By Brian Murphy, Foodable Contributor
Ever-changing methods of marketing in the hospitality industry are only going to get more powerful — and more challenging. The use of mobile technology opens up a virtually endless wealth of information that can be quite useful to managers and owners, though methods and tools require time to keep up with the pace — time that often just doesn’t exist.
Technology and data is often baffling for independents that don’t have the funds to pay someone to handle their marketing. And when the choice between drilling into data is competing with planning today’s menu, the latter will likely win.
Larger players in the market often have a better handle on data, but don’t always know how to proceed with it. As a result, they fall short when it comes to interacting with both existing and potential guests. Guests are tech-savvy and see through many attempts of restaurants trying find a solid place in guests’ social media feed.
The Nielsen Company data on the use of smartphones is enough evidence to convince business leaders to make location-based marketing a priority. Over 70 percent of people between the ages of 18-54 have a smartphone. Those 18-34 years of age? More than 85 percent. These numbers aren’t surprising, but what is surprising and overwhelming is the amount of data each of those users represent.
Livehoods is a Carnegie Mellon University research project that attempts to capture the many layers of how people use each part of the city. One click on a map on the website will leave the unfamiliar both in awe and anxious, but this is the way smart establishments are thinking. Do you really know your guests?
Data, Data, and More Data
The influx of analytics websites allow managers and owners to take a breath, fortunately, because even the existing reports coming from the point-of-sale system are underutilized in many establishments. Factor in keeping track of check-ins, tagged photos, reviews, conversations, hashtags, and the endless amount of market research being done, and suddenly there aren’t enough hours for day-to-day business.
Don’t let it become overwhelming, but begin to explore. Services from companies like Guestmetrics help make the data you are already recording make more sense. Numbers you can actually use to drive the major (and sometimes minor) decisions that make a significant impact on the bottom line. All those numbers make it easier to work smarter, not harder. There is no need to run advertisements blindly anymore when a bit of time — and perhaps the use of a third-party service — can help find and engage with existing guests.
Make time to explore what is working on levels not measured by the POS system. The use of services from a company like Inmoment or Webtrends can certainly help get businesses to the next level. Inmoment’s website states, “The next customer should benefit from the previous,” and while this is true, this is nothing new to businesses in the hospitality industry.
What should be considered and scrutinized is how establishments are measuring that experience. It is irresponsible to just “have a hunch” that everyone left happy tonight when data exists that can either confirm or completely prove the opposite was the case. Tracking everything related to an establishment in an attempt to keep a finger on this data-driven pulse would require hours and hours of time, so the marketing budget should account for that or a service that provides it.
Need a dose of perspective? Find a restaurateur that has both a personal and business Twitter account. Chances are, they can attest to the level of commitment and time it takes to successfully engage and grow those accounts alone. That is just on one social media platform.
A person’s smartphone is a personal device, so getting into it and staying there is easier said than done. The power of the smartphone gives the guest an edge as well, and when information is coming at your guests 24/7, figuring out what filter they use to cut the clutter is difficult.
Flooding an inbox with generic emails is a surefire way to lose a guest. Understanding potential guests’ habits and appetites and communicating with them directly can prove to actually get them in the door. Take Instagram, for instance. Promoted posts can capture the interest of a lot of people and get your name out, but it is still a calculated shot in the dark. Better yet, find the geotags people use for your neighborhood or city, and begin engaging with people on that familiar level.
Thoughtful interaction on Instagram has huge potential for gaining followers and more importantly, getting people in the door. Be careful of automated bots and services that interact with guests because time is money. There is potential for awkward interaction that will do your business a disservice when using a feature that "likes" photos or comments automatically. Genuine communication with content that piques a potential guest’s curiosity about your establishment is the way to go.
Keep in mind that guests are clever, and when communication screams “blatant advertisement,” people get wise and tune it out. Creativity wins. Storytelling wins. Authenticity wins.