07 July 2021
Author: Steve Bleh
Too many food service operators—particularly in casual restaurant formats, and specifically, the more premium casual restaurant concepts—misjudge the multiplier effect of a strong weekday lunch business. Sure, you can simplify the menu and turn over the tables a lot (sometimes) faster, but some operators still argue that even so, there’s not enough return to invest more when the tickets and the margins are often much less. So why should you invest in lunchtime traffic, even if ticket sizes are better later in the day? That reason alone is actually exactly why—because lunchtime guests are also more likely to visit your restaurant in the evening and on weekend … when they’ll spend even more. For guests, lunch is often about convenience. (For operators offering quality food service, that’s too often.) But consider this: When hanging out socially with family or friends, we all want a dining option that’s reliable and predictable. In short: familiar. Lunch guests also are more likely to bring new guests with them. The destination for a midday meal at work is usually the product of a negotiation, meaning it’s likely there’s one or more people in a party for whom your restaurant wasn’t previously in consideration. And because work lunches are social occasions, they’re a popular topic of conversation around the office, with coworkers asking where others are going, where they went, what they ordered and if they’d recommend it. Serving up a pleasant lunch experience also lets you leverage the social psychology of your guests to build your brand: People like to be the first in their network to discover a new experience, whether it’s a restaurant, a band or a joke. Being in the conversation is another step toward more effective restaurant marketing. So, how do you build the lunch business at your restaurant? Here a few common approaches we’ve worked with clients to implement over the years, with QSRs and casual and premium casual restaurants alike. Restaurant loyalty programs The mere mention of loyalty programs—whether you call them rewards clubs or SUBscriptions or what have you—make some operators’ eyes squint. Here’s a secret: Many restaurant guests feel the same way. But you can do better. First, don’t make your guests carry around a ragged old card when they’ve already got a perfectly good mobile device in their pockets. Go digital. Make it shareable, so they can brag to their friends that they’re eating for free (and WHERE). Most important, don’t make it an annuity program. If the reward is the incentive, make it attainable, even if it’s less than a complimentary meal. Offer discounts on sides or select beverages at a lower transaction count to keep guests engaged. Pass-along promotions You want them to talk about their positive lunch experience when they get back to the office, right? Give them something to share, like a certificate for an upgrade on a meal for two that’s valid within the next week or so. Give them something to offer their coworkers to come along next time. Bounce-back promotions Casual formats that serve alcohol have even more options. For example, while lunch for most people is a timed exercise, after-work drinks and appetizers usually are not. An incentive to return the same day with a party of four or more means an additional table, probably bigger ticket, and definitely more margin. It likely will take some experimentation, but a discount on the second appetizer is a great place to start the bidding. Online ordering Lunch guests during the workday are on a timer. They have a finite amount of time to get to your restaurant, appreciate the superior experience you deliver, run that errand and get back to their desks before the bell rings. You can put their mind at ease by taking their orders—and their payment—in advance digitally. By scheduling their meal time instead of their seating time, you not only save their time waiting for food prep, you save your time waiting for that table to turn over. Limited delivery Consider a delivery model that suits your specific menu and margins. Delivery has become an expectation in many segments, particularly following the madness of 2020, but there are strategies for restaurant delivery that can keep the hands of the Silicon Valley app bros out of your pocket. Set minimum order sizes and delivery areas to mimic catering offers, for example. Also consider limiting your delivery menu to those items you’re confident will travel well. Sampling Contact businesses in your area to offer sampler trays of your best catering menu items. Just do your research first. The person whose lunch you really want to pay for is the one who makes the catering decisions, not the guy who answers the phone. Depending on the particular company, that’s usually someone with a title like office manager, business manager or the admin to the CEO. Call first and schedule a day and time that’s best for them. Business card drawings Hey, I never said these would all be new, but you can make more of collecting business cards than a one-time giveaway. Rewarding your lucky winners with the social status of bringing two or three of their friends to your restaurant at lunch is obvious. But also track where those cards are coming from, month over month. If you see a rising number of visits from employees at a certain company, make sure you’re letting the person in charge of their catering orders or their business lunch scheduling know that your menu is the house favorite. The food service industry faces challenges today that most of us have never experienced. Rather than see that as a negative, view it as the best time get creative. Try different combinations and variations of these approaches. Soon, you’ll find the idea that works best not just for your guests, but for your business. Now, go finish your shift.
