How group buying deals improved my food business

Handmade chocolate shop owner, Hanna Frederick explains how group buying deals have boosted her business, and shares tips on to get the most out of this marketing platform.

As a small business owner, I am always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to reach a greater number of people and bring more customers into my business. There are many ways to achieve this, from  pounding the pavements to handing out brochures and sponsoring community events. However, all these methods were either too expensive, too time consuming, or both.

Then I found a way to overcome these challenges, LivingSocial’s group buying site. This definitely boosted my business and now I want to explain how you can achieve similar results.

After being a food chemist and later promoting the use of technology to small businesses, in 2006 I took the plunge and followed my dream to pursue my love of creating boutique artisan handmade chocolates. I have always loved chocolate and the wonderful traditions of chocolate making from Hungary, where I was born and raised. This is what inspired me to build my very own chocolate laboratory in New Zealand.

Locals quickly fell in love with my unique flavour creations such as Maori Horopito, beer truffles, deer velvet chocolates and, perhaps the most alluring, venison salami chocolates. I also created a delicious line of adult chocolates with 10 different types of alcohol as well as an ever pleasing aphrodisiac chocolate, all handmade from my boutique laboratory. Then we up and moved across the Tasman to Australia in 2010. 

The food capital, Melbourne excited me to mix traditional European tastes with Down Under flavours to produce an incredible line of unique chocolate treats. It is such a pleasure to be taking these traditions and reinventing them for Australian tastes in my Mamor Chocolate Szalon in Collingwood.

I knew that once people tasted a new generation of flavours they’d be instantly hooked. The big question was how to get them through the door. I knew that increasing my chances of business success required two things: the first was to grow my online presence, and the other was to find a way to communicate my offerings to locals quickly. 

LivingSocial gave me the ideal way to get paying customers through the door for that first impressive visit to my szalon. We’ve tried it twice with great success. The first one was two years ago when I just launched my shopfront. I couldn’t believe that I sold 200 Chocolate Tasting High Teas in two hours!  It was a long haul in the beginning to ensure all our customers were satisfied, but the word-of-mouth and the reputational results were impressive and enduring. The way I see it I was buying publicity. 

Then I tried it a second time leading up to Mother’s Day this year. I advertised a champagne and chocolate tasting deal for two, four or six people that was 50 percent off the usual price, and then watched the number of deals sold continue to rise.

Thanks to these deals, positive reviews were spreading quickly among our customer’s family and friends, and it wasn’t long before word spread quickly throughout Melbourne and country Victoria. I was delighted to learn that posting a deal on a group buying site offers ongoing success, rather than just a peak in customers for that particular month alone as I initially anticipated. I was equally thrilled to discover LivingSocial also provides continual assistance with my public relations, even organising half a page in Melbourne’s highest circulating newspaper as well as some radio commentary about Mamor.

The results helped me add scalability and new clientele so well, that I am into my next group buying campaign for Father’s Day!

As we are creeping closer and closer to the festive summer season, I know that many of you who, like myself, own a small business in the hospitality industry will be searching far and wide for innovative ways to bring in those much desired customers. If you’re interested in using a group buying site for your business but are a bit overwhelmed with how to go about it, follow these tips to ensure you’re prepared:

1. Have a strategy in place and know exactly what you want to achieve as your end goal.
By mapping out exactly what it is you wish to achieve both you and your staff will be able to stay motivated. Aligning your whole teams interests will have positive effects on staff morale, and in turn will ensure your customers enjoy the best service your business has to offer.

2. Ensure that your business is able to provide the volume of service that your deal may attract.
Think big! You’d be surprised how many people are on the lookout for discounted offers at new places to go so make sure you’re prepared for a storm of customers. Cover all your bases; make sure you have enough products and enough staff to provide the best possible service.  Give 110 percent service.  This is an opportunity to showcase your best assets; you don’t want this to be ruined by being unprepared.

3. Be prepared to upsell.
You have the client in front of you, now show them everything you have to offer. Don’t make the mistake of treating these customers like one-hit wonders. Go above their expectations by offering them extra products or services than what was advertised on the group buying site.  Because they paid small for your deal, more often than not they will be keen to try some additional extras on the day, giving you the opportunity to make some extra money while flaunting a larger variety of what you offer.

4. Showcase your best assets.
What makes you unique? Push your mediocre products and services aside; this is your chance to shine. Dazzle them with your best selling products and house favourites along with anything else that makes you stand out from the crowd. It is important to leave them wanting more.

5. Have a follow up plan in place.
You cannot simply rely on your products alone when it comes to bringing back customers. So while you’ve got them inside your doors, offer return discounts, capture their email addresses for your database, or provide giveaways on the day to increase your chances of seeing them another day.

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