Think about the number of covers, or customers, you need to serve every day; then multiply that by the number of days in the year you are open. –It’s a lot of people!
In all likelihood you need to attract tens of thousands of customers to your business each year; and these customers are also being bombarded with messages from thousands of other restaurants and brands.
In order to get these customers to come to your restaurant or café, you first need to be in their minds in a positive and relevant way. Marketing boffins refer to this as being part of your target markets’ ‘evoked set’, which the Business Dictionary defines as:
“a group of relevant brands a prospective consumer is favorably familiar with when they are thinking of making a purchase”Businessdictionary.com
Put simply and practically, a customer is going to be aware of the fact they need to find somewhere to eat, they’ll quickly think about the type of food and restaurants they’re looking for, and from there, if you’re offering is compatible with what they’re looking for, you want them to think of your restaurant first. . .to be in their evoked set.
How to stay front of mind with your customers.
So how do we make sure we’re there; top of mind, with as many customers as possible?
Broadly speaking, the simple requirement is that you stay in front of your customers regularly in relevant ways.
Doing nothing, allows your competition to steal mindshare and ultimately business from you, but you need to balance this against trying to do too much. Yelling from the rooftops every day may be a little off-putting for your customers, but somewhere in the middle you will find the right balance.
There are loads of ways of doing this, but let me walk you through the six key areas to focus on to help you stay in your customers’ minds; and at the end you can download my free tip sheet for staying top of mind with your customers through social media.
1. Existing Customers
The easiest place to start is with your existing customer base.
Make sure you deliver great value through great food, and an outstanding service and dining experience every time. By doing this, you will unquestionably remain top of mind with your customers and the people they talk to about your restaurant.
In this instance we’re talking primarily about paid advertising. In the hospitality industry this most frequently involves some sort of digital advertising, print, radio and outdoor (billboards, bus-backs etc). When done well, these can be effective tools for driving awareness of your business and promoting a brand image.
The major pitfall is that this sort of advertising is very expensive, difficult to measure and worst of all, if not done well, can waste a lot of money.
3. Social Media
While there are dozens of social media platforms out there, we tend to think mainly about Facebook and Instagram, and this is where most social media plans should initially focus.
The great thing is the basic functionality of these platforms are free, unless you choose to pay to boost your posts, and they give you enormous potential reach; but like anything, if they’re not managed correctly, they can have a negative impact on your brand.
I’ve come across literally hundreds of examples of restaurant social media accounts which are severely damaging their business.
4. Email Marketing
Building a customer email database is an awesome way to cost effectively engage with your customers.
While this channel can be extremely powerful, you do need to know what you’re doing in order to make it work effectively for you.
5. Food Review Sites
These sites are a bugbear for our industry for reasons known only to well by us all. Unfortunately they are well utilised by customers when selecting a place to eat, so it’s important to make sure you’re harnessing them to your full advantage.
My advise is to be very weary about paying them fees. But I do strongly urge you to upload current menus and well presented photography to your restaurant’s page on the review site. And make sure you’re regularly monitoring reviews so that you can positively respond to any that are negative.
6. Be Active In Your Community
I cannot emphasise this enough: make sure you are an active and valued member of your local community. Look for ways to engage with and support other businesses, charities and people in your area; partly because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it will pay you back in countless ways.
IN SUMMARY . . .
If you’re not staying front of mind with your target market you’re unlikely to get their business. And you’ve got a lot of seats to fill, so you need to be top of mind with a whole lot of people.
Not only this, but you need to fight to stay top of mind, as there are plenty of other businesses competing for this mindshare. To stay on top, constantly and conscientiously stay relevant to your target market by:
- Providing great value to your existing customers.
- Cautiously investing in paid advertising where appropriate.
- Pumping your social media.
- Maximising your profile on review sites.
- Being an active and valued member of your community.
It takes some work, but the efforts will be rewarded and the momentum will build exponentially over time.