A Customer Acquisition Cocktail for Restaurants and Bars

Restaurants and bars need an order of SEO, straight up.

Few businesses have a faster customer response time than restaurants– most customers are ready to take action within an hour. The right restaurant customer acquisition “cocktail”‘ can put your establishment directly in the path of people searching online.

An estimated three quarters of Americans (and more than 90% of millennials) own smartphones. From 2013 to 2015, the percentage of U.S. smartphone users over 18 who have used their phone to get directions or recommendations relative to their location grew from 74% to 90%.

Translation? People are constantly using smartphones to find nearby restaurants and bars, read menus, make reservations, find out whether their friends have visited via social stats, check reviews, and get directions.

When they do, they take action right away. A Nielsen study found that 95% of smartphone users conduct restaurant searches. 90% of those searches converted (visited the restaurant) within 24 hours, and 64% converted within one hour. Once at the restaurant, many check in and post images (creating great word-of-mouth marketing) showcasing mouth-watering food and drinks on social networks like Facebook and Instagram.

Ideally, your restaurant digital-marketing cocktail will ensure your establishment gets discovered in relevant online searches. It also needs to help you convert (attract customers) and generate repeat visits, loyalty, and word of mouth.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

One Part SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

If your restaurant doesn’t show up in online search, it’s game over – you’re missing out on the chance to attract all those customers who are ready to take action. Search engine optimization is the cornerstone of any restaurant’s digital marketing effort. A well-optimized site can rank high in organic search results, making it more likely that your restaurant’s website, menu, social profiles, and other digital content will be seen in relevant online searches. Local search engine optimization is a must, so working with someone who specializes in local and hyper-local SEO could be ideal for your restaurant.

One Part SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

Though related to SEO, search engine marketing primarily deals with paid marketing tactics that ensure your digital ads are displayed when people search online. Paid ads are often displayed in the most visible and convenient place for users. Given that most online bar and restaurant searches occur on smartphones (smaller screen devices), top placement in paid search listings could be especially effective in helping your restaurant attract new customers.

One Part Social Media Marketing

Around 70% of Americans over 18 use social media, a number that climbs to 86% for Americans age 18–29. Paid and unpaid social media marketing tactics can help your restaurant increase brand awareness and get new customers through social word of mouth and reviews. This is a cross-over ingredient in our restaurant digital-marketing cocktail that not only assists with customer acquisition but with conversions, repeat visits, and loyalty as well.

One Part Content Marketing

Web and blog content is another ingredient that works both to help attract customers (as part of search optimization and display advertising) and to generate conversions. In other words, content marketing tells search engines that your restaurant or bar’s website, social pages, or blog is the best match for someone’s online search. Then, once that person clicks through to your content, it goes to work again to convince the person that your establishment is the best match for their needs.

One Part Email Marketing

If SEO is the cornerstone of customer acquisition, email marketing is the workhorse that produces repeat visits and loyalty. Getting people to subscribe to your restaurant’s email newsletters should be a high priority. Email helps you maintain top-of-mind awareness, remind patrons of the good times they had at your establishment, let them know about what’s new, extend offers, get feedback, and generate the great reviews that help other people discover your restaurant and choose it among other options.

Which of these digital marketing tools have helped your restaurant the most, or is there a tactic we missed that should be included? Let us know in the comments below.

Katherine Penta
Brand and copy expert with over six years of experience developing brand personas, managing content, and writing copy for brands like Neutrogena, Visa, and Adobe.
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