Platform offers free publicity for local restaurants

SaveOn provides gratis advertising to help restaurants gain new customers during COVID-19.
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House of Wine in downtown Grand Rapids is one business that is using the microsite offered by SaveOn to attract customers during the pandemic. Courtesy of Jim Lynch

(As seen on WZZM 13 TV) A metro Detroit-based marketing firm is calling all restaurants on the west side of the state to join a platform it created to help struggling businesses during the pandemic.

Troy-based SaveOn — an integrated advertising and marketing firm founded in 1984 that produces print coupon mailers that reach nearly 3.5 million homes in the Detroit, Grand Rapids, Chicago and Twin Cities markets — said last month restaurants in West Michigan can receive free advertising and publicity on its website at saveon.com to help increase dine-in, takeout and delivery orders during the restrictions in place due to COVID-19.

Each company taking part in SaveOn’s free restaurant advertising program receives a microsite on SaveOn’s website, which introduces them to thousands of new customers, promotes special deals and coupons to encourage people to eat there, and provides company information such as history, social media, menu PDFs, directions and a link to the business’ website.

“The pandemic has devastated so many small businesses. Some have had to close, and others are struggling to stay open. We’re offering the free microsites as a lifeline to help them get back on their feet,” said Heather Uballe, president of SaveOn. “We care about these businesses and want to do everything we can to make sure they’re around for years to come.”

Just one West Michigan establishment — House of Wine, at 53 Monroe Center NW in downtown Grand Rapids — has so far taken advantage of the free advertising, and SaveOn is looking to recruit more.

Jim Lynch, owner of House of Wine, said he joined the free service after working with SaveOn on a “full-blown digital marketing campaign” that was supposed to launch in early March but had to be put off due to the impact of COVID-19 on his business. He said using the “simple and free” microsite wasn’t part of the original plan but has been a nice bonus.

“In its scaled-back form, we are simply looking to get exposure to new customers,” he said. “When we had customers come into the shop and restaurant, we displayed print advertising, and we could speak to them. Very few people come into the building now.”

Lynch said when he wants to add coupons and offers to his microsite that can be accessed via the platform’s search bar, he emails his rep, and she takes care of it the same day. Although he doesn’t have direct data on whether customers are finding House of Wine via SaveOn, he said “it certainly can’t hurt” while he is waiting to return to profitability.

“I’m hopeful to get back to full service/full hours and try the broad scale digital marketing program (through SaveOn),” he said.

Uballe said businesses interested in being featured and receiving a free microsite — not just restaurants, but any type of business — can email the company at info@saveon.com or call (800) 495-5464.

“(There are) no strings attached. The only thing that we ask in return is for (restaurants to offer) a coupon, an incentive to help the consumer out,” she said. “We know couponing intrigues people to try something new at a discount.”

She said the microsites include a full “about us” feature page, and restaurants can showcase up to 10 photos of their business and/or food. Unlike Groupon, SaveOn doesn’t charge businesses fees to list their deals.

“We’re a local, small business,” Uballe said. “We understand how hard it can be when your company’s future is on the line — we’ve been there. Over the past 36 years, we’ve worked with hundreds of small businesses in this area who have become like family to us. We want to extend a hand and help our community, businesses and their employees make it through this difficult time by ensuring local companies stay afloat.” 

Uballe said as of now, SaveOn does not have an end date in mind for the free offer of a microsite for businesses.

The company’s main revenue stream is from the direct-mail saver magazine in which businesses pay to advertise their deals and services. The Grand Rapids mailer reaches about 250,000 homes a month.

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