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11 min read

Once you have positioned your internal marketing to your target customer, we can start to look externally. There are a seemingly endless stream of mediums to market your business on. So how do you know which is best? We’ll look at a couple different options briefly, but once again look back at your target customer profile.

Targeting Businesses: If you target business-people seeking a good happy hour, start by marketing to the business people already coming to your bar. Give them coupons for a free second drink for them and a friend on their next visit. Have specials in place for larger groups during happy hour to encourage the whole department to come down. Try reaching out to the business they work at.
Can you drop off free food samples on a Thursday afternoon to encourage their employees to come down after? Can you give them a free event space for their Christmas party? Maybe you offer free lunch delivery, just to businesses. There are a number of direct marketing options.

Social Media: Alternatively, you can use social media to display daily features and conversate with customers and potential customers. Paying extra for targeted ads on Google and Facebook can net you some much better results. The specificity of the ad targeting lets you target exactly you target market including age, location, interests, and more. Track the time of day for your posts to figure out which time works best. Posting dinner specials early in the day may yield better results than posting at 5pm as your customers may have already decided where they want to eat before that time and may not be checking their social media as frequently in the evening.

Social Reputation Sites: Sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor allow independent reviews on their site from visitors that have been to your restaurant. These sites also allow businesses to advertise on their site as well. While they don’t adjust your ranking for a fee (this is actually a good thing), you can get higher placement on pages for your city or cuisine and can even advertise on competitors’ pages. While initially you may have a hate for social reputation sites, you can work them to your advantage. If you have a few bad reviews and know you are better than what a few people wrote, consider advertising on one of the sites. I wouldn’t advertise, unless you are at least above the mid point in ranking. Ergo, don’t advertise if you are just a 1 or 2 star restaurant, work on getting your rating up to 3 to 4 then advertise. Advertising on social reputation sites can be beneficial for a couple of reasons. First, you can set your price point. If you only want to spend $150 a month, you can have it cut off after that. Second, it targets people when they are ready to buy. Most people on trip advisor or yelp, are looking on their app (or website) because they are looking for a place to go right then. If you can get in front of their eyes and you have a good message, it’s an effective way to get them to come to your place. Third, people that use one of the apps are people most likely to review your restaurant as well. So if you can bring them in and then wow them, you can raise your rankings much quicker. Downsides exist as well. First, if you anger those that found you on a social reputation site, they are much more likely to post a bad review. Second, your target audience may rarely if ever go to these sites, rendering your marketing ineffective. Lastly, you can get caught up trying to get higher ranks so much, that you make business decisions solely based on getting the 5 even if it is detrimental to profitability, team moral, or concept.

Coupon Books: Be careful with this one. Coupon books can do wonders at bringing new people through the door, the question is whether or not they are the right people. Many of the coupon envelopes and books appeal to people just looking for the best deal. If you target customers who buy based on lowest price, this may be a very effective medium for you. However, if not, if you do choose to use this medium, do it sparingly or this may follow the cable television conundrum. Cable companies bring you in at a low introductory price, then when you have to pay more for the same thing, it angers you. The value of the product has been established. If I got it for half the price a few times, why would I pay double for it now? You can reduce this effect a couple of ways. First, just list your everyday price on a product but put it in coupon form, such as, all-you-can-eat fish for $15.99 every Friday. Second, discount a non-food item such as half off a room rental fee or $5 off a $25 merchandise purchase. As these items are ordered less frequently then food items and don’t establish a consistent, memorable, cheaper price. Total bill discounts can also work, i.e. 25% off your final bill if used sparingly as people don’t associate the cost across multiple entrees as effectively.

Groupon and online 50% sites: Just don’t. You will attract a large number of people looking only for the cheapest deals, you’ll make no money off of them, and you’ll have to carry on the promotion for a year until the coupons expire. Plus you’ll have a complicated system where a busy server has to find a number on a sheet of paper on a Friday night to make sure the coupon isn’t a photo copy that was used already. Then someone will inevitably cross off the wrong number and you’ll sit there and wonder whether or not to still give them half off, or cause a scene in your restaurant claiming they already used it. Once again, just don’t do it. There’s a reason most of these sites aren’t around anymore. Also see the cable television conundrum in the coupon book section.

Mediums such as newspaper, billboards, radio, and television are the bigger boys and they all hit different demographics and come with higher associated costs.

Newspaper: Newspaper ads are beneficial with a market that typically skews older. This medium also allows the greatest in ad flexibility of the 3. Newspaper ads can still be fairly costly if done frequently and don’t hit as large of a market as radio and tv. I have found the greatest success in using the newspaper to promote events or new happenings on a shorter term basis, rather than daily ads over a long period just generally advertising the restaurant.

Billboards: Billboards are an interesting one. They give a pretty good view count for the money and are most useful in niches where location is the advantage. Especially those located near the billboard or with quick access off and on the highway. One of the problems that can arise is that while you many get a lot of views, they may not be from your target market. Additionally, this goes without saying, but the billboard is only effective to those driving past it. So, if your billboard is on the highway but most of your target clientele is local, this may not be effective. Furthermore, if you are more than a mile from the billboard it is likely going to be ineffective, with one exception. If you advertise on a billboard that is close to a competitor with a similar concept, you can convince those customers to give you a try. This needs to be done strategically or this practice can be frowned upon within the industry. You will be starting a ‘war’ with another restaurant if you do this, so be prepared for some negative press or backlash from die hards for the other restaurant if you go this route.

Radio: Radio can be pretty costly, especially when factoring in recording costs although some stations offer a slight credit towards this cost. Due to the recording, you are not able to change your message as cheaply or as cost effectively as print, but still cheaper than TV. Radio does have the advantage of hitting a large local market. Nearly everyone listens to the radio almost daily in their car. Being that there are less radio stations than TV stations your also able to advertise to your target customer on a station that are likely to listen to, without the need to attack multiple stations. Radio does well when used with a personal, connecting message done over a long period of time. This creates top-of-mind memorability. Funny radio ads often get a laugh, but are typically more memorable for the joke than the company they advertise. You are better off connecting on a solid message than a quick blast. Radio is typically best used long term. If you can’t afford to give ideally at least a year commitment to radio, it may not be worth doing.

Television: Television is typically the most expensive. While per ad cost can be less than radio, the initial investment of filming the commercial adds thousands of dollars in initial investment. Due to this cost as well, you better be sure of your message before jumping in. Like radio, television typically works best over a longer term than quick blips. Unless you have multiple locations, or a huge facility with an already steady customer base, you are likely better off spending your money elsewhere.

Regardless of media, ensure that any message coincides with the market you wish to target and is consistent. Furthermore, if you are unable to specify a recordable return on investment, you’re throwing your money away. Before you start a new ad campaign ask yourself, “Can I track whether or not this specific campaign is working?” If the answer is no, don’t run that ad campaign!

Do one campaign at a time so you know what’s working and what’s not. Start small then expand what’s working. Advertising can be very helpful when done properly and some form of consistent advertising is likely necessary. With a little forethought and a bit of trial and error, you can really find what works for you and your business.