A little taste of Puerto Rico in Birmingham's vibrant Avondale Neighborhood

Walking into Tropicaleo, you immediately get a sense of the colorful culture of Puerto Rico. It is a small restaurant packed with tons of color and flavor. The food is absolutely delicious with numerous plantain dishes, tender pulled pork, and plenty of sampler options so you can try multiple dishes. If you are not sure what to try, the staff is more than happy to pick out some of the most popular items for you!

If you walk through the restaurant to the back patio, you will be pleasantly surprised by the vibrant murals lining the building’s exterior walls. The restaurant stays open late and frequently has a DJ in the back courtyard playing latin music. The whole scene almost makes you forget that you are in Birmingham, AL. The courtyard backs up to Cahaba Brewery so the owners have made an entrance for customers who want to grab their food while hanging out at the Brewery.


If you haven’t tried Tropicaleo, it is well worth the trip. My personal recommendation- Carne Frita.


The Most Underrated Place to Get a Drink in Birmingham - The Wine Loft

Have you ever just wanted to grab a drink somewhere with a friend or colleague and not have to worry about dealing with crowds, finding a table, or wondering if you’ll even be able to hear each other talk?

Well, if you’re like me, this is something I encounter a lot of the time, but thankfully Birmingham has an amazing spot with an amazing drink selection, delicious food, and an awesome atmosphere.

I’m talking about the The Wine Loft.

Now, I’ll be 100% honest, since I’m not a huge wine drinker I had actually never visited The Wine Loft until a friend asked me to meet them there about a year ago, but to my surprise The Wine Loft not only has an incredible selection of wines, but they have a huge selection of craft beers as well (not to mention some pretty amazing cocktails too). When we were there we tried the food as well which was delicious.

Probably my favorite thing about Wine Loft though is the atmosphere.

 
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The Wine Loft has this sophisticated, yet casual, lounge-like atmosphere. The walls are lined with super comfortable leather couches and coffee tables which makes you feel like you’re drinking and talking with your friends in your own living room (albeit, a much nicer living room). The layout is very spread out which is amazing because I can have a conversation with the person I’m with and actually listen to what they’re saying.

It’s a nice a break from the loud, crowded, “can barely find a table” experience you get at many of the bars or breweries around town.

Since my friend introduced me to Wine Loft, it’s been my go-to place for drinks after work with a colleague, catching up with an old friend, and even first dates.

If you haven’t checked out Wine Loft, you totally should. You’ll be glad you did.

The Cost-Per-Visit Model: The Holy Grail of Marketing For Local Businesses

The cost-per-visit model is something that has been talked about for many years by marketers as the holy grail of marketing models. Numerous companies have attempted to implement this model (most notably Google) but none have done so successfully.

I want to quickly attempt to explain why this model is such a big deal (especially for small, local businesses).

Paid advertising in general (and why small businesses don’t use it)

If you own or manage a local business, there’s no doubt that you do (or did at one point) some sort of paid marketing with the ultimate goal of hopefully driving more traffic into your business.

To determine whether any paid marketing efforts were successful or not is pretty straightforward: you simply add up the total cost of the marketing expense and hope that’s it less than the total amount of profit generated from new customers as a result of said marketing effort.

Pretty straightforward, right?

Well, here’s the problem when it comes to any form of paid marketing for local business:

  • It’s really hard to measure

  • Requires a (usually large) upfront cost

This is why most small, local businesses actually don’t invest in any form of paid marketing even though it could greatly help grow their business. These businesses simply don’t have the cash flow necessary to justify the risk.

Cost-per-visit model (and why it’s so powerful)

The cost-per-visit model fixes both of the issues that have previously prevented small businesses from utilizing paid marketing to grow their business.

With the cost-per-visit model, you only pay if and when a customer actually visits your business as a result of that marketing effort. Not only that, but as the business owner, you actually set your own price (i.e. how much you’re willing to pay for each new customer visit).

With cost-per-visit, there’s no upfront cost, it’s completely risk free, and can be tailored based on each business’s average customer spend.

Also, the cost-per-visit model is completely measurable (it has to be in order to work).

This model is literally a marketer’s dream as it allows a business to spend exactly what it can afford to acquire a new customer with no risk or upfront cost at all.

 
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How Pointz implements the cost-per-visit model

At Pointz, our mission is to simply get more people supporting local businesses, and we are really proud to be one the first companies to implement this model.

We’ve implemented this model at Pointz by giving businesses owners complete control over how many points to offer to customers at any given time and charging them only $0.01 per point of the points that are actually given to a customer.

So with Pointz, it’s completely free for businesses to offer points (no risk, no upfront cost). Businesses only pay when someone comes in, visits their business, spends time, and earns the points.

Since businesses control the points, they control their own cost. It’s that easy.

Conclusion

Older forms of paid advertising are costly, risky, and hard to measure (especially for small, local businesses). The cost-per-visit model fixes all those issues. We are proud to be one on the first companies to successfully implement the cost-per-visit model and bring it to local businesses.

Product Update - New Business Dashboard and Offer Points for Emails

This week we’ve updated the business side of our app with two pretty awesome features that we’re really excited about.

New Business Dashboard

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First off, we completely redid the dashboard for businesses. Now, when business owners/managers open the Pointz app the first thing they will see is a dashboard that gives a simple, but very powerful display of how well Pointz is performing for their business.

With this new dashboard, businesses can easily see how many visits their business has received from Pointz customers over a given time, how long these customers stayed on average, how much they effectively paid for these visits based on the number of points they offered, and how many customer emails they collected (which brings us to our next awesome feature…).

