By Nathan Sykes, Contributor
The Internet gives many businesses, including restaurants, the opportunity to market their services and products worldwide. Since global marketing is such an attractive prospect, many businesses take to the practice with gusto. However, some businesses are only able to market themselves locally, such as restaurants.
Unless you're a part of a restaurant chain, the majority of your guests come from the local community. Yes, there are circumstances where you'll have people from out of town, especially if you're located in a big city or near a busy highway, but you'll have to market yourself to the locals first.
Here's how to get started:
1. Get in Local Directories
Before the Internet, your business not being in the phone book was brutal. Today, thanks to technology, there are a lot of different directories out there, and you need to be in the majority of them. Think about how you approach a new restaurant and what you look for to find the right place. Start from your own experiences and work up.
You'll want your restaurant's details on search platforms such as Google, Yelp or TripAdvisor as a start. Also look into your local Chamber of Commerce to get the word out for locals and travelers alike. Most people will likely do an internet search as their first means of contact, so getting in with Google is a priority.
2. Geo-Targeted Advertising
Since you're advertising locally anyway, now's a good time to use collected data and put out ads to local devices. Geographically targeted ads will get placed on sites such as Facebook, Reddit or other forms of social media. These ads put the word out to people in your local community, including those just visiting, without showing your ads to individuals outside of your area.
Some websites, including Google Ads and Twitter, offer geo-targeted options at no extra cost to you. Take advantage of the tools at your disposal and hone-in on your target audience. Without location-based ads, your restaurant may go completely unseen.
3. Buzz with Local Media
If you live in a small area, getting in with the local media could turn into an instant win. Advertising on a local radio station, getting a mention about your opening in a newspaper or even appearing on the local news station can get people talking. Once people see your name and try your food, you'll have online reviews to help with the out of town crowd.
If you're in a big city, it is never a bad idea to talk to local magazines or critics. Even if you live in a smaller more rural area it can be in your best interest to find local or even state-wide media to interact with. For example, the PA Chamber of Business features a monthly business magazine, The Catalyst, which boasts a readership of more than 15,000.
If you’re having a hard time finding a source to talk to, consider building your own blog (or even a podcast) to keep the buzz going long after the grand opening ends. Most people want to help businesses in their community, so getting in with the local media will reach this demographic.
4. Offer Loyalty Programs
A loyalty program should never feel so overwhelming that it breaks the bank, but it shouldn't be a let down for your customers either. They want to get recognized for giving you business, and you want to thank them. Offering a free dessert on birthdays or giving out punch cards is a great way to start.
You can also join forces with the local media to create events. Half-priced drinks at a particular time or two-for-one specials on certain days is a great way to get repeat customers. If they come in for the sale, they're more likely to order something else and come in more often.
5. Get Active with the Community
These days, one of the most effective and easiest ways to keep in touch with the community is through social media. Create a presence for your business on Facebook and Twitter to interact with guests and post updates. Even just congratulating a graduating class will show you care about the locals.
Don't feel afraid to go offline. Participate in local fundraisers and food drives. In the event of a catastrophe or natural disaster, offer free food. Show the community you care rather than telling them and you'll see a spike in loyal customers. Locals want to support businesses that care about the community, so reach out in any way you can.
Stay Open to New Possibilities
There are a few extra tips to keep in mind, not the least of which is maintaining a good rapport with your competitors. Keeping a respected relationship with other local businesses and restaurants will ensure you have great credibility. In the end, your reputation is your most important assets.
Being a local business means word will travel about you fast. Word of mouth is the best way others will hear about your restaurant. Ensure the buzz is positive and you won't have much to fear. Just remember to always adapt with your community, keep up with the younger generation and get involved.
About the Author:
Nathan Sykes writes about how businesses are impacted by modern technologies online. To read his latest article check out his blog, Finding an Outlet.