Shoe Leather Marketing Part 2: Low-Cost Ways to Build Customer Traffic

Can your operation build additional business by marketing your restaurant to bus companies that operate charter trips and tours for schools, athletic departments, organizations or seniors? Then either contact your local athletic department head, school bus operators or Google “bus tours” or “coach tours” and then contact the companies that organize specialized group excursions. Find out the specific criteria for being able to handle these large groups…

  • Bus Tours

    Can your operation build additional business by marketing your restaurant to bus companies that operate charter trips and tours for schools, athletic departments, organizations or seniors? Then either contact your local athletic department head, school bus operators or Google “bus tours” or “coach tours” and then contact the companies that organize specialized group excursions. Find out the specific criteria for being able to handle these large groups (volume, timing, and special needs are just part of the considerations; it’s not a simple task) and then make a decision.

  • Car Dealerships

    Every weekend automobile salespeople face their busiest days and never leave the lot or showroom. They get hungry. Do you deliver? Then what are you waiting for?

  • Post Cards for direct mail

    If you choose to direct mail, I recommend postcards over letters for three reasons:

    1. they’re more cost-effective,
    2. they’re already opened, and
    3. the postal sorter and carrier may read them too!
  • Build a Playground

    One of the best ways to build business is by building good will both in your community and among your team members. Find a needy older school playground and invest dollars for equipment and sweat equity from staff volunteers to make it new. “Adopt” the school to help with projects or needs. No greatness without goodness. Promote the event with a photo collage in your restaurant.

  • Funeral Homes

    Get to know your local funeral directors. When unfortunate circumstances cause families to suddenly gather from far away, they’re often unprepared meal-wise for all the people. Offer your operation as an alternative to cooking for a houseful of grieving friends and family.

  • Invisible Customers

    Every week scores of vendors glide through your operation and you see them so often that you may have stopped seeing them: FedEx drivers, liquor and distributor salespeople, postal employees, repair and maintenance people. Here’s a question: do they have meetings, banquets, get-togethers? Here’s another question: wouldn’t your restaurant be ideal to host those occasions?

  • Training is marketing

    The more you spend on training, the less you spend on advertising. The better service your team gives the customer (and one another) the more the customer returns and the less time you spend trying to figure out how to make Frequent Diner or loyalty cards pay off.

  • Pharmaceutical reps

    Five days a week these salespeople bring lunch to doctor’s offices while they pitch new drugs, supplies or services. Bring them lunch, or at least samples of your food and beverage to key doctor office employees (they’re the real decision-makers) and ask them to suggest and request your services and menu from their pharm reps.

  • Yellow Pages

    Take out your local Yellow Pages book and turn at random to any section. Let’s say it’s “Veterinarians.” Now brainstorm all of the professions or businesses in your local marketplace that relate to vets. A partial list might include:

    • Dog Breeders
    • Pet groomers
    • Riding clubs Kennels
    • Pet trainers
    • Dog or Horse tracks
    • Pet stores
    • Dog/Cat/Horse clubs
    • Dude ranches
    • ASPCA

    That’s a list of at least ten areas of opportunity to which you can market breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, banquets or catering to. Ask your assembled employee task force the following questions: Do the local dog clubs, riding clubs, or groomers go out to eat and drink individually and as a group? Do they have meetings? Awards banquets? Who’s the contact person? When are the meetings held? The next step is to assign two people to be the team leaders to contact the decision-makers in each group and solicit their business for your restaurant. Letters of invitation filled with free appetizer coupons good only on one of your slower nights works best. I’d go a step further by inviting those groups into our restaurants between 5 pm and 7 pm on a Monday or Tuesday after-work Happy Hour for a free appetizer buffet set up exclusively with their group’s name on it in an area near the bar. You provide free appetizers, they pay for their own beverages, and you get a lot of new business out of it. The key is to have the managers and staff really work the party hard with hospitality, friendliness and good cheer to earn the repeat business of these “new” people you’ve worked so hard to bring in.

  • Tap your team to market to their acquaintances

    Studies show that the average person knows nearly 250 people either directly or indirectly. What if we could inspire or motivate each of our employees and managers to bring in just three of their 250 acquaintances as new customers each month? If you employ 30 people, that’s another 90 new customers monthly. If your average transaction is $10 per person, and customers tend to patronize you, say, 10 times a year, that’s another $9,000 in higher gross sales from a referral of just three people from each employee. What if you have 100 employees, and they each bring in three new customers? That’s $30,000 in new business. And if each of these new customers just told one of their friends…well, I think you get my drift. Ask your team members who they know that’s celebrating a birthday, anniversary or special occasion. Get them to recommend your restaurant for any celebratory occasion. Don’t presume they naturally think of it.