Plan for Success
Marketing has its lucky breaks, like if a national celebrity happens to walk into your establishment. Much of the time, though, planning and effort bring the results. Don’t let your Big Marketing
Plan always get pushed aside by the day-to-day.
Put It in Writing
Most operators find that a written plan helps them organize their ideas, create better ideas, and implement those ideas effectively. Simple Excel sheet? A few pieces of paper? A formal, business-type report? Whatever works for you! There are even templates available online. Many operators prefer to create a one-year plan, for synergy and comprehensiveness. Thanks to social media, you can also schedule spontaneity! Example: For winter, make a note to tweet a discount tied to a record snowfall.
Defining your customer base and potential targets is essential. If you’ve been in business a long time, surely demographics have shifted. (Check out the article on surveying customers, page 47.) Also take stock of the competition in your area, noting changes that have occurred—or may occur soon. Remember that rivals for food and beverage sales can include grocers and convenience stores.
Are there businesses or organizations you can team up with for promotions? You might tie in to a local cinema or live-theatre production, for example. Nonprofits could also be a good fit. In your marketing plan, outline people to approach and what you might propose; then prepare to brainstorm more strategies if you get a meet-up. And do your employees have great marketing suggestions? You may never know—unless you ask.
Sample categories for your marketing plan:
- Advertising—print, email, billboards, bus cards, flyers & newsletters
- Social media
- Menu(s), table tents, posters
- Other—van, food truck, tent
- News (events, product, remodeling, hours)
- Catering, delivery, takeaway
- Discounts & specials
Timing Is Everything
Adopt, adapt and improve—so keep evaluating, and create a calendar as part of your plan, to help you organize tasks. Monthly: Remove outdated information from your website—if your design contains “news,” you must stay current—or switch that function to social media. Daily: Check Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc. for any technical needs, customer complaints that should be addressed, or shout-outs that ought to be responded to with enthusiasm.
Large vs. Small
How long since you freshened your logo? Each year, you should take a look at the tangible things that affect your marketing success—including signage, awnings, window dressing, etc. And do you have a van or food truck boosting your brand? Should you? Chains continually identify ways to advertise themselves (and boost revenue); Tim Horton’s sells coffee-related holiday merchandise, for example. There may be untapped opportunity for your venue; your marketing-plan process is the time to think about it.
Watch Your Language
Even if you can post to Facebook in your sleep, it never hurts to evaluate what you say and how you say it. Keep a record of the social-media posts that get the best results. And do you sometimes wonder why so few customers pop in for a drink? Look how Ayden Kitchen & Bar (Saskatoon) positions themselves on their website: “Whether you’re going in for a full dining experience, an after-work cocktail, or a night-cap […].”
And here’s a to-the-point description for a popular chain’s West Trillium House location: “Oliver & Bonacini’s bright, stylish dining room offers cozy tables by the fire in winter and breezy pond-side terrace seating in summer.” Review all communications for relevant customer draws. Then include sample wording as part of your marketing plan.
Marketing includes promoting technology capabilities such as online ordering, delivery services or gift-card purchase options. The Harvey’s chain now offers coupons customers can show servers on their smartphone to redeem. Carefully selected tech tools can also help you manage loyalty programs—and make them more effective.
A marketing agency or consultant could be of value, especially to help you get started on a solid plan. And an objective point of view is always useful! Some pros may be willing to barter for services. Others might agree to look over your basic plan and make suggestions for a flat fee. Of course, take advantage of any assistance offered by your broad-line distributor.