Clever copy, inside jokes and burger close-ups: an inside look at how clever Facebook ads turned into 30K burgers and €500K of revenue in just a year
All throughout Germany, the so-called burger boom is in full effect. The only thing greater than Germans’ appetites for burgers is the sheer number of places they can get their fix. But with a flooded market and competitors as plentiful as toppings, how can newcomers gain traction? Three friends from Germany gave Facebook ads a shot and ended up flipping 30K burgers for half a mil in less than 12 months. Online Marketing Rockstars took a closer look at the burger triumvirate to learn more about their recipe for success.
“We just kind of came up with the burger idea spontaneously,” says Ben Kuestner, one of three founders of Bang Bang Burgers and Beer” in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. A combo bar, burger joint and nightlife hangout, Kuestner comes up with the name as an offshoot of Bang Bang Gelsen a successful concert promotion company that he founded together with Florian Beisenbusch and Alexander Schlueter. In 2014, they decide to branch out into the restaurant business, because they felt Gelsenkirchen did not have a place like the one they envision opening.
They find the perfect location in downtown Gelsenkirchen: a corner building from 1928 listed on the historical registry as an example of “Brick Expressionism.” They draft a company concept, begin contacting local business assistance agencies and drive far and wide through the Ruhr Valley to taste burgers from future competitors, before finally holding taste-tests with friends. While all that is going on, they start setting up the inside of the store. It doesn’t take long before they realize the work required is going to be much more than they thought. They end completely remodeling the store after initially thinking they could just repurpose the existing structures, and also fail to accurately predict the sheer amount of red tape involved.
The obstacles push back the grand opening two months, from October 2014 to December. “Our backs were up against the wall,” Kuestner says. “We were months behind schedule and the startup costs exceeded our initial projections. When we finally did open, our coffers were virtually empty.”
Luckily, they open to a packed house the first night, thanks to friends, family and fans of the concert promo company. The number of guests, however, begins a slow and steady downturn. To break even and cover their costs, the guys need at least 50 paying customers a day. But where are they supposed to come from when burger joints are booming, popping up all over the place? In the Ruhr Valley, that means that the competition is literally around the corner.
Tough going out of the gate, success in the end—thanks to online marketing
Fortunately, Kuestner knows a thing or two about marketing to customers online. As a concert promoter, he set up the first website for “Bang Bang Gelsen” while still in college and slowly learned the ins and outs of the industry. “I promoted our first shows on StudiVZ (editor’s note: StudiVZ is a German Facebook clone for college students).” After getting his degree, he took a job heading up the online marketing channels for Berlin startup Returbo. He then ran search engine optimization for German cell phone portal Sparhandy. There, he was decisive in helping the company avoid a Google penalty, about which he subsequently gave talks on at industry events.
However, his Google expertise was of little help in getting customers to the burger joint. “The local search volume for “burgers” in Gelsenkirchen is pretty limited,” Kuestner says. “Adwords and the like weren’t going to help us win the battle.” Instead of a pull channel, like Google, which delivers interested parties with prior interest, the three burger bros need some good old-fashioned push marketing to generate awareness first and then interest.
The restaurant’s Facebook page enjoys some moderate success at first. But because the Facebook algorithm determines which posts are displayed in a user’s newsfeed, relying on the page alone would produce unpredictable results subject to large variance. So, they give ads a try in the hope of reaching potential new customers consistently.
The key to any good plan is doing your homework
They start by conducting some market research: they check out the Facebook pages of some of their competitors and then analyze the results using various tools, such as Fanpage Karma, Quintly, Adespresso and Buzzsumo. They find out that instead of pictures of the team or restaurant, or producing videos, the images that perform best and have the highest interaction rate are simple closeups of burgers.
