Having effective local marketing strategies in place is incredibly important for a restaurant business. The first step toward developing a comprehensive local marketing plan is to look at your audience. Targeting potential customers in the neighborhood can directly boost sales, especially since an astounding 85% of local business and restaurant customers are from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are two more local marketing facts: Local businesses get 100% of their customers from within a radius of just a few miles, and 46% of Google searches are for local businesses. These facts demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of a highly targeted local marketing strategy.
Top Considerations for a Local Marketing Strategy
The best marketing strategies for local businesses include thorough research and local market knowledge of your area. But you may be wondering, “What is local marketing, and why is it so important for my restaurant?”
Local marketing is defined as marketing targeted to your local geographic area. You may have websites and SEO in place, but it won’t be effective if you’re targeting customers 2,000 miles away from your restaurant. Local small business marketing strategies require a more sophisticated and focused approach to targeting customers within your geographic area.
Key Steps to Developing a Local Area Marketing Plan
- Know your market
When developing a local area marketing plan, you must study the competition in your niche and in the general restaurant or business area. That way, you know what everyone else is offering and how you can make your dishes shine.
- Online research
For valuable insights into your marketing strategy, ask these questions as you conduct online research: How do customers perceive your competition on online platforms such as Google, Yelp and social media? What do you notice about the best-reviewed, middle-reviewed, and worst-reviewed restaurants?
- Network with local business owners
Networking with other local business owners is a crucial, yet often overlooked piece of a local area marketing plan. Getting to know your neighbors helps you strengthen your community and may allow you to build a trade-off program where customers can gain benefits from both businesses (e.g., discounts with receipts to encourage business across the neighborhood).
Boost Your Ranking in Local Search Engines
Since 90% of people search online before choosing a restaurant, boosting your online presence is a must for your local marketing checklist. Here are a few strategies for increasing your local search engine ranking:
- Targeted strategy
Local SEO is a key component in any marketing strategy, because it helps you target a local audience in online searches. To develop the most effective online marketing content for reaching a local customer base, you must understand your audience: Who are your potential customers in the area, and what keywords will they be using to find your business? Then include those keywords throughout your website and other online content to boost your chances of appearing in search results.
- Research your Google search rankings
Use Google My Business to see how your business appears in a Google search. You can also simply search relevant keywords (e.g, “sushi restaurants in Jacksonville”) to see whether your restaurant appears on the first page of search results.
- Mobile-friendly website
61% of mobile searchers are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile-friendly site. Understand whether your website is mobile-friendly by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
- Google business profile & review websites
In addition to having your own website and Google business profile, you should also pay close attention to review websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and other review websites that might be popular in your area (like a popular food blogger—we’ll expand on this in a bit).
Developing an online presence involves more sophisticated SEO strategies such as geotagging photos and images on your website and social media. This is another way to increase your local search engine rankings.
Social Media & Email
Besides interacting with customers on review websites and reaching them through targeted ad campaigns and local search engines, you can also build a following by using targeted social media and email strategies:
- Engage customers
A tried-and-true tactic to engage customers at the local level is to have frequent contests and specials linked to social media. For instance, give customers a reward for posting photos and content related to your business and tagging you in their social media. These contests and campaigns can be promoted across your email, social media channels, and business website.
- Customer loyalty program
Another way to reach out to customers and enjoy repeat business is to implement a customer loyalty program that offers frequent specials and freebies. As you build your following, keep these campaigns active through frequent emails and postings to social media, where you can announce upcoming specials, menu updates, contests, and special offers.
- Engage with local media outlets
Your networking efforts should also go beyond local business owners and competitors. Create more buzz and exposure for your restaurant by working with local journalists at newspapers and food blogs. They most likely will have a restaurant and entertainment section featuring articles such as “Top 10 Restaurants of 2020” for various categories.
- Work with social media influencers
You can also get a jumpstart on your social media campaign by joining forces with local influencers that have a large reach in your area. Make sure they have enough clout before engaging their services.
Appoint Staff as Ambassadors of Your Business
Your staff can be one of your greatest assets when it comes to local marketing.
Make them part of your local marketing strategy by giving them coupons to hand out to their friends in-person and on social media. Also, create fun behind-the-scenes social media posts highlighting your team.
Once you put your plan into action, it is not a set-it-and-forget-it operation. A successful local marketing strategy requires constant testing, monitoring, updating, and engagement in order to be effective. A local marketing strategy for restaurants must be continuous and sustained over the long term to keep customers engaged and build a following. While it might be slow-going in the beginning, this multi-layered process is essential for maintaining customer loyalty while also reaching new people.
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