How to Build More Effective Local Presence: 6 Tips for Multi-Location Restaurants

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With many different routes available in the digital marketing spectrum, the road to effectively reaching your intended audience can be difficult. For multi-location brands, this challenge multiplies per unit. And with consumers’ increasingly limited attention spans, it’s up to local franchisees and operators to figure out how to step up and stand out from the competition. Just like any trend, successful marketing is most effective when done on a local level. Location-based marketing not only targets your customers more directly, but in turn, is also more cost-effective, creating more return on your investment.

Below are some tips and strategies that multi-location concepts can implement to build a more effective local presence online.

1. Start with the basics. When it comes to building local market presence, one of the first (and easiest) things a local operator should do is to make sure their business information is complete, consistent, and accurate to ensure better search results, says Manish Patel, CEO at Where2GetIt and Brandify. Every location should include business hours, menu items, phone number(s), and locations. If these things are not complete, you’re likely to lose business because you won’t yield high in search results, making it difficult for consumers to find you. These basic steps have become even more crucial as more and more people now search via their mobile devices to find restaurants.

2. Understand that no two markets are the same. “I think a lot of brands end up treating every market like a homogenous market, where if they have 1,000 locations, the logistics are the same,” Patel says. This is what Patel and his team refer to as the War on National Advertising. It is crucial to remember to not treat any two stores the same, as each has different demographics, market characteristics, and location needs. A fast-casual chain in Arkansas, for example, will not have the same market needs for the chain’s Los Angeles location. For starters, menu items and ingredients (especially if sourced locally) will probably not be the same across the board. Your marketing strategy shouldn’t be, either.

3. Get more bang for your buck. Whether you’re bootstrapping a restaurant startup or just don’t have a national-scale marketing budget, there are some inexpensive and reliable tactics to maximize your local reach. When asked what’s some of the most cost-effective local marketing strategies, Patel says your website is a good place to start. Make sure to optimize your website(s) — a restaurant locator typically gets the most site traffic on a restaurant’s website aside from menus — and make sure it is easily navigable, ensuring an easy-to-use experience for your customers. A non-negotiable these days is to make your site responsive so it’s “friendly” across all devices, and customize it for your brand. Patel also recommends each store unit has its own landing page per location. This way, local campaigns, LTOs and other location-specific news and events are controllable by each owner. Another bonus? “You don’t have to spend advertising money,” says Patel.

4. Improve your search results. There’s no denying that social media and the Internet have changed the way people discover where to dine. But if you’re not on the first page of search results (or showing up in someone’s newsfeed), you’re not top of mind. So, it’s important to understand which properties you can influence to show up organically. Yelp and Google are two great examples. To optimize results, Patel says it’s important to reply to reviews, make sure descriptions and location pages are up to date, and make sure that the photos and logos used represent your brand. If you’re still not dominating on Yelp, Patel suggests implementing an ad/marketing campaign, driving customers to the source.

5. Stand out on social media platforms. On which social platforms are diners most engaging with restaurant brands? While there’s no one answer, mobile is a big driver. And it’s because of this that Facebook, a mobile-first platform, is a huge player in the restaurant discovery game. Same with Instagram. The majority of traffic (50% to 80%) on both Facebook and Yelp are driven by mobile devices, says Patel. “Understanding how these properties behave on a mobile scenario is very important to understand for an operator.”

And lastly,

6. Don’t be creepy. When it comes to location-based marketing, keeping your brand top-of-mind-ness is key, but don’t be creepy, says Patel. “There is a fine line between over-marketing to them [customers] versus doing so at the right time in the right place with the right message.” A general example of this is Facebook’s Nearby feature, which sends a popup alert when friends are in the area. But when it comes to brand engagement and marketing, lines must be drawn. A big win, in this regard, is to partner with other brands, giving more context to the consumer based on where they are. Receiving movie ticket deals while you’re visiting a nearby restaurant, for example. Patel challenges operators to think outside the box when it comes to this type of relevant marketing.

Any brand that has thought through the entire search-to-store experience (menus, reservations, seamless searching), allows for the ease of discovery, says Patel. “Sometimes, it has nothing to do with service, food, the brand… but everything to do with experience.”