A Look at the Latest Marketing Trends
For the past few months, business owners have been inundated with headlines about marketing trends to watch in 2019. It’s a lot to take in. Let’s take a look at some of the marketing trends that have been predicted to be red hot this year:
- Micro influencers. These are social mavens with less followers than major influencers but they’re focused on relevant topics or interest areas.
- Video. The use of short videos and video stories will continue to explode.
- Stories. Followers can’t get enough stories on social networks. Stories are growing at a drastically faster rate than feed-based sharing.
- Hyper local. Also called boots on the ground marketing, hyper local channels efforts to potential customers in immediate vicinity.
- Data. Leveraging information collected through POS system, web traffic and social media will play a big role in how restaurants spend their marketing dollars. Interconnected with data is an increase in personalization marketing.
- Search engine optimization/search engine marketing. Increasing your visibility at the top of search engine results pages has become vital for online ordering and competing in a crowded marketplace.
- Mobile. Mobile responsive content is no longer a “want to.” It’s a “have to.”
- Pay to play on social media. Not only is social advertising on the rise, companies are getting even more strategic on what content they boost.
- Direct purchase power on social channels. Ordering food and making reservations directly from social accounts will be a game changer for tracking ROI on social media.
- Chatbots. This advanced tech is coming into its own and restaurants are discovering how it can be used for social and web messaging, as well as ordering.
- WiFi. As more restaurants offer WiFi, they are finding innovative ways to use it as a marketing tool.
- Augmented reality. This app feature brings “eating with your eyes” to a whole new level as customers engage with a menu.
- Voice search. Voice search is skyrocketing thanks to voice services like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. Marketers are optimizing local search to be more conversational and include “near me” and “nearby.”
These are just some of the big marketing trends that are making the headlines. While a few sound like something out of SCiFi, others are cost-effective options for restaurant owners. We asked three experts in the field who work with restaurant clients about the big picture of the latest marketing trends. Cynthia Hollidge, president of CCS Creative, based in Toronto, Ontario; Randy Lopez with SYNERGY Restaurant Consultants in Newport Beach, California; and Bill Church, managing partner at Restaurant eSolutions in Annapolis, Maryland, weigh in on the subject.
As you look at current marketing trends, a couple of big picture marketing themes emerge that you won’t want to ignore this year:
- Content is king.
- There is a sense of getting back to basics.
With frequent social media and Web site postings, restaurants are producing more content than ever before. “It really comes down to content creation,” Hollidge says. But the content has to have on-point messaging.
“They need to understand that there is the creative aspect of messaging, there’s the relationship management aspect of the messaging,” she says. “And those people work together to make sure they are getting the right message and the right response and the right tool. If you don’t package your message correctly, whether you use five mediums or one medium, you are not going to be successful.
“One thing that is more important than anything today is making sure you are differentiating your product and bringing out what quality aspects of your product are a reason for them purchasing from you,” she says. “There’s always going to be the discount pizza guy who is out there where people are going to go strictly for the price. But you really have to focus on your messaging going forward and educating your customer on why they are coming to you over somebody else.”
Lopez says content should be authentic. “Real people telling real stories,” he says. While freshness and ingredient marketing has become standard, he says, “It’s now how are you cooking? It’s more about flavor. It’s more about being authentic with flavor, presentation and cooking style… There is an integrity of all of these layers now that you have to have, so I think the marketing needs to respond to that integrity. It’s really going down to quality statements.”
Content is not only being produced for a pizzeria’s web and social account, but also for online listing and review sites. “Online listings and review sites are critical to a restaurant’s success, and restaurant management must take an active role in managing these,” Church says. “This can be broken down into three steps: 1) claiming and controlling the Google, Yelp, Bing and Trip Advisor listings; 2) implementing a strategy to get customers to leave favorable reviews and star ratings; and 3) quickly responding and addressing negative reviews.”
Getting back to basics, Lopez says he sees with his clients at SYNERGY a return to local store marketing to build third-party validation for restaurants. “It’s going back to being a neighborhood restaurant and that mindset,” he says. It’s using field marketing teams and connecting with local bloggers, influencers and community leaders.
A back to basics approach requires looking at multiple mediums. “It’s not just one thing,” Hollidge says. “There is some print, there is some digital, web and SEO. It’s a combination of things that you have to do in order to market your restaurant.”
Instagram and Facebook Traction
Instagram is poised to be the most talked about social network in 2019. With its video and photo focus, it’s a medium that fits perfectly with pizzerias. Instagram is the jam at Iron Born Pizza in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It has quickly amassed nearly 7,000 followers and high engagement numbers for its drool-worthy content. “We are a fairly young pizza shop with a very decent number of followers that are very enthusiastic about our brand and pizza, so it’s a platform that helps us keep our thumb on the pulse of our guests and helps them to spread the word in a genuine way,” says owner Pete Tolman.
How does Iron Born approach content? Tolman says his team focuses on three main goals:
- “Create quality content. We try to post interesting text, whether it’s going the extra mile to talk about how we make our ingredients or telling a joke that reveals some of our brand personality. We try to give content that is thoughtful and beautiful. We pay for professional photos that take up 80 percent of our feed, but it also comes in handy when designing menus or magazine articles.”
- Be consistent. “We try to post on a schedule, and consistently, so that our followers don’t think we just went away.
- “Engage with followers and people we follow. We reply to comments and try to repost stories or posts of our guests. It’s a way for us to say thank you for coming in and for starting or continuing the positive customer experience. We also engage with other local businesses that we love, because…well, we love them!”
Many operators hold firm with a Facebook strategy. Facebook is where it’s at for Bella Roma Pizza in St. Cloud, Florida. The suburban pizzeria has put time and marketing dollars into Facebook. Owner Alfredo D’Alessandris outlines Bella Roma’s Facebook strategy. “Most of our posts are paid posts,” he says. “At Bella Roma we like to get creative and offer things that you can’t often find at other ‘take out/ delivery joints’ — like our sliced heirloom tomato and roasted garlic pizza, New Haven clam and garlic pizza, cavatelli with a short rib ragu, Lobster rolls, etc. When we market these unique specials , we will blast target people in key demographics within our delivery radius. We use pictures always for a ‘wow’ factor. This also has helped increase the number of likes our page has received.
“We also use paid boosts to engage specifically with consumers who already liked our page. We do it for things like gift card promotions around the holidays. To promote our catering during peak catering times (holidays, graduations) with so many other people offering catering and gift cards, we try to specifically market this to our customer base through paid marketing because we feel it gives us more bang for our buck.
Offering WiFi to customers has become a natural fit for restaurants as customers snap shots and videos of their food. It’s not only great customer service, WiFi is an impressive marketing tool. It’s a win-win. Customers log on to a free WiFi network and businesses have a channel to send messages and promotions through its splash page or contact information they share.
One Pieology franchise group is using its WiFi to collect e-mail addresses for targeted marketing. “When a customer comes into one of our stores, they can use a customized portal to connect with WiFi,” says James Hilovsky, Vice President of Operations for MK Investments, LLC, which owns 11 Pieology stores in California, Minnesota and Texas. “In exchange, they share their e-mail address, and that allows us to send them special offers, and also to determine how frequently they come to one of our locations. At the group of 11 Pieology stores I work with, we’ve been able to collect thousands of e-mails using a tool called Zenreach — we collected more than 13,000 contacts in just 10 months.
“It’s the first tool we’ve found that allows us to track in-store sales that are linked to our digital efforts. We can see which kinds of offers motivate people to come in, and how quickly they visit us after receiving an offer.” n
Denise Greer is Executive Editor at Pizza Today.