Case Study: How a National Restaurant Group Uses Hyperlocal Platforms

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McFaddensMerchant: East Coast Saloons
Market: Nationwide
Size: 30+ bars and restaurants
Platforms: UPlanMe, Blazeletter, Club Texting
Bottom Line: The two most important factors marketers look at when deciding which hyperlocal platforms to use are time and money.

As the national sales and marketing director for East Coast Saloons, a management company that operates bars and restaurants nationwide including McFadden’s, Calico Jack’s, and Johnny Utah’s in New York City, Gina Groh fields cold calls from hyperlocal startups on a daily basis. “I field all of those incoming leads and meet with the people, see what it is, and see if it’s something that’s good for us,” said Groh. “Sometimes it’s good for specific stores within our company. Sometimes it’s good for all of them.”

When deciding whether a particular platform will be a good fit for East Coast Saloons, Groh is primarily concerned with the return on investment and the time involved in setting up the system. “In the end, we want to drive business and drive people in the door,” said Groh. “A lot of these new companies that are out there, they’re great, but either they don’t have a user base or it’s more work on our end. The easier it is for us, the less steps it is and the more work the third-party is doing, the better.”

East Coast Saloons recently started working with UPlanMe, a platform that businesses can use to promote specials and events across the web and on mobile applications. “For something like that, it’s very easy for us to set up a profile. Once we’re sending in all of our different events, they’re taking care of blasting it out. We essentially have to do very little work,” said Groh. “It’s also nice because [UPlanMe] is targeting a bunch of different outlets, not just on Facebook and not just on Twitter.”

A Cautious Approach
Rather than rolling out new marketing platforms to East Coast Saloons establishments nationwide in a single push, Groh prefers to take a more cautious, measured approach. “We’re based here in New York and we have nine stores here, so a lot of the things are easy for us to start in New York and then branch out to other locations, just because we have more manpower here,” said Groh. “It’s easier to tell other people [how to use the platform] once I have full knowledge of how it works and what it’s doing for us, and once you have an example to show the rest of our stores. There’s some backbone to it, rather than just saying ‘This is a new thing, I think we should try it.’”

Groh says she focuses more on platforms that promote customer acquisition versus retention because it’s easier to get people to come back more frequently than to gain an entirely new customer. “Especially if you do a good job once they’re there, they’re going to want to come back on their own,” said Groh.

Improving Open Rates
One method that Groh does employ for customer retention is an email newsletter, which she sends out regularly using a platform called Blazeletter. Customers at East Coast Saloon’s establishments are encouraged to sign up for e-newsletter or text blasts in exchange for free drinks or access to VIP parties. “That’s actually something we’re trying to revamp right now, just to try and increase opening rates,” said Groh. “Everyone is sending stuff out. You get 30 emails a day from 30 different places … What makes people want to open a newsletter? The most important thing we’re finding is there [should be] some call to action, or some sort of deal.”

In the coming months, Groh hopes to expand her text message marketing program with more time-specific promotions. “The text blast will be something for that night. So if the Rangers make the playoffs, we’ll send out a text blast that says ‘Rangers game tonight, 7:30. Show this text and your first beer is on the house.’”

The Takeaway
Marketers like Groh are inundated with pitches from hyperlocal vendors on a daily basis, and they don’t have time to waste doing research on projected ROIs. The more work a hyperlocal sales representative can do up front, in terms of coming up with financial projections and estimates of cost and time, the higher the likelihood that a marketer like Groh will show interest in the platform.

Email open rates are another hot topic among marketers right now as consumers are increasingly weary of getting even more newsletters in their inboxes each week. As a result, marketers are extremely interested in talking with vendors offering solutions to capitalize on their existing customer contact databases.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

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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.