Good content usually focuses not on the restaurant or the food but rather something interesting or helpful to the audience

Good content usually focuses not on the restaurant or the food, but rather something interesting or helpful to the audience.

Content marketing a powerful tool for restaurants

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You’ve heard the term “content marketing” tossed around a lot, but do you fully understand it, and have you looked at the ways it can help your business?

Here, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute and author of Content Inc., defines content marketing and discusses how restaurant operators can leverage it to build lasting, loyal relationships with their customers. Beyond social media posts announcing happy hour discounts, content marketing shares the valuable content your customers crave.

In simple terms, what is content marketing and why should it matter to restaurant owners?

Pulizzi: Content marketing is an approach where the company sends out valuable, compelling and relevant content to a target audience (prospects or customers) on a consistent basis with the hopes of creating a better customer (having them buy more, stay longer as customers, etc.). For restaurants, this is an opportunity to build a more loyal relationship with customers, or grab the attention of prospects. The content is not usually about the restaurant or the food (but can be if educational or entertaining in nature), but focused on something interesting or helpful to the audience.

What are a couple of examples of content marketing that we may recognize?

Pulizzi: Red Bulletin magazine (redbulletin.com) from Red Bull is a men’s lifestyle magazine distributed to millions of men around the world. Van Winkle's (vanwinkles.com) is an educational site provided by Casper (they sell mattresses) that’s dedicated to helping consumers with their sleep. 

How does content marketing differ from social media marketing?

Pulizzi: Social media is mostly used for distribution of content. When you think about content marketing, it's a strategy, not a platform. Creating a "home base" for content marketing may be a blog or a podcast or a video series. Social media could be involved, or it may not be.

How can a restaurant operator use content marketing to improve sales and customer counts?

Pulizzi: Start with a loyalty program where you can send customers something valuable on a regular basis (through print or email). Figure out something that truly differentiates the restaurant (perhaps farm to plate or a sustainability issue that the restaurant supports). I've also seen this done around a charitable cause. This can be done through regular email, blog posts, videos, podcasts, or whatever. Differentiated content sent consistently are the two keys. 

If someone is new to content marketing, what's the easiest way to get started?

Pulizzi: Start small. Focus on one particular audience. Current customers are probably the lowest hanging fruit. Focus on just one content type (textual, audio, video) and one content platform (blog, YouTube, iTunes).   

How will an operator know if content marketing is working?

Pulizzi: I recommend building an opt-in email program as part of the loyalty system. Then you can measure that over time pretty easily as the program matures. It takes about 9-12 months to really start seeing the benefits.

Social media likes and follows reward advertisers with immediate “results.” Are there similar signals or red flags for content marketing? 

Pulizzi: Signals that you are on the right track will at first be qualitative, and possibly seeing people actively share and talk about your content online. If people are not interested in your content, that's a big warning sign.

If you want immediate success, by all means, pay for advertising and interruption. It still can work, but it's very expensive. It also doesn't build a long-term asset or relationship with the audience. Content marketing, if done right, will help you build a long-term relationship with customers that will reap benefits for years.

 

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