Posts Tagged ‘restaurant marketing’

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Crowdsourced reviews can put local restaurateurs on the defensive

July 9, 2013

1yelp0302I was recently interviewed by Bill Ward of the Minneapolis Start Tribune for an insight into online reputation issues facing restaurants. We talk about Yelp and how clients I had set up with monitoring tools and training are utilizing those tools in every day restaurant operations!

Click here to read the article in the Star Tribune.

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10 Businesses That Would Benefit by Being on Pinterest Today!

April 18, 2012

In recognizing how incredibly fast Pinterest is growing, and the quick migration to Pinterest by many businesses (including ourselves and several of our clients). I was recently asked at a conference, which businesses would really benefit by being on this platform and why they would do so. Here’s the list and reasons that I came up with for the group:

  1. Hair, Nail, & Spa Salons – Obviously this platform is incredibly suited to the primary demographic of users (Pinterest is the number one platform of choice for female social media users).  Pinterest Boards can be used to highlight and focus on photos of current hairstyles, fashions, nail color trends, hair colors, beauty and facial trends and the lists go on. 
  2. Travel Agencies – Think of Pinterest as your home for virtual travel brochures and videos. Because of the “wish list” feature of Pinterest, where people are pinning and repining great travel images and destinations they would like to plan on visiting.
  3. Home Remodelers – Use Pinterest as an online gallery to show off before and after photos of your projects to demonstrate your expertise and examples of great work you have performed.
  4. Interior Designers – The same basic idea as remodelers would work here. Pinterest can be leveraged as an online gallery to show before and after photos, show off trends, fabrics, patterns, signature pieces, and so on.
  5. Landscapers – Here you can benefit from sharing how-to information, as well as showing off examples of work you have performed.  Just like rooms in our homes, we tend to pin photos or repin photos of things we’d like in our yards someday.
  6. Event & Wedding Planners – Here you can showcase venues, ideas, your portfolio of work done, decorations, themes, and settings. The list here is endless.
  7. Jewelry & Clothing – Combining product photos and the Pinterest “Gift” option can help to drive online and in store sales of items you sell.
  8. Tattoo Shops – Where better to place an online gallery of your artwork and designs! You can also show off specific signature pieces, as well as provide examples of tattoos designed for specific body areas.
  9. Auto Detail/Paint/Customizing – The number one things that Males on Pinterest pin after food pins, are pins of vehicles, especially dream cars, customized cars, and video as well.  If you can provide these images of your work online they are sure to be repinned (believe me, I found a showroom photo of a 1979 Chevy Chevette, my first car, and even that car is my pin with the highest number of repins).
  10. Resorts & Campgrounds – Similar to travel, you can virtually create an online travel brochure for your property to drive awareness and interest.  You can even open up certain Pinboards to allow your guests to pin photos from their trips or vacations. Allowing your customers to help share the fondness and memories of their trip.

At Sterling Cross Communications, we have a vast experience in creating and executing exciting and outside the box campaigns across several social media platforms. If you need help or more ideas on placing your business on Pinterest or need a strategy and action plan on what to do on these channels please contact us at http://sterlingcrossgroup.com.

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5 Ways to Promote Your Restaurant on Pinterest

February 6, 2012

Proof that we are still a visual-based culture Pinterest has become the social media network to watch after growing more than 4,000 percent in the last six months (according to compete.com). At an average of 88.3 minutes per visitor, Pinterest currently ranks third on engagement behind Facebook and Tumblr and it ranks well ahead of LinkedIn (16 minutes) and Google Plus (5.1 minutes). Further proving that image based social networks and applications (like Foodspotting and Instagram) are rapidly gaining market share due to their high engagement levels with their audience.

From the Pinterest website:

Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard.

Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.

Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.

Pinterest is a social network that also has a promotional value as well: Users share photos that they find online by “pinning” them, the equivalent of “liking” a status on Facebook or giving a +1 on Google +. That act in turn has the ability to create beneficial SEO and linking opportunities for individuals and brands alike.  

Users have to download a toolbar that can be used to pin items from any website. The photo and information then appears on your Pinterest board, and users who follow you can see your collection of photos and even “re-pin” them (like retweeting on Twitter or other forms of sharing).

