Regardless of what kind of restaurant you own and how long it’s existed, I’m sure you have frequently thought about the different marketing methods you could use to effectively drive sales and get more customers through your doors.
Maybe you’ve exhausted all traditional outbound marketing methods. You know – the ads in print/radio/television, the coupons in direct mail pieces, the key chains and koozies you hand out at festivals and fairs, etc. I’m not saying that outbound marketing doesn’t work – it does for a certain audience. Generally speaking, the older the customer, the better chance you have of getting them into your restaurant or business through outbound marketing methods. This is really just because the older generation – I sometimes call them the “yellow pages generation” – is used to this form of marketing. So if they’re looking for a restaurant to dine at with their friends this weekend, they’re more likely to flip through newspaper ads or direct mail flyers.
But that’s enough about outbound marketing. What about inbound marketing, and how can you use it to bring new energy into your restaurant?
Let me give you a great example of how one locally-owned restaurant right up the street is using inbound marketing to absolutely dominate the neighborhood dining scene (many of my local readers will know right away exactly which restaurant I’m talking about).
1) They highlight the staff by telling their stories on social media. You know how you always see the same server or bartender every time you go into your favorite restaurant, but you’re not really sure what their background is? This restaurant spotlights one of their staff members each week on Facebook and even posts a picture of them as a baby/child, and then talks about what local high school they attended, where they played little league, what hobbies/interests they’re passionate about, etc. It really adds personality to the restaurant – and to all the frequent visitors (myself included), this is a very valuable creative marketing technique.
2) The use a trivia question to get people in the restaurant. One day a week they host trivia night, and as an incentive to get people to attend, they post a question early on in the day and everyone who answers correctly is entered to win a free appetizer or dessert. The only little catch? Those who answered correctly must be present at trivia night in order to be eligible for the free app or dessert. It’s brilliant.
3) They’re proud to show off their community spirit. From high school reunions to fundraisers for local schools, they not only host these events – they highlight them with photos, videos, press and more on their social media channels.
4) They connect and partner with other local businesses. The restaurant just recently teamed up with several local wedding vendors to host their first-annual bridal expo. What a fantastic way to get a very specific demographic (brides) into their doors to learn about how the restaurant can help them with catering, rehearsal dinners, cakes, signature drinks, etc.
5) They engage with their customers. If you came from way out of town just to dine at their restaurant, or if you’re celebrating a super significant occasion, then they’ll take your picture and highlight you on their social media pages. Again, just another cool little trait to add personality.
6) They don’t overly promote menu specials. Many restaurants don’t know what to post on their social media pages, so their go-to is usually just something along the lines of “Check out what our soup of the day is!” or “Happy hour starts at 4!! Come on in for half-price domestics and rails!” Blah, blah, blah. People get tired of this. Only post your specials when they are in fact really, really special.
Basically, restaurants can no longer afford to ignore inbound marketing. We live in a world that is completely immersed in social media, smartphones and mobile apps, and it’s no question that the millennial generation uses each of these tools to check out and keep up with your restaurant. Make sure your presence on these platforms provides something valuable – something your customer will actually return to. After all, as a restaurant, you want to provide an experience – one that delivers so highly that it leaves an impression on your guest. That’s what it’s all about anyway, right?
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all inbound marketing plan that works for every restaurant, café, eatery, etc. Each strategy requires a little creativity, a lot of enthusiasm and definitely a good bit of knowledge about your customers. Need help coming up with some ideas? Let’s chat.
For the last decade, Hayley has been leaving her mark creatively on small, independently-owned businesses through editorial- and design-based marketing strategies. As a believer in the art of storytelling and the influence of a strong brand, her goal is to unlock the value that all small businesses possess and use it to their advantage using creative, strategic marketing methods.