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3 Steps to Building Your Restaurant’s Digital Marketing Strategy

Posted by Brady Thomason, NetSuite Solution Manager, Restaurant & Hospitality

If you’re like most restaurant managers, you got into the restaurant industry because you enjoy building teams and delivering great guest experiences -- not because you’re a digital marketing expert. 

In today’s competitive restaurant environment, digital marketing is a basic job requirement. Every little bit you can do to promote your restaurant and get new guests in the door matters. That means you need to consider how your restaurant can engage guests through email, social media, search and more. 

Digital marketing may not be your area of expertise, but with a relatively small investment of your time, you'll uncover growth potential by reaching new guests through digital media/marketing. Use these tips to get the basics in place and bolster your restaurant’s digital marketing strategy.

1. Balance digital marketing strategy with traditional marketing. 

In today’s technology-heavy consumer landscape, marketing is more than flyers, newspaper ads and radio spots. As many as 46 percent of guests will learn about your restaurant through an online source, such as a website, blog or mobile app. And many of them rely on traditional marketing methods, too. About 31 percent of those guests still research their dining options using print media. Guests also cash in billions of coupons each year. The most effective marketing strategy will use both digital and traditional marketing methods to get the best results. 

For example, if you’re debating the merits of an email newsletter promotion versus a direct mail promotion, don’t assume you need to pick one or the other. Allocate some of your budget to print media and some to digital media to create a campaign that uses both to drive more traffic into your restaurant. Similarly, you can combine social media with in-store promotions, such as asking guests to tweet about their experience to receive a coupon off their next visit, or print cards that promote your next big online gift card sale. 

2. Pay attention to your Google listing.

Whether you created a Google listing for your restaurant or not, it probably pops up as the first entry when a prospective guest searches for your establishment. And since 85 percent of people search for local businesses online before they head out the door for dinner, it’s in your best interest to take ownership of your listing and make sure it has accurate and up-to-date information. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Click here click “start now.” 

  • Create a Google Account (or sign in if you already have one).

  • Enter the name of your business.

  • Enter the street address of your business. 

  • Select a business category. 

  • Enter a phone number or website URL for your business.

  • Verify your business immediately, or verify your business at another time by selecting “try a different method.”

Click here for more information about verifying your business on Google

3. Be picky about new trends.

In 2014, QR codes could be found on the front of almost every restaurant’s menu. In 2016, restaurants built discounts and events around the Pokémon GO App. And, it’s your best guess as to what wave will hit us next. 

There’s nothing wrong with embracing a particularly timely or newsworthy trend to build on guests’ excitement and bring them into your restaurant. But you should think carefully before making a big investment in new technology or marketing tactics that require a significant commitment if you’re just listening to the hype. If you find yourself investing in any and every new trend, you might be wasting time and money that would be better invested in more long-term campaigns. 

Being picky about trends for your restaurant means there’s no correct answer for whether or not you should design a custom app for your restaurant or simply sign up for meal delivery apps like Grubhub, DoorDash or Uber Eats. You just need to make an informed decision based on the demographics and technology habits of your guests, not one based on how many other restaurants are designing apps in 2019. 

It can be challenging to build a career in the restaurant industry and find yourself working on a digital marketing strategy. But if you take time to learn the basics and build your strategy with intention, you may be surprised at the results you can achieve.