Newsletters: How Can Restaurants Build Digital Marketing Campaigns?

February, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Of all of the marketing tools available to restaurant owners, newsletters are often overlooked in favor of social media and traditional print advertising. Many restaurant owners simply aren’t aware of just how powerful newsletters often prove. From building loyalty among existing customers to boosting overall sales figures, digital newsletters can make an impressive impact for restaurants of all sizes. If you’re considering launching a newsletter for your own eatery, learn more about the hidden potential email campaigns represent.

Examining Case Studies

Newsletters have consistently generated tangible results for restaurants across the nation, as evidenced by countless case studies observing their usefulness. In one study conducted by Fishbowl, a small restaurant owner in Bethesda, Maryland managed to grow his customer base by 1,000 new clients, while boosting the average spend of his diners—all in just six months. Another restaurant in Pelham, New York used email marketing to promote musical acts performing for customers, resulting in a 15% uptick in sales.

Creating an Effective Newsletter

The evidence may speak for itself, but many business owners don’t know where to start building their own restaurant email marketing campaigns. A few simple keys should help any restaurant get started on the right track:

1. Use the Right Tools

Don’t be tempted to mass email your clients using a standard email account. Instead, build your newsletter using one of the countless products made for this purpose. Software you may wish to consider includes Mailchimp and Aweber. The aforementioned Fishbowl also offers industry-specific marketing tools for restaurant owners.

2. Develop a Consistent Strategy

There are no two ways about it: creating compelling newsletter content takes hard work.
Don’t allow yourself to fall behind and stop sending newsletters for months at a time. Instead, consider building an editorial calendar well in advance. Brainstorm potential subject matter to include in your newsletters, and create publication deadlines to help you stick with the program.

By creating your newsletter with an established software tool, you’ll also be able to better automate the process of publication. You can cue up your newsletter days or weeks in advance, and have the software automatically distribute your marketing materials at set intervals.

3. Establish Achievable Goals

Much like any other marketing initiative, it’s important to set clearly outlined goals for
your newsletter, which will help maximize the success of your efforts. Whether you’re striving to improve low sales, attract more visitors, or simply grow your mailing list, setting these goals will help you to create content that actually converts. Furthermore, as you see results achieved, you’ll remain motivated to continue investing in your company’s newsletter.

Newsletters have proven effective across myriad industries, which makes this growth avenue an exciting prospect for hospitality businesses. Best of all, exploring email marketing initiatives for your restaurant represents a relatively small upfront investment. Remember, a one size fits all approach is not the best approach for most restaurants. Instead, think consciously about the needs of your business and try to use your newsletter to meet those needs in an innovative fashion. With plenty of hard work and a bit of good luck, you should find this approach incredibly useful.

Experience Marketing: Building Connections with Customers

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Modern consumers are bombarded with marketing content continuously on the web. Unfortunately, the abundance of photos, articles, and videos vying for attention has led to oversaturation and customer fatigue. Simply put, making a splash on the internet is much more difficult in 2015 than it was just a few short years ago. Instead of focusing exclusively on generating intriguing content, many small business owners are finding greater success through a concept known as experience marketing

What is Experience Marketing?

The idea behind experience marketing is simple: customers who have an emotional connection to a brand are loyal to the business. To this end, restaurants, wineries, hotels, and other hospitality businesses are working to build experiences for their customers. Marketers using this technique strive for the domino effect. Assuming the customer has a fantastic experience and feels a strong link to the brand, the consumer will be more likely to talk about the company on social media and share their thoughts on review sites.

Creating a Positive Experience

While experience marketing may be a simple idea, the execution often proves tricky for business owners. Fortunately, creating a meaningful experience for your guests doesn’t need to feel like a challenging proposition. Consider using some of the following keys to boost the emotional connection your customers feel toward your brand:

Personalize Every Visit: Demonstrating your attention to the needs and preferences of your buyers generates immense value in the eyes of your customers. When possible, try to personalize experiences for your patrons by remembering their favorite orders and catering to their whims.

