The standard advertising proposition works something like this:
- Identify a media outlet that has a targeted audience.
- Advertise a product or service of value to that audience.
- Attract business from that audience.
The formula still works. Advertisers have been reaching the owners and managers of southeastern Wisconsin businesses for years through BizTimes Media.
Some companies, however, have a more disparate audience that can be more difficult to reach all at once. That's where social media can help.
I roll my eyes when I hear business people say things such as "This social media thing is just a fad," or "Our company has no way of using social media."
Just ask John and Loie Laimon. They have owned Smokey's Bait Shop on Pewaukee Lake for the past 29 years.
However, because of the warmest winter in Wisconsin's recorded history, the small business was in severe duress, as its sales of bait, beverages, snacks and equipment were virtually non-existent. It turns out that you can't ice fish if you don't have ice.
"It was such a warm, warm winter, that they didn't have the business they usually get. There was no ice. It's the worst they ever had in 29 years," said their daughter, Sara Laimon Luke.
John and Loie reached out to their daughter, who lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, Whakapainglia (a native of New Zealand), for help to save their business as the spring boating season began.
Luke came home to Pewaukee and went to work to do just that. She set up an online scheduling system and acquired an iPhone to help take orders.
But the turning point came when Luke created a Groupon deal. The offer advertised three-hour pontoon boat rentals on Pewaukee Lake for $50 to $75. The rentals normally were sold for $105 to $165.
The response was immediate, and it was thunderous.
At last count, the Laimons sold more than 587 rentals through the Groupon promotion in less than two weeks. To say the least, no moss is going to be growing on their fleet of eight pontoon boats this summer.
"It has been insane. The phone has been ringing off the hook. It's so nice to attract brand new business," Luke said. "My parents are so happy. My parents really want people to have access to the lake. This is a Groupon success story."
Groupon takes a 50 percent cut of each rental secured through its online system.
Yes, the Laimons' took a big cut in their profit margins. But they plan to more than make up for that cut by the sheer volume of rentals sold. Customers are literally jumping in the boats.
It's probably a safe bet to presume that many of those who are capitalizing on the Groupon deal are going to enjoy their pontoon excursion so much that they will return and even be willing to pay full price for their next adventure, especially if it involves watching the sun set on the western shores of Pewaukee Lake.
The lesson to be learned here is fairly simple, but profound:
- Provide a product or service that has value.
- Present that desired product or service to the right audience.
- Offer that product or service at a discounted price.
- Be digitally prepared to respond to the increased business.
- Use the sheer volumes of business to overcome the thinner profit margins.
See you on the lake!
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.