In short, each of these companies markets a coupon promotion to a HUGE group of consumers (via a website and email list) that you can only purchase for a short time (24 hours to a few days). They are really quite a good deal for the consumer. In the last few months, I bought an Amazon Fresh deal ($100 worth of groceries for $50), a one-hour massage, and a deal from a hardware store ($20 for $40 of merchandise). Quite a good way to save money. I frankly feel a little guilty about buying the massage one, but I'm in need (too much sitting - you fellow therapists and computer people know what I mean).
But if you are thinking about ever doing this for your private practice (counseling, coaching, any other 1-on-1 service), we had better talk. In fact, STOP, do not sign anything yet. In most cases, it just is not good business.
The basic deal with Groupon looks like this: you must agree to offer a 50% discount off of your usual price. So if you're $100 a session, the consumer only pays $50. Groupon gets half of that, so you end up only getting $25.
There are several problems with driving business this way, the biggest being:
- Most of these discount customers will not become repeat clients
- If the coupon pushes you over capacity, you will lose spots that full-pay clients want, definitely costing you that $, and possibly costing you the client.
The only business model I've seen that makes sense, truly, is classes. My friend Dina runs an amazing Nia fitness program, and for each class, it doesn't really matter if she has 20, 25, or 30 customers. She can handle it. The costs are the same. If I were teaching a class, and the additional people didn't add to my costs or work, I would consider it.
Now, onto my 2 exceptions: the brand new coach or therapist, and the clinic/group practice.
The Brand New Coach or Therapist: In my first year, I remember when 3 clients a week was a lot! I had lots and lots of free time. The office sat unused most of the time. Time in which I earned exactly ZERO dollars an hour. If I could have had 10 clients @ $20 hour, I would have taken it! I would have taken it for the money, and the experience! So if you have an office sitting open, and you are not making money during those hours it can work for you. It can also provide PR, some SEO benefits, and possibly some long-term clients. (Dear full-fee therapists, please no *not* flame me for this suggestion, as these clients are *not* going to spend the $ for us, trust me on that. These are the people looking for the cheapest therapist they can find.)
The Clinic/Group Practice: My internship was at a wonderful group-practice that had some licensed supervisors, some interns (we were the ones who saw the sliding scale clients) and some externs. If I was running something like this, I might take a look at a coupon deal. You can negotiate fine-print in these deals, and I'd have it limited to sessions with the interns/externs - depending on the fee/pay deal you have with them. In my internship, I wanted the hours and experience (heck, I needed them!)
If you choose to do one of these deals, really focus on the fine-print! I might exclude insurance billing, limit which practitioners you can see, give it an end-date, make it subject to scheduling and availability, and you can even limit the numbers sold. If anyone does try this, please let me know about your results!