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Hodgson Blog

Groupon for Business: The Next Blue Light Special?

Apr 8, 2011 by Steve Mallory

By now, you’re probably familiar with the sorts of deals available to the average shopper via sites likeGroupon and Living Social$20 for $40 worth of cupcakes50% off museum admissiondiscount laser hair removal, etc. These location-based deals give consumers a chance to save some money while simultaneously allowing businesses to generate buzz about their brands (incidentally, a deal on Living Social first led me to the delectable, rock ‘n’ roll–inspired Japanese cuisine available at Sushi Rock in Arlington, VA—now a favorite date night destination for me and my husband.[†]).

Living Social incentivizes users to tell others about what they’ve found by giving the deal to the original user for free if at least 3 friends purchase the deal as well. Similarly, Groupon doesn’t activate a deal until a minimum number of users purchase it—this drives users to share the deal on social media sites to get the word out to as many friends as possible.

The growing success of this business model has sparked the interest of behemoths like Amazon.com, which recently invested $175 million dollars in Living Social. Businesses have had so much success marketing to new customers that an important question has been raised: can this largely B2C-focused model be fine-tuned for the B2B market?

Fastcompany.com reports that Illinois-based IT Consulting Firm Ajilitee is testing the waters in the realm of B2B deals; they posted a deal on Groupon Stores promising $25,000 worth of IT consulting servicesfor a mere $12,500. Of course, this deal is not something the average coed would tweet to her sorority sisters (unless she were worried their website was being hacked by an evil fraternity down the road . . .), but it might be something the student’s mother would be interested in posting to her LinkedIn wall or mentioning to one of her colleagues. As it turns out, no one actually purchased the deal, but Ajilitee did report they were pleased by the interest from the media (nothing wrong with a little brand exposure, right?).

This Ajilitee deal proves that it’s not only revenue from the deal itself that can make the opportunity to advertise on Groupon or Living Social worthwhile—it’s the exposure, the buzz that builds around the deal that may in turn help attract new customers. GrouponWorks, Groupon’s site for businesses, describes the opportunity as “efficient, measurable marketing” and “big exposure, bigger word of mouth.” The opportunity to generate buzz is valuable to any type of business, whether it be a new bakery, a software start-up, or a large IT consulting firm.

The crux of the issue pertains to demographics: are there enough key stakeholders and decision makers in the million-strong pool of Groupon and Living Social members to make a B2B deal successful? Surely, plenty of executives enjoy trying new restaurants and salons and may already be Groupon or Living Social members. But would an increased interest in B2B-focused deals attract more business-oriented subscribers?

Clearly, this idea is in its infancy, but it’s certainly something that will continue to evolve over the coming months. Who knows? B2B Groupon deals could represent a valuable opportunity for your company. While it’s true that no one bought Ajilitee’s deal, they may very well have paved the way for other companies to attract new clients and to build potentially long-lasting business relationships.


[†] Editor’s Note: LOL married people don’t go on dates!

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