There are some very empty restaurants out there serving good food. There are also some very crowded restaurants serving OK food. Why are some restaurants busier than others? Did they hire a restaurant marketing company? What’s their secret restaurant marketing sauce?
Just as there are many flavors of ice cream, there are many flavors of restaurant marketing. When it comes to marketing a restaurant, there’s a particularly effective flavor, called Storytelling. Restaurant marketing ideas, trends and strategies are helpful, but the secret sauce to powerful restaurant marketing is about great storytelling.
Great food and great beer is a pre-requisite. But what does your restaurant offer that others don’t. Marketers call this your unique selling proposition, or USP. Forget about “lowest price” or “best quality”, how are you REALLY different? The best points of difference are remarkably subtle.
Shaping perceptions in the mind of the customer base is where many restaurant owners tend to get lazy. Smart bar owners are constantly focusing on their points of difference and storytelling in a smart way to win over the influencers.
Not all bar flys are created equal.
There are two types of bar flys. You want the “influencer” type. Not the loner type. Influencers are the cool kids…the class clowns. They typically have a large influence over a large circle of friends in close proximity to the bar. Usually these influencer type bar flys are great storytellers.
Last year, I spoke to a bar owner who estimated that his “influencer” bar fly added $100,000+ to his bottom line at year end. (This puts the cost of working with a marketing agency into perspective. )
What’s your restaurants story? What do you stand for? Are you clear about it? Is your staff clear? It’s true you can’t be all things to all people, so don’t try. However, certain brand traits are non divisive and appeal to the majority without diluting the brand. For example, are you supportive of animal shelters? (animal loving bar flys) Do you love bicycling? (bicycle loving bar flys) Do you provide free, helpful information about the local music events in town? (music loving bar flys). A professional marketing agency can help you gain clarity.
How do I market my restaurant cost effectively?
After clearly defining your brand, it’s time to choose a “platform” from which you can speak your brand messages. Let’s talk about communicating those points of difference to the masses. I’m not talking bumper stickers people!
Unless you’re a chain, direct mail, radio, television are often too expensive. Locally owned restaurants owners are competing on a different level. Smaller fish need to swim faster with a sophisticated social media, SEO and web marketing plan to stay competitive.
Social media, search engine optimization and email marketing are newer, better, more cost effective ways to spread the word. By using these lower cost online marketing platforms to communicate your unique selling proposition, bar profits, and bar flys will increase.
Advanced restaurant marketing plans require critical thinking sessions with a marketing consultant every week. The world of online marketing moves fast and staying current is crucial to success. The marketing consultant should ideally have a degree in marketing and many years of experience in the field. Testimonials are a good indicator of their track record.
“Break the illusion of separation with your customer base, one story at a time.”
The best restaurant marketing ideas tell stories about the people who work there, about the food, the patrons, the thinking behind the food. Like any good story, these are elements that help potential customers identify in some way with the restaurant. More connections = more likability.
Facebook just happens to be one of the easiest, and most effective platforms for storytelling in 2013. So USE IT! However, keep away from political commentary. Restaurateurs making divisive political comments on Facebook or Twitter will lose more customers than they make.
Local SEO with keyword research, directory submissions and reviews are three additional focus areas for restaurant owners. These are specialized marketing tactics that restaurant owners should consider allowing professional marketers to help with every month. Staying competitive in business requires specialization of roles to keep operations running smoothly.
Optimize your web site for local search keywords your customers, and tourists, type into Google when searching for your business. Use your blog to add value to the reader. Websites aren’t just for large companies; now more than ever, small local businesses are realizing the importance of having a website and implementing an Internet marketing strategy. Engage in local SEO practices and be sure you get a keyword research report from a reliable online marketing company before you start optimizing your site.
Internet directories are the new yellow pages. Since the internet is the #1 place people go to find a restaurant now, it makes sense to get listed in as many local directories as possible. There are 100’s of local directories in your area – find them and get listed.
Yelp and Google reviews are the black swans for restaurant owners today. Online restaurant restaurant reviews are perhaps the most overlooked area of restaurant marketing today. It’s important to get creative and find ways to increase the number of positive reviews on Google Plus and Yelp. Consider teaming up with local food bloggers and turn them into brand ambassadors. Woo local food bloggers into reviewing your restaurant in return for a free meal. The back links will increase Google rankings, and the positive review will help your reputation.
Grow your email database and you’ll grow your restaurant business. Compared to direct marketing, email marketing is a less expensive way to stay top of mind with those bar flys. Keep customers informed with educational, entertaining, engaging information through your email newsletter every month, tie the content into social media and blog.
Restaurants need to market themselves – how they tell their story and explain why customers should give them a try is critical to long term success. Restaurants need to communicate consistently and creatively to their audience, and not go broke in the process. Get with a smart marketing company that’s familiar with the low cost, effective marketing tools and tactics. There are literally 100’s of no cost ways to market a business with the internet today. Learn them, and execute consistently.
Can I do it all by myself?
Can you cut your hair all by yourself? Well maybe yes, but how do you think it will turn out? Smart bar owners stay focused on what they do best, running the bar, and let a professional marketer do what they do best, shaping perceptions and winning the influencers.
Execution is everything. A tennis player does not have time to stop mid swing and figure out how to swing the racket. You have to go fast and stay consistent each month with your messaging. Brand building is all about being ubiquitous in the mind of the customer base.
The need to improve perceptions about your restaurant hasn’t changed, but the mediums for doing so have changed dramatically in recent years (social media, blogging, email marketing, SEO press releases, online reviews). Smart bar owners are using these new mediums to “influence the influencers” with smart brand messages.
Always remember, you could have a better product or service than your competitor, but if they’re telling a better story than you are, they’ll outsell you all year long. It’s all about GREAT storytelling. This is an ancient truth in marketing, and it’s especially relevant for restaurants and bars.
Above all, stay consistent with your marketing every month and your restaurant business will be more successful this year. Good luck, and here’s to capturing more market share and more bar flys in 2013.