Secrets and Strategies

for Groupon Marketing Success

By Cath Cox

I love Groupon. Yes, I said it. It’s like having a crush on the bad boy no one understands. Even though this ecommerce marketplace has a questionable reputation and most massage therapists have been told to avoid it, I’ve found Groupon to be irresistible for bringing in lots of new clients … fast. Sure, this company is vested in self-interest and is always changing the rules, but that’s part of what I find so intriguing. I’ve learned that accepting Groupon for what it is, and figuring out how to get what I want from what it’s willing to give, is the secret to having a mutually beneficial relationship.

Why does Groupon have such a bad reputation?
When it started out, Groupon would send deals to members in an email blast. This resulted in having more people buy the deal at one time than an independent massage therapist could handle, making it difficult to honor vouchers and rebook new clients. Now, massage deals are listed on the Groupon site under “Beauty & Spas,” so consumers looking for a massage can search there. This makes the influx of new customers much more manageable.
Another reason Groupon has earned such a low rating within our industry is the way it structures campaigns. Groupon reps are responsible for selling vouchers, not making sure they set up the best deal for your practice. These are salespeople working on commission who are trained to make the most money for Groupon. Businesses grow and expand by increasing revenue. It’s not blatant manipulation or sabotage. It’s simply how the company operates.
Recent ad campaigns showcase Groupon’s capacity to introduce customers to diverse experiences with the variety of offerings on its site. Of course, the emphasis is on saving money, which is a proven motivator to get people to try something (or someone) new.
So, what does it take to get Groupon to work for you? It boils down to a few key business strategies, a willingness to let go of limiting beliefs, and being steadfast in your commitment to do what’s right for your practice.

Focus on The Big Picture
Using Groupon as part of an overall marketing plan isn’t meant to be forever. Rather, the intention should be to use it just long enough to gain some momentum and confidence. The part that turns off so many business owners from using Groupon is the small earnings per voucher. Typically, deals are offered at 40–60 percent off the regular price. Groupon then pays merchants 46 percent of the sales from their deal, resulting in compensation shy of 25 percent of your regular fee. Earning so little per massage is hard to swallow, but what’s really going on is a trade of massive exposure for a highly discounted service with no cost up front to you. Since Groupon pays you the split of total sales, you get your cut from vouchers that are never redeemed (about 10 percent of sales), which increases your earnings a little more.
The advantage for MTs using Groupon is that massage is one of the most popular services it offers. Sure, many buyers will only use the Groupon voucher and never return again, but that can happen regardless of how clients come to us. Massage is such a personalized service that those looking for a long-term therapist may use Groupon while they look for that perfect MT, all the while saving money during their search. Once you get a new client on the table, it’s up to you to get them to return. Treating them as a cheapskate will diminish the experience they have. Focus on those clients who do return rather than those who don’t, and treat every new client like they could become your next weekly regular.

Have a Goal
Having a goal for any marketing campaign allows you to evaluate its performance objectively. Basically, how many clients are you currently seeing per week and how many do you want to be seeing? The difference is your goal. Not only does a goal give you something quantifiable to aim for, it also gives you the monthly maximum amount for your deal. This number creates a sales limit and determines where your deal will show up on the Groupon site. A higher monthly maximum will show your deal to a larger audience, while a smaller monthly maximum will only show your deal to those searching for massage. The interplay of the price and monthly maximum influences how many vouchers will sell.

Target Your Description
Attracting clients who aren’t the best fit for your skills and preferences slows the growth of your practice. Make the description of your massage deal resonate with your ideal clients rather than trying to appeal to everyone. Do you love helping injury clients, athletes, or desk jockeys? Be sure to include the conditions you’re most successful treating in your description. Are you looking for craniosacral clients to build up that part of your practice? Use the description to highlight the symptoms craniosacral therapy relieves.

Use Incentives to Convert
Having incentives for frequent visits (packages, memberships, loyalty programs, etc.) in place to offer all clients will build your practice faster. The more often clients visit, the better results they get. Plus, the more clients you see, the more people you’ll help and the more money you’ll make. Price your deal no less than 70 percent of your incentive price to increase conversions. You may not sell as many vouchers, but your campaign will be more successful overall.

Hold the Upgrades
What doesn’t work is offering a longer service to make the deal pay more per voucher. This only fills up your schedule for lower earnings in the long run. It’s better to have a 1-hour massage Groupon deal and offer to upgrade it to a longer session or add an enhancement once the client is at their appointment (or when they book). This way, any extra spending is paid directly to you.

Offer a Package
Having two choices for your deal makes it more enticing. Of course, you should offer a basic single session. Offering a package of three as well, for slightly less than what they would pay for three single sessions, not only earns more from your Groupon deal, it also makes conversion easier. In my experience, clients who purchase the package are much more likely to become regular clients than those who purchase just one massage. Be sure to have an expiration date for your package (mine is 90 days from date of activation). You can offer those few who don’t use all three by the expiration date the option to pay the difference between the Groupon price and your regular fee to still get their sessions.

Mind the Fine Print
The fine print of the deal contains limitations, exclusions, and the expiration policy for your package. This is where you’ll share information that helps people decide if buying your deal is right for them. For example, I’m an ashiatsu barefoot massage therapist. Pregnancy is one of the contraindications listed in my training. I’m also a solo provider, so I’m unable to give simultaneous couples massage.
There are also some required stipulations included in the fine print. One is a limit on the number of vouchers that can be purchased by one person. Be sure to limit your deal to one voucher per person and decline any repurchase options. There’s no reason to sell multiple vouchers to the same person if your goal is to attract regular clients who will pay your full fee (or benefit from your incentives).

