Restaurant Marketing in 2009 – Modern Systems and Tactics That Work

I am going to review what is traditionally done and how we can improve on that for 2009; and also how we can implement new ways of promoting our businesses that cost less than traditional media and are a lot more effective.
Newspaper ads 
Most print advertising is a waste of money. That is a fact, you can do better with your money else where. Publications will tell you that your competition is in so you should be, and they will tell you that they are read by x y and z. But at the end of the day this form of advertising is hard to track and very hard to get clear results from. This is how they manage to keep selling it; its hard to show that it does not work and it is traditionally what everybody does. I say it’s time for a change; it’s time to try new tactics for a new age – the information age. Below I go into more detail but lets get back to those print publications for a moment.  
Times are hard but they are harder for those selling advertising so expect a discount and always ask for 50% off the rate card. At the beginning of 2009 I ran a campaign in the Mail and the Mail on Sunday that ran for 5 weeks, in Friday’s Mail and Sunday’s and cost less than £200 per week. I got my offer in front of over 8 million pairs of eyeballs a week.   Now it was a small ad but none the less the numbers soon stack up and the results were well worth the cost. So negotiate and haggle for the best possible deal and then you will get the best return on your investment. One of the reasons that newspaper and magazine advertising is less attractive is the lack of tracking that you can implement. How do you know that people who come to your restaurant have come from a particular advert? With other businesses you can do things like give a 0871 number which diverts to your normal line but that you can monitor the number of calls.  
When you take bookings on the phone you can ask if someone has responded to an advert or how they came to ring you, but results are often difficult to collate and staff often forget to ask.   To have a truly effective campaign you need really good ad copy and you need to test which variants of the copy work the best and to which audience. With my Mail adverts I ran different adverts on different days to see the results; I had to find out if one advert worked better in the Sunday paper than in the Friday one or did one advert out perform the rest in either papers?   Then from the results I knew what to do to get the best results for my investment. 
Editorial ads  
Editorial copy is read 10 times more than advertising copy and people believe it. Where as advertising copy is often overlooked and seldom believed to be the whole truth.   When you advertise, get the publication to do an article on your restaurant to go with the advert. It pays to have a story of interest so that the editor accepts that it is not just an advert. Stories about new staff, a manager come in from Italy to run the Italian ristorante, or a new direction or product. You may be the first restaurant in town to sell the famous Humbug cake from Austria, made on the thighs of virgin cowgirl’s.   There are stories everywhere you just have to look and use a little imagination. If you can make it interesting and get people excited about your food or restaurant then all the better.   If you can’t get an actual editorial then you can style your advert to look like a piece of editorial. You have probably seen such things in the national papers and next to it is probably a disclaimer from the paper saying that it is an advert.  
Plan your advertising  
One of the best ways to plan your advertising is to look around in the press or what ever media you are going in to. The biggest thing to avoid is brand advertising because unless you are a big company it will be a waste of money. Coke can do it, car companies can do it but for most businesses it’s a waste of money.  
Internet advertising  
The internet has given us new ways to advertise and it has one huge advantage over all other mediums; the analytics. You can place adverts then monitor and modify according to the results. Tracking advert response is easy and accurate so you can really see what works and what is a waste of money.   The most important thing here is to study first before you start an online campaign because otherwise you will have wild results. The most effective forms of advertising on the internet fall in to two categories; those you pay for and those you don’t.  
What does work
In fact for most businesses advertising in the media is not an effective way to get business. The best ways to get results are either as stated with editorial ads or through voucher offers. “Cut the voucher out and bring it in for two for one”. That way you can monitor the results and see that if you spent £250 0n the advert and 50 people brought it in spending £30 each after having the offer discount. Total income generated £1,500 at a GP percentage of 30% gives a net result of £450 minus the cost of the advert and you are up £200. Then there are the other costs too and taxes of course but you are up and your turnover was too.   Of course the real benefit comes from having those customers return and we go on to look at that below; remember that Customers are for life – not just for Christmas.  
Pay per click
Paying for advertising on the web is something to consider carefully because you can throw money away easily and see little in the way of results. Most people will tell you that Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is the best and it is true, for most businesses it can be very effective if done properly. If done badly the costs can spiral and you can end up paying a fortune for no gain.   Google will give you a PPC account and even some credit to get you started but my advice is to get some help first or it can be expensive (that’s why they give you credit to start with!). You can also get an expert to manage your campaign for you and they will charge from about £200 a month. That is plus the actual cost of the clicks themselves which can vary from a few pence, to pounds.   For most restaurants this is not a good option. If you are a bigger restaurant, especially that has takeaway food, or part of a chain then the benefits can be great. For more help with this subject go to Sales and Marketing Wealth and put “PPC” into the secrets slot. 
