When Too Much Couponing is Not a Good Thing

I went to Ted’s Montana Grill last night. I’m a huge fan of their grilled salad (includes blue cheese and avocado) so this is a regular stop for us. We were running a little late and of course the place was packed. Eventually a high top in the bar opened up but only after we witnessed the previous occupants tell the manager they considered walking out because the service was so slow. This, I would learn later, explained the many to go boxes we saw exiting those revolving doors.

You see, Ted’s got this great idea to run a $10 coupon off the price of two entrees (it expires July 27 if you’re still holding one). This is a great idea for bringing in new traffic and according to our waitress, brought a lot of first timers to their door. The problem is they oversaturated the market. They ran the coupon in both the AJC Sunday section in a ValPak envelope in the same period. Now these are unrelated publications so somebody had to intentionally make these buys. (Clipper, a competitor of ValPak, is owned by AJC and thus would have been easier to explain the excess.)

Unfortunately for Ted’s, the coupons were too successful and sent more business than they were prepared to handle.  That kind of success is expensive to have. Now they have left first timers with a bad taste for their service level and potentially turned them away for good.

A better approach would of course have been to test one vehicle and then the other. Taking the time to test and measure different marketing vehicles is not always fun (people hate to wait) but can help prepare for and prevent all kinds of fiascos. It really doesn’t cost you more to test different vehicles or messages or creative over a short period of time and if they all work to some degree it gives you consistent presence in the market while you try them out.

The only time when you really have to run mutliple vehicles at once is when you’re driving them to a specific event (seminar, luncheon, party) or offer (Holiday Sale, New Product Release) and hopefully you’ll already have a track record with different media vehicles by this point and know which ones deliver.

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