Use a Rep
Groupon has added another feature since I did my first deal in 2014. Now you can create your own deal online. As convenient as this may sound, you’ll get better results working with a rep because you can customize your deal the way you want to, instead of being confined to a template. To get started, go to You can submit an online contact form or call the number that appears as you scroll down the page. If you decide to call, do so shortly after they open or within 30 minutes of closing to minimize hold times.

Once you get the ball rolling, you can go with whatever Groupon recommends, or negotiate. Honestly, I haven’t negotiated much with Groupon because I didn’t know you could when my campaigns were active. A rep recently told me that since massage deals sell so well, Groupon is willing to negotiate the split with independent massage businesses. If they won’t agree to everything you ask for, it’s likely they’ll meet you somewhere in the middle as long as you stay firm.
If the thought of having to negotiate scares you, don’t worry. I’ve had great success using the other strategies mentioned in conjunction with the deal being offered. You can also assign a business director to communicate with Groupon on your behalf.

Know the Process
Having a clear idea of how the process works eliminates the fear of being caught off guard. In a nutshell:
• Contact Groupon and explain what you want for your deal.
• Once the initial details have been discussed, you’ll receive an agreement by email. The agreement includes what the deal is for, your monthly maximum limit and maximum voucher sales for the entire campaign, the full offer value (your regular fee), amount paid (what customers pay Groupon), promotional value (the difference between full offer value and amount paid), promotional value expiration date (from purchase), remittance amount (your split), and the fine print. It also contains all the terms and conditions. Be sure you agree with and understand everything before you sign it so there are no surprises later. If there’s anything you want to negotiate, this is the time to do it.
• You’ll also provide your banking information to receive automatic deposits. While the deal is active, you’ll receive 80 percent of total sales twice per month from each sales cycle. Once your deal has paused/ended, you’ll get the remaining 20 percent of each sales cycle twice per month until your compensation is complete.
• After you sign the agreement, you’ll get a campaign preview by email. You can edit the description and some of the other elements to read the way you want them to. You can also request a different photo (or you may be able to use one of your own if it’s the right size and resolution). There may be a bit of back and forth here. When you’re satisfied, click the approval button. Your deal should go live within a few days.
• When Groupon clients come in for a massage, they may have a paper voucher or an electronic voucher on their phone. You can redeem the electronic vouchers instantly from their phone. Paper (or forgotten) vouchers are redeemed through your merchant center account. There’s a mobile app, as well as a PC version.
• Entering a tip amount within the merchant app does not charge the customer’s credit card. Any additional spending has to be processed as you normally would.
• While your deal is active, you can adjust the monthly maximums at any time to speed up or slow down sales.
• At some point, it will be time to pause your deal. This varies from business to business. Some indicators that it’s time to pause are having to book people out more than two weeks, getting complaints or refund requests because customers can’t get in, and simply needing a break from seeing so many Groupon clients. If you’re starting to resent them, it’s definitely time to contact your rep and pause your deal.
• Should you decide to resume your deal, you can do so at any time by clicking a button in your merchant center.
• If the deal you run just isn’t performing well and you want to make changes, you may have to discontinue it and start from scratch. It’s better to do that than to keep a lame deal going.

Last, but Not Least
There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of opportunities to make more money from your Groupon deal. In fact, it’s just good business and will help you maintain a positive attitude. You may also encounter situations that are a bit awkward or that you weren’t expecting. Consider these common scenarios:
• If clients contact you to book a Groupon massage but haven’t purchased it yet, offer them the convenience of paying you directly when they come in for their massage. That way, you get the full amount rather than the split.
• You may have customers who buy two for themselves or ask if they can share the package. How you want to handle these issues is up to you. Know your fine print and practice what you want to say ahead of time so you’re prepared should you need to have these conversations.
• You may have late-notice cancellations or no shows. Treat these just as you would any other client (the fine print should have a disclaimer about standard cancellation policies applying).
• Having online scheduling in place before your deal goes live will make your life much easier. It’s hard to juggle more appointments with increased requests for bookings and provide a good customer experience. Depending on how you set it up, it can also lend itself to giving you more chances to upgrade to a longer service. Any additional expense will easily be covered by the earnings from your campaign.
• What about other daily deal sites? Beware of those who say they’re just like Groupon, get their customers from Groupon, or try to lure you with a larger split. In the end, you’ll likely be disappointed with the results. Groupon is the most reputable, well-established daily deal site with the most users by far.

Many of the “secrets” presented here can be applied to any marketing or business strategy to make it more effective. If Groupon isn’t your thing, I get it. I’ve found it to be the most powerful tool for a fairly new practice or to provide an occasional boost. As instrumental as using Groupon has been in building my practice faster, I’m not using it right now simply because I don’t have enough consistent openings available to accommodate more than a few sporadic new clients. Should that change, starting another Groupon campaign will be the first step I take to reignite my practice growth.

Cath Cox has been a licensed massage therapist in Colorado since 1999 and is the creator of the Booked and Busy in 90 Days System. Her mission is to heal the world by inspiring independent massage therapists to build thriving practices of their own so they can work authentically for as long as they desire. She currently provides ashiatsu barefoot deep-tissue massage exclusively in her private practice. You can learn more about her and her journey at