Times have changed, we no longer need to pay publications to access their database, readership or following to promote and sell our products. Advances in technology have made it possible for everyone to market their brand or business effectively online, whilst saving some money in the process.
Although the technology has advanced, it seems our mind-sets haven’t. I frequently have meetings with restaurant, bar and hotel operators who have varying reasons for not investing in digital marketing, from “Social media won’t work for my business” to “Delivery-Dining might damage our food” and a personal favourite “We don’t have the budget for anything like that”.
9 times out of 10 these operators either hadn’t given digital marketing a chance, didn’t know how to use the platforms effectively for business purposes, or simply hadn’t gone digital because their competitors hadn’t. However, 100% of the operators were heavily discounting every month to get custom. Which begs the question, can you afford not to be getting to grips with digital marketing?
I’ve listed a few points below to help you stand out from the crowd online in 2018.
Grow Your Own Data
For years restaurants, bars and hotels have used local publications and databases to promote their business. This was tainted from the start, as the readership’s interest lay with the main brand and not necessarily yours, therefore any campaign results wouldn’t be truly representative of your advertisement’s effectiveness. Nowadays anyone can showcase a business or brand using online platforms to promote direct to consumers at a faction of the cost.
Operators can customise online targeting to find consumers in specific locations, from particular demographics, with similar interests, job titles, favourite foods and more. Access to precision targeting on this scale means you can grow your own audience specific to your business requirements, an audience who are hopefully interested in your business too. Once you’ve started to build your audience you can increase brand awareness, drive product sales, and request consumer information in order to forecast your businesses potential.
People are usually reluctant to grow their own audience from scratch as they’re worried about having a lower database count than before, but everyone’s got to start somewhere and besides, not all of those numbers matter.
Which Numbers Matter?
Now we’re able to play an active role in digital marketing, we’re starting to gain a better understanding of the numbers behind social media and email campaigns, moving toward data quality rather than quantity. This is certainly a winning strategy, as the key to success online comes down to understanding platform analytics and metrics enabling you to react and maximise the effectiveness of future posts and ads.
Engagement and interactions are number one on the social playing field. Operators need to build campaigns that consumers want to interact with and share with their friends. Measuring you posting Reach will give you good insight into how far your message has be delivered and provides a key reference against the number of clicks you received.
In the early stages of growing your brand online don’t pay too much attention to your Following, if you focus on creative and content the people will follow. Following should represent an organic volume of consumers who are truly interested in the brand; you don’t want to pollute this by hoaxing people into following you just to get the numbers up.
Micro and macro Influencers are today’s publications, creating partnerships with local people or industry figures who have similar characteristics to your audience could be a good way to increase your reach and revenue.
Email has changed; people don’t have time to read every email they receive, especially when there is so much spam flying around.
Your main email list needs to be your core fan base, similar to your Following on social; you need it to be organic and don’t want to pollute it with paid lists. Keep the list clean and remove people who aren’t opening your mail. When we’re talking email lists, I’d rather have 500 members who are engaged and reading my content as opposed to 50,000 members who don’t care about the brand and may not open the email. You can always have multiple or segregated lists to test new or purchased data.
When measuring your email performance the key metrics are open rates, click thru, shares, unsubscribe rate and feedback. If you’re using a publication’s database to access a new audience, focus on the clicks, specific to your content, against the cost to send.
Just because the vast majority of operators are terrible at digital marketing doesn’t mean you have to suck at it too…
I see a lot of operators adding social media and email marketing on to a bartender or manager’s job role, or passing it to family members and friends as a part time job. This approach isn’t going to cut it… if you’re unable to put in the time but you want to get ahead you’ll need to think bigger.
In 2018, just like your customers, your marketing team doesn’t need to be on site. Pulling a marketing or development exec in to work for 40 hours a week is often less productive than letting them work from home or on flexi time. For example, I can pick up my phone and place several ad campaigns quicker than I can get a coffee, get dressed and get to work.
You don’t necessarily need to employ someone to look after your digital; there are plenty of freelancers with different skillsets who can add value to your business and be alternated throughout the year for variation. Forward thinking operators are saving a lot of time and money by working with specialist hospitality agencies capable of creating and developing strategies, whilst managing all digital and non-digital sales, marketing and creative campaigns.
Whichever method you use, it’s the results that count.
People have seen a burger and a beer before, they know you sell desserts and they can get a discount anywhere, anytime, any day of the week… so if that’s all you’ve got in your war chest then you’re in trouble.
You’ve got to stop doing what you’ve already been doing… it’s been done, people have seen it… it’s time to create something fresh, on-trend and unique to your brand. Once you start thinking along these lines you’ll achieve better results on your sales and marketing campaigns and will be able to charge full price again, yay!
Why not use digital to create partnerships with local businesses? By this, I don’t mean force selling to them every time you tweet; they, like other consumers, are bored of every operator in the city trying to ram lunch deals and after-work drinks down their neck. Why not make some friends and work together… hospitality businesses tend to have larger followings than local corporates, so why not promote them? I’m sure they’d enjoy the free exposure and you never know, the boss may return the favour by throwing a few more lunch meetings and celebrations your way.
Equally, other hospitality businesses in your area would welcome the support. If everyone stopped competing as much and started working as a collective you’d be able to attract more consumer attention, which would likely result in more people knowing about and visiting your part of town to support your businesses. This strategy needn’t apply to all aspects of your business, but organising events and working together on projects would go a long way.
Capture The Moment
Once you’ve built your audience and everyone’s having a lovely time, don’t forget to capture the moment. Most phones have a pretty decent camera these days, so make sure someone grabs a few video clips and photos from a successful corporate lunch, busy Saturday night or that event you worked so hard on. Capturing these moments will make projecting your brand in future much easier… don’t just tell people what they’re missing out on – show them!