Cost-Effective Marketing Solutions

As times get tougher restaurants are searching for cost-effective marketing options to build awareness of their brand and develop a loyal client base. While splashy t.v. and radio spots are an attractive option, they usually only produce a short term spike in sales and are costly to execute. Operators can however leverage their efforts in more creative ways by utilizing advances in technology and harnessing the power of the Internet to stay connected with their guests.

The most valuable resource to any restaurant is a database (CRM) of their regular and loyal clients. Increasing customer loyalty is the one marketing goal that has the most potential to drive consistent business and improve profits. Frequent guests typically account for 15% of a restaurant’s customer base, but they usually contribute to 33% of the total revenue. Researchers at Harvard have found that by increasing frequency of visits by only 5%, profits can be increased anywhere from 25 – 125%.

Develop your list

Building your Guest List is easily done by collecting client data through various “opt-in” programs including:

In-store: Comment cards, Loyalty programs, contests, surveys, team sponsorships
On-line: Website sign ups, online surveys, online reservation systems
Virally: Social media sites including Facebook, Twitter
Mobile: Cell phone marketing, Cardless loyalty programs

It’s critical to source a superior customer relationship management system (CRM). Use it … massage the info, and live it. As the client list is building data can be stored securely online and segregated into various target groups. Collect data that will be useful for future marketing campaigns including email addresses, cell numbers, birthdays & anniversaries. Require everyone on your team to know it, use it and live by it. The data and history provide a great roadmap as to the evolution of your relationship. The more information you can acquire over time, the better equipped you are to stay close to your customer.

Use the Power of the Internet to Automate

Automated email campaigns including birthday, anniversaries and monthly newsletters are easy to executive and inexpensive ways to stay connected. A good email provider will be able to automatically deploy campaigns based on specific date parameters. Branded e-cards for birthdays and anniversaries can be stored digitally in an online marketing library and personalized by pulling the guest information from the database. Cards should be sent a minimum of 30 days in advance along with an incentive to visit your location. In most cases people celebrate special occasions with friends and family so it’s a great way to draw larger groups and build your pool of regular clients. Ensure your email provider has back end reporting to track your results.

For many restaurants e-newsletters are their primary way of promoting the business. Content often includes information on new menu features, community events, fundraisers, recipe ideas and coupons. A good restaurant software program will allow single or multi-unit concepts to design dynamic pre-built templates. This allows each store location to customize content and images without compromising the look and feel of the brand. All e-newsletters should include multiple hyperlinks to drive customer’s back to your corporate website for additional information or to make an online reservation. There should be a “forward to a friend” option and downloadable pdfs for sponsorship applications or recipe ideas. E-mail newsletters are a great way of reminding customers about your restaurant’s products and services.

Creating regular customers is desirable because they like your product and feel a sense of connection to your business. They visit more often, tend to spend more and spread the word to their friends. Given their potential to build your business, developing a loyal client list and target marketing to them is your best resource for building a successful restaurant. As guests continue to enjoy positive experiences both in the restaurant and through consistent contact they will be come lifelong customers and the best advocates of your business.

Janice Lucarelli is the Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications for GuestEngine Inc. GuestEngine is an online restaurant marketing tool that integrates the best of all restaurant marketing practices into one platform. It includes CRM data storage, loyalty programs, automated email and direct mail campaigns, online surveys, and mobile marketing. For more information contact Janice at 1.888.801.1888 ext 227 or

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