The number of marketing services available for restaurants has skyrocketed over the past few years. Savvy restaurant owners understand they can’t rely solely on positive word-of-mouth to be the primary driver of their business, besides word-of-mouth is a slow to grow your business. Social media and online marketing gives you an incredible edge to market your restaurant is used properly
Many owner struggle to identify which marketing services are most deserving of their time and attention. In this post, I focus on the 9 essential restaurant marketing services that EVERY restaurant should be using, regardless of location.
Google+ Local Pages will help your business stand out in search results and can lead to better connections with customers.
The very first thing you should do before signing up for any of these other services is claim your Google+ Local Page. By integrating Google+ with what was formerly known as Google Places, the search engine giant has effectively combined two of its’ most powerful tools to help make your business easier to find. Recent changes to Google’s algorithm have also led to Google+ Local Pages showing up much more prominently in search results. Claiming a Google+ Local Page will do several things:
- List your business as a location on Google Maps
- Display Google user (and now Zagat) ratings for your restaurant in search results
- Offer the ability to upload promotional photos and videos for use in search results
- Include coupons or discounts in your restaurants’ search results
- Likely increase your organic search rankings.
The bottom line: Google+ Local Pages will optimize your business for better search results and clickthrough’s. If you’re serious about getting found online, you’d be foolish not to claim and update your business listing with the world’s largest driver of online traffic.
WordPress is software you can use to create a simple, highly functional website or blog.
WordPress powers almost 75 million websites around the globe, and is quickly becoming the de-facto tool for managing a professional website or blog. There are 2 flavors of WordPress (.com and .org), and both allow you to easily implement custom website designs, colors, fonts, and content. WordPress is the best platform to build your restaurant website on because it is easily customizable and doesn’t require you to have deep technical knowledge to make quick updates or changes to content.
Restaurant Coach Inside Secret: I built this website using WordPress and a template! I did it all myself too….however, I do have some control issues, but that is another topic.
UPDATE: This morning, WordPress announced a new set of themes built specifically for restaurant websites (did they read my mind?) The new themes offer everything you’d need out of a website, including Opentable integration, menu integration, large scale photos, and mobile compatibility. Make sure when hiring your web developer that they have plenty of experience with WordPress and can tell you which platform (.com or .org) is best for your business – it will not only save you time and money, but also ensure your website is built for speed, security, and search engine optimization.
The bottom line: WordPress is the most cost-effective, scalable platform to build your restaurants’ website on. Today’s introduction of restaurant specific themes makes the service even more compelling. Make sure your web developer has a strong background in building WordPress websites and it will save you countless hours of heartache down the road.
If you have any questions, please send them my way and I will help.
Locu keeps your menu updated across the web from one centrally-managed location.
Locu’s recent announcement that they’ll be powering menu updates on the Opentable website clearly establishes them as a major player in the restaurant industry, and solidifies their place on our essential list. Although the concept of a centrally-managed online menu isn’t new, Locu saves you time and effort by collecting your menu data prior to sign-up. They also offer a variety of eye-catching menu templates, power menus on Facebook, and have a partner API that enables 3rd party developers to pull Locu menu data into their own custom applications.
The bottom line: Locu is the best way to keep your menu updated online. They also offer a convenient WordPress plugin, so if you’re already using the self-hosted WordPress platform which I covered above, it will now be even easier to integrate and update your restaurant menu.
Opentable is the most popular restaurant reservation system in the world.
Opentable is projected to seat nearly 100 million people in North America in 2012 alone. Even with stiff competition from new restaurant marketing services, Opentable remains the most consistent driver of traffic to restaurants. The Opentable POPprogram is a very efficient way to “buy” traffic during off-peak business hours, and the Opentable mobile app is one of the most popular restaurant discovery apps on the market.
The bottom line: Nearly 20,000 restaurants rely on Opentable to help fill their seats, and the overwhelming majority of them keep coming back for more. If you’re looking for ways to fill your dining room during off peak hours, ensure you stay full on inconsistent nights, and run efficient, brand positive promotions, Opentable is the service you’re looking for.
Restaurant Coach Insider Tip: There are cheaper companies out there that do a great job at online reservations too…I like Urbanspoon and their RezBook app (they even make is easy by getting you an iPad for your reservation station)
Foodspotting is a positive, image-driven service that’s focused on the best dishes at your restaurant.
