Discounts & Deals

“Everyone likes a deal”, the saying goes. That’s also true when it comes to customers searching for professional services…sometimes. Discount & deal platforms became the huge rage starting in 2008 because they were so new. In theory, offering eye-popping low prices will attract customers to want to book you – voila, a new customer! At the same time you could fill a timeslot on your calendar that would otherwise go unbooked (re opportunity cost). 

This idea spread and now almost every type of ad platform for service providers offers ad products like “specials” or “deals” to promote. But the platforms that are most known for discounting you’ve probably already heard of…

What’s the deal (no pun intended)?

Groupon is the most well-known discount deal platform out there.

You can take advantage of Groupon by listing any of your services kind of like coupons. Groupon then advertises that service you want purchased at a discount, and then takes a fee once it’s sold to a client.

So say you typically offer a standard service for $100 to most customers. You can list that service at $50 on Groupon – so a 50% off special! Groupon then promotes it in front of interested customers, and gets it sold. Then Groupon takes a 50% fee, so you will get $25 in your pocket for this client booking which you normally charge $100 for. But hey, it’s a new client.

Your clients can search for services around them and will view you listed as such (an example search):

When you list a deal, you can specify the deal price, expiration once a coupon is purchased, and any fine print as to the deal specifics.

Groupon touts 950,000 businesses that have used the platform, and you only pay if you get booked – so no risk here of spending a lot of money without seeing any customer wins.

How do I set it up?

Go to the Merchant section of Groupon (here: and you can get started.

Instead of “listing” your business (like other Getting Started platforms), start by choosing what ad or deal you want promoted. Different from other platforms, Groupon only displays your profile if you list a live deal. Choose from:

(Note: “Breadcrumb” is Groupon’s point-of-sale credit card swiper, if you’re looking for a Square replacement)

What are the risks?

A lot of the feedback from business owners is that Groupon attracts a “certain type” of customer. That type of customer is one who is price sensitive…one who cares less about quality but more about getting the best deal no matter what. Those clients typically aren’t ones who will stick around with you after that first booking. And the whole point of advertising on Groupon is to convert those first-time clients into long-term clients!

If you listed all your services on Groupon, then you’d be getting paid 25 cents on the dollar for each service booking (re the 25% example scenario as discussed above). You wouldn’t be able to survive on those prices. What you’d need to do is convert those bookings where you’re getting 25% of what you normally charge into full time clients who will return to purchase your services on a regular basis for your normal rate.

The time and effort to convert those customers to longer term ones is tough mainly because of the price sensitive nature of those particular clients. If you can’t convert them, then at least try to motivate them to leave you great reviews elsewhere – some marketing benefits.


There aren’t many “pure play” discount platforms anymore besides Groupon. LivingSocial is probably the closest competitor – you can list deals for local services, and customers can browse and book you. Groupon, however, has much more reach.

The structure of the discount model is interesting because you – as the business owner – only pay for marketing costs if you do get the business. That helps because you can’t flush a bunch of money down the toilet and be left totally empty-handed.

However, when you do get booked, you need to work hard to win those new customers and convert them into longer term clients or else the economics of the discount model don’t make sense. I’d recommend testing out Groupon and seeing what types of leads you get out of it. If you offer services that are recurring in nature, then you could yield a lot of value here if you can convert those customers to longer term payers.

Any maybe even compare posting deals on Groupon and deals on Yelp, and see if the quality of the customer is different. Clients on Yelp are on there doing their diligence – making sure other clients (leaving reviews) like you a lot. So if they see a deal that would be opportunistic – some savings up front but they are still looking for a quality service professional. Folks on Groupon may only be looking for lowest price. I would experiment on the discount strategy.

Customer Referrals

Customer referrals – one of the oldest growth tricks in the book. Every business owner has heard of this growth engine. It’s honest, it’s free, and it’s the most trusted – customers are 4 times more likely to use your service if they are referred by a friend.

