Business and Operations
Your local marketing strategy: Marketing Insights
By Michelle Brisebois
The restaurant business has traditionally been a local play. When your product must be consumed within a short time period from its production – targeting customers far away can be an exercise in futility. If a restaurant receives most of its traffic through tourism or business travellers, marketing to audiences beyond one’s regional borders makes sense. But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the rules of engagement and forced us to narrow our focus.
COVID-19 has had one consistent effect on everyone: our movements have been restricted. From full-on lockdowns to advisories to stay in one’s bubble of close family, your best focus to keep the sales flowing will be on those customers within a 30-minute drive of your business. Other business sectors with products that are shelf-stable and easy to ship can cast a wider net but the traditional restaurant model needs to shift to local delivery or order for pickup to continue to operate.
There’s much to like about this strategy because it lets you truly focus your marketing message on a customer base that is more inclined to have an emotional interest in your success. After all, you are paying into their local tax base and creating jobs for the community. With the right marketing strategy, you can ensure that your business is front and centre when people are looking for somewhere to get great food. Here are a few tips to help you craft a local marketing strategy to amplify your sales.
Claim and optimize your Google My Business profile
Google isn’t the only search engine, but it controls more than 92 per cent of all internet search. The Google My Business profile is free: all you have to do is claim it, optimize it and watch your business rise in the search rankings. The profile lets people see how far away you are, communicates your special hours and indicates whether you have takeout or not. You can post pictures of your menu items and post your actual menu, so that it’s displayed directly on the search results. The Google My Business profile is a marketing pot of gold and should be something you optimize and update as regularly as you do your scheduling.
Link to other local organizations and businesses
Google loves to crawl links on websites. It’s how the search engine makes connections between your business and other websites and how it figures out how to index your site. When your website links to other local businesses, Google processes this as having a strong local presence and it will help lift you in the search rankings. You can create an “About us” page where you list your local partners. These partners could include your chamber of commerce, local suppliers and farmers you get ingredients from, local organizations you donate food or money to and other businesses you have an alliance with such as the local bakery that supplies your desserts.
Create content around local pride
Content can be anything your customers engage with – including your menu. Why not launch a series of pizzas named after local landmarks? Have a contest to let the customers recommend toppings that connect the dish to those “inside stories” and locales that only residents know. Pizza has a long tradition of being named after places – think New York-style or Chicago-style deep dish pizza and you’ve got the idea. The bonus here is that the local names will be highlighted in your online content so the search engines will make a stronger connection to you as a local business on search.
Researchers say it takes six weeks to ingrain a new habit and by the time life returns to normal – whatever normal looks like – consumers’ habits will have shifted permanently. In a survey by Ernst and Young this past spring, 42 per cent of respondents reported that the way they shop will change post-COVID. Just over one-third said they will pay more for local products, 25 per cent will pay more for trusted brands and 23 per cent for ethical products.
As a local business you have the ability to create and nurture that trust. Now, more than ever, your super-power is your proximity.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing consultant specializing in e-commerce and digital content strategy and retail/in-store activation. Michelle has worked in the food, pharmaceutical, financial services and wine industries. She is currently an adjunct professor at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.