There are so many ways to promote your business for free.
Turning first-time visitors into regulars takes more than just good food, beer and smiles. For word-of-mouth promotion to work, you have to do things that are out-of-the ordinary so people really talk about your business with their friends!
Appoint Staff Photographers: all staff should be able to take good photos, not just blurry snaps or ones that are too dark. Teach them about the importance of light shining on the face, not behind the head; have people close together and ask for the sunglasses off. Have a #hashtag competition – if customers hold a sign with your hashtag on it, and use it on Instagram, they go in the monthly draw for a prize.
Share Photos of Your Area. Noticed how most Instagram and Facebook Photos are just food, food and more food? It gets repetitive – share photos of your street, local people, interesting shops and landmarks. Now you’ve got the neighbours interested as well! And you can’t go wrong with photos of sunrises and sunsets – people love them.
Make Friends With the Local School’s Hospitality Teacher. ‘Make friends before you ask for favours...’ – you want their best students to work for you, and they could be after some decent work experience, or a guest speaker on what the industry is really like. Reach out – the results can be terrific!
Run an online feedback competition, with a monthly Gift Voucher draw for everyone who enters. Smart operator Steve Sidd of Indulge Restaurant at Moorebank uses this method to get hundreds of responses every month. Real feedback, and a great way to contact people time and time again.
Send real mail. A friendly Happy New Year card to valued customers will really stand out. Staff can write them out on a quiet shift, and you get the glory. Ask for addresses on the feedback forms.
Celebrate more events - they don’t need to be big or expensive. Your birthday, birthday of the business, national days, famous anniversaries – most places just stick to the same old Valentines and Mothers Day. Work on having one every month, even if it’s just a theme for dessert.
Sponsor a local community group or club – but plan it over a 12 month period, not just as a one-off donation. This ensures the group really gets to know you - as the relationship builds so will their support for your business. Your sponsorship can be ‘in-kind’ as well as cash eg dinners for raffle prizes. Choose strategically so the demographics of the sponsored group fits with the customers you want - go looking for a suitable group rather than just waiting for one to come knocking. Social and sporting clubs are full of socially active people who tell their friends about where to eat and drink!
Experiment with Facebook’s Location & Event Ads – move beyond the ‘Boost’ button, which doesn’t give many targeting options. Make sure to change the image so it promotes exactly what you intend eg a special deal on early-week parties, or kids meals. This tactic isn't free, but can be very low-cost.
Fix the Noise! If you’re not a bar or nightclub, chances are that bad acoustics and noise are annoying quite a few customers. Most people don’t complain, they just delete you from their list – you’ll never know. This is not about running a funeral chapel, but having good sound levels so people can talk. It’s easy to test the noise level with a simple Decibel meter app on your phone.