Social networking provides a cost-effective way for the West Virginia company to interact with customers and drive traffic.
By: Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.
Par Mar Stores is wooing customers into its forecourts and onto its Facebook and Twitter pages with its Face to Face Fuel promotion, which launched in mid-January.
The goal of the promotion is two-fold: drive traffic at Par Mar gas stations while also increasing its social networking fans. Multiple times a month, Par Mar posts a Facebook status (that also goes to its Twitter page) revealing a store location where its marketing team is waiting to award three lucky, and quick, customers free gas, as well as the name of a team member waiting to present the prize. The chain operates 48 stores in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.
The first three customers who arrive at that store and say they’re there for the Face to Face Fuel promotion win up to 15 gallons of gas free.
“They just walk up to the cashier or associate and say, ‘I’m here to find Gloria or Jane for Face to Face Fuel’ and (the marketing team) is at the store to pump their gas for them,” said Jeralynne Offenberger, petroleum management/programs coordinator for Par Mar Stores. “I believe this will be an ongoing program because it’s pretty successful with our Facebook fans.”
At presstime, about 12 winners had already claimed free fuel prizes.
Online Loyalty Growing
Since beginning the promotion Par Mar has seen its Facebook fan base grow, but is still looking to increase its Web traffic. “We have more than 1,600 fans on Facebook, but we’re confident we can grow that number because social media is where it’s all at right now,” Offenberger said. “Plus, social media is very inexpensive, so it’s a great, cost-effective way to meet and interact with our customers.”
In addition to an uptick in its Facebook fan base, the chain has seen its in-store traffic grow as well. “Best of all we have seen increase chatter on Facebook, so people are talking about it and that in itself makes the program pretty successful,” Offenberger said.
Deciding on the promotion was simple. “Who doesn’t want free gas?” said Offenberger, who noted the idea came about during a quarterly marketing meeting as a way to reach out to Par Mar fans and give back to them.
Focused on Fundraising
Par Mar is no stranger to giving back to the communities where it operates. The chain has been running its Wednesday Wish Day promotion that benefits less fortunate children on Christmas morning for 12 years, and for the last three years has partnered with the Salvation Army during the promotion to expand its reach.
Through the promotion, customers can purchase a tag for $1 at their local Par Mar store, and the proceeds are dispersed through the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. In addition to donations, Par Mar employees hold events, such as cookouts or bake sales, to increase donations throughout the year. During the first 10 years of the promotion, Par Mar stores raised almost $200,000.
Par Mar also works with the Make-A Wish foundation, to help grant the wishes of children diagnosed with life-threatening conditions. Last October, the chain raised more than $28,000 for the cause, which marked the chain’s most successful year of fundraising for the campaign.
To raise the funds Par Mar Stores sold Wish stars for $1 and store managers served hot dogs, climbed ladders until a goal was met, and even held a water balloon contest where customers threw balloons at them, all in the name of charity.