Try It Local puts neighborhood twist on viral discounts

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Bargain hunters are flocking to services like Groupon and LivingSocial to find deals online and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce wants in on the action.

The chamber launched Try It Local, a web-based coupon and marketing program managed by a Louisville firm, in late February. The idea is to turn consumers here and afar on to Alexandrias restaurants and stores by offering them discounts and savings through e-mail and social media platforms, said Tina Leone, chamber president.

Were really excited about it, Leone said. Weve finally entered the 21st century. These [services like] Groupon have been wildly successful all across the country. Weve been looking at it for a couple of months now.

For the unversed in the rapidly expanding world of online coupons, joining Try It Local takes a few clicks of the mouse and a valid e-mail address. Shoppers and diners can sign up to have weekly deals delivered into their inbox, or they can log on to the website to scoop up a deal. 

The promotion and coupon is open to chamber members, Leone said. About 70 percent of the profits for each coupon sold go back to the business. The chamber splits the rest with Try It Local. A new deal will be featured each week, she said.  

Its a neat way to highlight companies in Alexandria, Leone said. Youre giving great deals to the public and [our companies] get their name out and attract new customers.

The Union Street Public House offered $25 off any bill for food and drinks over $50 to kick off the new service. While Try It Local doesnt have the same reach as international forces of frugal Groupon and Living Social, the promotion reaches a targeted audience, said restaurant manager Steven Greehan.

The Union Street Public House sold 36 coupons before the deal expired this week. Greehan has collected a few of the coupons, which must be printed and returned to the restaurant to be redeemed, and guesses hes not the only manager to see them popping up.

You dont want to do that all the time, but every once and a while its a win-win, he said. Its worth a try The person might spend $60 or $100. A person who doesnt know were here might grab one and come on over or a regular might see it and see a great deal.

 Thats why the service works, said Try It Local President and CEO Todd Earwood. More than just a coupon redeemable at local establishments, its a way to promote small businesses, he said. 

The online service launched about eight months ago and was limited to Try It Locals hometown of Louisville until the kinks were worked out. In the last several months its just exploded, Earwood said. Chambers from Alexandria to Cape Cod to San Diego have signed on with the Kentucky-based service. 

Weve built Try It Local because we believe thats the backbone of the national economy: small businesses that are locally owned and operated, Earwood said. Were not anti-chain, but we want to you think about the local aspect.

Leone already has lined up 15 local entrepreneurs to offer up deals in Alexandrias version of Try It Local. Any chamber member can participate, she said. 

Shes hoping it will be a hit with savings savvy local consumers.

Its marketing to a much larger universe than what they might have before, Leone said. This will start becoming viral, we hope. The more people that use it, the more companies get involved and thats when it really starts to provide a larger return.

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