Restaurant owners hoping to fill more seats should look to the content marketing world for ideas about lead generation. Restaurant promotions involve more than just online business listings, newspaper inserts, and tossing coupons everywhere you can.
By borrowing from other marketing methods, such as content marketing, you can actually build up a loyal customer base of regulars who will return to your restaurant over and over.
Content Marketing 101
First, let me quickly educate you on content marketing.
Content marketing is the art of persuading people through education. And that’s usually done through a series of articles and webinars — among other things. It all starts with lead generation and then nurturing those leads into paying customers.
A “lead” is someone who’s only interested in learning more — they’re not ready to buy yet.
A lead is nurtured through continued education and exposure to useful information. That information could be a monthly newsletter with helpful articles, white papers that tell people how to solve problems, or webinars from experts that analyze new regulations. All of these tactics can persuade through education.
As a restaurant owner, you might have purchased some of your equipment this way. You read, researched, spoke with other restaurant owners and maybe even attended some seminars, before you finally made your purchase. If you did, you’ve at least experienced the basic principles of content marketing.
So, the question is: How can we put content marketing to work for your restaurant?
Lead generation for restaurants
Let’s get this out of the way: You’re not going to write white papers and special reports, you’re not going to have webinars, and you’re not going to do all those other content marketing things that people like me do to get new customers.
But you can follow the same principles in order to “generate leads” in your restaurant promotions. Except what I call leads, you’ll call potential customers. Because those potential customers will turn into paying customers, who will hopefully turn into regular customers.
First, content marketing offers a sense of exclusivity. When a regular buyer is making a decision, content marketers will often entice her with “exclusive information” such as special reports and invite-only webinars that promise to share secret or hard-to-find information.
Here’s a list of restaurant promotions ideas you can use to create that magic sense of exclusivity:
Offer a secret late-night menu
Create some special dishes that are only available late at night and only for delivery. Maybe it’s something as simple as double meat on a pizza or special ingredients like chorizo or andouille sausage. Whatever you choose, don’t sell it in the restaurant throughout the day; only make it available to delivery customers at night. Otherwise people don’t get that sense of specialness and exclusivity.
Create a text club or start an email newsletter
Here’s where you’ll share your special offers and coupons. Send them out at least once a month — usually on a Thursday when people start making weekend plans. And tell them they can only get access to these super-secret items or special coupons if they’re part of the club. Just don’t be a pest and bombard them with daily specials and coupons. No one likes to be pestered and they’ll unsubscribe.
Tailor your messages and delivery schedule to individuals
One of the hallmarks of a good content marketing program is that not everyone gets the same information at the same time. Maybe some of your customers want weekend deliveries. But what about people who are in a study group or a weekly book club or someone who works late on Tuesday nights? You can send your email newsletter or texts to them that morning so you’ll be on their mind when it’s time to order dinner.
Form a relationship with a city-wide food delivery service
Some companies will often team up with allied companies within the same industry — companies that don’t compete, but are likely to collaborate instead, like an electrician and a plumber or a realtor and a mortgage broker. In some larger cities, there are companies that are dedicated solely to delivering restaurant food. They’ll receive a call from a customer to pick up an order of food and run it over to a customer’s house. Think of it as Uber for dinner.
Team up with these companies and offer them something in exchange for, say, including your flyers with their orders.
Create “reserved seating”
Just like online webinars require advanced notice, what if you could continue creating that sense of exclusivity by creating delivery reservations? In the restaurant industry, a guaranteed table or scheduled meal is an excellent tool for lead generation. Let people schedule food deliveries in advance and at a specific time and date (make them prepay, of course).
Allow your best customers to pre-schedule their deliveries.
Maybe it’s for someone’s birthday, maybe it’s halftime of the NBA finals, maybe it’s an hour after the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. Make it easy for people to tell you what date and time they want their food to show up and then make sure you’ve got it in your schedule. Also, be sure to send reminder texts or emails in advance so people will remember you’re coming. When I’ve registered for a webinar, I’ll get reminder emails a week before, a day before and an hour before the thing actually starts. It may be annoying, but I do remember to show up to the webinar.
The key is to get them to commit
A key part of content marketing is asking people to “earn” the exclusive perks. In most content marketing efforts, the only way to get a white paper or an invite to a webinar is to provide an email address and/or a phone number. That’s what starts the ball rolling in a company’s marketing or lead generation campaign and turns that initial lead into someone who’s ready to make a final purchase. Once they opt in to receiving communications from you, you’re on your way.
Apply content marketing to your restaurant promotions
Late-night food delivery can not only help your restaurant’s lead generation efforts, it can open you up to a whole new set of customers you might not have otherwise found. By following some basic content marketing principles, you can generate “leads” that you turn into regulars who come back to you over and over.
Also published on Medium.