Pay Careful Attention: Nothing feels more frustrating that visiting a business and working to capture the attention of a server or a salesperson. Don’t make your buyers feel unappreciated with poor service. Pay attention to the little details and be overambitious in your efforts to ensure their desires are met.

Be Warm and Inviting: If you consider yourself a marketer above all else, spend some time brushing up on your customer service skills. Positive experiences for customers are often driven by fantastic customer service. Show your customers you care with kindness, appreciation, and genuine warmth that will leave them feeling great.

Encouraging Digital Interactions

Creating a positive experience for customers is not a new marketing concept, but transforming positive experiences into social media traction is a relatively novel idea. Before your customers leave your business, be sure they’ve learned how they can interact with your brand online. From placing social media icons on your menu board to displaying a review site decal on your storefront windows, there are plenty of ways to subtly encourage your customers to share their thoughts online.

Building a loyal customer base through experience marketing can help your business succeed in the digital world, but remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Treat every customer experience like a meaningful interaction, and the results will become apparent bit by bit. By combining experience marketing with other proven promotional techniques, you’re bound to see tangible results for your business on the web.

What Millennials Want: 4 Simple Keys for Brands

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

America’s 80 million millennials represent some $200 billion in annual buying power, making it vitally important for businesses of all sizes to market their products and services to this demographic. If you’re one of the many entrepreneurs who feel stumped when it comes to connecting with the millennial buyer, don’t despair. Instead, take some to time to explore the patterns and trends driving the buying behavior of this group.

What Drives the Millennial Buyer?

Many of millennials buying habits vary greatly from those of Generation Y shoppers. The following four attributes are among the biggest differences millennials exhibit:

1. Intentional with Buying Decisions

Today’s young adults are overwhelmingly earning less money than their parents did for the same work, which has made millennials more intentional about their buying choices. For many hospitality businesses, catering to millennials means taking steps to ensure products are environmentally-friendly and produced in accordance with fair trade practices. With greater competition in a globalized marketplace, small business owners need to be incredibly specific with their marketing message.

2. Not “Black and White” Thinkers

According to recent research, 50% of millennials self-identify as “foodies,” but many of these food aficionados are still attracted by the low prices and decadence of fast food eateries. Unlike the baby boomers, millennials are more flexible in their buying choices. They want to save the planet and make a difference in their local communities, while simultaneously embracing spontaneity and following their whims.

Feel confused? So do many marketing experts—the key to connecting with marketers is treating nothing as sacred. Instead, be open to experimentation and tweaking your brand values.

3. Focused on Technology

Nearly three-fourths of millennials use the web to make buying decisions, and their fascination with the internet doesn’t stop there. Young consumers are redefining many aspects of the hospitality industry, as they prioritize features like online checkins and paying tabs via their mobile devices. Millennials are also vocal about sharing their opinions on review sites, in turn impacting the decisions of others.

4. Interested in “Unique” Experiences

Whereas yesteryear’s buyers were happy to go with the flow and follow the overall shopping trends of their peers, millennials are increasingly looking for the unique, out-of-the-box experience. For hoteliers and restaurateurs, it’s imperative to change the traditional marketing message. Millennial buyers are driven by a desire to see something outside the norm. Curating specific experiences and giving these consumers the opportunity to do something their friends haven’t had the chance to do is an important principle for marketers to embrace.

Like it or not, millennials are here to stay. Understanding the unique challenges that these buyers represent is a beneficial tool that will help your business better reach such consumers. If you’re eager to keep your business on the right track, continue to monitor the habits of the millennial buyer. This will allow you to better craft the right marketing strategy for your brand.

Every Business is an Online Business!

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Small business owners often overlook the need for a dynamic business website. According to research conducted for GoDaddy this past summer, 59% of small businesses still don’t have a dedicated website. Survey respondents provided a number of different reasons for this trend, with 35% of participants citing their small size for their lack of a web presence. Unfortunately, these businesses are missing out on a myriad of benefits, while simultaneously jeopardizing their financial health.