This platform, while not specifically designed for marketing strategies may be a very effective social media platform for your restaurant or business when you take the following steps to market your restaurant.

1. Share your Menu, Photos, and Amenities

The most obvious way to use Pinterest for your restaurant is to pin photos of your own brand, logos, menus, staff, specials, venue, and amenities. Since you can create several boards, it is best to group your pins into different categories such as: Specials, Events, Food & Drink, Our Staff, Our location, and so on. By doing this, you are creating a rich story in images highlighting your food, brand, and service.

2. Add pins to the “gifts” section of Pinterest

When you create an entry for your pins, you can add a price tag. By selecting this option, you can then add a link, pointing back to your website. Items added in this way are automatically included in the “gifts” section on Pinterest, which is a virtual catalog of gift ideas. Be sure to select your best photos for pinning, and include a description. This gives you an opportunity to get your prices out there, and call attention to events like Wine Dinners or Gift Packages for certain holidays.

3. Show off your Event Spaces

By pinning photos of great events that are held in your event spaces, it allows people to get ideas and envision their own party in those spaces. This works great to promote seasonal spaces like patios, decks, and rooftop spaces as well.  Make sure you include any great photos of beautiful views from your venue as well.

4. Maximize the SEO benefits

When you pin your products, you have an opportunity to maximize your SEO strategy and drive traffic back to your website. You create high quality backlinks when you or other users link to your photos and pins. Using keywords when you write compelling descriptions will attract visitors and potentially compel them to visit your website. You can integrate your Pinterest account with your Twitter Account and Facebook Page and share your pins on these social networks. All of these efforts will help to drive more traffic to your site and to increase your organic search engine rankings.

5. Create and Pin content that people would want to view

Most of us can easily spot a corporate profile that is designed only to blast out marketing pitch after marketing pitch are likely not only to steer clear of your account, but to avoid and in extreme cases to bash your attempts. You can avoid many of those cases by creating interesting relevant content that provides an added value or is exclusive content to that audience (like posting recipes for some dishes for a fan to try at home or pinning specials only available to your Pinterest Audience).

Finally, just like any other social media platform, it has to be a two-way conversation.  Engage with your audience and listen and watch what they find most or least interesting in your brand. Pinterest is perfect for your brand if your brand can be displayed in images, and with the ease of digital photography these days, photos can be quickly taken, edited, posted and shared, creating great content for you to use to promote your Restaurant.

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Using QR Codes to Enhance Your Events

January 5, 2012

The Fall 2011 issue of Meetings +Events Magazine ran an article I wrote about using QR (Quick Response) Codes to enhance the marketing and promotion of your trade show appearances or events. It is based on case studies of current work we are doing for our clients, and the success of interaction, excitement, and conversion that they can provide. This has translated into greater traffic and attendance for our clients in measurable and impactful ways. Here is the intro to the article and a link to read the rest of it:

Quick Response, or QR codes, are popping up in all sorts of places: newspapers, magazines, billboards, drink coasters and even on the walls of restrooms. What started as a simple bar code stamp to track inventory parts for the auto industry is sweeping through many other industries as a tool for marketing, advertising, promotion and sales.

Sadly, many QR codes lead to material that is not very unique and engaging of the audience; more often than not, they lead to…click here to read more!

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Savvy hosts: Twin Cities restaurants embrace social media to boost loyalty – and sales

March 6, 2010

We were recently a part of a recent article by Julio Ojeda-Zapata in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about the restaurant scene in the Twin Cities.  It shows how well this market is really on the leading edge of social media and marketing for Hospitality related businesses.  Here is the start, then click the link for the full article:

A number of Twin Cities restaurants are embracing social media to increase loyalty — and sales — among fans.

Until last year, James Flinsch’s contributions at Pazzaluna were strictly IRL (that is,’in real life’ in cyberslang).

As wine steward at the popular downtown St. Paul Italian restaurant, he often rescues diners at a loss for a killer pairing. Hired as a waiter in 1999, Flinsch still whisks dishes onto tabletops with some regularity.

While on paternity leave with a lot of late-night hours on his hands, though, he glimpsed another, online role for himself at his beloved restaurant. He noted that the establishment’s management company had created a Facebook fan page

Until last year, James Flinsch’s contributions at Pazzaluna were strictly IRL (that is,’in real life’ in cyberslang).

