Nothing is more depressing than seeing a dip in the sales chart or having five or six servers on with no activity whatsoever. We want our business booming – reservations booked full and line-ups at the door!
We must promote ourselves if we want to we fill those seats. If we aren’t marketing, we aren’t bringing in enough customers.
This can be a bit daunting, sure. A lot of us might be thinking, “My focus is on running an efficient restaurant . . . Now I need to learn to advertise?”
The great news is that it doesn’t take much to stay ahead of the crowd. Some restaurants aren’t doing it at all and most that are doing it are doing it wrong.
In a world where everyone is nose-deep into their smartphones, old school marketing tactics like TV commercials, newspaper and magazine ads, even signs in windows or giant banners on the highways are obsolete. The world has shifted to the digital age and we must be willing to follow the trends.
Without learning to market online, our business is bound to fall behind. Here are six methods of digital marketing to keep us ahead of the game.
Ever tried to search for a local restaurant and found nothing but Google Maps coordinates and a phone number? It’s almost as surprising as it is frustrating. Our website is where we represent ourselves online. It’s where people go to find out about our daily specials, menu offers, reservation bookings, pick-up orders, etc.
Of course, on its own, a website is not a marketing tool that will bring massive amounts of customers in, but it is our foundation in this new digital reality and the place where our marketing strategies will lead them.
We might try, for example, vlogs or blogs as a form of free content to drive traffic to our website. Keeping a focus on SEO will keep our rankings high so that it’s more likely our website will show on the first page results of Google.
Just like it is with our restaurant, no one’s going to enter our website if they don’t know about it. PPC advertising is a great way to get our business noticed – every time someone clicks on one of these ads such as with Google AdWords or Facebook Ads, they will be brought to our site.
PPC advertisements can often be filtered so that our ads only show up for certain demographics, locations, and times. We may pay for the clicks, but the price is worth spreading the word and getting more people interested.
Social Media Platforms
Even if we don’t like platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, we must respect them as an incredible means of communication between us and our customers. Since marketing is all about putting our products where the attention is, these platforms are a game changer for us.
Having a Facebook profile, for example, is just as essential as having a website. But, it’s important to realize that merely having one is not marketing – it’s just the beginning.
To utilize it effectively, we want to engage with fans on a regular basis – posting daily and gathering likes, shares, and followers so that our videos, comments, and promotions are ranked higher and seen by more people. And replying to our fans is a must – even celebrities like Taylor Swift reply to their fans!
How great would it be to send out a newsletter whenever we have events, menu changes, or promotions in our restaurant? With free services like MailChimp and AWeber, we can essentially collect a list of email addresses and send out information whenever we want.
The key to email marketing is to entice people somehow to subscribe:
“Subscribe to our email list to stay updated – and receive 15% off an appetizer!”
Once we have our subscribers, we have our audience.
Everyone has a phone and nearly all of us check our texts as soon as we feel the buzz. Thus, mobile marketing is by far the quickest means to reach customers directly and the cost is next to nothing.
While it’s useful for reservations, pickups, and deliveries, it’s also a great way to market for time-sensitive promotions that we want our guests to know about immediately.
Like email and social networking, the key is gathering a list – this time in the form of phone numbers.
Apps like Google Maps and Yelp have been around for a while now and having our business listed ensures we are easy to find and gives us an opportunity to respond to reviews from guests. We should be checking these apps regularly because we want to be replying to all comments, negative or not.
Some apps such as Foursquare and Allset are designed specifically to connect users with restaurants and it’s guaranteed that lots of businesses are not using them. This gives us a huge advantage to promote ourselves and bring in customers who would have otherwise never come through our doors.
Some apps may lose traction while others may rise in popularity. Regardless, marketing is all about testing different strategies and measuring the ROI. Apps are here to stay and by putting effort into them, we are promoting ourselves without spending a dime.
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The question isn’t whether we should market or not; marketing is a must. We just need to market properly – in the areas where people are paying attention. Those areas are all online and it’s not difficult to stand out.
Many restaurants are stuck in the dark ages when it comes to promoting themselves and even those that have shifted to digital marketing are not doing it properly. This gives us an advantage!
The game has changed and it’s an absolute necessity to learn how all of this works so that we can stay ahead of our competitors, fill those