The other forms of paid advertising on the internet are things such as banner adverts or paid for listings. Banner adverts might go on a “What’s on in Dulwich” type page so that when people are looking for a place to go in your specific area, assuming you are in Dulwich, they will see your advert.  This form of advert is pretty good but to radically increase the results you should ask for a review on the restaurant page near your advert. People love reviews and will follow recommendations much more than paid for advertising. The irony is that you are paying for the review and it is your advertising, but it seems like editorial, and that sells.   Another option is ezines (online magazines or newsletters) but as you will see you are soon to create your own for next to nothing. So here again I urge you to look to other systems before you try this one.   If you do find a good online ezine or newsletter for your area then participating can be worthwhile and doesn’t have to cost the earth. As with traditional publications, ezines often struggle for interesting content so offering editorials or articles on food or drink, or dining, could get you in, or even get you a regular feature. 
Internet advertising that works
What ever you decide to do in what ever medium you will need a website. If you don’t have one then it is easy and very cheap to build one and host it. I will show you how to do that for as little as £5 a month in a moment.   Almost all internet advertising revolves around getting people to your website to see your offer. Too many marketers try and make the sale with their advert, this is wrong, you need people to take the first step towards your restaurant doors, and online that step is for them to visit your website. In traditional print media you may be trying to get people all the way to your doors but with online advertising and promotions you need to take it one step at a time.  
Step one is to get them interested enough to go to your website and find out more. Step two is getting them to give you their details and step three is getting them to come to your restaurant. Then you have step four which is trying to get them to partake in your community of diners which leads to the next step of getting them back in to eat again and again.   The one thing the web is very good at is forming communities and getting people to belong. You want people to belong to your restaurant community and feel that they are part of an inside group. If they are made to feel special about being in the group they will feel your restaurant is special and they will enjoy visiting it all the more.  
Don’t think that this does not apply to your particular restaurant because it can; you just have to make it happen. Making it happen is not that hard and I will take you though the steps below. You can soon build a community of clients that will become loyal followers of the restaurant, and regular clients. It is from a solid group of regular clients that we can build a larger group of followers. If your inner group is involved and enthusiastic then they will help spread the word to their friends and bring you more business.   This spreading of the word has never been easier and more prevalent than now with the internet and all the social networking that goes on. You can shout about your own product until you are blue in the face and get little result, but if enthusiastic and happy clients are talking about you, people will listen and want to find out more.  
Your website
Your website should be full of great photos of the restaurant and the food that you offer. Here you can use artistic licence and take photos from websites like iStock that are of similar types of food and dishes to the ones that you offer; after all we are not all great photographers.   You will need to get some good shots of the restaurant though and if you find that hard to do because of lighting or space you can use shots of just a nicely laid table with a blurred background. Better still ask some clients if they mind being in a photo and get them smiling and looking like they are having a great time. 
Your site should not be too wordy but more give the impression of a light and enjoyable place to be. This is then projected in your offer of the restaurant as a nice place to be, with friendly helpful staff and great food.   Always use the KISS test; Keep It Simple Stupid. You want a site that is easy to navigate and that isn’t loaded with text. People who see loads of text bounce to another site. Keep it fun, easy to use, bright and full of pictures as they say a thousand words for you.   The most important feature of your website should be the newsletter signup box. Here you ask people to sign up for your monthly newsletter. You can incentivise them to sign up by offering a £5 voucher or a free bottle of wine for the next time they come in. This is a great way to get people to sign up and it encourages them to come back. You can put stipulations on the offer such as week nights only and pre-booked tables etc. it’s up to you.  
Building a list
The list that you build is the most valuable thing that your restaurant can have. You can use your list to promote the restaurant, bring customers in during quiet times and sell them other products and offers (more on that later).   You must give people something in order to get people to sign up to your list, as mentioned, an incentive. You have to work so hard to get customers through your door in the first place don’t let them get away without adding them to your list. Then they become your customers for life.   List opt-ins I mentioned ways of incentivising your list offer and online that is fine, but in the restaurant you need to act differently. Some places give a mini flyer with the bill which says to go online to claim £5 off the next meal (or whatever the offer is). But this relies on people actually going online to register, and the majority will not. The best thing to do is give them a little form with the bill which asks for their name and email address, you need no more and people prefer to give as little as possible so leave it at that.  
