10 Top Marketing Tips of 2012

1. Target your immediate demographics. The business is there already.

“Businesses near the restaurant need to take people out for lunch or dinner and need to have parties some place,” says Miriam Silverberg, a restaurant publicist.

2. Invite local businesspeople to your restaurant as a guest. They may bring much repeat business.

“I bring them to the restaurant and they like what they see, they like the food, and they come back, then they pay, naturally,” Silverberg says.

3. Don’t be afraid to make cold calls. They can attract local businesses to dine with you.

“I ask myself what the worst thing is that could happen. If someone says no, they’re not turning me down, they’re turning down the idea,” Silverberg says.

4. Get creative. Think about how you can market your business without spending a fortune.

“There’s not the dollars out there to spend on marketing, so you have to be creative,” says Kenny Moore, founder and president of Andy’s Burgers, Shakes & Fries.

5. Use coupons. These should have a limited period of use to draw back repeat business.

“The coupon might bring them back in sooner if they only come in once a month. We usually give them seven to nine days to use the coupon,” says Lenka Keston, director of marketing and business development for Silvergreens.

6. Never overlook social media as a free marketing tool.

“Traditional advertising can be incredibly expensive, so social media can be very appealing to restaurants because it's free,” says Jeremy Gregg, executive director of The Plan Fund.

7. Let your customers know you’re on Facebook or Twitter. Also encourage them to “like” your restaurant.

8. Respond to any online complaints quickly. They can be an easy marketing opportunity.

“If our customers feel strongly enough to post about something we did (or didn't) do, we feel we need to take that seriously and respond with a sense of urgency,” says Neal Dennis, COO of Andy’s Burgers, Shakes & Fries.

9. Run competitions on social media. You can then use the results as free marketing collateral.

“This helps consumers feel connected to your restaurant,” Gregg says.

10. Market to your current customers.

“The No. 1 best way to build your business is to build repeat business,” Gregg asserts. “This means differentiating yourself on food quality, ambience and customer service. Price is the least important because all of your competitors are likely around the same price point.”