When used correctly, mobile marketing can result in a boost in online sales.
Earlier this year, a catering company out of San Diego asked me to take a look at mobile marketing efforts for its new BBQ restaurant.
It had relocated its kitchen to an old restaurant. The owners looked at the seating area and thought "why not?" They had been in the restaurant business before. From owning over 20 Little Caesars franchises to award-winning fine dining restaurants, they brought enough experience to run food operations.
But marketing -- specifically mobile marketing -- was a new feat.
The results of our discussions revealed the need to build out important business frameworks to ensure mobile marketing success for their restaurant.
1. Set business goals
We kicked off our meeting, and the first thing they said was "we need an app."
With the rise of popular food delivery companies like Uber Eats and DoorDash, it was easy to get carried away. Especially when you see UberEats making over $3 billion and growing at 108%, you feel like you're left behind as a restaurant owner.
Easy customer experiences, convenient ordering, and (sort of) free marketing seemed like shiny ways to get customers. But was a mobile app for a restaurant even necessary?
To avoid distractions, we took a step back and I asked them about their sales and marketing goals.
"What do you hope this new way of reaching customers will achieve for you?"
Here are some of their examples that could help you:
Increase daily sales by 2,500% (remember it was a new restaurant)
Collect 100 customer email addresses a month
Get 20 5-star reviews on Yelp and Google
Increase social media following to 10k
2. Build customer profiles
A restaurant, like other local businesses (think dentists and mechanics), services a small diameter of a region and usually faces a ton of nearby competition.
Fortunately, such limitations can be leveraged as criteria for geographic, demographic, and psychographic profiles to speak to customers more effectively. You can use these criteria to create ads on social media and search engines.
The reason building customer profiles is important for mobile marketing is simple. You want to ensure the person holding the phone, receiving your ad or link is the person interested in your food at that point in time.
Building a customer profile for your restaurant also helps you determine if you need that app. You have to ask yourself:
Would an app make my customer's life easier?
Do customers need to check/scan info on the go? (gift cards, rewards)
How often will they use the app? Or will they just delete it after the first time?
The search for these answers leads you to better evaluate technology and how it aligns with the services you offer.
3. Integrating tech and business
So you're looking for the right tech solution? It can be daunting, so I've distilled your solutions:
Mobile responsive website with ordering
A point of sale system with a rewards app
Custom app with ordering, rewards, and texting
All these options can be made to provide the same benefits. But those benefits should enable your service delivery and improve your customer's experience. As the famous Bill Gates quote on software goes: "The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."
For a restaurant, I'd go with the first option enabled by the second. Here’s an overly simplistic explanation:
You buy Clover POS, install an app that integrates it with your WordPress website. Now you have online ordering. You then use the Clover gift card and newsletter apps to entice and capture new customers. Using another Clover app and/or WordPress plugin, you can text coupons and send push notifications to get repeat customers.
Push notifications are messages your customers receive from you on their phones when they’re not visiting your app or site. The notifications create customer engagement by keeping you at the top of mind.
Clover can integrate with online accounting systems like QuickBooks. Set it up to minimize manual processes and redundant tasks. We're looking to this technology to fit your optimized business processes.
4. Set conversion objectives
Mobile marketing created a new industry of opportunities by bridging online marketing efforts with offline marketing activities. Have you ever been to a trade show and seen the host create a hashtag for you to tweet your selfies against their backdrop?
That's how you get offline activities on the internet in real-time. And that's the effect you want to create for your business.
After an IT person sets up your solution, you can engage with customers and have them:
Sign up for rewards and coupons
Send a gift card to a relative
Get a discount for bringing the entire family
Follow you on social media
Leave a review
What do these things have in common? They're all conversion objectives and they can all be done face-to-face with a customer because of mobile marketing.
I'd recommend you choose which conversions are best for your restaurant, quantify them so you can measure their performance, and leverage them to create more content.
5. Develop content for mobile
Twenty-five percent of consumers have at least one restaurant app on their phone and the top restaurant apps are for reviews and delivery. Consider the possibilities to create exposure using these apps.
On Yelp, for instance, aside from keeping your information updated, you can create deals. Engage with customers with things like, "get a discount when you..."
Check-in at our restaurant
Take a funny selfie with your food
Leave a positive review
Give us 5 stars (a bump in one star can increase sales by 9%)
Similarly, on social media, you can ask people to:
Check in on Facebook
Put you in their Instagram story
Snapchat pictures of your food to your friends
All of these tactics are considered user-generated content (UGC). Even if some of your customers bring their laptops to do their homework at your restaurant, they're most likely using their phones to do any of the above. Most of the capabilities don't even exist on other types of devices.
6. Factor in costs
Finally, we look at the costs of mobile marketing. Our goal is to increase sales, and the only thing that brings sales is customers. So the most important high-level cost for us to consider is the cost to acquire and retain customers.
But we also have to look at efficiency. Are we managing our expenses of tools to enable customer growth and retention? Consider what else may fit into the following categories of costs.
Point of Sale (POS) system hardware
Networking and cabling for the order counter
Purchase of POS apps and integration (e.g. QuickBooks)
Labor on installs, web design/development, and troubleshooting
Events (concessions at markets and festivals)
Margins (or order size)
Retention (are you losing customers)
7. Drive it home
Now that you've thought through everything, it's time to execute your goals. Start small and with one or two initiatives. This way you can increase your chances of success with little downside.
For instance, we didn't push social, reviews, coupons, gift cards, and ask for UGC all at the same time. We focused on one at a time, built out a process, and handed that process over to someone to repeat the best practices.
Week 1 and 2, we created a process and calendar for social posts
Week 3 and 4, we beefed up our Yelp/Google and asked for reviews
Week 4 and 5, we issued physical gift cards and offered digital ones in-house
It's not hard to see why restaurants would want to get on mobile marketing. Over 70% of people worldwide use mobile to access the internet. In that sense, mobile marketing can seem daunting because it's a new and foreign idea to restaurant owners.
I believe it's worth investing the time and energy. Just remember to be measured in your approach.