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How restaurants can execute a successful marketing strategy

Back in the 50s, all you needed to do was put an open sign in the window and start the grill. Nowadays, the script is written differently. People want to have a good meal, an experience, and a place they can bring their friends and family to make memories.

So, how do you make sure that your restaurant does just that? That’s where your marketing plan comes in, of course. You do have one, right? Well, whether you do or don’t: make sure that your restaurant’s marketing plan includes these 5 elements.

1. Branding: Who are you and what can people expect from you?

Branding may not be a subject you’ve visited, but it’s very important to determine your branding before executing your marketing plan. Take the time to analyze your business from behind the counter and inside the booth. Determine what sets you apart from the competition.

What is your mission? Outline what your business represents and what you want to be known for.  Whether that’s the lasagna or the ceviche – you want to be able to describe what sets you apart. Once you have an idea of who you are, ask yourself who would enjoy the food you put on the table.

Last but not least, use tools like Google Analytics to find your competition and plan your strategy accordingly. What kind of content are they writing? What’s working? What can you do better? Jot a few notes down, you’ll need them later when you start defining the details of your marketing plan. 

2. Direct Marketing: The power of ‘word-of-mouth’

There’s nothing quite like word-of-mouth. Despite the necessary evil of a multi-channel marketing platform, direct marketing and word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful elements a restaurant can have on their site.

Luckily, you don’t have to rely on the local food critic and local clamor alone, which if you’d like to increase the local conversation, why not offer a promo for bringing a friend? If you have social media channels, ask your customers to leave a review. Register your business with Google and allow customers to review your grub hub.

Nearly every mobile user is asking Google what’s to eat and where to shop. The more accessible you make your contact information and reviews, the easier it will be to pick up new customers.

3. Loyalty Programs: Keep them coming back

Everything from gas stations to restaurants are introducing loyalty programs, and for good reason: they work. Whether you opt for a simply punch card that guarantees a free menu item or get a POS system capable of handling email marketing – it’s a brilliant idea to give your customers a reason to return.

You don’t have to go over the edge and you certainly don’t have to give away a $20 meal (unless you want to). Even if it’s something as simple as a free coffee or appetizer, it’s more than enough to incentivize customers who truly enjoy your food to return.

4. Website and social Media: The internet is your friend

If you’re one of the many restaurateurs ignoring the benefits of an online presence, it’s time to toss that ideology to the wayside. Sure, you may not need to deploy a thousand- dollar marketing plan but you do need to make yourself accessible on the internet.

There’s a cell phone in nearly every pant’s pocket in the world right now. Which means your customers are always one search away from finding your restaurant – unless you never bothered to list your business online.

In an ideal situation, you’d have a website and a social media presence. If that’s not quite in the budget- at least sign up for an Instagram or Facebook, both of which can bring customers through the door and give you a chance to reach your customers outside of the restaurant and encourage them to come back.

Once you’ve determined which media platforms you’re going to use to market your restaurant, make a commitment to post, update, or run promotions.  Again- You don’t have to go over the top.  You just need to make sure that you stay consistent (this goes back to your customer’s knowing what to expect from you).

If you’re ready to take your strategy to the top, sit down and create a full restaurant marketing plan and make sure your restaurant pos. You need to have a solid plan before taking on Google and the rules of SEO. Failure to do so can result in traffic blocks, falling rankings, and a lot of wasted PPC money.

5. Email Marketing: Don’t let them get cold

More often than not, customers don’t leave your restaurant with the intention to never return.  If they’re not regulars, they’ve got hundreds of options to sit down to a good meal.  Something as simple an email coupon can be the difference between your restaurant and Olive Garden.

But that’s not the only advantage to start email marketing:

Take your cell phone out of your pocket. Can you read your emails from your phone? If the answer is yes, you already know the value of email marketing. If not, it’s important to note that VentureBeat recently reported that 91% said they enjoy receiving email marketing and promotions when they offer deals and useful information to their lives.

So if you’re not already taking advantage of email marketing, you should be.  Just make sure you the follow the Spam Laws and offer your customers real value.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking to open up shop or take your restaurant to the next level, a solid marketing plan will take you a long way.  Spend the time on creating a solid foundation to build your marketing efforts on and remember, your marketing plan is never set in stone!  You should revisit your marketing plan as much as possible to keep it relevant to your needs as a growing restaurant.

What do you consider to be the most important parts of your marketing plan?  Share your story in the comments.