This food discovery app is worth mentioning. Although rumors of a more comprehensive merchant offering continue to circulate, the current Foodspotting widget (embedded above) is a great way to showcase customer photos of favorite dishes on your restaurant website. In addition to being a way to highlight customer endorsements on your website, the Foodspotting app is also a good channel to discover what people are saying about your food.
The bottom line: Foodspotting encourages loyal customers to share your best dishes with the world. Take advantage of the positive content they’re creating and use it as social proof to drive new customers through the door.
Restaurant Coach Insider Tip: DO NOT FORGET other visual media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest!
Foursquare’s merchant tools can help you draw in new customers and build loyalty.
When Foursquare first got started it was focused on encouraging users to “check-in” to every bar, restaurant, and local business to gain “points” and unlock “badges”. Though this ended up being a rather resourceful way to build a large database of local businesses, Foursquare has recently begun to focus more on features that encourage discovery of the world (and new businesses) around you. Several Foursquare features that stand out are:
Opentable integration, which enables consumers to search for restaurants around them and immediately make reservations.
“Tips”, which are essentially micro-reviews that customers can leave for future Foursquare users who check-in at your business.
“Offers”, or the ability to provide discounts to Foursquare users who check-in to your restaurant, including exclusive deals for the current “mayor”.
The bottom line: Foursquare offers a well-rounded set of merchant tools and has a large userbase of highly engaged people actively looking to discover new restaurants. Setting up a Foursquare promotion requires little upfront effort on your behalf and even less time to maintain once it’s running. The service is a win-win for merchants and users alike.
Five Stars is a powerful customer loyalty service that plugs directly into your POS system.
FiveStars stands out amongst its’ competitors in the crowded loyalty space by easily integrating with over 90% of existing POS systems and providing merchants with simple tools that encourage repeat business. A consumer’s FiveStars card functions as a universal loyalty “punch” card, meaning they only need to carry one card to use in every FiveStars-supported account. The benefit to merchants is two-fold. First, FiveStars streamlines the entire loyalty process, meaning you never need to worry about collecting paper cards and punching holes again. Second, FiveStars provides customer outreach channels via email and SMS, and detailed reports on loyalty activity in your restaurant.
The bottom line: FiveStars is compatible with almost any restaurant POS system on the market and their suite of merchant tools are simple, useful, and competitively priced.
Love it or hate it….Facebook is the world’s largest social network.
At over 1 billion users, Facebook is by far the world’s largest social network – but that’s not the only reason you should be using it. Contrary to what many people think, building an active Facebook page for your restaurant is just the first step – it’s what comes next that makes Facebook an essential marketing service you should be using.
Facebook Deals: Similar to Foursquare, Facebook Deals are a way for you to reward customers for “checking-in” to your business on Facebook. Learn more about the 4 different types of Facebook Deals by reading their Facebook Deal whitepaper.
Facebook Ads: Facebook Ads have always been a good way to target new customers at the local level, but with the introduction of Facebook’s new Custom Audience tool, the targeting is about to get even better. By enabling you to target ads to be seen by specific Facebook users based on email address or phone number, Facebook is beginning to prove its’ worth as a serious advertising network.
Sponsored Stories: Sponsored stories are a way to promote your Facebook page updates beyond your existing fan base, ensuring they get seen (and liked) by the widest possible audience.
The bottom line: Let’s face it – as the world’s largest social network, having an active Facebook page is a must for any business that’s serious about engaging customers online. Their increased focus on small merchant tools could make Facebook a much more important advertising channel in the near future.
Restaurant Coach Request: Please “Like” my company page on FaceBook here….
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Twitter is a real-time information network that enables you to follow people, stories, and events from around the globe.
Think of Twitter as a television channel that enables you to broadcast your brand message to the world. Your tweets and the links that you share help define for consumers what your brand stands for. Twitter is also a great way to find and engage with influencers in your local restaurant community, and pick up valuable customer feedback. Although it is hard to measure a strict ROI on your level of activity, Twitter is one of those rare tools that becomes increasingly more valuable and addictive as you use it. Embed a Twitter widget on your website like the one we show above to connect with new followers.
The bottom line: Having an active Twitter account with a good amount of followers isn’t a requirement for success in the restaurant business, but most successful restaurants “coincidentally” do. If Facebook is the social network for building closer “relationships” with customers, then Twitter is the new broadcast medium for the 21st century.
Thanks to Matt Hendrick & Copilot Labs
Thanks to Copilot Labs for originally sharing this list. Copilot is really doing some cutting edge data analysis for restaurants that can help you take your business to the highest level of performance. Please check them out at http://copilotlabs.com