However, many professionals don’t know how (or have the time) to juice this growth source as much as they can. The obvious answer is to do great work – but let’s assume you’re already doing great work. So what else can you do to get clients to tell their friends or family about you? How do you stay top of mind? How do you motivate your clients to want to promote you?

Here are my top 4 tips that you can implement in your daily working routine to boost that viral growth. With very little effort, you can leverage your current client base into a larger marketing engine.

1) Ask for reviews

This sounds basic, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget to do this. I don’t mean while you’re walking out of your customer’s home give a “Oh hey, do you mind writing a review for me on Yelp?” Maybe 1 in 20 of these interactions will result in a review. And don’t blame your clients – they’re busy! What you need to do is make it extremely easy on them and also remind them.

Set up a standard email template with a link to one of your business profiles online (e.g., Facebook, Yelp, Google, Thumbtack, etc.) and email your client asking for a single review. The client will tap on the review link, give their rating with brief commentary. Don’t send them 5 different links because that’s asking a lot and some customers might just look at all the review work in front of them and just push it off for another day (which turns into eternity). Just get that one review from each client. If the client doesn’t complete a review, then follow up 1 week later. If nothing then, then send a another review reminder 2 weeks later. One more 3 weeks later. Not every single person will bite, so you need to find the balance of not being spammy yet being top of mind enough for them to give you that review.

Set a simple calendar reminder about asking for reviews, or use an email service like MailChimp to time emails that get sent out asking for reviews. (Note: MailChimp is completely free for up to 2,000 customer emails.) Streamline your review request flow!

2) Remember birthdays and anniversaries

A basic law of human nature is people care about themselves the most. So if you show that you care about them too, then they’ll love that! Sending a text or email or postcard the day of that special date will mean a lot to that client – and not a lot of businesses do this enough.

Collect special dates like birthdays or anniversaries from your clients. You can do this by being honest and straight up asking your client for the date and explain that you send out customer birthday cards (for example). Or if you collect information upfront from your client in a questionnaire or online form upon booking, collect that information from the client.

The beauty of this is that you’re simply doing one extra thing a year for a client, so the investment is minimal. But I’m telling you – you will be 100% top of mind for that client, and the next time one of their friends needs a specific service that fits in your wheelhouse, there is a huge chance you’ll get recommended.

3) Discount for referrals

Sometimes clients need a little nudge over the finish line when it comes to a referral. Discounts can help with that.

In your email signature or on your website, keep a standing % or $ off for referrals. For example – have a perpetual “Refer and get $15 off your next booking” tagline everywhere. Everyone likes a deal, so if a client sees that line, that might actually prompt them to remember that one friend who was asking for service help.

Spending money to get a high quality client is a good investment. And if you’re constantly driving more customer referrals, then adding another client to your list will just help you grow exponentially.

4) Share useful content

As you grow your client list, you’re essentially building your own audience. You can actually take advantage of that in creative ways.

Whether your business is in home services, photography, pet services, beauty, education, therapy, or any other industry – I’m sure you follow a variety of industry news. Topics like DIY (“Do-it-yourself”) or newly (and complementary) tools / technology are typically interesting for clients to read amount.

I know you’re probably very busy, so just once a month (or every other month) share some of that interesting industry news with clients via email. Even if your client doesn’t read the content you send them, I guarantee they will be impressed at the fact that you’re continuously on top of trends, announcements, and industry happenings, that will boost their respect for you. Not to mention, this is also a very easy excuse to keep your brand top of mind with customers, while at the same time giving your client something that’s easily ‘forwardable’ to their friends to recoup that referral J

Good service and the above starting tips will help you leverage your client based and turn them into avid cheerleaders for your business. The truth is 83% of your customers are willing to refer you to friends, but on average only 29% actually do. That means over 50% of your customer base is low hanging fruit for you to take advantage of and grow like crazy.