Use these tips to boost your marketing 

The restaurant business is booming: Research by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) states that U.S. sales are expected to reach $783 billion in 2016.

That’s great news for the country’s restaurants—but how can you make sure you get your share of the bounty?

Aside from delicious food and awesome service, by using effective marketing—that’s how.

They all have something in common—five things marketing mistakes successful restaurant owners never make:

1. Giving Up on a Campaign Too Soon

I’ve seen hundreds of restaurant owners throw in the marketing towel long before they’ve given their efforts a chance to work. One marketing push might bring in a handful of new customers, but it’s not going to change your life.

Think about it: Do you jump at every advertisement you see? Probably not!

Most of us need to hear a message multiple times before deciding to act on it. On a personal note: My hubby and I often “forget” to try a new restaurant we’ve been talking about because we are not reminded. Think about that—a new restaurant gets some press, we say “Hey, let’s try it out!” Then we don’t.

If you want a steady stream of new customers, you need to market your restaurant consistently.

Most Americans go out to eat occasionally, but not every day. When you market consistently through multiple channels, like direct mail, social media, pay per click, and more, your message is fresh in your prospects’ minds when they do decide to eat out!

Restaurants have a fairly short buying cycle¾so once you start marketing, you should see revenue increasing after just a couple of weeks.

Then, when you send out your next marketing piece, the cycle starts again. And as you continue marketing, you create a snowball effect and will continually have new customers coming in

2. Neglecting Their Website

Having a quality (and mobile-friendly) website is no longer optional for any business—this is especially true for restaurants. Like it or not, your website is a part of your marketing strategy.

Check out these statistics from a study conducted by SinglePlatform:

  • 92 percent of consumers have searched online for a restaurant in the last 6 months
  • 80 percent of consumers say it’s important to see a menu before choosing a restaurant
  • 81 percent of consumers have searched for a restaurant on a mobile app in the last 6 months
  • 62 percent say they are less likely to choose a restaurant if they can’t read the menu on their mobile device

Your restaurant’s website doesn’t need a bunch of bells and whistles—all it has to do is represent your establishment well and provide visitors with the information they’re looking for:

  • Your location, hours and phone number
  • Your menu (including drinks)
  • A link to make reservations
  • Gallery of photos so folks can see your ambiance
  • Reviews

Ideally, it will also include a form for visitors to enter their contact information—more on that in a second. And it needs to function properly, since 40 percent of people will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load according to Kissmetrics research.

I have found that restaurants are notorious for having overly aesthetic sites that neglect the points above and feature music starting immediately (that’s a no-no), very long load times, and their menu as a download instead of just being ready for viewers to see.

3. Taking Their Customers for Granted

It’s a well-known axiom that it costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one—that’s why I always say you should create relationships, not sales.

I’m not just talking about prompt and courteous service, which is still important, but I’m talking about really getting to know your customers and making sure they feel valued.

Talk to your guests. Learn their wants and needs, and fulfill them if you can.

Ask for their contact information so you can send them and anyone who has given you their information via your website coupons, and let them know about upcoming menu changes and special events. Send them birthday postcards and other discounts to keep them coming back.

4. Being Stingy

In order to create a loyal customer, though, you first have to get them through the door with an irresistible marketing offer. Retail research firm The NPD Group found that more than one-third of dining decisions are based on deals and special offers.

Offer your prospects a deal that they won’t be able to refuse, one that takes away the risk of trying out a new restaurant, and then wow them with your food and service, and ta-da! You have a loyal patron.

There are three aspects to a successful offer. It needs to be:

  • Very valuable to them
  • Low cost to you
  • Believable

It needs to have a high perceived value to your prospect — FREE is always appealing — but be something you won’t go broke giving away. And don’t attach too many strings, or you risk losing your prospect’s trust.

The cost of a promotion is peanuts compared to the potential revenue from a lifelong customer and all of the people they bring in and tell about your wonderful restaurant.

To give you some ideas, here are a few offers that our successful restaurant clients have used:

  • $25 gift certificate
  • 20 percent off the bill
  • Buy one meal, get one free
  • Free cocktail and appetizer with dinner for two or more

5. Forgetting to Ask for Reviews

We all know how powerful word of mouth is.

 Look at these numbers from an NRA study:

  • 53 percent of Millennials say online reviews factor into their dining decisions
  • 47 percent of frequent full-service customers say the same thing
  • 61 percent of consumers have read online reviews about restaurants, which is more than any other business category

If you’re not asking your happy customers for reviews, you’re missing a ton of potential business. People know how important reviews are, and if they’ve had a good experience, they won’t mind being asked to provide one, especially if you make it easy to do so.

Include a link to leave a Google review on your website and any email communication you send out. Print a note on every receipt asking for a review, or have your staff politely suggest it.  The simpler you make the task, the more likely they are to do it.

And don’t worry about a bad review here or there. Nobody’s perfect. If the good reviews far outnumber the bad, it won’t matter.

Avoid these 5 marketing mistakes and you’ll be on your way to growing your revenue and your restaurant.

Expert Takes, Feature