Every buyer likes a little something extra to sweeten the deal. A coupon that offers an on-the-spot discount or other goodie can fill that bill very nicely. But the same coupon that can help you make that sale “here and now” can be a bad deal for you in the long run, home improvement contractors warn.

Fire Sale Every Day When you use a 20%-off coupon regularly, for example, “people don't really trust that 20% off,” says Sam Flory, president of Home Comfort Now, in East Hartford, Conn. “A lot of them think you raise the price 20% first.”

At Lasting Exteriors, in Jacksonville, Fla., president Dave Howard agrees. “In my view, my prices are 20% too high if I can give 20% off every week,” he says, which is not the message you want to send to consumers.

Howard cites a furniture retailer he passes regularly on his way to work. “They've been having a fire sale or a liquidation sale every month for 20 years. I laugh at companies that try that approach. I don't shop there because of that. I wouldn't consider going in there,” he says.

Use Coupons Judiciously Using coupons recklessly can ruin your credibility, largely because of the dubious reputation of the home improvement industry as a whole, Flory says. “Being aware of that reputation, there are certain things you probably don't want to do because they can create some fear, doubt, or mistrust in the customer,” he adds.

Both Home Comfort Now and Lasting Exteriors use coupons as a buying incentive. Howard says he uses them only occasionally, and then for a specific, short-term purpose, such as a “call to action” to help meet sales goals, move material, or work through soft spots in the production schedule.

Home Comfort Now uses coupons as a way to attract consumer attention, to “get us into the house,” Flory says. The company's coupons are attached to a purchase and involve some product upgrade, such as extra-strength glass. Flory says that way his company avoids the perception that it's fudging its pricing.

Home improvement marketers must be aware of this danger, the owner says, noting that various surveys have shown that the American public holds the same level of trust — fairly low — in home improvement contractors as it does in lawyers. And if a lawyer suddenly offered 20% off on his service, “how much would you trust him?”