By Jacq Lacy
Capitol City Theater sold out its improv comedy shows two weekends in a row after signing up for the online marketing services of Groupon-Salem, which launched on the first day of November.
The Salem theater opened on June 26 using a guerrilla-style marketing campaign relying heavily on social media. Owner Chip Conrad came upon an ad for Groupon on the website Mashable.com, an online guide to social media, and decided to give it a try.
"My representative and I were really shooting to sell 250," Conrad said. "Once we passed that number by two o'clock it made me really happy to know that Salem is interested in live comedy."
By 11:57 pm on November 2 the theater had sold 387. Business increased 60% in the first weekend and the theater only has five seats left for the coming weekend, Conrad said.
Conrad has tried Facebook advertising, growing his e-mail database, and running ads in the Statesman Journal, "but everything pales in comparison to the effect the Groupon had on my business," he says.
Since the Salem debut, eight companies have partnered with Groupon to reach approximately 25,000 Groupon members in Salem. These companies include Jonathan's Restaurant, Technical Artistry Salon and Micro Spa, the ski and snowboard shop EXIT Real World, Willamette Burger Company, Hydrosports Dive and Travel, Gamberetti's Italian restaurant and Serenity Salon.
Groupon celebrates its second birthday this month. The Chicago-headquartered company began Portland-Groupon in October of 2009 and now has expanded its reach into Salem. The company sharpens advertising copy and organizes discounts of 50% or more once enough people purchase the deal. Groupon assures its businesses a minimum number of clients, otherwise the deal is off. Companies do not pay any upfront costs but they do pay a percentage of each Groupon sold to the advertising company.
On November 3, Technical Artistry manager Niatasha Holman chose to use Groupon to gain more clients in Salem. The company offered its most popular spa package for $40 instead of the usual $80. Holman hoped to sell 200, but the salon sold 131 packages that day.
"There's no disappointment. It was a great experience. 90% are new clients," Holman said. "We'll definitely do it again."
Hydrosports, a dive shop located in Keizer, Oregon, since 1997, offered Scuba courses at a discount on November 8. Mark Fischer, owner and president, says the deal outperformed other marketing programs by producing the largest one-day impact of anything he has ever tried.
The dive shop sold 42 of its advertised packages, 12 of which were for the full dive certification.
Fischer utilized his own e-mail networks hyperlinking in his e-mail, the deal website created by Groupon. He already had orders for ten packages before Groupon sent out the deal to its e-mail database.
"I will get dozens of new customers," Fischer said.
EXIT co-owner Jake Hauswirth heard about Groupon after a contact from Bonfire Snowboards suggested they look into it. After an unsuccessful attempt to contact Groupon to enter the Portland Groupon deals, Groupon contacted the company to advertise in the Salem area. However, he did not receive an overwhelming response and hopes that it might run the same offer in the Portland market with greater success. Even though the deal did not receive as many purchases as the company had hoped, Hauswirth is certain that the "20,000 e-mails it went out to were for good advertising."
On November 10, Groupon advertised a manicure and pedicure at owner Danielle Ngo's Serenity Salon. The package, normally $35, sold for $17. By 2 pm, 514 Groupons had sold.
Jacq Lacy is an associate writer for Oregon Business.