02 July 2020
Author: Natalie Shawver
Purpose: it’s a big deal. To individuals, to businesses, to brands, to life. If you look at life under a microscope lately, you’ll see some pretty intense things. The proverbial petri dish is full—overflowing, some might say. In between the COVID-19 global crisis, we’re grappling with longstanding issues of racism and inequality that have led to protests and social media blackouts. The volatility is increasing … and the microorganisms we’re watching are multiplying. With those facts in play, your brand’s purpose is an even bigger deal. No longer can it remain exactly the same—businesses must shift to be more inclusive of current events, and leadership at all levels has to answer some tough questions. Consumers aren’t satisfied with simply reading a mission statement on your website. They want to know the actions you’re taking to support social justice-oriented movements and why they should remain faithful to you. And, most important, they want it to be crystal clear. There’s no time for questions. Don’t dance a jig. Either you take a stand on important issues … or you’ll be left in the dust. The days of neutrality are over. However, if there’s one thing all business leaders can agree on, it’s that the recent pandemic has united us in one way that most of us have not seen before. Our livelihood purpose is common; therefore, our business purpose must rise to meet it. Even before COVID-19, this paradigm of purpose as a driving factor for profit has been in the spotlight. In 2019, more than 180 chief executives from the Business Roundtable shared a provocative statement that the purpose of a corporation should be to help other stakeholders such as employees, the environment and ethical suppliers. The board was so serious that it decided to create a special committee to advance racial equality and justice solutions this month. Still not convinced that a defined purpose is imperative to profitability? A recent global study reveals that when consumers think a brand has a strong purpose, they are: 4 times more likely to purchase from the company 6 times more likely to protect the company in the event of a misstep or public criticism 5 times more likely to champion the company and recommend it to friends and family 1 times more likely to trust the company But it isn’t just any consumer. If your brand isn’t going after millennials, you may want to abandon your marketing strategy altogether—76% of them want to see CEOs actively using their platform to address important social issues. If you aren’t delivering on this promise, you’re leaving money on the table (aka consumers won’t be donning masks in your stores or calling you for your service). Forty-three percent of consumers walk away from a brand when left disappointed by that brand’s words or actions on a social issue. Let that one sink in. So how do you shift or redefine your purpose in a time of uncertainty? Maybe you scratch it altogether and start anew. First things first: stay relevant as the world changes. Purchase patterns have drastically changed from basic-needs-only toward ethically-purchased-only. What is your company doing to be present and not stuck in the past? Second, take thoughtful action. Whether you speak out on social media about specific issues in the news or make philanthropic donations to in-need organizations, you’ve got to do something. After all, there’s nothing more powerful than purpose. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
14 May 2020
Help; the clicks my vendor is showing don’t match what I’m seeing in Google Analytics! Unfortunately, this is a very common problem. In fact, we’d say it’s the norm! Usually, the number of clicks a vendor is reporting is significantly higher than what you’re seeing in Google Analytics, which can be quite distressing. However, there are a myriad of potential causes behind this discrepancy, and while more than one factor may be at play, let’s take a look at one of the most common issues. Clicks Are Not the Same as Users If you’re running display or pre-roll video ads, the vendor is probably delivering those ads over an ad server or ad exchange. The vendor is most likely tracking clicks, which are calculated based on server logs. On the other hand, Google is tracking “users.” A user is not necessarily the same thing as a click. A user is a unique person that has come to your website. To put it more accurately, it is a unique device and/or browser. Let’s dig a little deeper. Scenario 1: Let’s say John is surfing the web using his iPhone and a Safari browser. He clicks your display ad three times. Your vendor would count this as three clicks, but Google Analytics would only count this as one user. That’s because the first time John clicked your ad and Google Analytics fired, he was “cookied.” A code snippet was appended to him so that Google could recognize him. Now, any time John visits your website on his iPhone in Safari, he’ll just be counted as one user unless he clears his cache or the cookie expires. Scenario 2: Let’s say John is surfing the web using his iPhone and a Safari browser. He clicks your ad two times. Later that night, John is on his laptop in a Chrome browser and clicks your ad once. Your vendor would count this as three clicks, but Google Analytics would count this as two users. Once on the iPhone in Safari (even though he clicked the ad twice) and once on the laptop in Chrome. Unless John changes his device and/or browser or clears his cache he’ll continue to be counted as one user in Google Analytics … but your vendor will count a new click each time he clicks on your ad. Conflating clicks with users is the quintessential apples/oranges issue in third-party reporting. But, it’s far from the only possible cause of reporting discrepancies. In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss some other common causes and how to use your web data for the best results possible. If there’s a particular issue your brand is wrestling with, give us a call or join the conversation on LinkedIn or Facebook. This post is part of a series on digital marketing analytics. To read the others, follow this link.
