For Seattle’s Garage Billiards, Lots of Daily Deal Offers

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Since running a campaign with LivingSocial last year, Garage Billiards co-owner Mike Bitondo has been inundated with offers from every coupon site under the sun. Together with his business partners, Jill Young-Rosenast and Alex Rosenast, Bitondo remains picky about which companies he’ll work with, and generally makes his decisions based on what kinds of revenue splits they’re willing to offer.

When it comes to advertising, who’s the target customer you’re trying to reach?
To be honest with you, we have a pretty large demographic. We don’t do a lot of advertising. In 16 or 17 years, we’ve never done radio, TV, or even print. We just started doing the email voucher systems, but that’s not targeting anyone specifically. I think it’s just targeting anyone who’s interested in coming [to Garage]. We do so many corporate events and private events, in addition to being around a couple of colleges and being on Capitol Hill. I mean, anyone from 21 to 71, or 81, is our demographic.

As far as hyperlocal advertising is concerned, what have been your most successful campaigns so far?
I’ve never done Groupon, even though people tend to use that term to describe the voucher business. But, we’ve done things like LivingSocial, Tippr, DealPop, and some of those. Those have all been successful because they are tangible. I think that’s a big reason why those things are appealing to businesses. You know exactly how many people have purchased what you’re offering. So certainly, those would be the most successful things that we’ve done.

I have easily been approached by more than 50 people in the last year about doing [coupons]. As soon as I did one, it was just a flood of calls.

How did you decide to go with LivingSocial or Tippr, as opposed to Groupon? Did they contact you?
I don’t think I knew about them until somebody called me. There was a point where LivingSocial was one of the first ones to call me. This was probably 18 months ago, when LivingSocial was very young and all of this was fairly young. So, they were one of the first to call me, sit down, and explain the process. I hadn’t heard of Groupon or anything else. I was probably just not with it, to be honest with you – not just as a business owner, but as a consumer.

After [LivingSocial] started to approach me, then a lot of people started getting on that bandwagon. One of the other first companies to contact me was DealPop, and they are owned by White Pages. They were trying to enter that market, as well. They were one of the first ones to give me an idea of what other people were doing.

So if you’re hearing from a lot of different companies, how do you decide which ones to run deals with?
After I spent some time researching the process and some of the different companies out there, I think for me the first thing I decided was that I was just going to do one to try it out. Luckily, that first one I did was very successful. Once I did that, I decided to do another one.

[At first] I decided that I would only do a couple every year, because the tracking aspect of it was not something that was easy at that point. Even in a year, [tracking the coupons] has gotten a lot easier because everyone is going to Excel files and online tracking, where the businesses can go online and track the redemptions. That has made it a lot easier. Even with LivingSocial, a year ago they were just giving us lists that we manually had to check. So, that has made a big difference too.

Last year, it was the [companies] that approached me first, I used. This year has been much different. I have easily been approached by more than 50 people in the last year about doing [coupons]. As soon as I did one, it was just a flood of calls. The big ones like Groupon called, and LivingSocial wanted to do a second run. And then there were smaller ones – like Mom’s groups. Anybody who can set up an email or a mass email can do this. I can’t even name them all there have been so many. So this year, I’ve had to sift through and figure out what would draw me to one over the other.

Ultimately, that comes down to the split. Some companies are doing a 50/50 split and other companies are doing 60/40, and I’ve been able to negotiate much better splits than that. If I can get an 80/20, or 75/25 split, then it’s much, much better than something that’s 50/50.

Aside from the daily deal sites, what are your thoughts on other types of online marketing? Have you gotten into Foursquare at all?
Foursquare is not something I know a ton about. I know we do use Foursquare; one of my managers handles that. My managers are younger than I am, and they know a lot more about social networking. I like the idea of giving people the ability to get some credit for being a frequenter, and something like Foursquare makes it easy to track – both for us and for them. People always have their phones on them, so they don’t have to carry a punch card or have something that we track here through paper. To me, that’s what Foursquare is. A frequenter redemption.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.