What Restaurateurs Can Do Now Regarding Marketing for Business After the COVID-19 Crisis
By Joe Bouch, President/CEO of 78Madison
It hardly seems fathomable that just a few weeks ago — virtually overnight – the concepts of “social distancing” and “stay-at-home” orders became the norm.
As we all know, that is the unusual world we are living in.
While I can’t tell you when everything will get back to “normal,” we do know that the restaurant industry has not only survived past difficulties, but has always found a way to energize the human spirit in a way that everyone gets on board the “we can do this” train. A belief that we can shake the dust off our shoes and get the world’s economy moving again – and dining out again.
But are there actions that restaurateurs can take now, to best prepare for business after the COVID-19 crisis?
In terms of marketing, there are many steps you can take now — when you have the available time – to prepare for better days ahead:
- Analyze Your Marketing Assets
If you have not kept an inventory of your marketing assets (email campaigns, photos, videos, blog posts, web, infographics, printed and/or e-brochures, digital and print menus, signage, presentations, white papers, etc.), now is a good time to start. Look at each piece with a critical eye. Then determine which assets and messages were the most effective in getting the desired results – such as the most traffic to your website, walk-in business to your restaurant, comments on social media, backlinks, or social shares.
Next, identify which images and high-quality pieces you can repurpose for other channels. Note that there also may be opportunities for updating with fresh content, optimizing with new keywords or Call To Actions (CTAs), and adding internal links to new products or services.
- Improve Your Strategy for Online Reviews
If you have not formulated a plan for answering online reviews, now is the time to do so. We have all seen countless online reviews which restaurants have not answered. While you do not need to go back to answer each review, this is a good time to make sure your more recent reviews have a thoughtful response. Write a few template responses and then train a member of your team with your brand messaging so they can manage your online reviews going forward. Teach them how to respond to negative reviews and how to identify when it is necessary to escalate legitimate customer service issues to the right person. Also, provide to them the tools they need to get alerts and monitor the reviews.
- Evaluate Your Digital Marketing
Having a digital footprint is an important component of your marketing communications platform and is typically critical to success. Digital marketing also has the advantage of being faster, less expensive, and often more effective than traditional marketing. An email or social media campaign can connect a marketing message to your targeted audience for a fraction of the cost of a TV ad or print campaign, immediately. It is also a good time to consider finding mediums that will allow you to capitalize on underpriced attention, which can include thinking outside of the box.
- Assess and Consider Updating Your Website
Take this time to thoroughly review your website, identify information and photos that need to be updated, and/or fix your website. Evaluate competitor sites to see if there is more information or imagery that should be added. Or, determine if you need a new site altogether. Now is the time to get your restaurant ready for the next stage of business.
- Dive into Social Media
If you are currently standing on the sidelines when it comes to posting on social media or blogging, now is the time to start using these tools, particularly with tight marketing budgets.
- Update Your Restaurant’s “Google My Business” for Customers
If you are operating with special hours, offering take out and/or delivery, or are taking special care to avoid the spread of coronavirus, let customers know what has changed. Update your hours and business description, share Google Posts with updates and offers, and make sure your contact information is correct.
- Record Videos Now, for Social Media Use in the Future
Now is a great time to record and/or at least make plans for your videos, as they are terrific for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and can be used as a basis for other content too. This includes possibly embedding the video in a blog post, taking quotes from the video transcript and using them in the future alongside images on Instagram, or taking screenshots and utilizing them as images on social media.
- Consider an Outreach Strategy
Reaching out to your customers during the pandemic depends entirely upon your type of business, your existing relationship with customers, and the purpose of the communication. Are customers used to hearing from you regularly by email, social media or SMS (text) messaging? Do not let that relationship drop off — but be careful with the messaging and avoid crisis-related promotions. Get creative and think of how you can offer reassurance, social connection, tangible assistance, or something helpful to your audience. Also, figure out ways to stand out and get noticed – to be different, but also relevant, compelling and authentic.
- Interview Customers and/or Employees
Consider using Zoom or Google Hangouts now to conduct and record video calls of your customers and/or employees about their experiences and knowledge of your restaurant, products, services, and culture. In the coming months, these videos and transcripts will be a rich source of insider info for your blog posts, social content, media releases, and more.
- Brand Photo and/or Video Shoot
If you are able to do so, this may be the perfect time to get your brand photo and/or video shoot completed, when things are less hectic. Also, as business has likely slowed for photographers and videographers, you probably will get a good price, but you also will be helping them at a time when they may need the work.
- Look Outside
If you want a fresh viewpoint, consider talking to an outside expert. Strategic collaboration with a partner who can complement what you are doing, share similar missions and values, and help put your business into perspective, can ultimately help you think bigger and achieve bigger things.
- Make Marketing a Team Effort
If you are not already doing so, make marketing a team effort. Conduct a Zoom call with people from varied backgrounds and positions to brainstorm ideas. Talk and Listen. Now is the time to consider implementing new operating procedures and enact other valuable refinements.
- Do a Deep Dive into Your First-Party Data
Review your analytics. What do you know about your customers? What do you know about prospects that didn’t pick you? What is in the analytics data that you have missed in the past — are they on iPhones, or all come from a certain part of the city? Compare offline and online trends and determine what you could change today that you have never had time to do.
Rather than stay idle wondering what happened, take a proactive approach and focus on the future. Don’t allow your restaurant to turn a 2-month crisis into a 9-month business downturn because you laid low. Now is the time to invest in your company.
Joe Bouch is the President/CEO of 78Madison, a full-service, Orlando, Florida-based marketing, digital, advertising, public relations and social media agency, which specializes in serving the hospitality industry. For more information, visit 78Madison.com, email info@78Madison.com or call (407) 788-7070.