I live about five blocks from a Ben & Jerry’s. I was casually checking in at a restaurant in my neighborhood not so long ago when I received a pop-up on FourSquare that Ben & Jerry’s is hosting a pretty sweet deal (pun was actually not intended!). The deal: for every person that checks in, they earn an ice cream for free. Additionally, if said checker-inner is the Mayor, that person gets a free extra scoop of ice cream.
I thought to myself, “That’s pretty cool. I like ice cream. I should grab my man friend and get in on that deal.”
That was over a month ago. I have yet to cash in the deal. I have yet to even visit my local Ben & Jerry’s, which is phenomenal because I just told you that I like ice cream. In fact, I LOVE IT. And more importantly, I have a pulse so therefore I love free stuff.
From a restaurant marketer’s standpoint I should have been a slam dunk to act on this deal. I’m an avid social media user, I love the product, and I am definitely enticed by discounts. So what went wrong?
I’m human, that’s what.
I’m a human so therefore I am busy, distracted, tired, unmotivated and lazy. There are any number of things I could be doing besides taking an extra special trip to Ben & Jerry’s to get that free scoop, no matter how much I might like the free scoop.
This is the inherent problem with location-based marketing. I’ve run several deals now through both FourSquare and Facebook Places for some very popular restaurant concepts and they simply fall short of the hype. Admittedly, some of the deals weren’t as attractive as they should have been. But even the most amazing deals still fail to draw the traffic we believe they will.
The fact is that even if you have an incredible offer there are a number of human factors that can derail your location campaign. People are increasingly bombarded by messages in social media land. Your FourSquare deal is just another echo in that restaurant discount chasm that seems to grow deeper by the day as restauranteurs struggle to stay afloat. And, quite frankly, people have much better things to do then stop what they are doing and go out of their way to check in at your store.
The cold fact is location marketing will never be a restaurant marketer’s saving grace. If you were thinking that it might be, stop now. We can’t all be A.J. Bombers.
But does that mean location-based marketing isn’t worth the gamble? Despite my recent foibles, I’m going to say no. I still plan on trying different deals in different markets. Like everyone else in the food industry I’m slowly wrapping my brain around ways to make blue bloods like FourSquare and newcomers like FoodSpotting into profitable opportunities. I don’t have it all figured out, but I have learned two important lessons:
1. The deal has to be incredible. Like, stupid incredible. Don’t be lazy with the deal. Be bold and a little daring. Be willing to give some push back with your operators or managers on a deal if you feel like it will increase incremental sales. Prove the deal’s potential worth by showing that you understand your guests and what they want.
2. Deals need to marinate. It’s really easy to say, “Let’s try this deal for a month then pull it.” There is safety in a short time frame. In my experience, it takes at least two months for a location-based deal to gain any traction. That’s a good amount of time for the initial adopters to help spread the word and for your traditional marketing around the deal to take hold.
Maybe I’m just doing it all wrong. Fellow restaurant marketers, what have your experiences in location marketing been? I’d love some sound advice myself.