Recently, we led a workshop with Leucadia Main Street Business Association to help local restaurants in the area level up their digital marketing game. The title of the workshop was "Winning The Now Moment." Knowing that consumers are eating out more and more, how can brands win that moment when consumers’ tummies are growling and they are trying to decide on a place to eat? Below are the slides from the talk as well as a longer overview of the talk.
It is 11:30 AM on Monday morning, your stomach is growling, and a co-worker comes up and asks the age old question, “Where should we go for lunch?” This is a question that is being asked more and more as consumers are choosing to dine out rather than eat in. In a study conducted by Bloomberg, March 2015 was the first time in recent history that sales at restaurant and bars had overtaken grocery store spending.
As an owner or a marketer for a restaurant brand, how confident are you that your brand will be the chosen destination in the sea of endless choices?
The increase in demand is being met with ongoing competition. If you do a search on Google for “restaurants near me” you will generate dozens of local listings and thousands of organic results. That’s just one platform to find options. Now that we are full speed in the digital age, consumers have more and more tools that they use to help them answer the question, “Where should we eat?”
To be successful in competing for the share of someone’s stomach, you need to have a strong understanding of human psychology and know how to utilize digital marketing to reach that audience in an impactful way. Gone are the days where you put a coupon in the paper and gained a regular customer for life.
If you need assistance in this area, never fear. This guide will give you a basic outline of how today’s consumer thinks. It will also show you how to use digital marketing to get their attention, attract them to your location, and wow them with your service.
Understanding the New Consumer Mind
If you want to acquire new and repeat business to your restaurant, you need to understand one important fact: Consumers’ emotional needs drive their purchase decisions. Smart marketers take this into consideration as they plan their marketing activities. Below are four ways that trigger an emotional response.
Humanize Your Brand Voice
According to the book Decoding the New Consumer Mind by Kit Yarrow, Yarrow explains, “In the minds of consumers, businesses have become the antithesis of humanity. The key to gaining the trust of wary consumers is to get real.” Your customers want to engage with a brand that has a human appeal. At the end of the day, people look for people like themselves. To be successful in this area, you need to have a solid understanding of your audience. What are their likes, dislikes and/or desires? Then, you need to create a brand voice that aligns with that.
The place where someone eats speaks a lot about the type of person that they are. What we talk about influences how others see us. Help your customers express their identity through the marketing messages that you share in the digital sphere. With a strong understanding of your audience, you will know what matters most to them and can leverage that knowledge to create compelling content that your customers will be excited to share.
Panera Bread does a great job with this by creating social posts that allow their fans to express their style and social preferences when they share. This is a win-win because it also validates Panera Bread as a valid restaurant choice to the followers of the person that shared the post.
Consumers are drawn to games. When we play games, it reminds us of the fun that we had as children, and it strengthens the bonds between us and the people we play with. In the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger; Berger explains that gamified content taps into our innate desire for competition and winning. How can you create mini games with your content that will create a desire for your customers to keep coming back to your location and spreading the word?
Sense of Community
As humans, rooted in our DNA is a sense of belonging and the need to connect with other humans. Research has shown that brands that establish communities not only drive greater reach, but they also add value at the other points of the user journey like encouraging conversions or improving existing customer relationships. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars creating a unique portal to trigger the community feeling within your customers. By regularly engaging in communication with your audience on social media and helping them connect with other like-minded people, you are helping to establish a community and your customers will thank you for it.
Now that you understand the physiological principles that trigger your customers to take action, let's dive into specific tactics that you can utilize to help get their attention, attract them to your location, and delight them to keep coming back.
Local Search Optimization
When you don’t know the answer to something, where is the first place that you turn? If you said “Google,” you are correct. Google’s research into local search behavior revealed that local searchers are poised to take action. “Fifty percent of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day, and 34% who searched on computer/tablet did the same.” This means ranking in local search has a direct impact on in-store traffic. To ensure that your site has the best chance of ranking well for local search results, here are a few things that you can do.
- Get your business listed on all relevant local directories, and make sure your profile is complete.
- Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) is consistent across all channels. This includes your website, social media profiles, review sites and directory listings.
- Use local keywords in your URLs, heading tags, title tags and content, where appropriate.
Take Advantage of Hashtags
When posting content on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, make sure that you use relevant hashtags in your content. This will help you be discovered by potential customers searching on those platforms.
Encourage Users to Share Their Experience
Nothing gets attention like a recommendation from a friend. One of the best ways to expand your reach is to encourage your customers to share their experience on social media and leave reviews on sites like Yelp and Google.
Now that people know about you, what tactics can you deploy to stay top of mind so that you are their first choice when their stomach starts growling and they need to pick a place to eat?
With smart phones at our disposal, we are ever connected. Studies show that consumers check their inboxes between 3 and and 150 times a day. Having a strong email database gives you the ability to set triggers at key moments of the day where your customer is going to be most receptive to your message. Here are a few tips to help you acquire and stay top of mind with your customer.
- Incentivize customers to sign up for your email list with a free offer and the ability to receive exclusive discounts and other perks.
- Schedule emails around key moments of the day to get your customer thinking about your brand (i.e. Monday at 10:30 AM). Make sure to include delicious product shots.
- Don’t over email. Carefully monitor open and opt-out rates to ensure you are not over messaging your audience.
- Give them insider information. Users who signed up for your mailing list raised their hand and asked to be messaged. Make them feel special by letting them know first when new menu items are coming out and other key info.
- Post messages around key meal times to trigger hunger.
- Show people experiencing your restaurant. It will help your customers picture themselves eating there as well.
- Reshare posts that your customers post at your restaurant.
- Offer insider information for people that follow you on social media. Donut Bar posts the menu for the next day on social so that their fans are the first to know what’s in store for the next day.
You have got your customer’s attention; you’ve attracted them to your restaurant. Now, how do you delight them and keep them coming back? Here are a few tips to help them feel special.
Celebrate Their Birthday
Ask for their birthday when they join your mailing list and send them a special offer on their birthday. Eating is a community experience, so people will most likely bring friends which will offset the discount provided. In addition, your customer will most likely thank you for your generosity on social media which will increase your exposure.
Hug Your Haters
When someone leaves you a less than stellar review, this is an opportunity to turn those haters into ravers. Jay Baer explains in the book Hug Your Haters that when you respond to, what he calls, the “attention seekers,” they are more likely to leave a positive response the second time. When responding, it is recommended that you acknowledge their issue and don’t try to cover it up or justify why it happened. Offer them an opportunity to come back and have a better experience. Whether they come back or not, it will show to the other people scanning the reviews that you are responsive and care about the experience your customer receives.
In today’s busy society, people are constantly connected and distracted with thousands of marketing messages every day. Gone are the days where all you had to do is post an ad in the weekly paper. Successful marketers are taking a different approach to attracting customers to their establishment. They are taking time to understand the needs of their customers and build a relationship. They are utilizing digital marketing to create a personalized experience that surrounds their customer along their decision journey. This philosophy allows them to attract the right customers and turn them into raving fans, which will attract more customers and drive more revenue.