The restaurant business if incredibly competitive, so marketing and promotions are always important. After ensuring that your establishment is clean, serves great food, and gives superior service, you should focus on ways to bring more people through your door.
Marketing doesn’t always have to break the bank. New and established businesses alike have found inexpensive or free ways to promote their businesses. More than ever before, people are learning about potential places to eat online. There is a whole world of possibilities. The best part is that many are free. Here are ten ideas for marketing tricks you can use to bring in more customers.
1. Create a Google Business account
Although some of Google’s social networking apps—like Hangouts—are not exactly popular, many others are. Many people use Google Maps, for example, and their search engine remains the most popular on the internet. Don’t forget they are also the people behind AdWords, Youtube, Google Analytics, and Webmaster Tools.
The best thing about Google is you can kill all these birds with one stone by registering a Google account. Google will let you verify the address and location of your restaurant on Google Maps and Places. Don’t forget the power of Youtube: make your own channel with video testimonials from loyal customers, previews of this week’s specials, etc.
Here are some instructions on how to create a Google Business account.
2. Build a Facebook business page
A Facebook page is free and is a great start for Facebook marketing. Facebook is the largest social network on the planet, but can also help you to get very local in your marketing. Your page can be a local business page and be easier for customers to find.
If you don’t already have a Facebook account, create one. Then go to Facebook.com/pages/create. Choose a page category, then a more specific category from the drop-down menu. Fill out the required information, click Get Started, and follow the directions.
Once your page is created, you can upload your logo and an appetizing cover photo. Make sure to complete the About page, description, location, and contact address. On your page, you can post photos, videos (including links to your Youtube videos), links, or comments to engage potential customers. Try out promotions, like a percentage off meals if the customer mentions your Facebook post. Be sure to include a strong call to action.
3. Use Twitter for promotion
Twitter is the other social networking giant after Facebook. If you are unaware, it is a microblogging tool where all posts are 140 characters or fewer. You can also share photos, videos, and other engaging media. Twitter is very mobile-friendly, so it reaches customers on the go.
4. Promote your restaurant on Instagram and Pinterest
Instagram allows you to take selfies and other photos and instantly upload them with your phone or computer. Imagine posting pictures of enticing entrees or desserts, selfies of you or employees with famous diners, shots from a great party, etc.
Pinterest is set up like a scrapbook, with various places to post pictures. Here again, you can post photos of just about anything to engage with your customers.
5. List your restaurant on Apple Maps
In addition to Google users, you can also reach those who only use Apple products: iPhone, iPad, Mac, etc. It’s easy to sign up with Apple’s Maps Connect portal. The portal lets you add or update your business information, so customers will find it when using Apple Maps. First, go to https://mapsconnect.apple.com/ and click the “Create one” link to get your free Apple ID. Once you are signed up, click on the “Create a new business” page and indicate your relationship to the business. Enter the basic details, verify your business phone number, and confirm your business location. You will also want to indicate hours of operation, and website and social media links. You will be asked to review everything you’ve added, and that’s it.
6. Get listed on local business directories
Pre-internet, the way to get your business noticed was to get listed and buy ads in the Yellow Pages. Now, there are online directories, such as Google Places, Bing Places, Yahoo Local Listing, Yelp, Angie’s List, Local.com, and Citysearch. Some of these sites are just business listings, while others, like Yelp or Angie’s List, are review sites, encouraging users to leave honest reviews.
7. Join Online communities
Facebook, LinkedIn, and others have groups, forums, and communities that you can join or start. For instance, you could start a group for lovers of a specific food (that happens to be your restaurant’s specialty). Regardless, be sure to follow the group rules, and focus on building relationships with the others in the group or community.
8. Conduct an SEO audit
Do you know how well your website does in search engine rankings? If not, or if you know they could be better, you might want to look at what you are doing now and research how you can improve your rankings. Although you could hire a pro, there is a lot you can do yourself with a little research.
9. Blog about it
If you don’t have a blog, you probably should. To avoid paying any extra fees, it could be part of your website or you could sign up for a free blog service (Blogger, Wordpress), at least until you are able to justify the expense of additional hosting. Blog about new recipes and menu changes, coming events, what’s happening in your neighborhood. Be sure to include calls to action.
10. Invite food and restaurant bloggers
What would happen if the premier food and restaurant bloggers in your city were invited to sample your wares? They will probably write about it. If you are confident in the quality of your food, you have very little to lose (the cost of a meal) by inviting them.