First Person: Attracting Customers Without Coupons

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I love coupons but, as a business owner, I know a few things about the effectiveness of a coupon-driven program. I actually own two businesses. One is a construction company that my husband largely manages. The second is my baby, a makeup artistry service that caters mainly to brides, pageant performers and models. There is plenty of competition for customers in the market as any cute girl who knows her way around a makeup kit can call herself an “artist” nowadays. Some of these newbies think offering customers discounts or freebies helps build their clientele. I have found the opposite to be true!

What happens, in my experience, is coupons attract temporary customers. They show up for the discount but don’t care anything about keeping you as their makeup artist. I don’t want those customers. My clientele knows me, trusts me and calls on me for special occasions like Mardi Gras balls and Azalea Trail Maid appearances. I do give my longtime clients the occasional product discount to show my appreciation for their business, but I generally limit those to once a year. I have other ways to attract customers without resorting to coupons.

I begin our relationship with a free skin care assessment and color match.

This is not really a freebie since I have to know something about her skin before I apply makeup to it. From a marketing standpoint this gives me some nice benefits. During this first appointment, I examine the skin for oil and dryness levels. I suggest products which the client samples. We spend a few minutes looking at the color wheel and matching her complexion to the shades I recommend. This builds trust and tells her, “I want to make you look great and I offer great service.”

I always answer listen to her.

I make suggestions, sometimes strongly, but in the end her look choices are hers. I listen to her and deliver on what she orders. If she has a question about her skin or products, I answer them by returning her phone calls within the hour during business hours. If it’s the weekend, I call her on Monday, unless she is going to a pageant or another event.

I make makeup deliveries.

A recent scenario went like this, my client’s bag, including her makeup kit, was stolen backstage at an event. I had everything she had ordered from me on file, piled her products in the car and jetted to the theater with her replacements. I discreetly sent her an invoice afterward for the replacements and included a card saying how happy I was to serve her.

I truly believe that service trumps discounts. As a customer myself, I may visit a place for the free meal but I’m not coming back if I’m not wowed by the good service and good food. It’s the same in my business. I focus on good service without all the confusing discount programs and cheap coupons – and it’s working!

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