10 Commandments of Promotional Marketing
Oh ye of little faith. If you’re a small, independent restaurant, you’re probably convinced you can’t possibly compete in the marketing arena against those big chains with their huge ad budgets and big-time ad agencies.
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
In my 15-plus years as a developer of marketing programs for local merchants, I’ve helped many independents make it amidst a crowded local restaurant scene. And while there is no shortage of good ideas out there, those ideas can all be organized around a few key marketing principles every restaurant owner or manager should know. Master them, and you can compete against anyone, big or small.
Using the disciplines outlined here, your establishment can attract new customers, regain lost ones, generate referrals, increase per-table sales, stimulate repeat visits, build customer loyalty and much more. I call them The 10 Commandments of Promotional Marketing:
1. TAKE YOUR CUSTOMER’S POINT OF VIEW. When you promote your business, whether in brochures, on table tents, or in a direct mailing, lead with what’s in it for your customer — not for you. Don’t say, “Buy one, get one free”; instead say, “Get one free with every purchase.” People deal in their own self-interest. Make sure your offers reflect that fact.
2. MARKET TO YOUR CURRENT CUSTOMERS. Every day scores of people enter your establishment who have already made the decision to buy from you. These are pre-sold, active customers. Allowing them to exit without asking for personal information — especially a street or email address — is a big mistake.
3. BE THE HOMETOWN FAVORITE. It’s a fact that people have a soft spot for neighborhood merchants who support local causes. Sponsor a community event. Donate food for a good cause. Tell your local little league that any winning team showing up at your door in its entirety for ice cream will receive extra scoops for free. Your support and good will, expressed in ways that are important to your community, will make your restaurant the go-to place in town.
4. GIVE AWAY YOUR PRODUCT. Have you ever considered that giving a 100 percent discount one time, may be more valuable in the long run than a 10 percent discount offered on 10 occasions? Free meals to new neighbors and frequent diners are excellent examples.
5. PRACTICE “FOUR WALLS” MARKETING. Every area of your restaurant should be well thought out as to how it will promote your product. This gets people to spend more at each visit.
6. BE OUTRAGEOUS. Wow your customers. Give them a customer experience so unique, so compelling, that they can’t resist coming back.
7. CREATE A SWIPE FILE. The old saying, “If you can’t think of a good idea, steal one,” isn’t unprincipled when it comes to marketing. Hang onto ads or direct mail pieces that catch your eye.
8. TRACK EVERY CAMPAIGN YOU RUN. Ask your new customers how they heard about you, to find out if your ads are working. Whenever you run a promotion, collect the coupons or certificates along with daypart and party size data. Keep a pad or clipboard by the phone to record information. It’s the only way to know which efforts are making you money—and which aren’t.
9. DON’T BE THE COUPON KING. While sampling, discounting and gifting all work well to promote product trial, you must be careful not to overdo it and create a “discounter” image. If you do, your customers will simply become hooked on coupons and wait for the next one to come along. In the meantime your sales and profit opportunities suffer.
10. IF YOU HIRE PROFESSIONALS, HIRE PROVEN WINNERS. If you’re convinced you need advertising or PR agency help, that’s fine. But don’t be fooled by slick presentations. Check references to ensure that the agency or consultant has a track record of success in the restaurant field. Otherwise you’ll likely be throwing your money away.
As a small independent, you have to base your decisions on what will generate a solid return. Demand results from every marketing effort you undertake, and you’ll find your money well spent.
JAY SIFF is a principal of Moving Targets (www.movingtargets.com), a Perkasie, Pa.-based provider of new resident direct marketing programs for small business. Jay can be reached at (800) 926-2451 or firstname.lastname@example.org.