Ideas on Making Your Fanatical Customers Your Marketing Superstars

A few customers always go beyond being loyal regulars at their favorite restaurants and become shamelessly obsessed. Some of the most extreme examples come up in this article. We’ve all seen forms of this behavior, and it can definitely be a fertile source of word- of-mouth marketing, especially for rounding up new customers. Frequently, independent restaurant owners don’t know what to do when a customer falls in love with their restaurant so we will look at what steps should be taken.

A couple months back, one of my friends on Facebook was counting how many times she went to Chipotle and updating all her friends on Facebook. By the end, she may have reached 100 visits, permanently carving into us her feelings about Chipotle. For those who haven’t been to Chipotle, this is potentially powerful stuff marketing-wise.

I had eaten at Chipotle and knew of the insane devotion of some of the customers, but for someone unfamiliar with Chipotle, after 30 or so updates, he/she is likely to wonder what’s the big deal. And this is not as rare as it may sound. More often than not, customers who go bananas for a restaurant are not afraid to publicize their affection and pester others to try out whatever food they love. With the Internet, these customers can quickly influence scores of people into trying your restaurant or trying whatever dish they are particularly attached to. Besides, if it comes from a customer, those who are researching your restaurant online tend to give more weight to another customers than your marketing claims. The first two sections show how to obtain this kind of customers. The section at the end gives suggestions on how they can benefit your business and how you can keep these customers involved.

Scarcity and Your Specials

If your restaurant gives customers what they want every time they want it, the desire for the object decreases. Some dishes benefit from limited availability. For an independent restaurant, we are not talking about your signature dishes, but food that is more like a cult favorite. That means that these fanatic customers always order one dish even though it may not be ordered by the average diner. In this case, whatever drives these customers nuts should be offered as a special, and not fall on the regular menu. These particular customers are much more likely to follow your Tweets or Facebook posts to find out when your restaurant is serving their beloved dish. What’s more, they will have a sense of urgency in trying to coax their friends to come along for their meal.

Also, stage promotions that involve customers getting involved in your restaurant. Occasionally, their fanaticism could even bring news coverage. For example, if this one cult dish is popular enough, have a day where you make only that one dish (perhaps attach a discount for people who unknowingly come to your restaurant) and nothing else. This needs to be promoted well in advance and should probably happen on your most quiet day. Or you could throw a party around one aspect of your restaurant and give out an unlimited supply of this food.

The Unexpected

Food quality wins customers. However, when food quality is coupled with something surprising, customers can become groupies. It’s like a relationship. Relationships like these, however extreme, come from offering something to customers that is unique, (like a Chinese restaurant with a killer hamburger). Sometimes, this idea is at the heart of your business concept, but much more often it isn’t. Often, the food is unusual for your cuisine or not many other restaurants make it the same way in your area. Also, it can be a variation of a normal dish, like a special ingredient.

Their Online Promotional Super Powers

Pound for pound, the fanatical customer is your best marketing asset. With religious zealous, they promote your restaurant through word-of-month both online and person. Online this happens in many ways.  Besides, writing a stellar review on Yelp and other review sites, I can think of four places online where this customer can drive business. Of course, you shouldn’t instruct them to promote for your restaurant as your appreciation for their business is normally enough for them to do so on their own.

The first two places are obvious: Facebook and Twitter. If the customer has many friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter, consistent Facebook post and tweets can definitely send people to your restaurant out of curiosity. The person who reads the post or tweet may even investigate your restaurant on their own. Many times these customers write on your restaurant’s Facebook Page and communicate via Twitter. Do all you can to encourage their enthusiasm, such as suggest that they post their experiences at your restaurant on your wall (“when you come back, tell me how your next meal is”).

Some customers will even go so far as to write a blog about your restaurant, or at least, post on their blog their experiences. Through social media, you should share these with other customers. It gives other customers permission to  Since these customers behavior borders on the eccentric, customers tend to pay attention. Indeed a couple pictures would help.

Lastly, Youtube has the potential to make a huge impression. Sometimes, these customers come up with really original or funny ideas to document their love of your restaurant. Within reason, I would be positive about this, and allow them to take on the premises unless they disturb other customers or the restaurant’s operation. If the video helps your own marketing, link your blog, Facebook and Twitter to his/her video. Of course, you should be upfront and say that you cannot guarantee to link to his or her content before you have seen it, but these customers are all about your restaurant so they normally won’t be offended.

Match Their Enthusiasm

Some restaurants give away freebies to their most loyal customers. Certainly, it’s probably not best to broadcast it over Facebook or Twitter, but have them introduce themselves when they are in the restaurant. Instead of food (which they don’t carry around with them), if you chose to give out freebies, my suggestion is to hand out T-shirts if you are a quick-service restaurant or for my upscale places, scarves, blankets, etc. They should have your logo so that these customers can show off your restaurant to their friends, coworkers and family.  It may even be more effective to give them access that a normal customer wouldn’t have, like meeting the chef or touring the kitchen. Perhaps, you show them how their favorite dish is prepared. Don’t worry this type may try to replicate it at home, but their allegiance to your restaurant will not fade.

You want these customers. Many of them can make a true marketing difference without you forking over a dime. So keep an eye out for especially passionate customers and spend a little time figuring out how to make them happy.  Their love means that your hard work has paid off so as much as possible, embrace their enthusiasm.