Many businesses are borne out of someone identifying a consumer need and then commercializing a solution. In today’s “flat” world and Internet-based or influenced economies, the potential for solutions exists in numerous and varied forms. One of these is a local business that will celebrate its one year anniversary next month. On September 11, 2007, at 11:11 p.m., Lexington-based 3rd Dimension Design (www.3rddimensiondesign.com) launched their Drink Prices.com (www.drinkprices.com) Web site. The initial goal of the two central figures in this initiative, President Nicholas Solon and John Harbison, vice president of graphic design, was to develop a national Web site devoted to local bars and restaurants. On the Web site, a visitor can find out information about drink prices and then, once there, obtain more useful information. As Solon put it, “Drink prices are the front door, and once you enter, there is a long hallway with many useful additional doors.”
You have to start somewhere, and their first bar was a logical choice. They approached the popular Rosebud Bar, located at 121 North Mill Street and owned by Sandy Fields, and with that humble beginning, the number of bars and drinking establishments on their site has grown to over 74,000 and is still growing. They did this by using contacts around the country to do some clever seeding of markets to get things rolling there mostly by word of mouth. They plan to continue growing the site with domestic establishments but are contemplating expanding into other English-speaking countries. What is interesting about this Web site is that it offers benefits to both consumers and bar owners.
First let’s review the consumer benefits. By visiting and interacting with this Web site, you can find:
1. Cheapest drink prices
2. Pictures of establishments
3. Information about establishments (offerings, unique drinks, and more)
4. Upcoming events (a great way for some music and entertainment venues to communicate gigs and performance schedules)
5. Reviews, or post reviews of your own
6. Travel planning help. For example, interesting drink offers around the country include one bar in New York City that offers free beer at certain hours. There is a also a bar in Las Vegas (not to be confused with Nich Vegas in Jessamine County) that offers a drink for $5,000 that comes with a diamond-studded swizzle stick.
In addition, If you live in a dry county, you can use a search function to ascertain the closest bars to where you live.
Second, the establishment benefits are many.
At a basic level, it’s a free way for a bar to get internet exposure they might otherwise not receive. The traffic to the site comes from search engines, links to the site and direct traffic to the domain. If someone types in a bar on Google, they will find it on this Web site at or near the top. Once a market starts getting penetrated, it can become a competitive disadvantage to not be on the site.
There are also opportunities to advertise on the site with various banners, etc. When a bar advertises, they have high assurance they are hitting their target market. Registered users are 21+ and avid bar patrons. There is also a sponsorship plan whereby a bar can sponsor their own establishment, and for that, they are provided tools to control their page. It’s like a “bar marketing system,” and they get control over their page, increased visibility, access to reports on their page’s traffic including information on patron demographics, newsletter and couponing capabilities, and the chance to solicit new patrons.
The creators of this are continually learning how to grow, optimize and monetize this very young Web site. The site has elements of information access, social networking, and especially key elements of viral marketing, which refers to strategies that encourage individuals to pass on marketing messages to others (like drink prices and entertainment schedules), which can result in exponential message growth and influence. This is an interesting site and is but one example of local entrepreneurship that others in any business can learn from.