Why Do I Need a Website?

In 2016, every business is an online business. The internet is not only a tool for retailers who provide services to clients via the web. Instead, it’s a vitally important resource for connecting real-world businesses with customers. If you’re still on the fence about building a web presence, consider the following invaluable benefits an effective business website provides:

1. Your Website is a 24/7 Salesman

Think of your website as the best salesperson on your team. Unlike human staffers, websites never take a break or clock off for the day. A professional website allows consumers to learn more about your business and the services and products you offer. Best of all, this advertising is incredibly affordable. Unlike traditional ad campaigns, you won’t fork over thousands of dollars to keep your website performing optimally.

2. Websites Increase Your Visibility

How many customers are you losing to competitors who market themselves effectively online? According to a Google study, a full 50% of consumers conducting mobile local searches visit a business in person within 24 hours. Buying habits have shifted in the 21st century, with customers turning to the internet to make informed decisions about which local businesses to patronize.

3. A Professional Site Boosts Customer Engagement

Any business owner can recognize the importance of fostering customer loyalty. Your best customers will repeatedly visit your business and recommend you to others. Building a web presence is a powerful tool for customer engagement, as it allows you to foster relationships with your existing customer base outside of physical interactions.

Whether you choose to build a targeted email list, promote new products or sales, or simply keep your customers abreast of changes in your business, your website allows you to make a powerful impact. Generating interesting content also gives your loyal buyers something they can share with others via social media, further contributing to your online clout.

If you’re eager to invest in the future of your business, stop thinking about in terms of “online” and “offline.” 84% of Americans use the internet, while a further 65% use a smartphone. The internet is a ubiquitous resource that nearly all consumers are already using to make buying decisions. By refusing to embrace the power of the web for your small business, you’re only driving would-be customers away and endangering your livelihood.

Help, I Don’t Have Time to Blog!

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

The benefits of generating interesting content for your business blog are undeniable: from driving traffic to your site to establishing authority in your industry, a great blog can make a long term impact on the health of your business. Unfortunately, many small business owners ultimately neglect their blogs, simply because they can’t find the time to write new posts. If you find yourself in similar shoes, learn why it’s important to establish a gameplan for keeping your blog performing optimally.

Avoiding a ‘Dead’ Blog

Many business owners attack the blogging challenge with gusto initially, only to lose steam as the challenges of keeping their company afloat overshadow the need for new posts. Neglecting your blog for a few months can have serious repercussions, however. Your customers will stop visiting your site, and potential leads may look to competitors when they find your blog is stagnant. You’re essentially flushing sales away, one by one.

How Do I Fix the Problem?

First, be realistic about your blogging capabilities. If you know that you can’t commit to producing three full-fledged posts every week for the foreseeable future, don’t start now. Set reasonable goals that won’t loom over you as an intimidating chore down the road. If you know you cannot or will not make the time to generate content, don’t play the ostrich with your head in the sand. Instead, come up with a strategy for filling your site with relevant content from other contributors.

How to Hire Blog Writers

There is no shame in working with a professional writer to ensure your blog stays populated with the informative posts—in fact, some business owners would be better off working with a blog writer from the start. A marketing expert can help you craft blogs that convey your message in an effective manner, making your brand truly shine. A professional may also be better suited for helping you navigate the waters of search engine optimization (SEO).

There are a number of different ways to find contributors for your blog.For long term solutions, partner with a marketing agency who can help you generate ideas for your blog and deliver well-written posts that will keep your audience intrigued. Many business owners find this approach delivers better results for their brand, while eliminating the stress of keeping up with an ambitious editorial calendar solo.

When it comes to blogging, don’t be tempted to throw in the towel because you don’t have the time in your schedule. Instead, take a pragmatic approach: commit to writing a small number of posts or outsource your work to a capable partner. Regardless of which approach you take, keeping your blog alive with great content will boost your visibility on the web and help ensure the future success of your brand.

