Groupon can make or break your business. It’s a hot topic, for good reason. While we don’t often hear about the many Groupons that go smoothly, there have been a few notable exceptions that have been getting lots of press recently, most notably the story of Posie’s Cafe in Portland which nearly went bankrupt.

Using Groupon is akin to that oft-repeated aphorism: be careful what you wish for. Yes, you do want new customers, and yes, you do want to generate that all-elusive buzz around your business. But you have to set up your Groupon so that you’re not crushed by the hordes as they stampede through your doors.

Our Groupon tips:

1. Limit the number of Groupons available – or, barring that, at least limit how they are used, ie. if you’re selling restaurant or café Groupons, make sure you limit the number that can be used per visit or per table. You want to get people in the door and spending money, not eating your rent. Although there are a few blog posts flying around the internet attacking Groupon for not allowing limits on Groupons, according to Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, official company policy is to always allow caps on the number of Groupons on offer.

2. Treat your Groupon customers the same or better than your normal customers. This one is tough – there are lots of reports of lousy Groupon customers who expect the world from you even though you’re probably practically giving your product or service away. But a Groupon customer that doesn’t convert into a loyal customer is much less valuable than one who does. Remember that every customer interaction is an audition, even when they come flooding through the doors and perhaps won’t tip appropriately.

3. Prepare for the barbarians. Depending on what kind of business you run, we’ve heard that you can expect a big run-up following a successful Groupon. So don’t come unprepared. Hire more people if you need to – normal business for a Monday can easily double overnight. Let your staff know about the upcoming Groupon well in advance to mentally prepare themselves.

4. Let signs do the work. Have signs ready to communicate with your customers after the launch. Signs should ask them to bear in mind the value of the Groupon when tipping and to let staff know if you’re using a Groupon to pay for the meal or service. Another good idea is to ask customers to please bear with you if your business seems momentarily overwhelmed.

5. Ready, Get Set…Schedule! If you’re a service-based business, set up online scheduling before you flip the switch. Otherwise, your phone will be ringing off the hook all day (and week), so giving that demand a relief valve in the form of online appointment scheduling is a great idea. You could use any of several services out there, but we’re, ahem, partial to one in particular. (Cough) OpenCal online appointment scheduling (cough).

6. Extra everything. If you’re in the restaurant industry, you need extra supplies, extra staff, extra training, and everyone needs to be extra friendly (which usually means extra sleep the night before!)

7. Use an expiration date. Three to six months is usually reasonable. You don’t want to be seen as trying to rip off customers but at the same time you need to be able to measure the effect of the Groupon in a reasonable time frame.

8. If you Groupon, they will come. For at least a week, according to most, business will be off the charts. It’s important to remember that you are not preparing for only the launch day, you’re preparing for a whole week of insanity, and really, if you do it right, you’re preparing for more business forever.

Too many words? Watch the video instead – the straight goods on Groupon from Corey Kaplan, owner of New York City Bagel Deli in Chicago.

Have an experience to share about Groupon? Have you bought groupons or been a user before? Share your thoughts with us!

Author: Darren Negraeff 

*This article original appeared here and has been reposted with permission.