Where are your customers and would-be customers right now? They’re online. It’s where they hear about restaurants, read reviews, book tables and write their own reviews for the whole dining-out world to see.
Restaurants have always depended on word of mouth to stay booked, full and profitable – and today is no different. But to supercharge that word of mouth, you have to take advantage of the web’s most basic, yet very powerful tools. Yes, it can be intimidating, especially if you don’t have a bushel-full of money to hire a talented digital firm to do the work for you. But it doesn’t take a degree in computer science; it doesn’t take a lot (or in most cases any) money. In fact, we can show you just three simple tricks to help you get started.
1. Build and leverage a database of fans.
Ask your customers to join your VIP list. Get names and emails. And promise something of value each time you send an email. This could be a discount on special occasions, bring-a-friend for free, anything that adds value and prompts a repeat visit. Then, email regularly – not too often, not to infrequently. Always offer something of value. And ask people to bring or refer the offer to friends.
2. Email marketing for dummies.
Once you have your database, you need an email provider to help your emails look slick and professional – try Mailchimp (), iContact, and Emma.
Next, compose an offer – mix it up between these and others:
• VIP specials
• New-restaurant locations
• Send-to-a-friend promotions
• New menu items
• Health or nutrition features
• Community or charity involvement
• Meet the chef
• Catering information
• Holiday events or specials
• Birthday or anniversary promotions
And remember, don’t just send out one email and never do it again – do it again, every month for instance. It’ll work.
3. Set up a Yelp page.
There are many local-search sites that give people the chance to review and share their favorite local businesses. Yelp is at the top of our list, especially for those who are just beginning.
To create your free business owner account on Yelp, visit www.yelp.com/business. Complete your business profile by adding detailed information about your business hours, specialties, history, etc. You can also add an image of your menu, as well as images of your food, storefront or restaurant interior if you choose (but make sure they look good). Use Yelp to promote discounts and offers and to let people know about special events.
There you have it – baby steps. For more information, Google “online, restaurant marketing” for lots of sites that may or may not be free. For an all-in-one resource, order How to Kick *$$ Online by noted restaurant experts Xylem Digital. Or if you have that bushel-full of money, find and hire a digital agency that can do all this, and much more – for you. Good luck.