29 April 2020
Author: Steve Bleh
If you’re from the do-more-with-less school of marketing, what a time to be alive for you. But for brands who need to stay engaged with their audiences despite social distancing and restrictions on the size of gatherings, the last few weeks have been a time to get creative. Absent the ability to pull together photo or video shoots, many marketers have been forced to rely on existing assets or (horrors!) stock images and video. But some organizations have turned to their people and members of their own audiences for new content that’s both fresh and relevant. And when the content and execution matches brand identity, the shared experiences can be not just impressive, but inspiring. An example of that is the Parks @ Home campaign from our friends (and clients) at Great Parks of Hamilton County. The parks remain open, but with picnic areas, playground equipment and especially restrooms off-limits, it can be challenging for families with young children to enjoy a visit, even on a beautiful spring day. With the help of the Great Parks pros, they’ve created online experiences, educational content, learning activities and enriching games to engage kids and their parents. http://stgregory.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20_0442_GREATPARKS_FAMILIES_15_HD.mp4 Most notably, it presents an opportunity for members of their audience to connect with each other through the program, with shared activities and exercises that foster conversation and build lasting engagement. Great Parks has some distinct advantages and they’ve created a way to leverage those assets to keep their audiences engaged during social distancing. Brands who do likewise will see it pay off once we get back to something closer to normal. What’s your brand’s advantage?
20 April 2020
Operating during Coronavirus is as new for your customers as it is for all of us. Every opportunity counts, while your consumers are changing their behavior simultaneously online and in real life. As these shifts continue, our reaction time as marketers is even shorter. This presents opportunities for your brand—as well as your competitor’s—to capture their attention through your digital content. And your customers want to hear from you. In fact, Kantar found that only eight percent of consumers think companies should stop advertising during the outbreak. Be present This is not the time to go dark—either in your social media channels or your website content. Consumer behavior has changed considerably on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Traffic is up, but visits are more kinetic. It’s as if our collective attention spans have gotten even shorter as we process a flood of new information. Maintaining a brand presence between customer touchpoints is always important and relevant and useful information will keep your brand in the consciousness of both consumers and search engines. Be helpful That relevant information should include ways your organization can help in these unusual times. Have you changed operating hours or procedures to serve your customers and protect them and your staff? Tell us about it. Are you pausing operations but scheduling service for the future? Let us know how your biggest fans can get to the head of the line. Do you have a product or service that is particularly useful during quarantine? By all means, tell us more! Be clear Sharing details about doing business with your brand is really only helpful if it’s relevant to the customer. You’re changing your hours to sanitize your vehicles? Lay out how that affects the customer. Having inventory issues? Communicate exactly what is in-stock, what’s not and when you expect that to change. Phone lines jammed? Share that immediately through every other channel at your disposal. People understand these are unusual times for you, too, and they’re willing to be patient when they have a clear understanding. Be consistent Don’t fall into the trap of communicating with your customers once and calling it a day. Update at least as frequently as you did during normal times. Remember, a good part of your content will be pushed down people’s news feeds by the latest news, along with graduation pictures from 1997. Stay active to stay relevant. Be a connector A major theme in much of the consumer-generated content right now is staying connected. People are feeling isolated and are eager for human contact. If possible, demonstrate how your brand brings people together by acknowledging your online community and inviting them to join with your company—and each other—in some community effort. Salute local amateur athletes who lost their spring sports season. Repost the community theater’s rehearsal video. Recognize local students or civic organizations for community service. Be grateful Remember to thank your customers—and your casual followers—for remaining with your brand through this situation. Thank them for their efforts and their sacrifice to stay healthy and help to shorten the duration. Most important, thank your employees—the line staff, technicians, phone center representatives, all of them—who one way or another are facing new challenges right now. Also remember your vendors. A little appreciation, even when you’re the one writing the checks—can go a long way to keeping your supply chain running smoothly now and when we get back to something approaching normal. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
