if they are the ones communicating this message to customers. If you just set boxes out on the counter, you’re probably not going to do very well unless you and your staff are telling every customer that walks through your doors about the sweet stuff they can get by signing up for your email newsletter.

Now that you’re prepared for the daily deal, you’re ready for Phase II.

Phase II: Daily Deal

I would encourage you to rotate through Groupon, Living Social, and other daily deal providers because they each have a separate database of customers that they are using. This means that by rotating your ad, you will likely reach more people. If you are worried about the daily deal overwhelming your business with everyone being there at one time, or if you are concerned about giving out too many discounts during your busiest hours, use SignPost instead.

SignPost is a daily deal company like Groupon. However with SignPost, you can 1) set the hours in which customers can use your coupon and 2) set a cap on the number of deals. It’s such a good idea that I wouldn’t be surprised if all the daily deal sites changed over to their model soon. Here’s the guy you need to contact about setting up a SignPost deal. He’s already helped plenty of small business set up their deals, so he’s the guy who can answer your questions and get you set up.

Here are a few things you should consider when setting up your deal:

  • Loosing money on the deal is okay if it’s not going to put you under. Those 50% deals are tough on most small business’s margins. However, if you already have your email newsletter in place, you can offset these costs by turning these customers into repeat customers. If you don’t have this in place, it is more or less a Hail Mary when you send out the daily deal and is NOT something I recommend.
  • Try to set make your deal something that can be turned into an upsell. A local housekeeping spot here in Lansing, had great success upselling their carpet cleaning service. As I understand it, the coupon allowed them to start a cleaning and since they were already at the customers house, it was a fairly easy upsell to allow them to finish cleaning the house. What can you upsell?

So you launch your deal and it’s a great success. You collect email addresses and tell everyone about your social media sites. Now what?

Phase III: Aftermath

Some customers will fall in love with you at first sight, but most need to court you for awhile so start by sending each of your new email subscribers a big “Thank You!” email with another great deal. Again, be sure to include links to your Facebook and Twitter accounts!

Other than that, it’s pretty much as simple as “wash, rinse, and repeat.” If you need to take some time to recoup from all of the discounts that’s fine, just be sure to stay in touch with your customers!