For their first campaign, they decide to promote the burger of the month: the “Ernst Kuzzorra’s wife’s burger.” Lost? Good. It’s a joke that only a very specific target group would understand—fans of Germany’s lovable losers, soccer club Schalke 04. Kuzzorra played for Schalke from the 1920s to the 1940s and is a club legend. When asked if a stadium could be named after a woman, Johannes Rau, a contemporary German politician, is reported to have said “And what would we name it? Ernst Kuzzorra’s wife’s stadium?”
The Bang-Bang bros first post an appetizing pic of the burger to their Facebook page in January 2015. They place the pic as an ad and target the newsfeed of Facebook users in Gelsenkirchen, who are also Schalke fans. By using terms like former Schalke manager “Rudi Assauer,” Schalke’s second team or fan communities as interest categories, they are able to ensure that only hardcore fans will see the post—and get the joke.
High conversion rates—and customers thanks to the Facebook ad
The approach immediately bears burger-lusting fruit. Consisting of part attention-grabbing image, part pointed copy and part selective targeting, the ads not only reach 42K users, but 2600 of them also interact with it; each click runs the burger crew a mere 7 cents. What’s even more telling, however, is that “on the campaign’s very first day, a bloke came in and said to me ‘I want the exact same burger I saw you guys post on Facebook,’” Kuestner recalls. But they didn’t post a thing—the customer saw the ad.
After the initial taste of success, the three Bang-Bang bros stick with the recipe, targeting a cross-section of users meeting (very) specific criteria: people from Gelsenkirchen with a specific interest, depending on the theme of the featured burger, i.e. Greek or Spanish burger. They keep their advertising expenses low, too; typically allocating €20 a day and anywhere from €200–€250 per month to marketing. They break their target groups into many small segments, differentiating between desktop and mobile users, as well as a given set of interests. Segments that fail to react to the ads are discontinued; the money that was allocated there is moved to a productive segment.
In August 2015, they go all-out, investing several hours in a single motif and splurging on a professional photo shoot for their latest creation, “Dr. Scheppermann.” Over a period of two months, they spend €2,181 on Facebook ads, optimizing them constantly for the duration of the campaign. The move works out, resulting in some 64K users clicking the shiny, new burger pic, while each click costs the Bang-Bang bros an average of three cents.
The exact number of users that clicked the pic and ended up going to the restaurant is unable to be verified. Kuestner says that nearly everyone he spoke to in the restaurant said that they saw them on Facebook.
“Theoretically it is possible to measure the conversion rate by setting up a free WLAN connection in the restaurant,” he says. If a user logs on, they could be renavigated to a landing page marked with a conversion pixel and then in theory be identified as a Facebook user, which could determine if a given customer had actually seen one of the ads. “It was enough for us at first to have a packed restaurant,” Kuestner says. In a single calendar year, the trio flip 30K burgers and turn over €500K.
Next item on the menu: online marketing
In early 2016, Kuestner and Beisenbusch sold off their shares in Bang Bang Burgers, ending their foray into the restaurant business. To hear them tell it, they learned some important lessons from their year in the restaurant biz. “We surely made mistakes at first. We had to learn for ourselves that it takes more than marketing to run a successful restaurant,” Kuestner admits. “Even if a restaurant is completely booked, down to the very last chair, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll be profitable.”
Beisenbusch now runs a law office, while Kuestner and a new business partner founded Social Media Nerds. “I want to completely concentrate on online marketing in the future. In the past years, we learned a lot from others. We are from the SEO sector where is a heightened exchange of information. What we want to do is incorporate this exchange in social media marketing, so that we can give something back to an industry that has provided us with so much inspiration. How this will develop further in the coming months and years is still up in the air.”
No matter how it plays out, the new venture has gotten off to a good start. An article appearing on the Social Media Nerds site, detailing the Facebook strategy behind the success of “Bang Bang Burgers and Beer” has been shared 600 times in just four days. “I’m confident that we’ll have some very interesting articles on relevant industry topics moving forward,” he says. So it would seem that his appetite for success will continue to be his meat and potatoes.