23 March 2020
Author: Daniel Lally
There’s no communication playbook for the current public health emergency. Nobody alive has ever faced this particular communication challenge, let alone in the context of worldwide, always-on keyboard commentary. But there are some consistent principles. Make it about them It may be a matter of great professional pride that your IT team has managed to scale up access to the VPN and add remote back-up functionality to your EOS on such short notice, but are these details your customers and vendors actually need right now? Do a quick scan of your inbox folder. How many COVID-19 messages have you gotten in the last week? Or, the last 24 hours, even? How many did you read from beginning to end? Just like we learned to ignore irrelevant online ads, we’ve all trained ourselves to skip over the corporate messages that don’t have meaning or value for us, personally. Skip to the part in your communication where you get to “What This Means to You.” Consider opening with that. And, if your compliance people will go along, consider closing with it, too. Be human We’re communicating in tense times about serious issues. It’s even more tempting than usual to rely on corporate-speak. Utilizing one’s multisyllabic vocabulary when your smaller words will do is not just less clear, it’s exhausting. There’s no reason your news release, customer email, vendor letter or social media post should sound like it was written by a committee of insecure law school applicants. You’re talking to people. Be compassionate Speaking of talking to people, many of them are confused and some are downright scared. The changes you’re announcing or the new process your organization is following might mean anything from a reassurance or an inconvenience to a genuine problem for your audience. Remember, this is about them, so take responsibility for that. To whatever extent you can control, be flexible in individual cases, but mostly, admit that this is an issue and that the people behind your brand are trying their best to minimize the disruption to the people in front of you. Stay in your lane You’re a smart person. You know lots of things about lots of things. But unless you actually are an epidemiologist or a public health expert, don’t sound like you think you are one. Reminding customers and visitors that your organization is following social distancing procedures is fine. But if you want to share best practices, preventative measures or treatment protocols with your employees or outside audiences, direct them to actual experts in those fields. It’s fine if you want to hand out the local health department’s flier or share a link to the CDC website, but shoehorning health tips and other technical information about the wider situation just distracts from what you set out to communicate in the first place. It also risks damaging the credibility of your brand. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
19 February 2020
Author: Daniel Lally
Despite an era of digital connectivity and easy access to information, there’s still no substitute for real-life experience. We all want to see the elephant for ourselves. Or the dual-outboard 900-horsepower pontoon boat as the case may be. That’s what we saw a couple of weeks ago as our Client Renfro Productions raised the curtain on their new edition of the Ford Cincinnati Travel, Sports & Boat Show. A consumer show for outdoor enthusiasts presents the easy paradox of requiring attendees to be indoors and surrounded by tens of thousands of other people who also prefer solitude and open spaces. And yet they came. For 63 years now, this show has curated the top experts and equipment for fishing, hunting, boating, powersports, adventure travel and more from across North America. But just as important, it brings together enthusiasts, giving them the opportunity to share their knowledge, experiences and secrets. Despite all the technology, people will always want to be around people like them. We are naturally attracted to others with a shared experience (family holiday gatherings excepted). That makes the crowds of other outdoor enthusiasts a feature. Every year around Labor Day, in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, tens of thousands of people who share a different sort of common identity come together to build a city that lasts only eight days. Artists, performers, self-expressionists, individualists and myriad other non-conformists travel hundreds or even thousands of miles just to spend a week with their own tribe. Most (ahem) of what they do in the desert could just as easily be done at home. And yet they come. To belong to something they feel a part of. Like people do.
