Reach out to your own customers in-house for low cost and high return
Your Web site and social media are essential for effectively keeping customers informed about new offerings. But the point-of-purchase marketing you do is just as critical. After all, for however long your customers are inside your restaurant you’ve got a captive audience — and it pays to use that opportunity wisely.
In-house marketing needn’t be elaborate. Undertaken thoughtfully, the basics can have a big impact. Consider signage, what Michael Volpatt, partner of Larkin Volpatt Communications, a San Francisco consulting firm, describes as one of the most valuable onsite marketing tools. Wherever people sit, wait in line or walk, there should be visual cues placed in their line of sight, he says.
Old-school menu and dry-erase boards are useful. Jeff Miller, owner of Extreme Pizza, a primarily takeout and delivery pizzeria in San Rafael, California, has a dry-erase board hanging above the ordering counter featuring daily specials and specialty products.
“And, there’s an area on our menu board that can be replaced with new items we’re trying to push,” says Miller. “We typically add new items to our menu twice a year, so about
every six months we’re promoting new items.” (Miller also uses table tents, co-marketing and partnering with his beverage distributors, who usually cover the printing costs).
Lauren Eggen, head of marketing for Sauce Pizza and Wine, a 15-location, fast-casual concept headquartered in Phoenix, says they also utilize chalk boards above the registers and in other areas to keep guests
They place other collateral throughout, like double-sided A-frames near the entrances; counter cards displayed in the order lines; and small take-home flyers at the registers, in to-go bags and on the tables.
What other low-tech tactics work? Landon Ledford, founder/fractional CMO of Double L Brands, a Dallas marketing firm, says window clings by entrances or on front doors are a “great first step in getting people thinking.” Along with table tents, menu inserts are a good way to highlight new additions or specials. Think about putting signage/stickers on the floor wherever people stand to order.
“People look down a lot or at their phones; grab their attention there,” Ledford explains. “Restroom flyers also go a long way as a conversation topic for when people return from the restroom.”
Volpatt suggests creating cards about programs and promotions, handing these to people entering or leaving. The cards should also include an incentive to take action.
“Don’t overlook staff training,” Volpatt adds. “Provide visual prompts for the staff on their order sheets or behind the register reminding them to mention specials or promotions.”
Higher-tech strategies should also be deployed, says Ledford. Encouraging customers to share photos on social media is one he likes. Try:
- Incentives, such as share the meal on Instagram, tag the restaurant, and get a free dessert from the Instagram menu (create one).
- Putting the customer’s name on their birthday dessert; a definite photo-op.
- Incorporating designs with toppings in certain pizzas, making them snap-worthy.
“Set up the restaurant’s Web site to highlight these images,” Ledford advises. “Now, any Instagram user that uses your hashtags will appear on your site.”
Provide tablets at the tables customers can use to access the restaurant’s website to view menu items and promotions, or to sign up for birthday clubs, loyalty programs etc., says Volpatt, explaining the immediacy tablets offer increase the likelihood of customers taking action.
Eggen says they’re dedicating more resources towards digital advertising and social media teasing promotions targeting “e-family” signups.
“One innovation we recently implemented was Zenreach, a Wi-Fi service that allows us to collect guest emails and inform them about our different offerings when they willingly connect to our Internet,” she says, adding they place e-family signup cards on the tables; servers are encouraged to mention the e-family promotion.
Along with traditional in-house marketing, Donato’s Pizza has installed monitors with messaging, scrolling digital pictures and videos highlighting products and promotional offers in some of their newer locations, says Dave Parsons, manager, PR & communications for the 160-site franchise, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.
“We feel this adds a more visual way for customers to see our products, since space is limited in printed menus,” he explains. “We know people buy with their eyes and these definitely raise awareness of our entire menu.”
As for couponing, it’s alive and can be extremely effective, says Ledford. However, he cautions, if not well-executed, coupons can dilute the brand and/or train people to delay visits until they have a coupon—why Miller has reduced the number they send out, although they do promote coupons on their website and still put some on their printed menus they hand out with every order.
Eggan says they use coupons “selectively,” finding them most effective for building awareness in new markets, in areas where they’re trying to increase traffic, or for calling attention to events the company is participating in.
Make coupons give and take, “spend this amount, get ABC in return,” or “sign up for our club and get XYZ on your next visit,” says Volpatt. Ledford agrees.
“And don’t just promote free items,” he advises. “Instead, offer added-value items to enhance the experience, along the lines of ‘surprise and delight’.”
Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelancer specializing in writing on topics of interest to all manner of businesses. She is based in Long Beach, California.