The restaurant industry is insanely competitive. It's part of the reason why 60 percent of restaurants fail within the first three years. It's tough to make it in the restaurant industry. This is why it's crucial to have a smart marketing strategy. So, how do you improve your marketing strategy? Well, here are seven tips for marketing your restaurant online that you can start doing today.
1. Have a “brand-aid.”
Too often, restaurants are haunted by bad reviews online
. Whether they’re legitimate or not, bad reviews are costing your business money.
The overwhelming majority (70 percent) of people trust the opinions of other customers posted online
. And with the restaurant industry being one of the most highly scrutinized ("My coffee was too hot."),
you’re definitely going to deal with a public relations crisis from time to time. That’s okay.
Here’s the secret to crisis management – don’t let the bad get any worse. Public relations experts have different methods of managing these situations, but they will all agree that the first step in crisis management is to minimize the damage.
Here’s the problem though, you can’t put out the fire if you never see the smoke. This is why it’s crucial to have a reputation management strategy in place. We’re partial to our reputation management and review marketing software
, Renown, but the idea is that you have to monitor the most popular online review sites in your industry.
You need to practice the “first responder” method. This method has two simple steps.
1. Have a strategy or tool in place that will instantly alert you of all new online reviews about your restaurant.
2. Make it someone’s responsibility to respond to negative reviews in a kind and professional manner (you have to take the emotion out of it).
Imagine the effect of having a negative review sitting idle for months compared to one that is quickly and professionally responded to.
2. Have a mobile-friendly menu.
If you own a restaurant, consumers are only visiting your site for a few reasons. They want to know what time you’re open, they want to know if they can make reservations online and most importantly, they want to look at your menu.
In fact, 80 percent of consumers
think it’s important to see a menu before dining at a restaurant. Most consumers are comparing your menu to others before making a decision. If your website doesn’t have a menu, then it’s about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
And don’t think you can take any shortcuts when adding your menu to your website. It needs to be mobile-friendly. Sixty-two percent of consumers
say they are less likely to choose a restaurant if they can’t read the menu on their smartphone. This means there is no screen pinching, device turning or eye squinting required.
3. Create connections with your customers.
A brand is often a difficult concept to describe. Sure, there are standard elements of a brand (logos, colors, fonts, etc.) but the most powerful form of branding is the mastery of a positive and repeatable consumer experience.
When it comes to your restaurant, you (the owner) are an instrumental part of the brand. Embrace this opportunity by being the best ambassador of your brand (and restaurant) that you can be. Be present whenever you can. Pay a visit to your customers and ask how their food and service has been. If you can make their dining experience just a little bit better then you are doing your job.
By creating connections with your customers, you are creating loyalty to your restaurant. It’s six to seven times more expensive
to acquire a new customer than keep a current one. Don’t ignore the customers sitting in your restaurant right now because you’re thinking about the ones that aren’t there yet. The key to your restaurant’s sustained success is the customer that just placed an order.
4. Stay loyal to local.
Consumers want to support local businesses. Make it easier for them by investing in a local search marketing strategy. Eighty-five percent of consumers
use the Internet to find local businesses. Don’t neglect this valuable marketing space and let the large chains slip in and dominate it.
Your local community is your target audience. Embrace the community by being an active part of it. Seek out opportunities to represent your restaurant at festivals and other cultural events. Sponsor a local youth sports team and form partnerships with other local businesses. It doesn't matter how you get involved with the community, it just matters that you're doing it.
Free Marketing Guide: The Small Business's Guide to Local Search Marketing
5. Offer free Wi-Fi.
It amazes me that more businesses don’t offer free Wi-Fi to their customers. It’s a relatively small investment that can provide a substantial return for your business. Here are three reasons for investing in free Wi-Fi.
1. It creates a more enjoyable experience:
Want your customers to spend more time in your restaurant? Give them free Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi allows your customers to easily browse their favorite social platforms and check email while they’re waiting on their order. By having some of the same comforts as home, customers are relaxed and more likely to enjoy themselves. It also demonstrates that you are putting their needs first which builds customer loyalty.
2. It creates more social media buzz:
Want more tweets, Instagrams
and check-ins? Make it easier for your customers to access social media platforms with free Wi-Fi. Some restaurants discourage their customers from taking “food pics,” which is quite unbelievable to me. If your customers are willing to give you free press, take it. Encourage your customers to tag your restaurant in their posts. Take it one step further by marketing an official hashtag on your menu or coasters. This will help increase brand awareness and social followers.
3. You can collect customer information:
When using a public Wi-Fi network, it’s fairly common to provide an email address and agree to terms of service in order to gain access. It’s a small price to pay if you're trying to save that valuable data. By having Wi-Fi gated in this manner, you can collect email addresses and quickly grow your email marketing list. Now all you need to do is email a coupon or an offer that brings them back to your restaurant again.
6. Find your niche (and market the crap out of it).
Your restaurant probably does a lot of things well, but what does it do better than everyone else? What is that signature dish that everyone loves? Why is your happy hour deal so darn irresistible? Why is your service always so quick?
Do you see what I’m getting at?
It’s okay to try to do everything well (you should), but what does your business do remarkably well? Figure out what you can be the best at and don’t stop until everyone knows. Use your website, local listings, email list and social media pages to keep reminding your customers what it is that makes you so great.
7. Don’t let the experience end with the bill.
Your customers are worth a lot more than the dinner bills they just paid. If you provide your customers with an enjoyable experience, then they can become a valuable brand advocate for you. But you have to remind them about their experience by marketing to them after they visit.
Find different strategies for collecting your customers’ email addresses and follow up with them about their dining experience. Ask them to fill out a survey or leave a review. Whatever you do, make your customers feel valued. On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase
. Doesn’t $279.80 sound better than $27.98?
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