Other businesses in the Boulder, Colo., area had already run online deals. “It seemed like they all just got deal-seekers,” he says. “Not one person I spoke with had a positive experience with online deal providers. The more a merchant’s product becomes a commodity, it seems the more they can get taken advantage of.”
That kind of business model didn’t appeal to Kirk.
When he and his wife, Tricia, founded KT’s BBQ in 1992, the frequent guests at the restaurant became the couple’s customers as well as their close friends. Kirk and Tricia often sit down and eat with them, and a number of combo baskets are named in honor of loyal customers.
Twenty years and three more locations later, relationships are still the foundation of KT’s success. They’ve hosted parties and cooking classes for customers, just as a way of saying thanks.
“We’re restaurateurs first and marketers second,” Kirk says.
KT’s BBQ did try to advertise through coupons and direct mail, but the results weren’t spectacular. Kirk and Tricia wanted to focus on the relationships that the restaurant already had, because they knew that would be the best way to bring in new customers.
Bringing offline relationships online
In January 2010, Kirk decided to try building relationships with Constant Contact Email Marketing. He started sending a monthly newsletter to existing customers, and ever since, the feedback has always been positive.
So, when Kirk heard about SaveLocal from Constant Contact, he decided to give it a try.
“I had never tried any deal software before, because no deal provider had the integrity and quality I was looking for,” he says. “But when I heard about SaveLocal, I thought, ‘what the heck?’” He explains that the payment model seemed much more merchant-friendly than other online deals.
Plus, he knew he would win either way. “Even if I didn’t turn much of a profit, I knew that our customers would appreciate the deal. In the long run, we would benefit from those relationships.”
Marketing through deals
Kirk created a deal through SaveLocal that offered a $15 meal for $7. And if customers shared the deal, they were awarded a $5 Family Picnic Pack — a meal for five people, complete with brownies, side orders, sauce, and a choice of meat.
He emailed the offer to the 5,000 contacts on the KT’s BBQ email list and immediately got responses from customers, who wanted to thank him for the discount.
The benefits didn’t stop there. Around 60 people shared the deal with friends. All in all, Kirk estimates that there were around 10,000 impressions from the deal.
Almost 300 people redeemed the vouchers in total. More than a quarter of those were new customers. In total, KT’s BBQ saw around $2,000 in gross revenue from the SaveLocal deal, and 100 new email subscribers.
On top of that, Kirk says that the deal acted as a great piece of advertising.
“It really gave us some great exposure, and that will help us keep building valuable relationships,” he says.
Better yet, the new customers were mostly referred to the deal by existing customers. Rather than the deal-seekers Kirk had seen redeeming coupons at other businesses, the SaveLocal offer reached a relevant and loyal audience, many of whom are bound to come back to KT’s in the future.
Have you run an online deal before? How’d it go? Let us know in the comments section below.