Most every business owner wants and/or needs new customers. It's the lifeblood of any business. While this post applies to most businesses, It's About Profits focuses on 2 types of businesses: Restaurants and Emerging CPG Brands.
In this post, we'll focus on how restaurant owners can get more customers using a straightfoward 6 step strategy.
Keep This In Mind
It's important to keep in mind this strategy only works if you keep this very important thing (which you're probably already aware of) in mind: You must already be delivering (or be prepared to deliver) a 4+ Star Experience. If you're food, service, experience, value, etc. doesn't match that of a 4+Star experience in your niche, then make it 4+ Star before you implement our "how to get more customers" strategy inside your restaurant.
The first thing you need to do to get more customers is get attention. You do this by creating compelling content. Compelling content might be a compelling offer. It, more than likely, needs to be one that the prospect sees and says, "that's an offer I can't refuse!" It might be a photo or a short video of people really enjoying your food and/or experience. Something that's emotional (lots of laughter, smiling, positive gestures, etc). Ideally it comes from customers and isn't "produced." This type of content is called social proof and it makes others want to experience what they see in these photos and/or videos.
The content you create should be in places that allow for engagement. TV, print, direct mail, and radio advertising don't engage. Social platforms like Facebook and Instagram do.
Today, you can use technology to "automate" some, if not most, of the engagement. We find the best way to do this is using a chatbot. Manychat and Chatfuel can create automated engagement sequences that start a conversation with your prospects. Once the conversation is started, and you've gathered important contact information, you can "guide" them into your restaurant. We've found getting access to a person via Facebook Messenger is currently the most valuable way to connect with your potential and current customers. Next is cell phone (texting), and 3rd is email (and yes, email addresses are still important).
Do you really want to "engage" your fans/follwers? Ask them what they think. While that's dangerous if you tend to get defensive when you see/get negative feedback or just don't want any "less than positive" feedback on your Facebook page, creating content that asks customers what they think is a powerful way to engage (you can start by creating content that asks for ideas. Ask for ideas and say you're giving away a free gift certificate for the best couple ideas that you implement. Then feature the winners as additional content).
Advertising, Marketing, etc. isn't effective unless it converts. That's obvious right? Unfortunately, we all engage in activities that don't convert strangers to prospects and prospects to customers. We've all paid for advertising that hasn't converted. Over the last 25 years, I've paid for more radio, mail, and print advertising than I care to admit. I don't think any of it actually provided an ROI.
The only slack I give myself is some, if not much, of that wasted ad money was spent before the internet got good at tracking ad campaigns. Today, Facebook and Google do a great job of providing data about dollars spent and conversions. While it may be expensive and take time and money to find the right "recipe" for success, our restaurant owners are seeing an ROI.
In the past, it was just too cumbersome and time consuming. You'd spend money because you knew you had to but you had no idea if one or more of your advertising/marketing campaigns were actually delivering an ROI.
Build/Maintain A Reputation
With so much competition out there, it's easy to understand why we take ratings and reputation so seriously. Personal recommendations mean a lot. How to get more customers is strongly tied to your reputation. In the restaurant business, as you know, it can make or break you. One great review can make a difference...if shared in the right place. One bad review can have the same effect. Several bad reviews can shut you down. Not paying attention to your online reputation will most likely have a very negative effect on your ability to attract new customers.
The statistics around rating and reputation bear this out. Restaurants who have a 4+ star rating and over 200+ reviews have a shocking 44% higher conversation rate than those who don't. 78% of consumers trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation.
My advice is simple, especially for newer restaurants trying to build a reputation. Do whatever you need to do to get a consumer to eat at your restaurant 3 times. Start with a free entree. Then, offer a free appetizer on the next visit. Finally, invite them back for a free dessert or something else compelling. Don't place restrictions on these offers. Studies show people spend more if there are no restrictions on the offer.
Once you've served the customer 3 times, statistics say there's a 70% chance you've created a loyal customer. These customers will be driven by the experience they've had. They'll come back because you consistently deliver a 4+ star experience (food, service, atmosphere, value...the whole 9 yards). Build your process so you communicate with and touch these customers enough to get them back 3 times. Then, stay in touch with them so they don't forget you.
How to get more customers might ultimately be second to how to keep more customers. Once you've done the HARD WORK of attracting a customer to your restuarant 3 times, you're work isn't done. You have to show your continued love for these customers. How do you do this? The best and most proven way is through a loyalty program. At this point, you shouldn't be driving 3+ visit customers into your restaurant with freebies...at least not on a regular basis. The freebies and discounts now come in return for frequency, dollars spent, etc.
There are some new and very creative ways to manage loyalty programs that make it easier to earn, share, track, and redeem rewards.
Question? Do you have something special you give to a 3+ visit customer EVERY TIME they visit your restaurant. The customer, at this point, should be conditioned to show you their loyalty information so you give them the credit they need to earn points. BUT, when they do, why not (and before they leave) deliver them somthing special only loyal customers get. What about a small chocolate chip cookie for each person at the table. Something that's not on the menu that you deliver after they've ordered/eaten dessert. A mint? Something that only loyal customers get that others in the restaurant see loyal customers get but don't get access to...unless they become one of your loyal customers. Something that doesn't cost much money but makes an impression. Something that makes people talk at parties.
Here's a scenario: Two people are talking and your restaurant comes up. The first person says, "we really enjoy that restaurant." The second person says, "we do too!" Then one says, "have you had the chocolate chip cookie they give you at the end?" The other one says, "no, how do you get the chocolate chip cookie?!" See how this works? Create a compelling and exclusive opportunity for your customer to feel special. If you're restaurant experience is already 4+ star, then it's likely your little "special treat" is also fantastic. But, if it's free, exclusive, and only for loyal customers, then it's likely to be sought after too!
Rinse and Repeat
The reality is you'll always be moving customers through these 6 steps. This process, as you're probably well aware, is not a one time exercise. This has to be ongoing. As some of your most loyal customers move away, leave, or whatever, you'll have to get the attention of new customers, engage them so they know who you are, convert them with something compelling, track them so they don't forget about you, build a reputation with them so they respect you, and finally, once you've earned their loyalty, keep it with constant communication and opportunities for these customers to feel special.
The good news? Technology can do the heavily lifting so the main things you have to do are create compelling content and respond to real customers when necessary.
The bad news? You have to focus on it to make it successful. We've found 4+ star restaurant owners are always working on their business. They worry about the in-house experience first. They worry about their team. They worry about their food. They let someone else worry about the marketing/advertising.
About It's About Profits
We help 4+ Star restaurants and Emerging CPG brands bring a lot more customers to your business using paid social media advertising. To schedule a free, no obligation call with us, click here.