As wine steward at the popular downtown St. Paul Italian restaurant, he often rescues diners at a loss for a killer pairing. Hired as a waiter in 1999, Flinsch still whisks dishes onto tabletops with some regularity.

While on paternity leave with a lot of late-night hours on his hands, though, he glimpsed another, online role for himself at his beloved restaurant. He noted that the establishment’s management company had created a Facebook fan page… Click Here to Read the Rest of the Article

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Domino’s proves why Restaurants must monitor their brand and reputation online

April 17, 2009

It was a Restaurateur’s worst nightmare. In the span of a few minutes of video posted to YouTube, a 50 year old brand was brought low.  Two (fired and facing felony charges) employees of a franchise location of Domino’s Pizza recorded a video of themselves doing horrendous and disgusting things to food that was potentially about to be served to an unsuspecting customer. The video went viral.  The YouTube video reached one million views in less than 3 days. References to it were in five of the 12 top search results on the first page of Google search for “Dominos,” and discussions about Domino’s had spread throughout Twitter. Several major news outlets have covered the incident, including the New York Times, USA Today and Fox News.  

Reportedly Domino’s knew about the video for nearly 48-hours before it launched a PR blitz to respond to the overwhelming amounts of negative comments, and comments faulting the company for not responding in a timely manner. They were first notified of the video from bloggers that had seen it online.  The company itself was not monitoring what was being said about its brand and reputation online. That was a fatal mistake that has brought great damage in customer confidence and loyalty and has crushed an iconic brand.

As Domino’s is starting to realize, social media has the reach and speed to turn tiny incidents into marketing crises. In November, Motrin posted an ad suggesting that carrying babies in slings was a painful new fad. Unhappy mothers posted Twitter complaints about it, and bloggers followed; within days, Motrin had removed the ad and apologized, but as with Domino’s, it was a case of too little, too late.

There was no one watching out for their brand online. 

If this can happen to a mighty chain with a fifty year history, how much can it affect independent restaurants, smaller chains, and family owned businesses?  If you are in the restaurant industry, or for that matter, in any industry that can be reviewed online, you cannot afford to ignore what is being said about you online.  Many restaurateurs are not even aware of the many sites and places where people can and are talking about them online.  Sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon, Chowhound, Metromix, Getsatisfaction.com, and Trip Advisor offer consumers a platform to get their complaints or raves heard.

Crises Communications is not a new practice, but it is new when trying to be performed in Social Media. There are several tools though for low to no cost for a restaurateur to watch what is being said about them (good or bad) online. You can do simple things, such as setting up Google Alerts, or searching Twitter and blogs to monitor what is being said, or you can pay for more robust search tools to and firms to do it for you (We offer such services for clients). No matter what you do though, you need to start watching what is being said starting now, and on a regular basis.  Domino’s and Motrin failed to respond quickly 48 hours is an eternity online, and the damage is done.

What is the cost of not paying attention, or “hoping it will go away”? A majority of your business could be in jeopardy. 89% of US online buyers read customer reviews before they purchase: 43% most of the time, 22% all of the time. A bad reputation hits your bottom line.

So what should you do? Here are a few things to get you started:

·         Create a Crisis Communication plans for online issues.

·         Execute effective online Customer Service.

·         Get the tools to monitor what’s being said online about your brand, your company, and you.

·         Learn the strategies and steps to take to respond to information already posted.

·         Learn the strategies and steps to take to have negative information removed, mitigated, or retracted.

If you are in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area, we are holding a seminar on April 28th, 2009 on The ROI of Managing your Online Reputation & Brand. Click here for more details: http://onlinereputation.eventbrite.com/.

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Strategically Promoting Your Restaurant with Social Media Tools

March 24, 2009

This is an article I wrote for Restaurateur Magazine and appears in their April 2009 Issue. Due to popular demand, it was reprinted here for those who do not have access to the Magazine. Enjoy!

 

You work hard to get everything right, the food, the atmosphere, the service, the kitchen and back of the house staff, and once a guest comes through the door, you have the power to make sure they have the best possible experience. Then they go home.  A place you can’t control the experience – and you don’t know what they’ll tell their family, friends, co-workers, and anyone who will listen, about their experience. What if you could control it? What if you could extend the dining experience beyond the walls of your restaurant? With social media tools, you can.

