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Q. When is a gift voucher not a gift voucher?
A. When it’s a purpose-made-super-powerful-people- magnetizing-sales-and-marketing tool.
That’s when!

Gift vouchers (or gift cards) are quite simple – a token item of credit for a store or experience. So why is it that so many small businesses get the concept of a gift voucher so wrong?

The humble gift voucher is a staple item in most retail sales and service industry businesses, and are one of the most in demand gifts around. Some are basic, such as a simple A4 page telling the recipient what they are entitled to. Others can be electronic, with alphanumeric swiping strips, linked to point of sale software, monitoring balances remaining. Even Facebook promotes a gift card! Regardless of the fanciness of your gift voucher, it is important to remember that the concept of the purchase by the “giver” is still the same.

A customer has chosen to give YOU as a gift. They have decided that YOU are worthy of being given to someone else, as a token of themselves.

gift card
Images from money.msm.com

This is the ultimate expression of appreciation and admiration. They like what you do, see it as valuable enough to represent themselves, and as something the recipient will enjoy too. Now that’s a pretty big compliment hey.

The purchaser has taken the time to select and purchase an experience in your business. Respect please! They have put themselves behind your brand, and are endorsing YOU to someone the like, or want to impress.

Here are my recommendations for Small to Medium businesses to utilise this endorsement for superhero results:

1.    Set up a great system for gift voucher sales. How much information can you gain about both the purchaser and the recipient? The more the better to utilise as an awesome after-sales tool. Can you find out who the gift is for? The occasion? A contact phone number or email? Is the purchaser a regular customer? Or someone new you can also target? Do they buy vouchers from you often? Can you reward this?

2.   Aim for a 100% redemption rate – don’t hope that your sold vouchers won’t be redeemed by the recipient. How many times have you read stats like “20% of all vouchers sold are never redeemed”, and this is supposed to be positive. An unused voucher is not money for nothing, it’s a lost opportunity.

Instead, remember – this is the one chance that you have to impress and convert a new customer to a regular and loyal one. And, guess what – you’ve been paid to do it too.

3.   Avoid putting an expiry date on the voucher. What! I hear you say? You mean like, honor it for like, forever?? Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Add value to the purchase, the comforting feeling of flexibility to the new client – if your product is worth giving to another person, then it’s likely that the recipient will be excited to use it soon after receiving it.

Here’s a new thought.. how about contacting the recipient of the voucher and inviting them to come in! That way you ensure they come, that they feel super special, and you control the ability to lay on the service and charm to really blow their socks off. I bet you will find your new customers now buying vouchers for all their friends too.  Not only is the service impeccable, it’s at no risk of being lost, devalued or cancelled. It’s the perfect gift. It comes with an “I actually give a damn” guarantee.

4.   Don’t discount or reduce the value of the voucher if it expires. OK, so you have chosen to ignore my previous point and really feel the need to put expiry dates on your vouchers. That’s your decision, but please, don’t devalue yourself, your business or your staff. Why would you decrease your product value? Why are you creating a negative perception of your business? Do you want to be perceived as stingy? Unfair? Money-grabbing?

Remember again, someone spent their hard earned money on YOU. They chose you – selected you to give you to someone else as a gift and they have PAID YOU. If you have the ability to record recipients as well as the purchaser, you can keep an eye on the vouchers that are expiring and contact them.  Call people when their vouchers are about to expire and invite them to use it, or ask if they needed it extended.  Can you get them to book with you at the same time?  Imagine what they will tell their friends, families etc… that you actually reminded them to use it…. That you personally invited them in…. that you offered to extend the voucher to use at a convenient time… that you personally looked after them when they came in (because you took the booking, and knew they were coming!)

5.   Don’t make it difficult. Too many times I hear “I went into a business and they were busy, they seemed annoyed that they had to stop and help me with a voucher” or “I was given a voucher but I can only use it on certain days/times – there are too many conditions”.

Are you crazy? Gift vouchers are usually purchased for or by people that already love your business. They trust and like you, that’s why the gift has been selected. So why would you disadvantage someone who is already a fan? Why annoy your best customers? Why show them that your vouchers are not worthy of purchase from a place they love? Are they going to buy vouchers for their friends to love you too?

If you make someone feel that they are a hassle to you, particularly when they are trying to give you money or have come to enjoy your full experience, they won’t bother again. I promise. And they will talk about it.

And finally, a few quick thoughts on the donation or sponsorship of vouchers:

When donating vouchers to community groups, fundraisers or as sponsorship, here is a check list to follow.

  • Ensure that the group who uses the prize must supply you with a contact name and phone number of the winner/s.
  • Call the winners of your free vouchers and congratulate them. Often the winner of a prize or competition has not been to your business, so this is your chance to engage them as a new client or regular customer.
  • When you call, explain to them what their voucher provides, and invite them to make a booking or appointment to use it. By doing this, not only to you overwhelm them with customer service, but you are ensuing they use it.
  • Ensure your employees are focused on turning these brand new customers into clients that returns on a regular basis – not treating them as a second class “freebie” because they are not paying.

By doing these tasks, you can ensure your sponsorship or marketing investment is really paying off, AND you have control of the experience. You know when they are coming in, and little bit about them to hit the ground running making their experience memorable.  After all, that was really the idea in the first place wasn’t it?

Tough Cookie Marketing is a boutique marketing business championing small businesses to be extraordinary. See more about what we do at – www.toughcookiemarketing.com

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