The holiday season is a crucial time for restaurants. It’s the perfect opportunity to drive traffic to your business and get new customers excited about coming back after the holiday craziness settles down in January. But between all the parties, shopping, family get-togethers, and other seasonal obligations, it can be hard to find time to create an effective marketing strategy as a restaurant owner. When you’re also working with a budget that’s tight even by normal standards, it might seem like an insurmountable challenge. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to optimize your marketing efforts without breaking the bank or overextending yourself.
Know Your Audience
Before you do anything, you need to make sure you have a solid handle on your customer base. Ask yourself these questions:
- Who are the people you are hoping to attract?
- What are their concerns and interests?
- What kinds of things do they respond to?
You can start by looking at your current customer base to see what kinds of people visit your restaurant.
- Are they families? Couples?
- Are they people who are interested in health and fitness?
- What are they most interested in – price, portion size, location, quality of food, etc.?
From there, you might want to consider what sort of people you want to bring in. For example, if you’re trying to increase business around the holidays, you may want to focus on families who are out and about for shopping, events, or just celebrating the season. If you’re trying to reach people who will be in town for business and want to grab a quick bite, you may want to focus on people who are in a hurry and aren’t interested in spending a lot of time eating.
The trick is using as much psychology as possible to meet the needs of your existing and new customer bases. Put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes and think about what strategies would apply best to them. From a more data-driven standpoint, you can also look into recent consumer data reports to see what trends are being predicted from an industry standpoint.
Leverage Partners and Incorporate Partnerships
There is power in partnerships. One way you can save money while still reaching a lot of people is by partnering with other businesses. Look at organizations and businesses that either have an audience you want to reach or whose customers are the people you want at your restaurant, then reach out to them about forming a mutually beneficial relationship.
Here’s an idea: let’s say your holiday marketing strategy involves participating in a charity donation–you could reach out to a local hospital or children’s charity and offer to donate a percentage of your proceeds to them. In exchange, they’ll tell people you’re partnering with them and direct them to your restaurant. Alternatively, if you have an online presence, it’s even easier to reach out to other businesses and see if they’re interested in cross-promoting with you.
You can also take a look (or listen) for businesses who already advertise on the radio or TV; reach out and ask if they’re interested in doing a cross-promotion with your restaurant. Radio stations are famous for working with local businesses to hold promotional events, drives, and promotions around the holidays.
Reaching out for partnerships–even temporary ones–can be intimidating, but it is an arrangement that can benefit all parties involved: you, the other business, and the customers that both of you will share. And remember: the worst thing that can happen is that they’ll say no, so it’s always worth a shot!
Run a Holiday Promotion
Holiday deals and activities are something people are actively looking for once the season begins creeping in. So a surefire way to get people excited about coming to your restaurant during the holidays is by running a promotion. You can do anything from running a special themed menu for a limited time to offering gift card rewards or discounts on various items.
Another way to get people into your restaurant is by hosting an event that’s tied to the season. For example, you could host a Christmas Cookie Exchange or a Charity Toy Drive to get people in the holiday spirit. Or, you could host a New Year’s Eve Bash where people can celebrate the end of the year.
Also, consider running a contest where people have to do something to enter. You could ask them to come up with a New Year’s Resolution or post a photo of what they’re thankful for. You could even ask them to submit recipes or descriptions of the best dishes they’ve eaten in their lives.
Use Video Marketing
If you have a video marketing strategy–or are planning to create one–the holidays are the perfect time to implement it. Not only will you be able to use your video to run a holiday promotion, but you’ll also be able to use it to reach out to people who might not be interested in visiting your restaurant during the holidays – or at all.
Try creating a video that tells the story of how your restaurant got its start and how thankful you are to the people who helped make it possible for you to open your doors. You could also create a video in which you talk about the menu or create a variety of videos around the different types of food your restaurant offers during the holidays–especially if it’s a traditional or family recipe.
And don’t forget: one of the most important parts of your business is your staff. Video marketing is a great way to show off the people that make your restaurant special. A #BehindTheScenes video series can give background on your kitchen staff.
Rally Your Customers on the Road to Christmas
If you want to spend some money on advertising your restaurant, you can still do so without making it feel like you’re trying to shove it down people’s throats. Leverage the power of social media to encourage customers to post pictures when dining at your restaurant.
User-generated content (UGC) performs really well around the holiday season and provides a third-party reference, which can be just as powerful–if not more so–than paid advertising.
‘Tis the Season for Holiday Marketing
The holiday season is an exciting time, but it can also be a stressful time. Restaurant owners understand first-hand how especially challenging this season can be. But a solid marketing strategy can lessen some of that challenge. From understanding your audience to incorporating partnerships, building out an effective holiday marketing strategy can help you end the year on a powerful note.
Interested in discovering how Creatively Disruptive can help you ramp up your online presence heading into the holiday season? Visit creativelydisruptive.com/restaurants