How Content Seals the Deal at Groupon


Groupon_infographic It's no secret, email marketing is a solid conversion tool. Great copywriting is the secret sauce of successful email newsletters.

Groupon is an interesting example of promotional writing that sells, when attached to the right deals.

If you're not familiar with Groupon, it's a company that offers group discount (hence the name, group + coupon) daily deals for every city where they operate.

You probably saw the banner ads in your feeds, or when navigating to sites from your home computer and city. Have you ever read one of those deals?

They are great entertainment for sure.

I attended the Confab2011 session where Brandon Copple, managing editor for Groupon, explained how they go about hiring writers, and what they look for in their copy — along with examples taken directly from the Groupon Style Guide.

Editorial goals

  • Protect the customer experience
  • Protect the Groupon brand
  • Ensure deals are fair, transparent, and awesome

This is the responsibility of everyone in the editorial organization, which now counts more than 400 employees in editorial jobs.  

Content for each deal has two objectives:

  • Describe the deal
  • Entertain (with humor)

The entertainment part is taken very seriously, yet should never take more than 20% of the copy, according to the Style Guide. The deal is king. Editorial guidelines support the kind of clear writing and story telling people like to read, because they dictate:

  • respect for busy readers — give people credit for being smart; don't talk down to them; write real editorial, not ad copy
  • independence from the merchants with whom the deals are made — the reason why Groupon hires so many writers to develop copy
  • accuracy — yes, they do have fact checkers (this was good to hear)
  • transparency — never overdo a deal, make sure it's a fair representation
  • editorial and not advertising copy — he was extra careful to highlight how they really work on making the content pop through "show, don't tell" techniques

The editorial team looks for writing that stands out — literally jumps off the screen — active and creative language, and strong verbs and descriptions. Writers need to really understand the deal to be able to write about it.

Among the hires are journalists, copywriters, creative writers, poets, artists, actors, fiction writers, musicians, and even filmmakers. Groupon's production process is eights steps, plus one:

  1. Deal creation
  2. Image design
  3. Reviews
  4. Details
  5. Fact check
  6. Voice edit
  7. Copy edit
  8. Quality assurance
  9. Site edits (if there was anything wrong after publishing)

Too much of a good thing?

Two and a half years after the November 2008 launch, with competition mounting in several markets where they do deals, the company is filing for an IPO to raise $750 millions. If successful, their valuation would be higher than the $6 billion offered by Google only a year ago.

As of March 31, they had 83.1 million subscribers, up from 152,203 in June 2009. However, only 15.8 million people bought in at least one deal.

There are growing concerns over their customer acquisition costs. In this analysis at the Yipit blog (also a company that offers deals), Groupon numbers hint at a mature business. At their scale, they are not converting nearly enough new buyers to keep the deal pipelines growing.

One deal or purchase does not a customer make.

Room for ecommerce growth

Despite the valuation doubts about Groupon, some investors think there is still room for new online retailers to develop vertical businesses on the Web. The comment made me think of VerticalNet… Running a business profitably should be *over the long haul*.

We all love a really good deal. At the same time, many of us are also prepared to pay for value. Why? Because we understand that we live in an ultra connected world, and investing in the right things is more sustainable — for us and for our communities.

My take is that deep discounting creates a race at the bottom effect and undermines quality. What we don't have, however, and where I see potential with Groupon, is an infrastructure that can connect small business owners with customers at scale. I'll expand on this point on my post Friday.

However the deal ends up being with Groupon, good, creative writing that connects does seal the deal. I'm looking for the company or individual that can take those writing principles and apply them to help build relationships between local merchants and their communities.

Now, that's a deal worth going for.

 

[infographic source: Money Savings blog]

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