Creating a Strong Call-to-Action: 6 Tips to Get Started

October, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Perhaps one of the single most important aspects of a modern website, the call-to-action often receives little more than a passing thought for small business owners. A call-to-action, often shortened to CTA, gives your reader direction. You can hire the world’s most talented copywriter, spend thousands on a cutting-edge design, and continually invest in online advertising to pull in traffic—yet without a killer call-to-action, you won’t convert visitors to buyers.

Ready to get started creating dynamic CTAs for your site? Use the following tips to ensure your call-to-action will deliver the results you’re seeking.

1. Set a Clear Goal

Too many business owners overlook the importance of setting conversion goals for their website. Your company’s presence on the web shouldn’t be underestimated. What do you want to do with your site? Are you trying to earn more newsletter subscribers? Do you want to encourage readers to make a reservation? Perhaps you’re selling a great product.

Determine what you want your visitor to do, and then, craft a CTA with that action in mind.

2. Action Verbs are Your Friend

Which of the following two options catches your attention? Option 1: Do you want to stay in touch & receive free coupons? You can sign up for our newsletter by clicking here. Option 2: Save money on your next visit by signing up for our newsletter now!

Don’t make a suggestion—create an exciting opportunity your visitor won’t want to miss.

3. Create Scarcity for Visitors

Establishing a false sense of scarcity is a key marketing principle you don’t want to overlook with your call-to-action. Crazy Egg recommends creating a sense of scarcity and urgency with words like immediately, now, and instant. You can also talk about deadlines and limits to get visitors interested.

4. Keep it Brief

Your call-to-action is not an opportunity to make a long-winded sales pitch—your copy should have already convinced the visitor. Instead, the CTA is sending them in the right direction. Don’t over complicate it with long sentences and explanations. Hubspot suggests aiming for 90 to 150 characters.

5. Highlight Your Key Benefits

Use your product or service highlights to get your visitor’s attention. Try to directly tie those benefits into clicking through your link. You should have taken the copy as an opportunity to expound upon the important stuff, but the call-to-action is your way of saying, “You want this. Let’s make it happen.”

6. Think Wisely about Placement

Most marketers place their CTA above the fold or at the bottom of the page. Both can be effective positions, but think about the story you’re writing for your visitor. Let the CTA be the culmination of a well-thought out marketing message.

The ultimate truth is that there is no perfect CTA that applies across the board—instead, experiment to find what works best for your site. If you receive enough visitors, consider using A/B testing to determine what option works best for you. With a bit of elbow grease and some luck, you should be able to determine what call-to-action most effectively helps you reach your business goals.

Elicit an Emotional Response with the Right Imagery

October, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Emotions have long been recognized as one of the most important factors in marketing. In one analysis of 1,400 case studies, marketing campaigns that elicited emotional responses were nearly twice as effective as the baseline. To capitalize on your buyer’s emotions, you need to understand how to elicit that elusive response. On the web, copy and design form part of the equation, but it is a site’s images that truly impact a visitor’s emotions.

Wonder how to use your website’s images to make the biggest impression on potential buyers? Use these simple tips to maximize the power of your digital photos.

1. Understand Your Audience’s Needs

Defining a narrow target audience has benefits that extend across every facet of your marketing strategy. If you understand what your reader needs emotionally, you’ll be better equipped to evoke that response. Establish your audience needs first, and you’ll then be better able to choose imagery that will connect with the reader in question.

2. Use People to Sell Your Product

We’re naturally wired to focus on human faces, which is why you’ll see human beings as one of the top image choices on the web. Buyers don’t merely want pictures of your products and services. If you can use a photo of a person to drum up feelings of nostalgia or memories, you can generate an even greater emotional pull.

3. Focus on Authenticity

Many marketing firms shy away from stock photography for one simple reason—it doesn’t resonate as well with web users. Consumers want the real, raw deal, with photos that aren’t airbrushed to perfection. Choose to highlight photos of your staff members, or instead take photos of your business, flaws and all. An honest portrayal of who you are is much better than trying to create an unrealistic fantasy.

