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Reviews cannot be ignored in a modern marketing strategy.

5 Ways Marketing Can Help the Restaurant Industry Today

Pandemic times have put marketers and local businesses to the test.

Digital marketing has always been a fast-paced industry demanding quick but strategic thinking to stand out among the crowd. But 2020 has thrown curveball after curveball, putting marketers and local businesses like restaurants to the ultimate test.

With social distancing guidelines and regulations varying from state to state or even city to city, marketing teams would be easy to toss up their hands in defeat. Thankfully, we’ve seen the marketing industry come together and share best practices to help us all work through the new normal. One example of this is the State of Local SEO Industry report, which surveyed 1,000-plus professionals working in local marketing, asking them 40 questions about their work in the industry.

When 88 percent of people look to the internet before heading to Main street, understanding the evolving online customer experience—how consumers navigate the online landscape and what they expect from businesses—can help you avoid confused customers and lost revenue.

Here are the most impactful insights from the report.

Google is the New Homepage

Services like Google My Business help businesses connect with customers across Google Search and Maps and increase customer engagement with options to view business hours, click for directions, call, view menus and photos of food, or read reviews. Restaurants can also use Reserve with Google to allow people to find and reserve a table, add their name to a waitlist, or order online for pickup or delivery—directly from a Google My Business listing. With all these options available within the search engine result page, a searcher may find what they are looking for without ever having to visit a restaurant website.

This means that Google My Business needs to be accurate and up-to-date, which requires both time and expertise. Not every brand has a multiple-person marketing team to help develop these initiatives, and the Google My Business Community page can help in these cases.

Today, marketers are often using Google for a variety of services, such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Google My Business. As Google’s presence is incorporated into so much of a marketer’s workflow, it’s important to understand their guidelines and play by the changing rules.

Mobile-First Mentality

If a customer does click from Google to a website, they're likely searching from a mobile device as 61% percent of Google’s US organic search traffic originates on mobile. By September 2020, the search engine will shift to mobile-first indexing for all websites. While many restaurants have dedicated time and budget to creating websites, if the content is not optimized for mobile, there is a very real chance of losing customers to a competitor.

Customer Reviews

Reviews cannot be ignored in a modern marketing strategy. Reviews drive customer loyalty, engagement and sales, while also impacting the overall reputation of an establishment. The Moz report found 90 percent of respondents reported review signals (quantity, diversity, velocity, ratings and responses) impact local rankings on a SERP. And Google has said that more reviews and positive ratings will improve a business’s local ranking. This heightens the importance of  a review strategy that spans review acquisition, response, monitoring and reporting. Reviews should be encouraged and engaged with, from a brand to customer level, addressing concerns or relaying appreciation.

Word-of-mouth Marketing

Customer loyalty and customer referrals are both necessities for a growing business that can be enhanced by word-of-mouth marketing. This is especially important as it’s more costly to acquire new customers than to keep existing ones happy. But the Moz survey shows 51 percent of respondents are bypassing word-of-mouth marketing tactics. While “Word of Mouth” marketing might seem difficult, there are impactful ways to garner this type of loyalty and engagement:

Providing content (images, blogs) that warrant social sharing. Visuals should be high-quality, with positive messages that tie-back to the local area or tap into human connections.

Celebrate customers to drive referrals using unique perks or discounts, as well as offering smaller benefits to newly-referred customers.

Email Marketing

Customers opting-in to email updates can be a golden ticket to engagement and loyalty. Multiple studies have shown email marketing delivers some of the highest ROI from marketing spend, generating $38 for every $1 spent. Despite the practical ROI and willingness for customers to share their information, Moz found 39 percent of companies don’t regularly conduct email marketing. HubSpot’s recent State of Email Marketing also found that 73 percent of millennials prefer communications from businesses come via email and 99 percent of consumers check their email every day.

This means that over one-third of survey respondents from the Moz report are overlooking a tried-and-true customer communications channel, leaving room for competitors to swoop into inboxes and steal mindshare.

As much as people want to believe the world is “business-as-usual,” this simply isn’t the case.

Coronavirus is reshaping how businesses are marketed. 70 percent of Moz survey respondents said marketing budgets were cut as a result of COVID-19, resulting in a need for businesses to pivot strategies and adapt. Despite these challenges, positive sentiment abounds: 74 percent believe things will return to business-as-usual within a year of social distancing lifts. In the interim, digital marketing is a journey and not a destination. Even if a restaurant doesn’t have a dedicated local-SEO team member, there is still opportunity to re-center initiatives to a customer’s needs in a way that can make a big impact in visibility and engagement.

Kelly Cooper is the Director, Growth Marketing at Moz. She uses data based decision making to develop sound strategy, online marketing channels to promote brand enhancement & engage target markets, and analysis of website visitor behavior to optimize for conversions and usability. Teamwork, coffee and headphones are integral parts of the process.