The form says that they will get “the offer voucher” sent to them by email if they fill out the form. Leave them a pen; train the waiters to ask if the clients have filled out the form when they pick up the payment. Then you simply add their details to your list through your website sign up form.  
The list is king
You can communicate to your list easily and for free. This is direct advertising without any printing or postage costs. These people know you, like what you do and are hot for more. You can talk directly to them through a monthly newsletter and thus have no mailing costs, no advertising costs and very little work.   Write one email and send it to the whole list with the click of a button and in this way you can afford to give your list incentives to get them to return frequently. If you make them feel special and part of a group, they will respond positively.   As your list builds you can use it to promote events and special evenings or to help fill tables on quiet evenings. 
Automated profits
Use a CRM or web based database service to run your newsletter and autoresponders and you can build your list easily. Then you will be able to use this list to create automated profits through promoting affiliate products as well as your own.
Avoiding the bounce 
You only get one chance to make a first impression and that is so vital on the internet. People might arrive at your site, but you have to get them to stay, and then you have to get them to sign up to your newsletter and finally you can get them to come to your restaurant.   Don’t imagine that people will see your site and just think “Oh that looks nice, lets go there” because that is not likely to happen. Think of yourself when browsing the internet, you get bombarded with offers and sometimes you will arrive at a place you did not intend to visit.   If you stay to have a look then that site is doing something right, if you immediately go back or click off then there was nothing there to make you stay. The actual truth is that there might have been just the thing that you wanted but it was hidden from you or what was offered first was repellent or put you off in some way.   When people arrive and then leave a site instantly we call this a bounce and the bounce rate of a site is a very telling thing. I run many websites and I constantly adjust the pages to get the maximum effect and minimum bounce. I recently lowered the bounce rate on one site by around 5% just by one tiny adjustment. Now 5% more people stay on the site to look around and see my offer. That equates to hundreds of people and that means significantly better results. 
The rules of building a successful website
First ask yourself why people are visiting your website and normally it is for one of 2 reasons:
1.      They want your phone number to make a booking.
2.    They want to know what you offer. Simple as that; why they are there or how they came to be is another subject altogether and driving people to your site is something we will look at later. When building, or improving your site first look around and see what the big boys are doing and learn from them.  
Basic rules are:
1.      Don’t talk too much about your company; people don’t care beyond the basics. “We are a small two restaurant company started by my father with his secret recipes and now run by me and my brother. We stand for consistency and service and always put quality ingredients before our profit margin.” That is enough, then you can talk about the food a little, but again don’t get too wordy. And don’t put that on the front page, it can go on the “about us” page where people can find it if they want to.
2.    Pictures talk for you, use plenty of them. If you don’t have nice pictures of your restaurant take some. As mentioned buy stock photos of dishes that look like yours. They are not expensive to buy, some are even free, but look a million dollars.
3.    Signup box; this should feature prominently on all pages of the site. If someone goes to a different page it should still be there so that if they are convinced at page three that your offer is a good one they can instantly sign up. Or page two, or four or wherever.
4.    Contact page; sometimes forgotten or under played. Have your address, postcode and email (or preferably an email form) and once again, even bigger this time, offer people a chance to sign up for the newsletter; and a big phone number. The phone number should be on every page so that they can call you easily.
5.     Newsletter signup; as I have said put this on every page and make it obvious. Offer an incentive such as a free bottle of wine, or two for one meal offer; you can add terms and conditions to the offer. But make it irresistible, because once you have people’s details you can mail them, at no cost, every month with your offers and they will come to the restaurant, and if you are any good they will continue to come and become part of your community of diners.
6.    If you are not sure ask for help. Don’t just ask any old web designer, most of them are not marketers they are just computer geeks. In fact most of the web designers I have encountered have a really geeky website themselves that is designed by geeks for geeks. If this is the case avoid them as they don’t know about marketing and sales. If you get stuck then ask for help at Sales and Marketing Wealth there you can get free advice and help in building your own site or getting someone to do a good job for you.
7.     Finally apply the KISS test; “keep it simple stupid!”; is your site simple, easy to follow and use? Remember the things that you are trying to achieve and why people are there in the first place. Too much text on the front, or any pages, and people will bounce. Make it plain how to get in touch, post your phone number big and clear on the front, and all pages. And make people keen to sign up to your newsletter and get their free bottle of wine. I can’t say that enough. 
  Promotional ideas
How to get people to your website and then to your restaurant 
Too often people think that if they put up a website it will bring them business but most websites get almost no visitors. Think about it; most websites get almost no visitors.   So a website alone cannot make you money, and unless you are in the centre of Covent Garden the chances are you will need to promote your business. One of your selling and promotional tools is your website and in order for that to work we need to get people to visit it.          
