How to Write a Discount Offer: Tips, Tricks, and Common Pitfalls


In sales, a “discount offer” refers to a reduction in the regular price of a product or service, typically provided as an incentive to stimulate sales or to encourage potential customers to make a purchase. There are various discount offer ideas that can be offered for a variety of reasons and in several different forms. This post will go over how to write a discount offer and the different types that may benefit businesses.

Why Effective Discount Offer Messages Matter

Discount offers can be beneficial for both businesses and consumers. For businesses, they can help move inventory, attract new customers, or improve customer engagement of existing customers. For consumers, they offer the opportunity to save money or get more value from their purchases.

However, businesses must offer discounts judiciously. Overuse can cause customers to wait for discounts or devalue the product or brand. Always consider the long-term implications of discount strategies on brand perception and profitability.

Types of Discount Offers

  1. Percentage-Based Discount: This is the most popular form of discounting, where a certain percentage of the original price is provided. For example, “20% off” would mean you pay 80% of the original price.
  2. Dollar Value Discount: Offers a specific amount of the purchase price, such as “$10 off your next purchase.”
  3. Quantity Discounts: This type of discount rewards customers for purchasing in bulk or larger quantities. For example, “Buy one get one free” (often referred to as BOGO) or “Buy 2 shirts, get the 3rd 50% off.”
  4. Seasonal Discounts: These are offered during certain times of the year, like back-to-school sales, end-of-season sales, or holiday promotions.
  5. Cash Discounts: Offered to customers who make payments in cash instead of credit. This helps businesses reduce credit card processing fees and ensure immediate payment.
  6. Trade-In Discounts: These discounts are provided to customers who give back an old item in exchange for a discount on a new one. It’s commonly used in industries like automotive sales.
  7. Promotional or Introductory Discounts: New businesses or products may offer initial discounts to introduce themselves to customers and attract a customer base.
  8. Loyalty or Membership Discounts: Offered to customers who have been with the company for a specific duration or are part of a loyalty program or club.
  9. Employee Discounts: Discounts provided to employees of the company.
  10. Coupon Discounts: Usually tied to a specific promo code or coupon code that the customer must present or input to receive the special discount.
Type of DiscountDescription
Percentage-Based DiscountOffers a certain percentage off the original price. Example: "20% off."
Dollar Value DiscountReduces the purchase price by a specific amount. Example: "$10 off your next purchase."
Quantity DiscountsRewards customers for bulk or larger quantity purchases. Example: "Buy 2 shirts, get the 3rd 50% off."
Seasonal DiscountsOffered during specific times of the year like holidays or end-of-season sales.
Cash DiscountsDiscounts for customers paying in cash, reducing credit card fees for businesses.
Trade-In DiscountsDiscounts given when an old item is traded in for a new purchase. Common in automotive sales.
Promotional or Introductory DiscountsInitial discounts by new businesses/products to attract customers.
Loyalty or Membership DiscountsFor customers with long-term association or part of loyalty programs/clubs.
Employee DiscountsExclusive discounts provided to a company's employees.
Coupon DiscountsTied to specific promo or coupon codes. Customer must present or input to avail the discount.

Building Trust with Transparent Offers

how to write a discount offer

When offering discounts, make sure the language of the offer is easy to understand. Clarity in the description of the discount offer will build customer confidence.

How to Write a Discount Offer Message: Step by Step

1. Determine the Offer’s Objective

how to write a discount offer

Why are you offering the discount? Do you need to clear out old inventory? Are you striving to attract new customers or reward loyal customers? Do you want to promote a new product?

2. Choose the Type of Discount

how to write a discount offer

There are several types of discounts and sales promotion examples you may want to offer. Will it be a straight price reduction? Or, such as in the case of clearing out old inventory, buy-one-get-one might be your best choice. Or, you could do a percentage off, such as buy one, get the second one at 50% off, for example.

3. Craft a Clear and Engaging Headline

how to write a discount offer

The headline announcing your discount should be short while defining the discount and grabbing customers’ attention.