4. Select Sensory Photos

If you’re not already familiar with sensory marketing, take some time to learn more about the science behind this riveting phenomenon. Our senses affect our mood and memories in a powerful way, and while photos only call on a web user’s sight, the right picture can make your reader practically smell your product or taste your food.

Choose graphic pictures that catapult your web user into another world. Remember, the whole marketing equation should be focused on your buyer, not on your company and what you sell.
When selecting images for your site, try to imagine what your ideal customer would want to feel when interacting with your brand.

There are countless resources available to business owners who want to use images to enhance their marketing efforts. By selecting photos that emotionally resonate with your web visitor, you’ll boost your conversion rate and get consumers excited about choosing your business. If you’re able to do this consistently, your website could easily become one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal.

How Daily Deal Sites Devalue Your Brand Long Term

October, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

n mid-September 2015, Groupon announced it would be cutting 1,100 jobs and shuttering its operations in many countries around the world. It marks a devastating turn for the leader in daily deal sites, a company that was once the fastest-growing business in the world. Where did it all go wrong?

Unfortunately, for small businesses and large chains alike, daily deal sites cause more problems than they solve. Touted as an inexpensive way to land new customers and increase revenue, many business owners have found daily deals generate nothing but headaches. And yet, some businesses are still tempted to purchase advertising space on these sites. Before you make this faux pas, consider the four problems daily deals create:

1. Daily Deals Attract the Wrong Buyers

Pulling in a new customer with a great sale makes logical sense, right? Unfortunately, daily most deals shoppers are simply bargain hunters. You’re not reaching members of your target audience—you’re giving away products and services on the cheap to people who likely won’t come back.

2. Traffic Issues Cause Lasting Repercussions

If you flood the market with an unbeatable deal for your business, you could see your traffic increase exponentially. Sadly, very few small businesses are ready to deal with the challenges that accompany a short term traffic boost. If your service or product suffers as you scramble to serve a massive number of new customers, unsatisfied buyers will flood the web with poor reviews and negative feedback.

3. You’re Selling Yourself Short

In marketing, perception is everything. By setting your prices, you’re teaching buyers what your product is worth. When your $45 entree becomes $15 on a daily deals site, you’re rewriting customer value perceptions. Why should that customer ever want to spend three times as much on the same service he received at a discounted rate?

4. You’re Not Maximizing Your Marketing Dollar

When you purchase a daily deal ad, you’re selling discounted vouchers to customers through a third party. If you’d offered the same sale yourself, you would have the buyer’s personal information, which you could use for marketing initiatives down the road. Instead, you’ve simply purchased a customer’s business as a one-off opportunity.

Even worse, you likely won’t see the money from that sale for some time. For example, Groupon lays out a complicated payment structure for its merchants. You won’t receive the entirety of the money until two months after the sale, by which time you’ll likely have seen the customers come and go. If you operate on a tight budget, this could cause serious cash flow issues.

The clever idea behind sites like Groupon caused the daily deal to explode in popularity a few years ago. As the economy has recovered, and buyers have started spending again, however, the novelty has worn off. Buyers aren’t near as interested in daily deals, and the vendors hawking them aren’t turning a profit. Don’t fall prey to the mistakes of others—instead, use tried and true marketing efforts to grow your bottom line.

Social Strategy: Developing a Plan to Maximize Your Social Media Efforts

September, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Many small businesses flock to social media in the hopes of supercharging their digital marketing efforts, but few companies manage to make a lasting impact online. Harnessing the potential of social platforms requires a carefully structured strategy, much like a traditional marketing plan. If you’re ready to boost your business’ prowess on the social web, use the following keys to begin building your social media strategy.

Defining Your Goals

Don’t simply create a social media profile and hope for the best. Instead, set specific goals you’d like to achieve, and then work out how you plan to reach those milestones. It’s better to set measurable goals and link them to a specific timeline, which will help you stay on the right track.