Planning a strategy
In business you must plan ahead; think of where you are and where you would like to be in 6 months or a year. Try and step outside
the day to day running of the business and look to the near and distant future.  
Backwards Planning
One of my favourite ways of planning how to get somewhere is to plan backwards. Imagine that you are already where you want to be and then think back to what got you to that place. What was the last step in the process? And what was the one that led to that? In this way you can work your way backwards to where you are now and see all the steps that you must take that will eventually lead you to where you want to be.   I find this is also a good way to help set targets in the first place, because if you just make up a target and then head out for it you may not know how or if you can get there. However if you look at all the steps involved you are more aware of what has to be done to achieve your goals.          
Aim and focus
Above all, to achieve a goal, you have to know what it is. That means you need to know what you want in order to take steps to get it. That may seem like common sense to some people but all too often small businesses lack direction. So have a direction and goal set out and then plan how to get there.  
How to get people to your website
So people came in to the restaurant for various reasons and a lot of them may have stemmed from a visit to your website. But as I have said having a great website isn’t the end of the process, and it’s not the beginning either. Imagine a fantastic billboard beside a road; if it grabs people’s attention that pass by and 10% of them take action as a result of it wouldn’t that be great? If it was beside a motorway like the M25, wow! But what about if it was beside the B3332 in deepest Cornwall? 10% of 5 farmers and a dog isn’t very much business.   So you need your message to be seen by as many people as possible, and preferably people who will be at least a little bit interested and likely to visit your restaurant; the dog’s definitely out and so are the farmers if you’re based in Glasgow.  PPC The most targeted method of sending people to your website is through Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. If you are not familiar with this it is the adverts that you see at the top of the page when you do a search on Google or whatever search engine you use. You choose a key word, words or phrase and then when someone searches for that your advert comes up. If they click on it then you pay Google for the click. The amount you pay for the click depends on many factors and can be quite a mine field. You can pay from a few pence to a few pounds per click. 
Making PPC Work for you
For a lot of restaurants this is not a good form of advertising but if you are careful you can get good results with little money, especially if you are in a small town. The best way to get cheap clicks is to choose an obscure search term that no one else is using.   If you are in a small town you can take advantage of this by using the town name in the text of the search term. As with “Places to eat in Little Hampton”. Alternatively you can be specific about the type of food you serve; if you are a vegetarian restaurant say so, alternatively if beef is your thing you may want to look for people searching for a good steak. So be careful, be specific and go slowly, if at all, down the PPC road. 
Blogs and reviews 
Blogs and reviews are a very powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal and to have them work for you to their full effect you need to try and involve your customers. One of the best selling tools that marketers and sales people have is their customer testimonials. These can be employed in several ways to great effect. In days gone by you would see quotes on brochures saying how Mrs. Seymour of Upton had been most pleased with her new widget and it was great value for money. These days’ testimonials are used on websites in much the same way, and they work. The important thing is to use real ones from real people and quote their name and at least part of their address or location. If you use Mrs. Sedgemoor you will get caught out, especially if you spell her name differently here and there!   The best way to get great testimonials is completely overlooked by most people who are not professionally in sales. That is to simply ask for them. Ask your happy customers for a glowing reference, you can even suggest what they might say. Then write it down, ask them if they mind you using their name and location, a photo of them at their table would be even better, and off you go. If you post the quote next to a picture of the happy diners at their table smiling then it will carry all the more weight. Believability is what you need; people have to know that you haven’t just made a load of great stuff up to make you look good.   Your customers can become the most powerful sales people in your business. I use customer’s quotes in almost all my websites and offline promotional material.
I even videoed one happy couple for a promotion that we were running. Apart from getting quotes to post on your own websites you need to ask customers to post about you and your restaurant on blogs and other websites. That is harder as once they leave the restaurant they will forget or not bother. If you can ask them to post a review on one of the restaurant sites like Out to Lunch Club or even Google then you may stand a better chance. The more listings free or other, that you have the better and you can turbo charge them by having reviews on them so focus a little effort on that and get great results.
There is much more 
Get proactive and research marketing through the internet. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and most of it is freely available. Remember that restaurateurs are traditionally not good marketers so give your business the edge and get that knowledge and put it to good use.
This will give you the advantage and mean that you will prosper no matter what the economy is doing. It never ceases to amaze me that there is so often a queue outside my local Pizza Express almost every night and day. This is for one reason; marketing.
Take it seriously and get seriously busy.
Alex Joll