4. Provide All Necessary Details

how to write a discount offer

Make sure the details of how to get the discount are clear. It’s also important that the software is in place to make sure the discount is properly applied.

In your description of the discount, it’s important to clearly note when it starts and when it ends. Also, be clear about any conditions, such as “limit 10 per customer” or “offer good for new customers only.” If there’s a coupon code, note that prominently.

5. Include a Strong Call to Action

how to write a discount offer

Motive the customer by urging them to take quick action. You may include incentives such as “free shipping for the first 25 orders” or “take an additional 10% if ordered by” a date you’ve chosen.

Tips for Tailoring Discount Offers to Different Audiences

how to write a discount offer

For Existing Customers

Existing customers like to be noticed and rewarded. It’s important to remember e-customers while offering special discounts to new customers. Omitting existing customers from discount offers could make them feel undervalued.

For New Customers

Introductory offers definitely help a small business attract new clientele. Introductory offers are even more effective if you follow up with a thank you and a request for feedback.

Loyal Customer Specials

You can offer exclusive discounts to your long-term customers. One effective way to do this is to offer a substantial discount to the long-term customers who bring you a certain number of new customers. This type of program can work for products or services.

For example, a company that cleans chimneys can reach out to loyal customers and offer them a substantial discount for a set number of referrals. Or an entrepreneur who sells specialty baskets or crafts can offer discounts to existing customers who provide 5 leads to new customers.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Discount Offer Emails

how to write a discount offer

Using email to extend a discount offer can be a powerful way to engage your customers and boost sales. However, it’s essential to approach this method with consideration and strategy to ensure it’s effective and doesn’t harm your brand reputation. Here are some do’s and don’ts:

Do’s:

  1. Segment Your Audience: Customize your offers based on the purchasing behavior, demographics, or preferences of different segments within your email list.
  2. Craft a Clear Subject Line: Your recipients should know the offer just by reading the subject. For example, “Exclusive 30% off for our subscribers!”
  3. Use Clear Call-to-Action (CTA): Make it easy for recipients to understand what action they need to take, whether it’s “Shop Now” or “Redeem Offer.”
  4. Set an Expiry Date: Creating a sense of urgency, like “Offer valid until [date]”, can encourage customers to act quickly.
  5. Make It Mobile-Friendly: Ensure that your email design is responsive and looks good on all devices since many users check their emails on mobile.
  6. Test and Optimize: A/B test different offers, subject lines, and email designs to see what resonates best with your audience.
  7. Personalize: Use the recipient’s name, and if possible, offer products or discounts based on their previous buying behavior or interests.
  8. Ensure Easy Opt-out: Always give recipients an easy way to unsubscribe from your email list to avoid frustrating them and to comply with email marketing regulations.

Don’ts:

  1. Overwhelm with Too Many Offers: Keep it simple. If you give too many offers at once, the recipient might get overwhelmed and not take any action.
  2. Send Too Frequently: Flooding your subscribers’ inboxes can lead to increased unsubscribe rates and reduced engagement.
  3. Hide Terms and Conditions: If there are stipulations or conditions for the discount, make sure they are clearly stated to avoid misunderstandings.
  4. Forget to Monitor Analytics: Always check how your email campaigns are performing. Monitoring metrics like open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate can help you refine your strategy.
  5. Neglect Your Branding: Ensure that your email’s aesthetics align with your brand identity so it’s instantly recognizable to your subscribers.
  6. Send Without Testing: Always send a test email to ensure everything looks good and all links work correctly before sending it to your entire list.
  7. Ignore Feedback: If subscribers reply with feedback, questions, or concerns, make sure to address them promptly and courteously.
Do'sDon'ts
Segment Your AudienceOverwhelm with Too Many Offers
Craft a Clear Subject LineSend Too Frequently
Use Clear Call-to-Action (CTA)Hide Terms and Conditions
Set an Expiry DateForget to Monitor Analytics
Make It Mobile-FriendlyNeglect Your Branding
Test and OptimizeSend Without Testing
PersonalizeIgnore Feedback
Ensure Easy Opt-out

The Importance of Subject Lines in a Discount Email

The subject line is an essential component of email marketing for retailers. Email users are bombarded daily with emails and have the option of whether to open them or not. The subject line must be attention-grabbing and tailored to your specific customer base and type of discount offer.

