Every business needs to balance its ability to market effectively, while sticking to tight budgets and limited resources. This is even truer for small restaurants. Some enterprising entrepreneurs are finding ways, big and small, to get people talking about their businesses by building relationships with influencers, capitalizing on events and rewarding customer loyalty.
Social media offers a new way to find who is talking about your business and how you can encourage them to do so more often. Monitoring Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and Instagram for positive and negative feedback using their search engines is a quick way to establish a baseline understanding of the market and customer viewpoints. It is also a good way to identify influencers in the community. Influencers may be local bloggers, popular personalities or even customers with a large social following. Some restaurants offer rewards such as free samples of new or seasonal menu items to the most influential individuals in hopes that they’ll share their experience with their social connections.
“PR stunts” are another way to generate reach without a large upfront investment. For example, Smashburger conducted a promotion “for National Burger Day — in which the chain gave away a free Classic Smash to anybody with “burger” or “berger” in his or her last name.” The stunt garnered a lot of attention, and it shows the potential for thinking outside the box.
One of the most effective methods is rewarding your best customers. Loyalty programs that involve active communication across different media, such as geo-targeted text messages, are timelier than emails and increase customer frequency. If done correctly, a new study has shown they are profitable.
“A recent look at a nine-store pizza chain found that customers who joined the chain’s loyalty program were much more likely to make return visits. What we found was, of all the first-time customers who tried the restaurant and joined the loyalty program, 27 percent were back again within a short time period. But for those first time customers who did NOT join the loyalty program, only 12 percent returned once.” writes marketer Duessa Holscher. Not only do they increase frequency, “loyalty customers have a higher ticket price on average even with the discounts.”
Marketing can get even simpler. It comes down to having the fundamentals in place to allow people to talk to each other about your brand easily online and inviting them to do so:
- Consider providing information about online reviews on receipts or table cards
- Ensure information about your restaurant is up to date and accurate on sites like Google and Yelp
- Be active on Facebook and other social media sites with engaging content to keep your restaurant’s biggest fans up to date on new menu items, specials and deals
Marketing doesn’t only take place on TV or in magazines. It can happen every day in the interactions with your customers on and offline. Small restaurants need to not just stand out, but be authentic. Getting customers to be your brand advocates is the best technique to sharing your delicious products.