Creating Your First Coupon Campaign - 6 Tips


The first coupon was issued by Coca-Cola back in 1888. Surprisingly, coupons have endured the test of time to be a high-performing marketing tactic for more than a century.

It helps that coupons are universally loved by consumers. According to a Valassis study this year, 79% of consumers use coupons when planning their shopping and say it’s exciting to discover a coupon or discount on a product they were already thinking of buying. 64% say a coupon or discount speeds up their decision to purchase.

The usage of coupons crosses all generations and income levels. In fact, counterintuitively the statistics show that millennials love coupons more than baby boomers. And higher earners use coupons just as much as those in lower income brackets. It seems everyone just loves getting a good deal.

Coupons have a long shelf-life in the consumer's home so it becomes a constant brand reminder. I currently have three on my counter right now and a handful in my wallet!

Here are five best practices to consider when executing a direct mail coupon campaign:

Determine Your Goal

A coupon campaign can be designed to support many different goals. What are you trying to achieve? Make sure your offer and timing will drive the results you are looking for.

  • Seeking new business? Be sure to scrub your list against current customers, and offer a % off their first purchase.
  • Seeking return business? Offer your coupon right after a transaction, with a % off their next visit.
  • Seeking to clear excess inventory of a single item? You can discount a particular item you'd like to move
  • Seeking to increase your shopper's overall order size? Offer a bundle discount for a purchase of 3 items or more, or a coupon with $ off a purchase of $50 or more for example.
  • Seeking foot traffic or online visitors? Be sure the coupon terms and conditions tell shoppers where it can be redeemed: "In Store Only" or "Online Only".


Data from Infosys found that 67% of consumers are highly in favor of personalized coupons.

Whether you are using an owned customer list or a purchased mail list, make sure you use the data available to you to personalize your mail offers. You can include their name, a map to the nearest store, or an offer for their birthday or other special occasion.

If you have access to past purchase data you can cross-sell similar products or up-sell to a bigger bulk purchase of something they purchased in the past and will need to rebuy.


Test Different Offers

It's always a good idea to test different offers to see what will deliver the best results. For example if you did 50% off or Buy One Get One (BOGO) for an item, the discount is essentially the same, but each offer may have a different perception in the mind of the consumer. Which one will move more product? Test and see!

Other offers to test:

  • $ cash off instead of percentage off
  • FREE bonus item
  • Discounts for specific groups, such as teachers, veterans, senior citizens, first responders or healthcare professionals.

Don't Forget the Expiration Date

Coupons are meant to drive immediate revenue, so be sure to create urgency by including an expiration date on your offer. Expiration dates also help prevent future losses if the cost of producing an item increases in the future you won't find yourself left without a profit when people use old coupons.

Collect Data and Track Results

An offer of a valuable coupon is a great moment to collect data from potential shoppers. 61% of consumers who don't mind handing out personal data expect discounts and other special offers in return. Ask for a mailing address, email or phone number in exchange for a coupon online or at the register.

Having your customers participate in a loyalty program can also provide a wealth of data on purchasing patterns, but consumers expect to be rewarded for their loyalty with discounts. So make sure you keep up your end of the bargain with bargains!

It's also important to track the performance of each of your coupon offers. Best practice is to include a barcode that is scanned or a unique promo code entered into the point of purchase system so you can tell exactly who redeemed the coupons, along with how many coupons were redeemed total vs. how many were sent out.


Find an Efficient Format

Coupons are not limited to traditional FSI advertisements in newspapers. Direct mail coupons can have many different formats. Choose one that will stand out in the mail, while also being efficient in print production. Some printers offer dieline templates, like our Perf-Off Postcard or Coupon Keeper Mailer that are free to use and can speed up the design process.

About the author

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Karen M. Wenning

Karen M. Wenning

Karen aspired to be a cowgirl or a farmer, but after graduating from UW Madison she found herself crafting prose for luxury brands at an advertising agency. There, she developed a passion for working with graphic designers and marketing professionals, creating brand-right marketing across their networks. As a former client of Suttle-Straus, Karen joined the team in 2008 serving in marketing and sales. She considers herself an accidental salesperson, on a mission to increase her clients’ traffic and sales. At home, Karen can be found challenging her husband and three children to a downhill ski or swim race, growing organic produce while fending off garter snakes, or herding her small flock of chickens.
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Topics: Direct Mail, Print