 

You’ve heard the buzzwords: Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, and YouTube.  These tools allow you to enhance and carry the dining experience beyond your front door. They allow your customers to take the physical connections and loyalty virtual to experience it online as well. With customers increasing their online activity, the online experience that guests have with you can make or break you.

 

You put thought, consideration and passion into every physical aspect of your guests’ interaction with you, but how is their experience with your website?  Does it convey your brand, atmosphere, and message? Is it easy to navigate? Are your menus and specials quickly found? Is your contact information, location, hours of operation and amenities crystal clear? These are just the bare minimum standards now needed to entice someone to interact with your online brand.

 

When they interact, they feel connected. When they feel connected, they’ll often be your evangelists and make a point to refer your establishment or brag about their incredible experience. They are inclined to take someone with them the next time they visit, and will want to connect your restaurant to others.

 

In the best of times, it’s hard to promote a restaurant.  With labor and food costs constantly battling to take the lead as your primary concern, you need systems and tools that can give you the greatest return on your investment of dollars and time. Social Media are emerging tools that fit that bill.

 

Social Media tools are increasingly moving from consumer to consumer tools to business to consumer vehicles.  6,000 people a day are signing up for Facebook and only a percentage of them are the college students that the platform initially attracted.  Many businesses are motivated by the opportunity to opt in at a fairly cost effective manner, and also the ability to bring them to an intimate space next to their customer. What you are seeing is a vast array of Social Media approaches that converse and connect. Once you realize who your customer is, what makes them tick, what they like and dislike, using social media can be that missing link that transforms a casual customer into a brand evangelist.

 

Using tools for the “cool” factor of saying you use them will not bring you a tangible return.  You’ll need to start with a strategy. Once you’ve determined who your customers are, you need to know which social media tools they use, and engage with them on their turf. The effectiveness of social media isn’t simply using the tool; it’s listening, answering questions and connecting with others. These tools are just opportunities to connect your customers to your brand and by connecting with them, they’ll help you build relationship and gain invaluable insight to their propensity to buy from you.

 

Here is a list of tools that any restaurant owner can use to connect with their customer to convert them to brand evangelists:

 

Social Media Tools for Restaurants

  • Make sure your restaurant can be searched and reviewed through local business guides such as Yelp.com, Urbanspoon.com, Getsatisfaction.com and TripAdvisor.com. Encourage your guests, that if they had a great experience to please post it to one of these sites.
  • Twitter – sign up for a Twitter account. Use it also as a tool to listen and converse with your customers.
  • E-Newsletter – Email a monthly newsletter with the latest happenings, new menu items, entertainment news, recipe of the month etc.
  • Blog – Customers want to be part of something more than just a meal; they want to feel like they belong. A blog can be that tool.
  • Facebook – Set up a Facebook fan page to connect with your customers on Facebook.
  • MySpace – If your clientele is the MySpace generation, create a profile page and consistently update it with fresh content.
  • YouTube – Incorporate video into your social media strategy.
  • The Business Card – Provide a business card or note-card to each customer that visits your establishment with their receipt that maps out where they can continue their dining experience online by connecting to you via social media.

 

Christopher Lower is the Co-owner of Sterling Cross Communications, a Social Media, Public Relations, & Web Design Firm, that focuses on the Restaurant, Hospitality, Hotel, and Lodging industries. In addition to over 20 years of PR & Marketing experience, Chris worked over 8 years in the Hospitality Industry. He can be reached at www.sterlingcrossgroup.com or can be found on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mrchristopherl.

 

Sterling Cross is a proud to have been selected as a preferred vendor for Hospitality Minnesota. Hospitality Minnesota is the management entity for
 

 

 

The Minnesota Restaurant Association, Minnesota Lodging Association and Minnesota Resort and the Campground Association. These Associations provide legislative and regulatory advocacy, marketing, education and information and money-saving programs to members. In addition, Hospitality Minnesota operates a non-profit education foundation, the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation, which provides a high school curriculum in foodservice and lodging management and provides scholarships to students pursuing higher education in the hospitality field. For more info: www.hospitalitymn.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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