2. Communicate regularly to your customers. Avoid the connotation of spam by considering frequency and always including relevant interesting information. Provide details of upcoming special events, new dishes on the menu, or behind-the-scenes snippets - make sure there's something in it for the customer. Develop a personality, preferably authoring it from the owner or the chef. If you are not a natural writer, you should enlist some help. Implement a regular newsletter schedule so customers come to expect and look forward your email, rather than resent a desperate flurry of spam that is spruiking a one-off event. Marketing research has found that the best time to email is 10.30am-11.00am on a Tuesday, just when people are having their first break for the day. Mondays are too hectic as people catch up on weekend emails.
3. Target your marketing. Generic advertising is a shotgun approach that has a high risk and low conversion rate. At best it will increase enquiries for Friday and Saturday nights - times you don't need customers. Instead target your marketing so people will come when you want them - on a Monday or Tuesday. Attract them by waiving corkage, having theme nights, cellar nights or hosting cooking classes. One restaurant organisied a special networking lunch on Tuesdays for local doctors and chemists in the area - it was hugely popular and effectively created a new market audience.
4. Identify your marketing radius. Almost every restaurant has an area which is the source of 90% of their customers. Find out who they are and how you can look after them. This area is not always geographical - it can be an online community or a group united by a special interest.
5. Talk to your neighbours and find out who they are and what they're doing. Investigate the possibilities of cross-promotion or whether you can work together on an event.
6. Can you explain your business offering in one sentence? If you can't succinctly articulate what your business does or offers uniquely, then maybe your customers don't know either.
7. Deal with your complaints. A complaint is not just a negative criticism - it's an opportunity to not only win back a customer, but to significantly raise their perception of your business to another level. Listen to their feedback and address their concerns. Respond personally. Turn their experience into a positive and people will be impressed. Wow them with your earnestness and they are likely to tell their friends and colleagues about what a great restaurant you are.
8. Restaurants live or die based on the quality of their front-of-house. Good service can save a bad meal, but even the most amazing meal can't save poor service. Your customers should feel special, attended to, and believing their experience was above-average. Make sure your internal operations are right before you even consider marketing your restaurant. Your customers will soon find you out and not return. You will only end up wasting your money.
9. Eat out to see what others are doing. Are you aware of what trends or changes are happening in dining? Could you improve your own booking processes by observing how others do it? Don't get stuck in a time warp - are you meeting the demands of today's customers?
10. Remember young customers are your future business. Understand they are looking online (often on the street with their iPhone), they are less patient and they want real value for money. Attract them with value offerings like tasting menus or all-you-can-eat pizza on Mondays. Develop products that are more affordable or different - you don't have to discount. Create an experience opportunity they will enjoy. Tap into things they want or appreciate, like wireless access, Fair Trade coffee or cocktails - cocktails that always sell are the ones with quirky or exotic names and ingredients. Be inviting and polite. Treat them with the same amount of attention you would give an older diner. Don't ignore them or offer poor service. Understand that Gen Y are your future customers and they have the potential to be your best vocal advocates. If they are happy, they will naturally spruik you online and on social marketing channels. Tap into the online community, network actively and genuinely, use Facebook, get onto Twitter, start a blog and make sure you're listed on relevant iPhone applications like Urbanspoon. Be an early adopter of these online technologies whilst the market is still relatively uncrowded.
First published here: 10 tips on how to market your restaurant