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Everyday, around noon, the average person is searching for a midday snack, and at around five p.m., hungry patrons again begin seeking a cure for their grumbling tummies. With one swipe of their mobile device, or just a click on a computer, a decision can be made in seconds.
If this is all happening online, why are restaurant owners and managers still using old school marketing strategies that don't work and are unable to track success? Instead, restaurants, like any other business, should start harnessing the Inbound Methodology.
The Inbound Methodology of eating is simply:
- Stranger searches Google for a place to grab a bite (attracting the visitor)
- They find your restaurant online (converting them into a lead)
- They like what they see, so they show up (closing them into a customer)
- Their experience was awesome (delighting them into a promoter)
Marketing has switched from being seller-based to being buyer-based. The buyer has all the research material they need, in the palm of their hand. In 2017 there is an estimated 222.9 million smartphone users in the US. For restaurants, customers are not using mail coupons anymore. Technology has changed the game for marketing, but many restaurants have not stepped up to the plate to harness the power of these new methods. How? Inbound Marketing.
Inbound marketing is about transitioning the focus to buyer-based marketing, by using education, entertainment and giving the visitor exactly what they’re searching for.
These 7 tips will help your restaurant thrive by utilizing the Inbound Methodology best practices:
1. Utilize Yelp, Zomato, Restaurant.com, and Trip Advisor
These are free forms of marketing! Encourage reviews! Entice your guests with a free appetizer or dessert if they leave a review! Another way to get reviews is by creating a contest for your employees. See who can get the most positive reviews on one platform, as an incentive, offer a prize for the winner (a bottle of wine or a gift card are both crowd pleasers).
Competition fuels staff to push for reviews! These expert reviews are an awesome tool to receive testimonials on your website! Not only does this create a fun working environment, but you're opening up communication with the guest, and not giving away a lot of product! Many managers are scared of "bad" reviews. You just can’t avoid eventually getting one, and that’s OK. Sometimes, you’ll actually learn something you were unaware of. Always fix the problem and address the reviewer publicly. Ask them to call in and talk about the issue offline, then encourage them to come back in and make it right!
2. Get a website
A fully functioning professional website is a must! Your website should match the theme of your restaurant. Professional pictures are key here, to show off your food and cocktails. Your website is a first impression of your venue, so it must make a strong statement and clearly define your brand.
Make sure you utilize images, hours of operation, specials, full menu, Opentable (advised), reservations, a place to order and a portal to pay on the site. Track your traffic, it's a good way to see how guests are getting to your site. Is it through blog posts on social media? And who's coming to your site? Knowing these answers will help you to target the right people. Tools like Hubspot help you to easily keep track of these metrics.
3. Be active on Social Media
- Be active and post frequently! There are hundreds of fun ways to create an active presence on your social platforms.
- Choose the right platform for your audience. You don't have to be on every channel in social media, just pick a few and put all your efforts in those.
- Post videos! Videos are big in social media in 2017, go live! Post pictures of food, drinks and even regulars having fun! You can also post recipes of popular items, and cocktails. Showcase star employees and tell stories! Use any strategy to get people to engage with your brand!
- Use social media to keep track of people talking about your restaurant. What are they saying and why? Make them feel special, comment back and open up the communication.
- Always link your social media to the website! Make sure that your site is accessible for all mobile devices.
Create an email list or rewards program to get guest excited to come back. Use email to engage with website visitors using promotional items or discounts. Tell people about specials that week, ladies night, college night, extended happy hour etc. Email your patrons for their birthdays and anniversaries. It's a great way entice them into choosing your restaurant for their special day.
5. Optimize your site
Optimize your site so it has the best chance of being clicked on! Make sure you are optimized for local searches and Google business. Google business is included with analytics, and using this tool can keep track of views, clicks, and even those patrons that are getting directions to find you. Another good way to get strong traffic is through keywords. Utilize keywords to strengthen your Google search. Make sure you name any pictures after your keywords so that Google can recognize them in searches.
6. Target the right audience
Create a buyer persona for your ideal patron. Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers. They are based on real data about customer demographics and online behavior, along with educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns. Who comes to your restaurant? If you're running a cocktail lounge, you're not going to be marketing towards the same clientele as a family restaurant. That affects what social media platform you would be using Facebook, Linkedin, and Snap-Chat are typically three different buyer personas.
7. There's an app for that
Yelp, Foursquare, Eat24, Urbanspoon, Opentable, Localeats, Zagat, Dining Grades, Find.Eat.Drink, and Restaurant Finder, are all apps that can help increase traffic to your restaurant. Many patrons use these apps to look at specials, happy hour times, menu items, and even general information about restaurants before making their decision. Open Table, for example, even lets you put in a reservation for the time and date, without even having to call the restaurant. Many restaurants in the area are utilizing this tool, such as Connors Steak House, Cru, Thistle Lodge, The Verandah, Twisted Vine Bistro, The Edison, and more! OpenTable is an online real-time restaurant reservation service. Open Table is, in essence, a digital hostess. According to the company, it provides online reservations for about 31,000 restaurants around the world and seats about 15 million diners a month. Many of these apps also review and rate restaurants in your area. Make sure you're on the popular ones and actively keeping up with the reviews.