Denise Burchard and Meghann Markham weren’t sure how to reach potential customers when they opened Bar Method Portland in 2010, so they turned to Groupon for help (because “we’re old. We think Facebook is hard. Even Twitter is scary”). The daily deals website gave them exposure to the specific demographic they were targeting, and helped turn Bar Method into one of the most popular exercise studios in town.
What is Bar Method Portland?
Bar Method is an hour-long exercise class using the ballet bar, where we utilize small isometric movements to tone the body and to create a lot of core strength. The end result is a dancer-like body that is really carved and lean. We opened the Portland studio in 2010, but Bar Method has actually been incorporated since 2001. The flagship studio is based in San Francisco.
What were your initial goals, in terms of advertising?
Initially, just getting the word out there was the most important thing. Once people come in, they usually love the classes and continue to come back, so word of mouth is huge for us. Probably 90% or more of our clientele is based on referrals from other clients. From our perspective, it’s a matter of teaching the concept to people, and then they really cling onto it.
As far as advertising, we started out by putting up an online banner and it did nothing. We had also gone door-to-door, business-to-business, to all the places in our vicinity and left class cards as a way to encourage people to come by and try some classes for free. It was all very grass roots.
Even today, we’re still meeting people who say they saw us on Groupon, even if they didn’t actually buy the Groupon deal.
Eventually we decided to try Groupon. We’ve ended up doing two Groupon deals, and we had great success with both.
How did your Groupon promotion come about?
We had heard about other exercise studios that had done Groupons and been successful with them, and we spoke to other Bar Method studio owners who said their experience with Groupon was great. So based on that, we just went straight to the Groupon site, found an email address, and emailed the company. Since then, we’ve actually had people contact us from other studios to ask how our Groupon went.
So how was your experience with Groupon overall?
It was really great. Since our studio was new at the time, we had a lot of new people come in and we got a lot of exposure from Groupon. We had people who came in after seeing us on Groupon who didn’t even know there was a Bar Method studio in Portland. Even today, we’re still meeting people who say they saw us on Groupon, even if they didn’t actually buy the Groupon deal.
We liked our experience with Groupon so much that we did a second deal. A lot of the people who hesitated on buying a Groupon coupon the first time around did end up buying it the second time.
How did you decide what type of deals to offer?
We actually offered two pretty different deals. The first deal we offered was two classes for the price of one. But we also wanted to go for a higher priced item to see if the Groupon demographic would cling to it, so we decided to offer a Groupon for half-off of our five-class package. It’s normally $90, but with the discount it was $45 for five classes.
The timing was really great for our second Groupon deal, because we offered it the weekend after New Year’s. That was great for us, because we had a lot of people who were motivated and the Groupon deal just gave them an extra reason to buy a package. A lot of people who bought Groupons have really taken to the classes, and since then they’ve purchased additional classes or packages.
Why did you decide to go with Groupon, as opposed to Living Social or any other daily deal websites?
For the first deal we offered, Groupon was a no-brainer because they have the largest reach.
The second time around, we knew we wanted our deal to be available near the beginning of the New Year. The people at Groupon initially said they couldn’t guarantee our deal would be offered close to New Year’s, so we thought about going with another company. Thankfully, Groupon eventually came around and said they could get us in. That was kind of a nice surprise.
Have you ever used Foursquare or Facebook Places for advertising?
No. We’re old. We think Facebook is hard. Even Twitter is scary.
Honestly, we’ve done what we know, and compared to other businesses we’re probably somewhere in the middle in terms of how connected we are with sites like Facebook. There are some studios that are on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, but that’s probably something we won’t be doing. Of the sites, we’re most comfortable with Facebook because it’s easy and it’s not foreign.
We have only been open for a year, and at the beginning it was just the two of us doing the majority of the teaching and everything related to running the business. So we wanted to make sure to invest our time in the right places. We started with a Facebook page, and we decided that when we have more time we’ll branch out into other areas. It has really been about prioritizing our time and not committing to doing something unless we’re going to do it well.