As with any marketing initiative, develop a clear target audience for your social accounts. If you know which audience you’re trying to reach, you’ll better direct your energy on the web. For example, Facebook may be the best platform for reaching a wide, general audience, but LinkedIn is better suited for B2B marketers. Use statistics and consumer research to determine which platforms you should explore. From Instagram to Pinterest, the options are nearly unlimited.

Creating Content for the Web

Once you’ve established where you’re headed, begin crafting content that will help you meet your goals. Brainstorm ideas for blog posts, videos, and images you can share to generate interest. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas and concepts—you never know what could turn viral.

Whether you want to post once a week or twice a month, consistency is important. Your followers will come to expect the same regular interactions, so don’t leave them in the dark while you go on vacation or get busy with other things. If you struggle with this idea, consider creating an editorial calendar to track your progress.

Building Your Presence

Don’t be that sad business with 15 followers and 6 lonely tweets. Once you commit to launching your social media efforts, attack in full force. Be proactive about responding to comments, actively seek out new followers, and monitor activity on a daily basis.

If you aren’t able to commit to updating your accounts on a regular basis, consider partnering with an agency that can manage your profiles for you. As your popularity online grows, your accounts may need several hours worth of your attention each week. If you don’t have the time to personally commit to growing your network, an agency can help you ensure your goals don’t fall to the wayside.

Regardless of which approach you take, don’t be tempted to forego social media altogether. According to statistics from the Social Media Examiner, 95% of businesses active on social platforms in 2014 saw increased exposure for their brand—the numbers don’t lie. Make your social accounts a priority and watch your brand build momentum that could last a lifetime

Identifying Buyer Personas: What Customers Are You Targeting?

September, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

It isn’t uncommon for small business owners to shy away from defining their target market, believing their product or service appeals to everyone. Unfortunately, a poorly defined target market often causes a myriad of headaches—from poorly optimized content to wasted marketing dollars, misunderstanding your core audience can make a dramatic impact on your business’ success. One simple solution is to build a detailed buyer persona, which you can use to direct your marketing efforts.

What Exactly is a Buyer Persona?

Buyer personas are fictionalized representations of your ideal customers. Who is most likely to patronize your restaurant, purchase your beverage, or repeatedly visit your website? Perhaps “Bob” is your buyer persona, a retiree with a taste for the finer things in life. Do you run a family-friendly diner with a wide array of dishes that appeal to kids and adults alike? You may be catering to “Megan,” a busy soccer mom looking for options when she’s too tired to cook.

Of course, it’s not enough to simply give your fictionalized buyer a name. You want to understand what makes him or her tick. What are the needs of your customer? What are his or her hobbies, passions, and habits? The more closely you can define your buyer persona, the more effective this tool ultimately proves.

How to Use Your Buyer Persona

After carefully constructing your personas, you can think more intentionally about the best way to market and advertise your business. What magazines does “Megan” read, and what sort of topics interest “Bob” online? You can use this information to better target potential customers.

Buyer personas also prove useful when segmenting your market into various buckets. Retiree “Bob” may want to visit your restaurant with his wife for a romantic evening out while successful businesswoman “Sarah” needs a place to hold meetings with her clients. By segmenting your market into multiple personas, you can tailor your communications to fit the mold of your buyers. The ads, digital content, and interactions you direct towards each persona will vary based on the profile of the customer.

Research Makes Perfect

You may be familiar with the expression, “practice makes perfect,” but in marketing, research is the path to perfection. Don’t simply guess what your ideal customers are looking for—instead, work to tweak your personas by continually investing in market research.

This process doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Instead, listen to customer feedback and take the time to ask specific questions. Start conversations with your customers and ask specific questions to get a better understanding for the needs and wants of your buyer.

Buyer personas hold plenty of potential for businesses struggling to gain marketing traction. By carefully researching your market, defining target segments, and working to shape your initiatives to fit the needs of your personas, you’ll maximize earning potential and protect your bottom line. It may sound simple at first, but you’ll find yourself surprised at just how effective this fundamental marketing technique can be.