No Money? No Problem! Restaurant Marketing on a Shoestring Budget – Part 2

When people think about some of the most successful viral social media campaigns of all time, one of the most memorable is the Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge raised more than $115 million during the summer of 2014, and the money raised even helped scientists discover a gene related to A.L.S., the disease that benefited most from the challenge. 

You might be thinking to yourself that I’m writing a blog post for the wrong site, but I swear I’m not! What the Ice Bucket Challenge helped to prove is that it doesn’t take a lot of money at all to start a viral trend, and you can do a ton of great things with very little if you align your mission with your goals. 

The same can be said for marketing your restaurant. You can have all the flashy graphics and big ad spends you want, but if your goals don’t match your mission people will tune out and you’ll be left on the outside looking in. 

Marketing your restaurant doesn’t have to be rocket science, and honestly, you can get the word out about your eatery without having to stick your hands in the piggy bank. All you have to do is give people a reason to care about you, your business and why you should succeed. 

Use Marketing Emails to Your Advantage 

Email is actually a great way to stay in front of people and, even better, it’s free to do! When people come to your restaurant, encourage them to provide their email in exchange for coupons, menu updates and special offers. Once you have a nice list of email addresses, start crafting up some emails that are enticing enough to get clicked on and provide your customers something to interact with. 

Mad Men Marketing

According to a 2016 study performed by Adestra, an astounding 7 out of 10 American consumers prefer to receive an email notification from a business, compared to other forms of marketing like texts or direct mail. However, with that said, the data also shows that when people give a business their email address, there’s about a 50/50 chance it might be fake (43% of those polled give a real address to websites requesting that information). 

There is a bit of a silver lining to the cloud though! Emails that contain offers are more likely to be opened and are assumed to have more influence on buying decisions than other forms of advertising, like review sites and other types of online ads. 

Email marketing is interesting because if you can do it well you’ll have a dedicated audience that is interested in what you have to say and may be more likely to engage with your brand. But be careful with how many emails you’re sending. A 2016 ADI email survey found nearly 50% of people find frequent emails annoying. If you do send out emails, make sure everything is spelled correctly, written well and optimized for both desktop and mobile use. One of the biggest problems today with email marketing is poorly designed messages meant for users checking email on their phone. 

Want to make sure your emails get opened? Make sure your subject line is interesting, but don’t make it clickbait-y. About 47% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line, so do your best to personalize it to their experience. More importantly, close to two-thirds of those recipients will interact with an email if they know who it’s coming from, so make sure you make a good first impression both online and in the restaurant! 

Looking for good content to throw into a restaurant email? Menu changes, coupons, loyalty program updates, links to recent blog content, recipes and even customer shout-outs are all great ideas. Experiment with your designs and content to see what works best for your audience and when you hit on something that works, do more of that! 

Create A Loyalty Program 

This might seem like one of those “duh” situations, but having a loyalty program is an excellent way to not only generate some content for your marketing emails (see what I did there?) but it also gives your customers a reason to keep coming back for more. According to data from Quicksprout, about 82% of customers are more likely to patronize and buy from businesses with a loyalty program.

Source / Gif by Truly.

Why does it matter? Well, think about how hard it is to get new business coming into your restaurant, but how easy it is to hang onto your regulars. Your regulars already like what you’re serving, will tell their friends about you and have made it a habit of coming in to see you. A loyalty program basically rewards your regulars for sticking with you and gives new people a reason to walk through the door in the first place. Quicksprout’s data suggests that returning customers will spend 67% more than new customers and are much more likely to buy from you. 

Loyalty works both ways, so make sure the program you’re setting up makes sense for them. They’re giving you, and not one of your competitors, their money, so the least you can do is make it worthwhile. Give them points for doing things like referring a friend, offer discounts on items you know your customers are buying, and encourage them to try new things by sharing coupons for new menu items. 

Luckily, Brink point of sale software contains its own loyalty program tracking, so if you don’t want to pay for a third-party service there is something available for you that’s already baked into the software you’re gettingHowever, if you do feel like spending the extra coin on a partner program, there are plenty of options available to explore, including PunchhPaytronix, and LevelUp. 

You don’t have to give away everything to keep your customers from going somewhere else, but everyone likes to feel appreciated occasionally. 

Set the Mood with Some Music 

Have you ever walked into a restaurant or bar and suddenly realized the place was completely silent? It’s a bit of an unsettling feeling like maybe the place isn’t open yet and you’re intruding somehow. 

Just like how malls use fountains to drown out some of the ambient noise of busy shoppers, restaurants can use music to help muffle conversations, impact how quickly customers eat and even affect how cash they spend!

The National Restaurant Association reported several studies back in 2015 about the role music plays in restaurants and found several interesting findings. For example, the NRA cites a CNN article claiming that playing faster tempo music can potentially increase table turnover. Playing slower music has the opposite effect, causing people to linger at their tables longer but also spend more because they’re more likely to order desserts, coffee, and after-dinner drinks. 

If you’re still skeptical, there are stats to back up this idea. A 2017 study by HUI Research and Soundtrack Your Brand wanted to see how customers reacted to different types of music. 

Using no music at all as a baseline, the study determined that playing random music without any sort of brand fit hurt sales by more than 4%, while playing a mix of hit tunes and lesser-known songs that were “on brand” with the restaurant boosted sales by nearly 5%. In fact, in the test restaurants where the experiments were being performed, some menu items like shakes and desserts saw a 15% increase in sales, while other items like sides and sodas saw more modest, but still pretty good, increases. 

This doesn’t mean you have to carefully curate a list of songs that scream “fried chicken and potato wedges,” but try to find a Pandora or Spotify station that fits the mood you want to convey. Want people to feel welcome and like they can kick their feet up and stay a while? Maybe try something with a slower tempo, like jazz. Do you run a quick service restaurant where speed is the name of the game? Find some catchy pop hits with a fast beat, so your customers can quickly eat and then hit the street. 

And don’t forget to spring for the paid version of whatever music player you decide on. For a few dollars a month, you won’t have to subject your patrons to ads playing every half hour and you’ll keep your guests immersed in the music. 

Moving Forward with Your Own Marketing Plan 

So, there you have it! Another group of ideas that will not only help you market your restaurant effectively but keep your customers engaged and spending money with you. Marketing your restaurant and promoting your brand doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. In most cases, it’s actually as easy as thinking about what you like to see, hear and experience when you visit your favorite places and doing your best to mimic those vibes.

Whether it’s an email containing a discount for your favorite burger, a little light jazz playing in the background while you’re having a beer with friends or racking up points at the sandwich shop around the corner, marketing your restaurant is an all-encompassing and worthwhile plan.

Hungry for more marketing tips? Click here to read part one of our marketing series!