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Lenny’s offers free subs to Facebook fans

The 150-unit Lenny’s Sub Shop will attempt to turn its guests’ “likes” into love this week by offering a free half-pound sub to anyone who becomes a fan of the chain’s Facebook page.

Brent Alvord, president of the Memphis, Tenn.-based chain, said word-of-mouth for the promotion has grown Lenny’s roster of Facebook fans from about 9,000 to more than 12,300 in the two weeks since the giveaway was announced. The promotion runs through Feb. 20.

Lenny’s is backing up the Facebook giveaway with a “significant” investment in targeted local advertising, Alvord said, including ads on Yahoo and its partner websites, as well as on Facebook. In the chain’s bigger markets with more unit density, radio commercials will run all week.

“My personal goal is to make sure we’re helping drive traffic at the local level, because it’s all about our franchisees making money,” Alvord said. “It does me no good to have somebody in China ‘like’ us on Facebook if they’re not going to come into one of our restaurants.”

Alvord estimated that the supporting advertising would create nearly 5 million impressions from online page views and radio listeners. The chain’s franchisees are largely on board, as only 5 percent of the system opted out of participating in the promotion, Alvord added. About 90 percent of Lenny’s system is franchised.

“We’re hopeful we get not only existing guests but friends of friends in the door,” he said. “If they buy a drink and chips, the margin on those offsets the cost of food, and if that person comes back one more time, then the return on investment for the franchisee is already there.”

Lenny’s can control validations through a proprietary point-of-sale system the chain recently built, as each coupon e-mailed to a Facebook fan contains a unique validation code that can be redeemed only once.

A Facebook-based program for following up already is in place with Social Wednesdays, where Lenny’s distributes offers like free chips and a drink with the purchase of a sub, which gets customers interacting with Lenny’s regularly, and not just to look for discounts, Alvord said.

“Guests aren’t going to expect a free sub all the time; they expect interaction and dialogue,” he said. “As long as we open up that dialogue … we can get their attention. I’m not as worried about this being a one-hit wonder, because we’re constantly doing some good offers. … We’re much more about creating the long-term relationship than being a discount trough.”

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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