Restaurant Marketing: Traditional Vs Digital

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Running a restaurant is much more than just putting great food on plates. You need a brilliant location and atmosphere, perfect customer service and staff, and a management team that can run a tight ship.

But you also need to get the word out about your brilliant eatery with clever cafe and restaurant promotion ideas. Not too long ago, coming up with the right restaurant and cafe marketing ideas was pretty simple. You’d print flyers, put ads in newspapers or on the radio, or even get the word out via email.

‘Old’ doesn’t mean ‘outdated’

These days, however, this style of marketing is called ‘traditional’ marketing — or the old way of doing things. But that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. And it’s still possible and in fact vital to come up with clever and creative cafe and restaurant promotional ideas that fall into the ‘traditional’ category.

That’s because traditional restaurant marketing is still arguably the best way to really specifically target an audience. Why’s that? Let’s say you own a restaurant or cafe in a town and you simply want to spread the word among the streets that surround you. It’s very easy to print some flyers, stand out the front of your establishment, and hand them out to a smile as people walk past.

Similarly, an ad in the local newspaper is still a brilliant way to get your message out to the very people you want dining at your place.

‘Traditional’ is no longer the full story

But in the internet era, ‘traditional’ marketing for restaurants is no longer everything. Even in the example of handing out flyers, actual interaction with your target audience is still limited. Once they have that flyer in their hand, you don’t get any feedback about what they think of your brand.

And that’s not the only drawback. Traditional marketing is typically fairly costly, whether it be getting 1000 flyers printed or putting an expensive ad on TV. Handing out flyers or having TV ads made is also time-consuming, and you have little idea whether emails are being deleted or radio stations are being changed.

‘Digital’ marketing — which essentially means using the power of the internet to promote your business and brand — changed all of that. It’s not just online ads, but also websites and social media pages, search engine optimization (SEO), and more.

The many benefits of ‘digital’ marketing

Arguably the biggest benefit of digital marketing is the cost. While you may still have to pay, online ads can be ‘pay per click’ — which is like handing out a flyer and only then paying for it once someone is actually interested.

Digital marketing also significantly levels the playing field for smaller businesses, because many strategies — like brilliant Instagram campaigns or effective SEO plans — can be successfully deployed for little to no cost at all.

Another major benefit of digital marketing is the reach. While ‘going viral’ and getting millions of views and hits is an everyday internet occurrence, this may be of little use to a local restaurant. And it can even go terribly wrong, with a little misstep in your digital marketing campaign meaning millions get a bad impression of your brand, whether deserved or not.

But when properly designed and targeted, digital marketing campaigns can be highly specific to your particular market. If, for instance, your latest dish or daily special will be most loved by women up to the age of 30, targeted digital marketing campaigns can help ensure those are the very people you’ll reach.

Then there are the benefits of audience interaction. Even with a widespread and highly expensive TV ad campaign, it’s only a one-way stream of communication. But with digital outlets like social media, it’s a true conversation with your clients – both the ones who love you and the ones who don’t. And even if unsatisfied customers are not what you’re looking for, learning from your shortcomings and listening and conversing with those with negative feedback can be invaluable.

Digital marketing also provides a wealth of data that can analyze the strengths and weaknesses or the campaigns, and show you what you need to add, drop, tweak or change for the future.

Traditional vs digital: Which dish will you choose?

At the end of the day, choosing between traditional and digital restaurant ideas for marketing is not like choosing between seafood or beef for your main meal. Because as we head into 2018, when it comes to your marketing, you very much need surf and turf!

Finding the right balance means you take full advantage of today’s technology that makes marketing cheap, targeted and interactive while ensuring you cover every base by still relying on tried and tested offline strategies that have served restaurants well for decades.

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