Awesome article to start the new year on online marketing for your restaurant. If you are doing even half of these I’d be amazed and I’m afraid most people are only doing one or two of them and probably not as well as they should be.
If you need help with any of these items- contact us. We can help or recommend someone who can in most cases.
If you are still working on your restaurant business plan than by all means copy this page and make it part of your marketing plan by just inserting your name into each list item. Well, not quite, but almost.
These tips are serious gold for a restaurant owner or aspiring restaurant owner and I guarantee if you are doing them all your business will grow, period.
1) Thou shalt invest more heavily in online marketing than traditional media (print, radio and TV).
This is like renting vs buying your building. What will you have to show for your investment long term? What happens after a radio ad or a newspaper ad runs? What if someone wasn’t tuned in to that station or didn’t pick up the paper that day? Will it do anything to aid future online search results?
What if instead, you invest in a press release that you distribute online? That could lead to a story being written (which is some of the best advertising you can get) and even if it doesn’t lead to a story, a press release or blog post never goes away. At least with a TV commercial, if you’ll upload it onto YouTube, that video can aid future search results.
It’s okay to occasionally mix in some traditional media for some short term results, but for any type of image building campaign, try to invest the majority of your marketing in opportunities with long term online results.
2) Thou shalt invest in Local Search Marketing.
Forget the Yellow Pages. When was the last time you opened one? The first thing most people do whenever they are hungry and can’t decide where to eat is they Google it. All your radio, TV and newspaper ads won’t do a thing for you if you don’t show up on the first or second page of local search results. But if they see your restaurant listed, now all those other forms of advertising kick in.
But if you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. Try it for yourself and see where you show up. Google “Restaurants [Your City] [Your State]”. Where do you show up in the organic search results?
Most mom and pop restaurants think SEO is only for the big boys. That’s good news for you, because since they aren’t doing it, you’ll have less competition and can make a bigger splash with less investment. Any dollars you spend wisely that improve your local search marketing results will have the greatest return on your investment. Period.
There are many pieces to creating a successful puzzle. You need to fill out your Google Places, Bing and Yahoo local listings. It helps to get listed in numerous directories. The more links and citations the better, but you want your address that’s listed to always be consistent.
3) Thou shalt focus on a clean, search engine friendly website.
Given how important it is to be found online, make sure your website is search engine friendly. Google can’t read a PDF of your menu. Search engines like text and they even like pictures and videos as long as you geocode them and give them descriptive names that will aid in searches. A picture of your logo called “pic0001.jpg” doesn’t help. A picture called “Bambino’s Café Springfield MO Restaurant Logo.jpg” is much better.
Think about what words someone would type into Google if they were searching for your type of restaurant. It could be as simple as “Italian Restaurant Springfield MO” or “Catering Springfield MO”. Whatever phrases or keywords you think someone would search for, make certain you use those keywords and phrases in your website copy, website page names, picture descriptions, etc.
4) Thou shalt strive to get as many positive online reviews as possible.
Most online reviews scare the daylights out of business owners. But here’s three reasons to embrace them rather than fear them.
For starters, much like links and citations provide SEO juice, so do positive reviews. Whenever someone does a local search for a restaurant, the number of positive reviews on the Google Places map has a big impact on where they decide to eat. So you want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to give you reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.
Second, your reviews give you feedback that merit serious consideration. Hopefully they are positive, but even the negative ones could merely be someone with an axe to grind who’s way off base or they could actually be vocalizing what lots of other customers are thinking. Knowledge is power. Embrace it.
And finally, don’t let one bad review get you too worked up. If all the reviews are positive, they won’t be perceived as real. An occasional bad review means you’re human and we all make mistakes. Just try your best to make them exception rather than the norm.
5) Thou shalt have a reveal page as the default landing page for your Facebook.
Have special offers that your customers can only get if they Like your page. Forget about gathering Email addresses and sending out Email blasts. Those are passé, like junk faxes. Most restaurant Emails are considered spam and usually get deleted before they are even opened. But once someone Likes your Facebook page, your status updates will be in their News Feed unless you pepper them with too much propaganda (see Commandment # 8).
There are lots of developers who can design a reveal page and custom Facebook tabs for your business page without charging too much for it. It’s not nearly as expensive as a website.
6) Thou shalt use a profile pic on your Facebook page that uses up all the available real estate.
Full Profile Pic
You don’t want a square profile pic. You want a long skinny rectangle that takes up all the area from the top of the screen down to the bottom. Make it just long enough that someone won’t have to scroll down to see it all.
Don’t just display your logo. List your address, your phone number, your website and your hours of operation.
7) Thou shalt offer specials for checking in on Facebook (and foursquare, Yelp, etc).
If someone has 500 friends and they check in at your restaurant, that’s the viral equivalent of word of mouth as that check in now shows up in all their friends’ News Feeds. They’ve basically just endorsed your business to all their friends. Isn’t that worth a small freebie?
8) Thou shalt carefully generate interesting content on your Facebook page.
As Commandment #5 states, it’s important to remain in someone’s News Feed. If you simply generate an abundance of dry, boring content: (ex: “Here’s today’s special” or “come buy a gift certificate from us”) and never offer anything clever or behind the scenes, people will unsubscribe from your updates.
Many businesses struggle with generating interesting content for their Facebook page. A restaurant should never have this problem. Most interesting Facebook posts start with a picture.
Always keep your eyes open for a “Facebook worthy” moment. A well known or colorful customer, a big group, a catering order, etc.
Take a picture with your smart phone, and describe the photo to let your restaurant’s personality shine through.
9) Thou shalt resist the temptation to use Groupon.
Groupon (and all the other Daily Deal websites) are a great deal for the customer, but a bad deal for businesses. The logic is that it doesn’t cost anything and it will bring in new customers.
The reality is that by the time you offer a 50% deal and then split the remainder with Groupon, you’re left with only 25%. You’re lucky to break even. It’s not likely you’ll attract loyal new customers.
10) Thou shalt invest in video marketing.
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Then a video’s worth a million. You combine moving pictures with sound and it’s much easier to convey your restaurant’s personality far more than just words or a radio spot or a print ad.
YouTube is now the second largest search engine behind Google. Throw in the fact that Google owns YouTube and you can understand why your videos will have a huge impact on search results. A video that shows up as the third or fourth result from a search query has just as good of chance of being selected as the top “text only” result.
If you follow these 10 Commandments of Online Restaurant Marketing you will see a steady increase in business over time. These aren’t overnight, short term solutions. But they are long term marketing investments that build momentum over time.
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