Internet Marketing Vs Direct Mail

What is the difference between Internet marketing and direct mail? The answer might seem obvious to some, but it should be taken into account that not every person or company out there is Internet friendly or savvy. There are plenty of people who have either never used the Internet or that do not use it often enough to know all that there is to know about Internet marketing. To some, when they think of marketing, they think of the postcards and mail that they get that try to sell them products or services.To break things down a little further, here are a few differences when it comes to Internet marketing vs direct mail:DeliveryThe obvious and biggest difference between Internet marketing and direct mail is how it gets delivered. Information from direct mail comes in the mail and Internet marketing is done online. Most online marketing communication comes in the form of e-mails, websites, pop-ups or other offer styles and types.AvailabilityMarketing online is always available, while mail only gets delivered once a day; 6 days a week.CostSome Internet marketing campaigns cost a bundle, but smaller campaigns or different strategies can make it a very low cost and effective way to market. Direct mail on the other hand can cost a ton of money because postage has to be paid for and materials need to be purchased and then manufactured into mailers before they can be sent out.MaterialsAs noted above, even a simple post card takes ink, paper and pictures of some sort to make. When you get into more in depth flyers and brochure style mailers, then the materials can become quite high in numbers. With online marketing, you simply need an Internet connection and the know how.EffortIt often takes a bunch of people to come up with and deploy a good direct mail marketing campaign. The same is not true for Internet marketing however as many companies are one person marketing teams who manage all of the aspects of their business themselves.As you can see, there are quite a few noticeable differences. Due to cost, materials, time and manpower, direct mail is quickly becoming the old way to market, but it does still exist.

Direct Mail Marketing

The Internet is a powerful tool. When used wisely, it can spur growth for companies in leaps and bounds. Emailing has revolutionized the way people communicate and has forever changed the pace at which we exchange information or reach out to others.

Companies that know how to harness the opportunities presented by high-speed Internet connections and email can be successful in their product launches and customer programs. Through direct mail marketing, they get in touch with the right market segment that can push their sales. And as the world gets hooked on global commerce, companies are finding growth avenues in offshore markets. And advertising to these new potential customers is done quickly and cheaply through emails. It is no wonder that today, courses on direct mail marketing are being offered by academic institutions.

Direct Mail Marketing Course

Commerce is constantly evolving. Those who want to be successful need keep track of these trends. If your company is not yet utilizing the power of direct mail marketing, then maybe it is about time you send your staff to a direct mail marketing course.

The course will equip your staff on how to write copy that work in this kind of marketing scheme. They will learn which phrases or styles of writing work and which do not. The principles of advertising and marketing will be tackled at length. From crafting effective messages, they will also learn how to lay out interesting communication tools: flyers, brochures, etc., to hook readers. When people automatically throw out ads in the mail, you need to devise ways to catch their interest long enough for them to read what you have to say.

The success of a direct mail marketing campaign rests on logistics as well. You have to make sure your intended clients receive your mail. Your staff will need to learn about the practical and cost-effective means of mailing your materials.