“How do I use the internet to attract more customers?” is one of the most frequent questions asked by restaurant and bar owners. Listing services like Google Places can help restaurants get found on Google. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare and Yelp allow for discovery and interaction. Websites like Seamless, GrubHub, FoodToEat and Delivery.com help drive to-go and pick-up orders. Restaurants who take reservations can do so with Open Table. Ordr.in, SinglePlatform and OpenMenu help syndicate a restaurant’s content to multiple services.
Listing services and online ordering websites have generally been considered the basics, but now restaurants increasingly see email marketing campaigns, specifically daily deal websites, as effective marketing tools, says new research released by the National Restaurant Association. The study, which was funded by an unrestricted research grant from daily deal site LivingSocial, evaluated current restaurant marketing approaches and consumer insights related to existing marketing tools.
The following is a summary of their findings from a QSRWeb.com article on the study:
Online marketing can elevate a restaurant’s brand and attract new customers.
- Restaurants that use online marketing (emails from restaurants, emails from a daily deal provider and websites) tend to be viewed by consumers as modern (67 percent emails, 59 percent daily deals, 65 percent websites) and popular (63 percent, 59 percent, 63 percent).
- Restaurant operators perceive websites (90 percent), TV ads (87 percent), social media (84 percent), restaurant emails (82 percent), and daily deals (77 percent) as effective in bringing in new customers.
Customized marketing messages that address a consumer’s preferences result in more sales.
- Consumers and operators agree on the importance of savings in customized messaging: 87 percent of consumers would go to or order from a restaurant if provided with a savings offer; and 95 percent of operators perceive savings offers to be an effective marketing tool.
- Consumers would go to or order from a restaurant if they received customized marketing messages that referenced past restaurant patronage (68 percent), allowed them to make reservations (66 percent), and identified them by name (64 percent).
Restaurants understand what marketing tools work; they just need to implement them.
- 84 percent of restaurant operators consider restaurant-specific marketing emails to be effective in increasing revenue for their restaurants, and 78 percent of consumers said an email from a restaurant would motivate them to go to that restaurant. In addition, 63 percent of restaurant operators say they plan to use such emails in the next year.
- 78 percent of restaurant operators consider daily deals to be effective in increasing revenue for their restaurants, and 69 percent of consumers said an email from a daily deal provider would motivate them to go to the restaurant featured in the daily deal. In addition, 40 percent of operators say they plan to work with a daily deal provider in the next year.
Consumers are very sensitive to social media and Internet advertising.
- Consumers perceive the least effective efforts to entice them to go to a restaurant include online advertisements (58 percent), social media (56 percent), and radio ads (56 percent).
As a bar owner and someone who helps bars and restaurants create daily deals that are optimal for their brand, I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing these deals. For restaurants and bars, the appeal is to gain new customers through exposure to a daily deal company’s massive list of subscribers. In return for this exposure, deal companies take a cut of the sale before handing the “new” customer over to the small business.
While this study makes the case for why restaurants should invest in daily deals, how many subscribers actually spend time looking at any of the reported 836 daily deal emails they might be subscribed to? And of that number, how many actually turn into repeat customers? In all likelihood, not many. I know I delete most of the daily deal emails in my inbox, which you can read more about on my personal blog, Burger Conquest.
“Finding the right marketing mix is crucial to success in the restaurant industry,” commented James Balda, chief marketing and communications officer of the National Restaurant Association, in the QSRweb.com article on the study.
I agree. Nothing could be more true, but relying on daily deal email marketing campaigns to increase profits is only effective in attracting new, repeat customers when used correctly. If the establishment doesn’t “wow” new customers with their services, and find ways to re-engage them for future dining experiences, it’s a loss.
I always recommend restaurants connect directly with these new customers and drive future engagement through social media, in combination with offers and other digital campaigns. A nice push from a 3rd party email marketing partner is a good thing to do 1 to 4 times a year, depending on a restaurant’s particular needs. But it’s important to make sure the restaurant is branded properly, and that they are not losing too much money per customer.
Once a customer is in the door, future engagement can be accomplished through a restaurant’s social networks or newsletter. Still, knowing which platforms to use and when is the key. My suggestion is to start by looking at the best practices to setting-up and using Google Places, Yelp, FourSquare and Twitter I’ve created called “The Rev Meter for Social Community.”
The QSRweb.com article claims that restaurant owners are overwhelmed with the marketing options available, which is likely because the majority don’t have a marketing or social media background. Taking the time to learn how to use and maintain these tools can feel cumbersome. This is one reason why daily deal sites can feel like a viable option- they take the maintenance out of the restaurant owners hands.
But that is a lazy, lazy, lazy way to operate. If you are going to own and run a bar or restaurant, you should commit the same effort to marketing that you would service and product or hire someone who can! FYI – I am available to help you!