Especially as the festive season approaches, many people may be considering giving gift vouchers as presents, or businesses might be ready to provide discount coupons to encourage trade during this key season. Both will provide full details of how they can be redeemed, and should also make sure that the redemption date is clearly stated and not hidden in the small print. There is no greater way of infuriating customers and causing them to seriously bad-mouth your business than when they eventually come to use one that's expired!

However, many companies don't make as much use of these promotional tools as they should or could. Think of them as mini-advertisements; a chance to deliver powerful selling messages about your business.

First, let's consider gift vouchers being bought by one person as a present for someone else. It's easy to see a £10 voucher as an encouragement to spend that amount when visiting your store or website. In reality, this should only be the "deposit" for a larger transaction! Therefore, use some of the space to provide a brief selling story, one that's relevant to the products or services you offer. Your aim is to have the user visit you in a buying frame of mind, rather than simply to find a single product around the value of the voucher.

The same is true of discount or special offer coupons, although you may use these more widely and frequently than a gift voucher will be purchased. Of course, to some extent, they can also be interchangeable. There are many cases where you can offer a gift voucher, but one that is based on a minimum spend to qualify to use it.

Again, both of these should be selling pieces, either for a specific product range or service, or in general terms. Indeed, the voucher may be dealing with just one business area, but content can also advise of the wider range of way in which you can help. One advantage of such vouchers is that they are quite likely to be closely read – simply because folk are eager to discover how they can redeem the gift or earn the discount.

Do make sure you also provide all necessary buying information – such as opening hours, contact details, physical store location or online link. Thus you achieve the twins aims of encouraging their use and making it easy to do so. When this is accomplished, you have given yourself the best chance of using these as a way to gain or retain those vital customers.