Offer Points for Customer Emails

Businesses can now offer points to users for sharing their email with them.

Many of our local businesses have asked if we can share our users’ email with them and our answer has always been no in order to protect the privacy of our users. Now, however, we have decided to give our users the option of sharing their email with a particular business and not only that, but to earn points for doing so.

The points for emails work the same as visit points (free to offer points, businesses only pay $0.01 per point if someone opts-in). All emails are verified by us first as valid email before users are able to earn points for opt-ing in. Businesses can export emails at any time through the app.

This is a great way for our local businesses to build their email list and strengthen their email marketing campaigns as well as a great way for our users to earn more points.

We love feedback

We’re really excited about both of these features and both of these we’re added solely based on the feedback from local businesses.

We really do listen to all feedback :)

What is a local business (and why you should support them)

Supporting local businesses is something that everyone seems to believe is a good thing, but has anyone ever asked why supporting local businesses is a good thing? And how much good does it do? Furthermore, what determines whether a business is “local” or not?

What is a local business

It turns out determining whether a business is “local” is not so black and white.

At Pointz, when we determine whether a business is “local” we mainly look at two things:

  • Do the owner(s) (or majority of owners) live and operate in that community?

  • Do the profits stay in community?

Now, for many businesses this provides a very clear cut way to determine whether a business is local (and whether you should support them over a non-local business), but there are of course some grey arrays, specifically when considering locally owned franchises.

Why supporting local business is good

 Good People Brewing Company, Birmingham, AL

Good People Brewing Company, Birmingham, AL

Although this might seem obvious to some, the main reason why supporting a local business (instead of a non-local business) is good, is because your money stays in the community (the same community where you eat, work, live, and play).

When you support local businesses, the money you spend ends up going towards roads, schools, hospitals, police, firemen, and so much more.

This doesn’t happen when you decided to support a non-local business.

How to support local businesses

Ask anyone on the street whether they support local businesses or not and more often than not they will say “yes”; but what does it mean to actually say that you support local businesses?

If you say that you support local business, you actively choose (even sometimes when it’s not easy) to eat a local restaurant (instead of going to McDonalds), to join a local gym (instead of Gold’s), to get your hair cut at a local barber or salon (instead of Sports Cuts), or to shop at a local grocer (instead of Walmart).

I’ll admit making these choices to support local business over the competition is sometimes not only less convenient, but also costs a little more money upfront. However, that little bit of extra money goes back into the community, and when combined with a joint effort and time, will not only trickle back down to you, but will also yield a huge investment in the long term.

Conclusion

Supporting local businesses is good. Determining whether the business is “local” is not necessarily clear cut. Everyone says they “support local businesses,” but that doesn’t mean they actually do.

What are Bluetooth beacons and why they're awesome

Bluetooth beacons are small, fairly inexpensive, usually (but not always) battery powered Bluetooth devices that, when used with a mobile app, provide a superior alternative to detect a user's physical location than the traditional, antiquated way of using a mobile device's GPS.

 

Bluetooth Beacons vs GPS

So let's say you have an app that requires you to know a user's particular location at a given time in order to work properly. Furthermore, let's say you want to be able to determine your user's location without them having to do anything (i.e. open the app). You can just use the phone's GPS, right? Sure, but here are the issues...

Battery Drain

Using a phone's GPS to monitor a user's location continually is an incredible drain on battery life. Anyone who uses Google or Apple Maps when traveling knows exactly how much battery this can eat up.

Privacy Invasion

Having an app use GPS to track you at all times is an incredible invasion of privacy. Even if the app developer vows to never sell, store, or misuse your location data, no one wants an app continually monitoring their location everywhere they go.

Limited Accuracy

GPS has a very real limited accuracy. Yes, it can detect what city block you're on and even what place you're at, but it fails when trying to determine what room you’re in or what floor of a building you're currently on.

 

Why Beacons Are Awesome

Beacons are awesome because they solve all of the issues above with GPS. Namely...

Preserve Battery

Unlike GPS, monitoring for Bluetooth beacons has a negligible effect on battery life. The process your phone uses to monitor beacons is exactly similar to the process that monitors your Wifi (ever wonder how your phone immediately connects to your Wifi when you get home?). Beacon monitoring uses a similar process and contrary to popular belief, having your Bluetooth on at all times WILL NOT drain your battery. Don't believe me? Check out the in-depth research our development team has provided on this matter.

Protects Privacy

Perhaps the most important reason why beacons are superior to GPS is that they respect your privacy. Unlike GPS, apps that monitor for Bluetooth beacons ARE NOT continually tracking your location. The only location data they get is when you're near one of the app's beacons.

Much More Accurate

With Bluetooth beacons, you can determine a user's location down to a particular room and/or floor of a building. It's much more accurate than GPS.

 

Beacon Pitfalls

Unfortunately, beacons aren't perfect. Here are the main pitfalls...

Requires hardware

The most obvious limitation to using Bluetooth beacons is that it requires a separate physical device which makes things much more complicated than using a hardware-less GPS. However, the benefits of using beacons make this overhead justifiable in many cases.

Requires same permissions as GPS

This is one of my personal annoyances. Unfortunately, for iOS (i.e. Apple devices), to use Bluetooth beacons you must ask for the same permissions that are used by GPS with no indication to the user about the difference. Given the difference in these technologies, it makes no sense why these should be the same permissions. It would help educate the users and allow for users to let apps monitor Bluetooth beacons without them using GPS in the background. We really hope Apple will change this is the future. 

 

Conclusion

Beacons are awesome. GPS is really bad for monitoring location in the background. Apple should separate the permissions required for GPS monitoring and beacon monitoring.