Case Study: Tennessee Cafe Fends Off Daily Pitches From Hyperlocal Marketers

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RJMerchant: Reveille Joe Coffee Co.
Location: Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Platforms: NCR Silver, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter
Bottom Line: Small business owners are more receptive to hyperlocal marketers who frame their services as a “collaboration” than those who go for a straight sales pitch.

Without the oversized budget of competitors like Starbucks, Reveille Joe Coffee Co. owner Matthew O’Dell has been forced to get creative with his marketing efforts. “We’re a grassroots organization. I started this with everything that I had,” O’Dell says. “You can buy ads and you can post things on Facebook all day long, but unless somebody actually understands your passion and understands what you’re trying to do for the community, they’re not going to tell their friends.”

O’Dell spends time managing his company’s Foursquare, Vimeo, Facebook and Twitter accounts, however he’s grown disenchanted with Yelp over the years. “A lot of the things I was seeing at the very beginning, as I was reading people’s reviews, were people just getting on there to gripe about the service. I spent a lot of time at the very beginning trying to reply back to everyone,” O’Dell says. “In this day and age [your online presence] is extremely important. I know that. But at the same time, I have a lot of things to do in my day other than trying to argue with someone that didn’t get a latte exactly correct.”

O’Dell says he was recently contacted by a representative from Yelp who claimed she could help grow Reveille Joe’s online presence and optimize his company’s page through best practices — completely free of charge. “She said, ‘We want to better your presence on Yelp,’ and I said, ‘Okay, that’s great. How much is it going to cost?’”

O’Dell appreciated that the representative from Yelp wasn’t forcing a sale down his throat, and that she actually seemed interested in helping to grow his business. This sales strategy is a distinct departure from what O’Dell is used to as a small business owner. In the last few months, he has been inundated with emails and phone calls from so-called “SEO specialists” pitching their services. “I probably get four or five emails while I sleep at night from the West Coast,” he says. “[They say they’re] trying to help me out by selling me the most amazing Google search optimization. I’m not interested.”

One company that was able to capture O’Dell’s interest has been NCR Silver. The mobile point-of-sale system operates on the iPad, allowing O’Dell to process transactions and manage in-store operations without investing in any extra hardware or equipment. O’Dell says he was attracted to the company because of its “concise bundle.” He wanted a turnkey solution that didn’t require him to purchase equipment that he already owned. “A lot of times when you go to these places online they want to sell you a package for a couple thousand dollars,” O’Dell says. “As a new business owner you may not have that after you’ve gone through the setup. When I realized that I wanted something inexpensive, but at the same time allowed me to visualize my sales and graphs and customer interactions, I looked at NCR Silver as a viable option.”

In addition to processing customer transactions, O’Dell says using a cloud-based POS system allows him to track sales from outside the office and keep more control over his finances. “I wanted to be able to see when I’m not at the shop what I’m actually doing sales-wise. I can view [sales reports] online through mobile apps, or go on the computer and pull up my daily sales reports in real-time,” O’Dell says.

More importantly, using a mobile POS system has actually helped bring O’Dell closer to his customers. “People are excited about engaging in technology. It gives them something else to talk about once they leave Reveille Joe,” O’Dell says. “We have some things that the place down the street doesn’t, so it adds that second level of interest for our customers.”

The Takeaway
Small business owners are so inundated with emails and phone calls from hyperlocal vendors that they will rarely respond if the pitches they receive aren’t targeted to their specific situations. In O’Dell’s case, he was receptive to speaking with a representative from Yelp only after the representative made it clear that she wasn’t trying to sell him any ads or products. If, or when, that representative follows up with O’Dell about paid services in the future, it will only be after he has had a chance to get the most out of the online review platform. At that point, he is more likely to be receptive to paying for continued optimization and service.

This same school of thought applies to the POS system O’Dell selected, as well. Because he already owned an iPad, O’Dell was turned off from bundled solutions that required him to purchase additional hardware. Instead, he opted for NCR Silver because it is a system that he could adapt to meet his individual needs as a small business owner in rural Tennessee.

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.