29 January 2020
Author: Natalie Shawver
In today’s world we’ve taken the very definition of multitasking to an entirely new level. We’re bingeing the latest season of The Crowne on Netflix while scrolling through our Instagram feed. We’re listening to a podcast while adding something to Facebook Marketplace. We’re downloading books from the local library and reading another on our tablet. This, of course, is on top of working full-time at a career or as a parent (or both), juggling upkeep with our house, attending the neighbor’s birthday party and somehow remembering to let the dog out. We’re exhausted. And we’re wondering how we can win our time back. Many companies have cracked the tick-tock code: Netflix tells us what we should watch next (time saved on searching); Amazon has monthly subscriptions so we’ll never run out of toilet paper (time saved on trip to grocery store); and bill payments and Rx refills have never been simpler thanks to automatic bank account deductions or reminder texts. #truelove Life seems simpler with all of these technological shortcuts … and yet we’re still running around with our proverbial heads cut off and wondering where the 25th hour in the day is. Take me for example and meet my friend Liz. And by “friend” I mean the influencer I’ve turned to (who I don’t personally know but I pretend like I do) for the past nine years when I need a decision made and relief in my brain. Chicago lifestyle blogger Liz Adams of Hello Adams Family has been on the scene since 2011. What first started as a fashion blog has turned into her full-time, focus-on-real-life account from all angles. Her transition from single-to-married woman to mother of two has shown the power of evolution at its finest—all before our very eyes. Instead of writing about what the latest spring trend in raincoats is, she serves up must-have skincare, must-try recipes and must-do activities for children. And I/we love her (and others like her) for it. We see someone else in the same place of life with the same undereye circles just trying to get through the day, and we realize that heck, if they can juggle it all, so can we. Oh, and they’re going to tell me what gifts I need to buy my husband for Christmas? Sign me up. Liz is like the equivalent of the Netflix movie recommendation in human form. And, just like I trust Netflix to know what I’ll love best, I trust Liz, too. But why? I don’t really know her. Because, simply put, she does all the heavy lifting and she gives me my time back. I don’t have to think about what to make for dinner because poof! Liz emails me a recipe every Wednesday. I don’t have to figure out which home cleaning product is the safest for my toddler because poof! Liz tells me which one is. She takes a product and makes it relatable—a product that may be hard to sell (hello CBD oil) as well as ones that fly off the shelves (bedazzled headbands). She makes me feel like I need it without being used-carsalesman-y. She makes me feel like her friend—who she is trying to help save time, too. #sharingiscaring It is this uncanny need for time saving that makes me the epitome of a sponge, soaking up every possible human advertisement thrown my way. I’m a marketer’s dream. So how can a company capitalize on overwhelmed, searching-for-extra-minutes consumers like me? They can make it easy, automated and enjoyable. They can showcase have-to-have products in my social feeds, newsletters in my inboxes with curated content, and eye-catching advertisements before my YouTube video begins. They can partner with my friends (cough cough Liz) to talk about their products in a very real way. They can catch me in the small moments I have and convert me into a sale. They can use the power of influence to capture my attention and make me part of their tribe. They can give me my time back.
14 November 2019
Author: Gail Back
Independent and family-owned companies tend to grow up with an ingrained do-it-yourself ethic. It’s part of the attraction: Working in a place where decisions can be made quickly and most tasks can be handled in-house. But that’s not always the best option when it comes to decisions that require specific expertise or where your managers make purchase decisions less frequently. It’s not unlike the annual ritual of selecting health insurance for your team: There are dozens of options, each with different features and benefits, and only limited visibility to what others are paying for similar results. More often than not, you’re better off working with a professional. That’s also true when it comes to advertising media buying. The contracts are complicated. And while you may only make your advertising decisions a few times each year, usually you’re negotiating with professionals who handle the same kind of deal every single day. Often, professional media planning not only saves your company more money than it costs—it also simplifies your life. Your media planner will present you with a couple of options that meet your marketing objectives for timing, reach and frequency. A comprehensive plan will also combine print, broadcast, streaming and digital elements to make the greatest impact for your advertising investment. If you’re not sure about the offers and options you’re fielding from different advertising outlets, take a look at what your agency’s media department can do for you. We can simplify the decision-making process and can also be a business owner’s best friend when it comes to watching the budget.