How to improve local store marketing

April 25, 2017 - 8 minutes read

As a restaurant owner, you understand the importance of Local Store Marketing, or LSM.

There have likely been many times when you’ve implemented local marketing plans that were solid hits. But there probably were strikeouts, too.

In today’s world of tight margins, leaner marketing budgets and increased competition, the need to improve your LSM batting average is imperative to overall success. That’s true whether you have one unit or manage a down-trending location in a large national chain.

So, how can you improve your LSM success rate?

First, an LSM program should never interfere with your operations. The last thing you want is to negatively affect the customer’s experience. When developing ideas and objectives, be sure to get your operations team involved. They are best suited to know if the marketing program could affect speed of service or any other element of customer satisfaction. Also, involving them in the process helps ensure that they will be all in, which is important to success.

Next, establish clear goals and objectives. Are you looking to gain trial? Increase frequency? Fight off new or enhanced competition? The goal will help determine your strategy. For example:

  • -Gain trial: Consider giving your employees five coupons each for a new product. Ask them to give the coupons to family and friends. Your employees look like heroes, and you have implemented a quick and easy way to get trial.
  • -Increase frequency: Loyalty-focused plans that reward customers for their business typically result in increased traffic. Just remember that the rewards should be relevant and timely.
  • -A competitive attack plan: Thwart the new guy’s opening by focusing on your customers’ experience. Invest in a few extra hours of labor a day in the dining room. Put your best face forward and make customers feel special as you refill their drink, take their trash or just ask, “How’s your day going?”

You’ll note that these suggestions are rather simple. This is important: If you can’t explain the program succinctly to your target audience, the chances of success are slim. Life is complicated: Don’t make it hard for me to be your customer.

In addition to being clear and simple, it’s critical that you consider your trade area and those who live in it. Is your customer base mostly families? Create a program that caters to convenience for time-starved moms, or sponsor the Little League team. One day, these young ballplayers may be your customers, or even part of your team.

Do you have a lot of Millennial customers? They look for places to hang out, so Wi-Fi and snacks make for a win, because Millennials are clockless eaters. Three square meals a day isn’t really in their vocabulary.

Don’t be discouraged if your marketing budget is small. There are creative ways around that. For example, we recommended to one of our restaurant clients that they become the “Unofficial Pizza Provider” for a local radio station. We approached a popular radio station in the market and made a deal for our client’s pizza to be available for all station events in exchange for the station mentioning the restaurant location when promoting the event on air. The restaurant was able to get numerous radio mentions for free, while boosting food-in-mouth opportunities at the events.

Be sure to connect with your guests through social media, not only to keep them posted on what’s happening at your restaurant, but also to engage and reward by asking them to share what they like best about your establishment. Randomly choose a winner to dine with you so you can learn even more. Customers will respond to brands they like.

Social media can also amplify your efforts. For example, you can invite people to sign up to win tickets to a VIP event. In addition to generating awareness and traffic, this will get you email addresses that you can use at a later time. At a minimum, post pictures while the event is taking place, and consider posting live for better engagement. Provide relevant hashtags and Snapchat filters. Ask people to write reviews on Facebook, which gives you an opportunity to engage and also gain consumer insight. You might want to partner with a local radio station and ask them to promote your LSM on the station’s social channels, as well as on air.

Speaking of partnering, consider teaming up with another brand in the community. But ask yourself: What do our brands have in common? Do we have the same values? The same target audience? Do we complement each other?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, pass, and pass quickly!

Lastly, don’t be shy about asking for support from the corporate office. They may have a tool kit with existing marketing tools that can be used or customized to meet your needs. Don’t recreate the wheel if you don’t need to. Ask your corporate partner to review your program with an eye toward making suggestions on how it can be more effective.

Local Store Marketing programs start with a strategy and require focused discipline. Start small, understand what’s working and what’s not, and apply that insight to your next program.

Done correctly, LSM will not only grow sales, but can also create brand influencers who can turn LSM into a long-running success story.

By Maria Topken

Maria Topken is director of client leadership at Sunrise Advertising in Cincinnati. Before joining Sunrise in May 2015, she was SVP/partner, client leadership, at Empower MediaMarketing. She also served for four years as marketing director at Long John Silver’s, where she oversaw communications for more than 500 restaurants. Topken has additionally worked with Wendy’s and Steak ‘n Shake. Her work for Wendy’s included serving as the strategic lead for more than a third of Wendy’s local markets, collaborating with more than 50 franchise groups. 

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