Many of you noticed that last Thursday we were the Lincoln feature on Groupon. It was a choice I considered hesitantly, but eventually decided to give it a shot. Business requires risk taking, and you might ask how is selling 1324 Groupons a risk. It was in my mind, but here is what put me over the edge.
One of the accomplishments of which I am very proud is our ability to market our restaurant with very little advertising. We’ve spent less than $1500 on print media in three years, relying mainly on our website, direct email (which is free) and social media (also free) as our primary means of dispensing information about who we are and what we offer. I’ve turned down countless salespeople trying to get me to buy an ad in this or that paper or publication. In some cases, they have made me a dirt cheap offer, but I always have to respond by saying, “that doesn’t fit our strategy.”
But along comes Groupon, and unless you’ve are still using a rotary phone and actually use your Yellow Pages book for looking up numbers and not propping up the end table, you’ll know that it is a company that is making lots of noise across the country. I heard a story on NPR last week about its success and the impact it has on the businesses who are featured in it. In some of the larger cities, the Groupon feature has actually caused a system overload, bringing in more business than they were prepared to handle.
I was hesitant to even listen to the Groupon staff because I don’t really like coupons. I feel they don’t attract the right customer. As many people that bitch about my prices, I sure don’t need someone to try and nickel and dime me with a two-fer. I believe my food is worth full price, as it is prepared with skill, care and high quality ingredients. If you want cheap, please go elsewhere.
But what drew me to reconsider Groupon was sheer exposure. In a town our size, there are still an unimaginable amount of people who don’t know we exist. This is beyond me, mainly because I drive around town with my eyes open, and my curiosity gets piqued with any new business development or endeavor I see. But many people walk with their head down from house to car to work and back again, never looking up to see the sky above. So to get my name in front of 25,000 viewers in a 24 hour period, I would guess that many of those eyeballs will be seeing us for the first time.
And sure enough, as the Groupons began showing up yesterday, I looks like about half of the people redeeming them are first time visitors. In this way it’s already paying off by getting brand new customers in the door to enjoy simple food and drink. The discount is a nice reward to my regular customers, but it’s also introducing our brand to more and more people.
And so to all you newbies, the way it works is this: we’ll set the table; you bring the conversation.