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Build a better restaurant marketing plan, part 1

To communicate efficiently you’ll need to develop a set of different restaurant marketing materials that you can use when approaching customers, partners, the press or anyone else who comes in contact with your restaurant.  

The best place to start is to make a list of all the different groups with whom the restaurant communicates: customers, the general public, employees, media, the community, press, partners, etc. Realize that each group has specific information needs. The message is always the same, although tweaked for each group; but the approach and details will clearly be different for customers than for your partners, different for the media than for your employees.

Carry your marketing materials with you wherever you go: to parties, to the doctor’s office, to pick up your kids at school. You’d be surprised at how many times a day the opportunity to communicate about your business arises. I’ve seen successful business owners hand out flyers to everyone they meet. It’s amazing how effective a hand-delivered flyer is. And, of course, a flyer in the hands of one person who tries your restaurant and is happy is the equivalent of many flyers.  

Think creatively to keep your business top of mind. Your customers may love your restaurant, but with their busy lives they may simply just forget about it. A little reminder is always a good thing. Don’t discount simple actions such as putting flyers in mailboxes and placing magnetic signs on the doors of your cars. Use every opportunity you have, even in your own establishment—in the waiting areas, in the parking lot or in your own publications.

Keys to successful marketing materials

When developing marketing materials, keep the following points in mind:

• Review of your marketing materials. Are they benefits and not feature based? Are you keeping your customer in mind? Do you know what the three main benefits are for your consumer? Find this out and then put them into all marketing materials. Anything you write should mention a benefit for the customer in every paragraph.

• Emulate highly successful companies and “work the brand” to own a word or phrase in the customer’s mind: Dominos Pizza = home delivery, Apple = cool technology, Mercedes = engineering. What would your business’s one word be?

• Use customer feedback to make your materials speak the audience’s language. Repeat their own words back to them.

• Use the following formula for any advertisements or flyers and if writing is not your thing, consider getting some professional copywriting help. It’s worth the money to get your message right.

1. State the customer’s problem, showing you understand his or her issues: “Bored with all those cookie-cutter restaurants?” “Looking for a restaurant with a little something different?”

2. Paint an image of the customer’s life when the problem is solved: “Your girl will love you after a date at Hippos.”

3. What path does the customer have to follow to get to this solution? “Just come down to Lola’s Bistro on Main Street for the perfect meal.”

4. All marketing must have a specific call to action. “Call 222-222-2222 and make a reservation.”

5. Have a clear no-risk guarantee. “You’ll be delighted with your meal, or you don’t pay.”

• Have testimonials from satisfied customers in all materials.

• Be creative: consider expanding your business card into a bigger format with some referrals, or put a short article from an important newspaper on the back of your flyer.

• Never skimp on quality. Image is important, and your audience will form an image of your restaurant in the first few minutes based on such arbitrary things as the paper quality of your flyers. No matter what your restaurant is like, you’ll want your customer to feel that he is in the hands of a professional. One could argue that the look and feel of your documentation is as important as the content.  In reality, many people only read the salient points of most documentation, but they do form a lasting opinion from the look of it.

Make sure that your restaurant marketing materials represent the restaurant as well as you do, and can do so on their own.

Part 2: All the elements of a marketing kit.

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