Case Study: Mountain Shop Finds Balance Between Paid and Unpaid Promotions

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AlpenglowMerchant: Alpenglow Sports
Location: Tahoe City, California
Platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Offerpop, Twitter, Yelp
Bottom Line: Even those businesses that prefer relying on free marketing tools on a day-to-day basis are often willing to spend on local marketing platforms to promote special events.

Before Brendan Madigan purchased Alpenglow Sports just three years ago, the business’ prior owner had been doing essentially nothing in the way of advertising or promotions.

“It was complete word-of-mouth, which I think is great, but in today’s economy and business climate, that’s not feasible moving forward,” Madigan says.

Soon after taking over control of the 34-year-old mountain shop, Madigan got to work crafting a strategic marketing plan that included both online and offline initiatives and relied heavily on social media for generating awareness among customers in his target demographics. Madigan created accounts for his business on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and started working with a digital marketing company called Offerpop to promote the semi-annual mountain festivals his business puts on each year.

“We worked with our sponsors of the event to create giveaways to drive fan conversions and awareness of the event at the same time. It was tremendously successful,” Madigan says. “Offerpop really is, I think, a very clean way of [hosting] hashtag contests and actual giveaways. We got over a couple thousand new fans [on Facebook].”

Although Madigan has paid for promoted posts on Facebook in the weeks leading up to his company’s winter and summer mountain festivals, he prefers relying on unpaid marketing tactics to promote his business during traditionally slower times of the year.

“To be honest, I think in this day and age there’s only so much money I can spend as a business owner and feel that I’m getting a return. But I would say we have seen a tremendous revolution in our business by using social media,” Madigan says. “I don’t think there’s a hard line way to measure return on any kind of social investment, [but] you have to do it in today’s business climate.”

Madigan estimates that he spends between six and ten hours a week managing his company’s social media accounts. He also checks Yelp reviews several times a month, and periodically visits local business listings websites to make sure the information about his company is accurate.

“If you’re not, you’re leaving holes in the dike, so to speak. So many people want to contact your business … and if you’re late to the party, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot,” he says.

Madigan says he’s comfortable with where his local marketing strategy is at right now, and he doesn’t have plans to change it up anytime soon.

“We have a proven methodology, which I really like and I think resonates with people. We’re approaching business as a community-centered shop, [and that] goes a long way with people,” Madigan says. “[The coming months will be] a continuation of what we’ve been doing, just trying to stay modern and pertinent, which is hard as a small business, but also a fun challenge.”

The Takeaway
Social media is giving businesses a way to generate brand awareness without spending a dime on paid advertising and marketing channels. However, even those businesses that utilize free marketing tools on a day-to-day basis are often willing to shell out money to promote special events. As a result, hyperlocal vendors should consider giving merchants the option to pay on a per-campaign basis, versus strictly offering monthly subscriptions, if they want to cast the widest net possible when attracting potential SMB clients.

Stephanie Miles is a senior 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.