Brandon Coleman is bringing his marketing expertise to the company's president role.

Editor’s note: This is the latest monthly column with Rom Krupp, the founder and CEO of Marketing Vitals, an analytics software helping restaurants of all shapes and sizes. You can read his column on Twin Peaks here, Abuelo’s here, Kenny’s Restaurant Group here, Sonny’s BBQ here, Boston’s here, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar here.

When the new company president is the former chief marketing officer, you can expect growth through creativity, and that is exactly what has happened at Del Frisco’s Grille when Brandon Coleman III took the position. Based in Irving, Texas, and part of Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, which also includes Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse and Sullivan’s Steakhouse, Coleman has brought his brilliant marketing sensibility to the forefront of his executive leadership. Below are some highlights of our recent conversation:

What marketing strategies did you launch with that you still use today?

We started with the basics. We answered who are our guests and what value do we provide them? By knowing our audience and what they value, everything that we have done has been consistent with our brand identity. No matter how technology has evolved or how consumers’ media consumption behaviors have changed, our brand has been able to adapt its communication style without diluting its identity.

What do you believe has changed the most when it comes to driving customer frequency? 

The ability to understand and market to the behaviors and preferences of individuals has been the biggest change in driving frequency. With the disappearance of the average American family and the continued fractionalization of media, one size fits all messaging has become obsolete. To drive frequency, you now have to balance awareness with personalized, insightful messaging that motivates individuals to act.

How important are coupons for attracting new customers?

I’ve developed a value equation which has proven effective in answering these types of questions. Without going into too much detail, it is simply what you are getting divided by what you are giving up. If the quotient is greater than one, it’s a good deal. If it is lower than one it’s a bad deal. Naturally, price is one of the items you give up. To answer the coupon question, we must first ask are you giving your customers enough to balance the equation in their favor? If no, the decrease in price they will receive through a coupon is a temporary rebalancing of the equation. In short, coupons can be important if the value of your product is not immediately obvious to the audience, or if your value proposition isn’t worth what you’re charging.

What role has social media played in brand awareness?

Social media is critical in driving brand awareness. While your followers or fans are typically lower funnel consumers, you can drive top of funnel awareness through dark posts, targeted ads, reviews, influencers, etc. Our team loves drilling down on an insight and experimenting with different audiences to deliver a message that resonates. We’ve found a lot of success with influencers and dark posts as of late.

What is your top marketing tip for a new restaurant just starting? 

Build relationships. Whether it be through handwritten Thank You cards, email lists, social media interactions, or all of the above, you must be intimate with your customers.

How have your charitable-giving promotions and sponsorships helped with community relations?

Other than giving $800,000 to Houston area food banks after last summer’s hurricane, we’ve been rather silent in touting our charitable actions. We focus primarily on local charities with the intent of supporting the communities in which we live and operate. This strategy has built strong relationships within our communities but I do believe it is important to be more active in quantifying our impact and we’ll be doing just that as we launch enabling technology this year.

Monthly Reader Question:

What is the value of a promotion vs. engagement?—Tim from Tampa, FL

Promotions are effective to attract first-time guests or re-activate customers that are lapsed. But for genuine growth and building your brand requires customer engagement. Find ways to learn about your customers by collecting data on their dining habits and engage them by communicating news and offerings that are relevant to their behaviors. For example, if a couple always orders vegetarian, and you have added more of those items to your menu, then text or email (assuming they have done an opt-in) and let them know! This is called targeted communication which means engaging customers with a message relevant to them. When you have customer data, you can communicate with them in a meaningful way to increase frequency and brand loyalty. And, remember, you can’t measure what you can’t track so start gathering and analyzing!

Do you have a restaurant marketing question? Email and follow him on Twitter @Vitals_com

Expert Takes, Feature