As we get to the last week of holiday spending, you may be thinking about ways to increase your gift certificate sales. If you’ve heard that doing a Groupon deal is a good way to do that, you’re not getting the whole story. As effective as using Groupon (the right way) has been for my practice, a holiday deal really isn’t the best strategy for long-term practice building.

THERE WAS A TIME…

When I started using Groupon in 2014, they paid merchants a split of total sales, meaning you got paid for all vouchers sold whether or not they were ever redeemed. This made doing a holiday Groupon deal a no-brainer. Since many gift certificates don’t get used, you’d basically get free money for voucher sales that you didn’t provide service for.

But that is no longer the case. Groupon doesn’t pay merchants a split of unredeemed vouchers anymore, so there’s no incentive to encourage gift sales. Besides, many gift certificate recipients really aren’t ideal client material. They tend to be people who can’t afford regular massage or take care of everyone else but themselves, two qualities that lean toward one-time visitors.

Not only has Groupon stopped compensating merchants for unredeemed vouchers, but payment is now made when a voucher is redeemed rather than when it was sold. Groupon used to pay the merchant split twice a month based on sales, but that has changed to twice a month based on redemptions. Since the bulk of holiday sales get redeemed the following year, you won’t see most of that money until after New Years.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD

Rather than using Groupon to boost gift certificate sales, start your deal December 26th targeting people who want to practice better self care as a resolution. Explain the benefits of your work and the kinds of problems you solve in the deal description so buyers can see themselves as a good fit for your unique skills. Don’t offer anything more than a bare bones one-hour massage so you can offer upgrades that increase spending paid directly to you. Limit the deal to one per person to get more clients on your table instead of more unredeemed sales going to Groupon.

IF YOU’RE ALREADY DOING A HOLIDAY DEAL…

You have options. Evaluate how well it’s selling and how much income you’re earning from it now. You can pause it and restart it after the holidays to minimize sales you won’t capitalize on. There’s a lot that goes into being successful with Groupon beyond how large your split is. Focusing on what you earn from them is a sure way to miss out on the potential this platform has to offer.

Groupon can be a great marketing tool when used correctly. Educate yourself about how it works and get clear on what you want to accomplish BEFORE reaching out to them. Using Groupon the right way has been the best marketing I’ve done by far and can make the future of your practice merry and bright.


Cath Cox has been a licensed massage therapist in Colorado since 1999. She is the creator of the Booked and Busy in 90 Days System™ designed to teach massage therapists how to use Groupon to fill their practices faster. 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 Cath and her journey at bookedandbusy.com.