Using Discount Email Templates

Creating an email template – even before you start using email for discount offers – makes it much more likely that a customer will open the email. The customer will recognize “the look” of emails that come from your company. You can create that standard look using customized email templates.

Tailoring Your Discount Message for Email Audiences

Remember, while discount messages can drive traffic and increase sales in the short term, it’s crucial to use them as part of a broader email marketing strategy. Your email strategy should include customer engagement that focuses on building relationships and trust with your customers over the long term.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Discount Offer

how to write a discount offer

Always, before you hit Send on that discount offer, send a test email to a colleague or friend. That’s one way to avoid common mistakes:

Ambiguous Terms

Vague wording can cause confusion. Keep the description of the discount offer short and to the point. For example, businesses looking to increase in-person sales using local business marketing methods may state that a discount is available only for shoppers at their location between specific hours on a particular day or week. However, if you’re looking to turn blog visitors into customers and increase sales online, you may offer a simple code for readers to enter when they check out your site. You can even include a short guide on how to use digital coupons to limit confusion.

Overcomplicating the Offer

Don’t add too many options. Make it easy for the customer to decide whether to order or not. If you’re considering other types of discount offers, wait and use each another time.

Ignoring the Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

A Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is a statement or concept that clearly defines what makes a business, product, or service distinct from its competitors. It conveys the unique benefit or advantage that a customer stands to gain by choosing one offering over others in the market. Essentially, a USP answers the question: “Why should I choose this product or service over others?”

Make sure the product description isn’t neglected and is included in the discount offer. If necessary, feature a product demonstration or explanation along with the offer.

Crafting the Perfect Discount Code

how to write a discount offer

Keep it Short and Memorable

The code should be short and easy to remember. The customer should be able to either quickly jot down the code or remember the code to apply it at the final order screen.

For example, for a buy-one-get-one discount code available for December holiday shoppers, you could use BOGO25. For Valentine’s Day, you could use BOGO14.

Make it Relevant

Link the code to the offer or product. For example, MYCOFFEE50 or FREESHIP01.

Ensure One-time Use if Needed

If you are planning on one-time use of the code, make it specific. For example, BlackKnitHat or PaintedBowl.

FAQs: How to Write a Discount Offer

How often should discount offer messages be sent?

Don’t offer discount offer messages too often. Flooding your subscribers’ inboxes can lead to increased unsubscribe rates and reduced engagement. Instead, use discounts a few times per year and research other marketing methods to keep your brand top of mind. For example, you may research “what is influencer marketing” or social media promotion examples.

Can offering discounts dilute the value of a brand?

You won’t dilute the value of a brand with attention to the Unique Selling Proposition. The USP is a statement or concept that clearly defines what makes a business, product, or service distinct from its competitors.

Are there any tools to automate discount campaigns?

Yes, there are several software tools designed to automate discount offer campaigns, particularly for e-commerce businesses. These tools can help you design, schedule, distribute, and track the performance of your promotional campaigns.

How do discounts turn potential customers into loyal ones?

Discounts can help you find loyal customers, especially if you reach out to them and seek feedback. Are the customers happy with the purchase? What were their reasons for purchasing? Software tools that automate discount campaigns often include options to solicit feedback.

Image: Envato Elements


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Lisa Price Lisa Price is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 4 years. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism from Shippensburg State College (Pennsylvania). She is also a freelance writer and previously worked as a newspaper circulation district manager and radio station commercial writer. In 2019, Lisa received the (Pennsylvania) Keystone Award.

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