10 Tips for Using Coupons to Market Your Photography

We spend a whole lot of time talking about inbound marketing strategies like SEO and Social Media, and how they can benefit your photography business. But sometimes, it makes sense to whip out an old trusted favorite that we all know works.  In this case, I’m talking about coupons.  Who doesn’t love a bargain?

Coupons work because they create a new, urgent reason for you to buy something.  Many PhotoShelter members tell us that coupons are an important part of how they generate sales of their photography and market prints and products to new buyers.  Today, we unveiled a new feature inside of PhotoShelter that lets photographers offer promotions – like a specific dollar value discount or percent off – when people purchase your photography online.  We also announced that new print partners AdoramaPix and ExposureManager are both fully integrated and live – joining EZPrints to give PhotoShelter photographers three high quality and affordable options for automated print fulfillment.

But, rather than go on and on about our great new coupon feature and the impressive print partners we now have on board, I wanted to share some insights about using coupons to market your photography.  I’d love to hear from some photographers who have experience using coupons as well – feel free to add your insights in the comment section below.

Let’s go over some basics:

* People like saving money.
* People like to feel that they’re being treated special or recognized for their loyalty.
* People like the thrill of limited opportunities.

Here are some smart tactics for marketing with coupons:

1. Create urgency. Set expiration dates.
All good marketing includes a call to action – you need to prompt the customer to act.  If your coupon is open ended, busy people have a way of letting life’s other distractions interfere.  So, put an expiration date on the promotion and communicate that loud and clear.  This will create a sense of urgency around taking your offer.  If you can, send a reminder when the promotion is expiring.  If your customers are like most humans, they won’t act until it’s their last chance.

2. Offer a coupon as incentive to sign up for your newsletter.
We often talk about having a goal to “convert” people when they visit your website.  This goal doesn’t always have to be “buy a print.”  Would you benefit from getting more names to add to your monthly newsletter?  If you would, why not give people an incentive to register with you?  Offer a “10% off” coupon to everyone who signs up for your newsletter.  You can email them the coupon and use the email to tell them more about your products and services.  You now have a new prospect in your marketing database for regular follow up.

3. Tie coupons to holidays and other seasonal occasions.
From a marketing perspective, the best thing about a promotion is that it gives you a reason to re-connect with prospects and clients.  You’ve got something to share with them that is of value – it is a welcome intrusion.  Connecting this discount to a moment when people are likely buying things makes it extra powerful.  “You previously expressed interest in my fine art prints, and I thought you’d appreciate a personal discount for your holiday gifting.”  Or, “For Valentine’s day, here’s a special offer to purchase some additional prints from your wedding.”

4. Extend your reach.
Look for opportunities to promote your coupon.  Email marketing is great to connect one-to-one and inform your existing customers.  Consider local advertising. Explore Google Adwords if you can truly isolate your target audience to specific keywords. Consider social media – your own Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn pages, or other affinity groups you belong to (e.g. would the Bryce Canyon fan page on Facebook appreciate 10% off your prints?)

5. Use memorable promo codes.
You want to use terms that are easy for people to remember, retype if necessary, and share.  So, something confusing like GGYTX1594 is less ideal than SAVE10 or JUNEPRINTSALE. Some people think that having easy codes lead to abuse — I don’t subscribe to that. If a coupon gets spread around, and you generate a sale that you wouldn’t otherwise have had, it can’t be a bad thing.

6. Consider raising your standard pricing.
If you’re operating on tight margins, go ahead and raise your prices to offset what you would be giving up with the coupon.  People will be happy they’re getting a special deal from you and perceive that they are saving money.

7. Give your loyal customers their own codes.
Your best customers are your evangelists.  There’s no replacement for powerful buzz and word of mouth recommendations.  Make special promo codes for your best customers to share with their friends and family.  (And don’t be bashful about suggesting they share it.)  They’ll feel good about being an insider and their ability to help other people save money.

8. Don’t overdo it or create an expectation of regularity.
If you go too heavy on the coupons, your regular customers will come to expect it, and time their buying strictly around your offers.  Also, there’s nothing “special” about “all the time discounts”…you’re not Walmart.

9. Know what success looks like.
Just like every other marketing campaign – you need to have a goal and measure your results.  Is your goal increased sales, or more people signing up for your newsletter?  You can even use Google Analytics and tracking links to monitor the website traffic your promotion generates.  The point is, you need to set a goal so you know if the results make repeat efforts worthwhile.

10. Beware the dip.
Large businesses tend to see a spike in buying activity when they have coupons in the market, which makes them feel like the campaign is highly successful.  But after the campaign ends, they often see an equal, corresponding dip in sales.  The net result is exactly the same amount of buying (and even potentially less revenue due to the discount).  So, it’s a good idea to monitor your sales activity and make sure they buying is actually a) people who would not have made purchases without the promo, b) contributing additional sales during the campaign, while not eating into your sales after the campaign.

Those are some general thoughts around marketing with coupons.  We would love to hear how you’re using coupons to successfully to market their images.  Of course, if you’ve never used coupons before, make sure you try out the PhotoShelter coupon feature.

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