The global economy has still not fully recovered, so we are looking at another year of finding ways to offer customers the best value. But with growing food costs, as well as increases in taxes and real estate, 2012 looks to be another challenging year for many restaurant and foodservice operators. Therefore, it is imperative that you have a good marketing plan and strategy in place to ensure you are in position to have a successful year.
As we all know, social media is no longer something that only young people use. It is now considered a necessity for business owners of all generations. But small businesses can look forward to several new exciting opportunities to expand in this direction. As an added bonus, social media marketing costs much less than traditional advertising like TV, radio and print.
Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, foresees these marketing trends for 2012:
1. Connecting to those who count
Instead of increasing followers and friends on Twitter and Facebook, this year, we’ll see more operators spending time concentrating on building quality connections with their customers. While it’s great to have thousands of followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook, the only ones who really count are the ones who are visiting your restaurant regularly and buying your food. Be more selective about who you connect to, thereby increasing the personal relationship with your true, loyal customers.
2. Finding your USP
With so much competition around, many operators will be channeling their energy into marketing a USP (Unique Selling Point), rather than marketing their restaurant operation as a whole. Use your USP as your main selling point. Your USP could be your signature menu item, a special cocktail, a form of entertainment you offer your customers, or anything else that is your restaurant’s specialty item.
3. Adding value to content
It is no longer good enough to just have presence on the Web by creating a Facebook page. This year, operators will be trying to attract more customers by offering more value-added content. The Web is now saturated, and you need to find something that will make you stand out from the crowd. Value-added content could include videos of cooking demonstrations, cooking tips, recipes, games for kids, shopping tips or any other type of information that will drive readers to your site where they will get something out of it. Use platforms like YouTube or Flikr to add value to your content.
4. Budgeting with social media in mind
Statistics show that more and more businesses are shifting their marketing dollars towards social media and other digital marketing initiatives, and away from more traditional marketing like TV and print. In 2012, this statistic will continue to increase. With rapid increases in sales of smart phones, notepads, tablet PCs and other handheld digital media devices, consumers are constantly connected. This is where your audience spends most of its time, so this is where you will get their attention.
5. Responding to consumers
As the time spent online continues to increase, consumers are constantly connecting with each other, and one person’s opinion could be seen by millions within seconds. Businesses will be keeping a very close eye on what customers are saying about their operations, and responding ASAP. Check for reviews about your operation on a daily basis, and respond to both positive and negative comments appropriately. One bad review could drive away hundreds of potential customers.
6. Partnering up with other businesses
This year, we’ll see a lot more co-marketing concepts, as more businesses will start partnering up with complementary businesses to offer customers deals for not one but two services. Co-marketing allows both businesses to benefit from each other’s customer databases, and helps save on costs.
7. Getting into mobile marketing
Mobile marketing is expected to explode in 2012, and experts are predicting that this will be the way of the future. The number of smart phone users recently exceeded the number of PC users, which means that the best way to connect with customers will be via their phones. Even if your operation is not ready to jump aboard mobile marketing, start researching and investigating into how you can apply it to your restaurant or foodservice operation within the next few years.
8. Managing it all
As more and more applications are being developed to enhance a business’s social media presence, there needs to be appropriate staff to deal with it all. Many businesses have created social media marketing departments, but small business owners may not have the luxury or the budget to hire more employees. However, there is a solution. This year will see the popularity of social media communications dashboards that help businesses manage their social media activity grow. Companies like HootSuite, Spredfast, TweetDeck and Seesmic offer clients an online brand management application that is easy to use for a small monthly fee.
Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as one of the best restaurant consultants in Toronto. Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655, or visit www.chiassonconsultants.com.