Restaurant customers search for restaurants on their phones, receive marketing messages digitally, use the Internet for customer service and research restaurants by reading online restaurant reviews. People place carryout and delivery orders online, buy eCommerce products from restaurant websites and look for restaurant menus online. If you’re not engaged in online marketing, your restaurant won’t be visible to most customers, even if they’re walking by your business but with their eyes glued to their phone screens.
Eight Online Marketing Ideas
The following techniques will give you a strong working platform to launch all types of online marketing campaigns, engage customers and prospects more effectively and build a strong Internet presence.
- Build a Mobile Website
Your most important step for online marketing is building a website that adjusts for any device automatically. Responsive websites make it easier for people to find information on their phones. Your website should be easy to navigate for customers and easily updated by you, an administrator from your staff or a third-party hosting, designing or consulting company.
- Post Your Menu Online
Your menu is your second most valuable Internet marketing resource. Restaurants spent thousands of dollars to post their menus in yellow page directories in past decades (and many still do), but you can now post your menu — often for free or at little cost — where people can access it 24-7 from their phones. Getting your menu online is a critical step in any restaurant marketing plan.
- Use Social Media
Getting your restaurant on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google is an important step for any successful online marketing strategy. You can inform customers about upcoming promotions, engage them with back-and-forth communications, find out about their interests and provide special offers and incentives for members only. Social media sharing is one of the best ways to extend your brand, get referrals and strengthen your online presence.
- Develop a Customer Database
The Internet and digital marketing run on data and intelligence, and you’re wasting a tremendous resource if you’re not building a database of information about your customers, website visitors and targeted audience. You can use this information to market to people on their phones, send promotional emails and newsletters and tailor your advertising campaigns based on each customer’s profile. Emails and text-messaging campaigns don’t cost much, allow you to personalize your marketing messages and generate high conversion rates.
- Brand Your Restaurant Digitally
Use the Internet to brand your restaurant by publishing your concept, telling people about your business philosophy, creating a recognizable logo, using a company color scheme, talking about your cuisine and promoting your chef, staff, business history and unique culinary approach that distinguishes your restaurant from its competitors.
- Optimize for Search Engines and Local Traffic
Generic searches on the Internet bring people to your website, so you need to optimize your website with on-site and off-site techniques that make your site more visible and attractive to search engines. Search engines return recommendations based on formulas, and search engine optimization or SEO is the process of making your website friendly to search engines by fulfilling the criteria that these formulas are coded to detect.
- Engage Your Customers
Your customers are more valuable than ever because they can refer the restaurant to their friends and associates, write reviews, post comments, let people know where they’re dining, publish photos of your restaurant and generally multiply the effects of word-of-mouth referrals by using modern technology. You can engage customers through social media pages, your website, blog posts and articles that you publish on the Internet. Methods of engaging restaurant customers online include:
- Telling a Story
People love to read about their favorite businesses, employee success stories, biographies of restaurant owners and behind-the-scenes stories of daily operations. Make your stories genuine and engaging, even if they aren’t always flattering.
- Conducting Surveys and Sponsoring Contests
Surveys and contests get people directly involved with your brand.
- Offering Promotions and Incentives
Offering incentives is a proven method for attracting new customers, getting customers to try new menu items and encouraging people to visit more often. Buy-one-and-get-one-free promotions, commonly abbreviated as BOGO, are underused and won’t devalue your brand because customers can invite a guest to dine, creating a win-win in marketing terms.
- Managing Customer Service
You can run a customer service page on Facebook or respond quickly to reviews and complaints to solve problems, address concerns, correct misinformation and engage Internet audiences. It’s also important to respond to email communications promptly.
- Getting Involved with Your Community
You can impress customers and prospects by getting involved in community and charitable causes or making a stand on current issues.
- Updating Your Website and Content
If you want to engage your customers, publish fresh content, blog posts, photos and even videos to keep people returning to your site.
- Providing Resources for Your Audience
Restaurants can engage customers by publishing recipes, how-to-cook tips and articles about important culinary trends, ethnic cuisines, nutrition, dieting, environmental issues and sustainable sourcing.
- Telling a Story
- Take Orders Online
Your online marketing strategies will fall short if you don’t offer a clear call-to-action, and clicking on a link to place an order is the most powerful CTA you can create. Don’t waste your marketing efforts by forcing people to make a phone call or visit in person; let them order online or make a reservation directly from your website.
Online marketing trends evolve quickly, but if you follow the recommendations outlined above, you’ll be in good shape to update your marketing strategy, keep informed about trends, engage your customers and prospects and build your brand.