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Marketing Your Restaurant - How to Utilize Working Capital

You know that you have a quality food experience to offer customers, but you need to get them through your doors first. When you take out working capital loans, it's important to include investments in marketing efforts. Your campaigns help build awareness, develop repeat customers and put your restaurant on the road to long-term success. Consider these ideas when you're putting together a marketing strategy for your restaurant.

Offer a Loyalty Program

Your first thought should revolve around getting people to eat at your restaurant frequently. While new customer acquisition is important, giving everyone a reason to add you to their frequent eatery list is essential to your growth.

A loyalty program rewards people for returning to your restaurant. Whether you offer a free appetizer or take a percentage off of their check, customers will know that each visit moves them closer to that incentive. Make sure that it's easy to track how far away they are from receiving their reward, and tie the program in with your email marketing efforts.

Develop Email Marketing Campaigns

Email lists are an incredibly powerful tool for staying on your customers' radar. You reach them on their computers, tablets and smartphones when you use this approach, rather than just on a single device. Since your customers opt into your list, you'll have their permission to stay in touch through relevant and valuable messages. Some email ideas include contest announcements, promotions and new menu items.

Build a Community Around Your Social Media Profiles

Some restaurant owners make the mistake of using social media profiles solely to get the word out about promotions and business information. And they don't engage with the people who are interested in their brand. You have a direct line to your audience through these platforms. Consumers want to see a brand that has plenty of personality and a willingness to have conversations with them.

Many people also take their complaints to social media before they would ever consider bringing it to a business. You can reach out to these customers and address their concerns proactively.

Sponsor Local Events

While digital marketing plays a big role in a modern restaurant's strategy, you don't want to overlook the opportunities your local community provides your business. Explore local events that you can sponsor, or start your own. You will grow your brand recognition and may get a discount for a stall at the event.

Run Ads in Local Publications

Many cities have local newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs that run ads. Since you're primarily focusing on people within a set region, you don't need to spend your working capital on advertising that falls outside of this area.

Pay close attention to the effectiveness of your ads so you can put your funds towards the ones that work out best for your restaurant. You may have seasonal fluctuations in demand, so make sure you account for that during the tracking process.

Set Up Sampler Booths

Sometimes all you need is a way to get your food into your customers' mouths. Sampler booths at festivals, parks, events and other local businesses give you the opportunity to accomplish this goal. However, you do need to have enough working capital to support making free samples for a large audience.

Be sure that your offerings are representative of the type of food you're serving in your restaurant and that they are suited for quick sampling. You don't want to give out full-size entrees, but you can create appetizer-sized portions or offer your standard appetizers. Ideally, all of the people who try your food will talk about it with their friends and family. Try pairing each sample with a tempting discount, such as a free appetizer when they come to your location.

Optimize Your Web Presence for Local Searches

Search engine optimization is a strategy you can use to improve your chances of showing up at the top of search results whenever a potential customer starts looking for something online. If you try to compete on the national level, you'll run through your working capital without seeing a good return.

Instead, focus on search terms that include words for your region, city or even the neighborhood that you're in. That way, the only people you'll compete with are restaurants in your immediate vicinity. You may want to work with an agency that's experienced in SEO, as properly optimizing a site requires specialized knowledge.

Consistently Update Your Website

Do you give customers a reason to check your website on a regular basis? If it just has your menu, location and a gallery, they will only visit when they're hungry. When you offer a frequently updated blog, recipes and other resources, they may add you to their daily reading list.

A consistent update schedule gives you the opportunity to stay at the front of your customers' minds. They won't always be in the mood to dine out or eat the type of cuisine you serve, but when you have a strong presence in their life, they'll visit your restaurant when they do want to indulge.

Put your working capital to good use with a robust restaurant marketing plan. You have the funding available to position your business for long-term success, so it's important to efficiently execute your plan.

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