In challenging economic times, small businesses need to be proactive in their marketing to stay ‘front of mind’ and relevant to existing and potential customers. It doesn’t need to be an expensive process, but with a bit of effort and creative thinking, there are a number of things small cafés, takeaway outlets & bakeries can do to promote themselves and boost sales.
- Be social on social media
Social media, particularly Instragram, has become a key communication tool for foodservice venues to connect with their customers. But to get the greatest impact, its important to have a well set up profile, be active in finding new, locally relevant connections and interacting with your network. Post regularly – preferably daily if you can generate enough quality content to do so.
- Develop strong branding
An eye-catching logo, corporate colours and fonts can all be utilised to make your business more readily recognisable and give the impression of professionalism, attention to detail and quality. If you already have good branding for your hospitality business, make sure the theme flows across to your social media.
- Introduce a ‘product of the week’
What products on your menu are you particularly proud of? What are you known for? Promoting a specific product each week, perhaps including it in a special or meal deal, can boost sales. Do you have new products you are developing? They can also be included in this kind of promotion to generate interest. Additionally, your ‘product of the week’ can also become part of your regular social media content.
- Tell your (or your products’) story
Customers are not just interested in what you sell, but also why you sell it. The history of your business, your connection to the local community and the provenance of the ingredients you use can all be reasons for potential customers to choose your venue over another food service option.
- Promote catering services
Expanding the catering and wholesale part of your operation can also be a lucrative way to boost your business. Volume production and order certainty that come from bulk orders aid efficiency and profitability. And the food you provide for events and functions can reach a different group of people who might not otherwise have tasted your products, potentially adding to your customer base.
- Create time-specific promotions to boost slower periods
As with most cafés & bakeries, the breakfast and lunch trades are obviously the most important parts of the day to take advantage of. But do you have specific days or times of the day that are typically quieter? Why not create a promotion that can motivate customers to fill that void? Perhaps an ‘after 2pm coffee & cake’ special or similar. And don’t forget to promote it through your social media.
- Utilise digital displays in-store
Bright, eye-catching displays on your front counter can have a direct and positive effect on buying decisions. Promote specials, services you offer that your customers may not be aware of and new products. Encourage social media connection or display your ‘product of the week’. Most reputable POS terminals have customer displays that can be used for high quality promotional images.
- Collaborate with local businesses
Reciprocated support of local businesses is another way to demonstrate your involvement and relevance in your community, whether through supporting nearby schools or clubs in some way, purchasing supplies through local producers or collaborating and interacting on social media. There is a real movement by many individuals to support local small businesses, and hospitality businesses have a great opportunity to both add to, and receive, the benefits this brings.
- Ask for customer feedback
One of the best ways to know what your customers like, and don’t like, about your venue is to ask them. When you are proactive about finding out customers’ thoughts on your products and service levels, you have a great opportunity to use positive feedback in your marketing and also make the needed adjustments if there are things you can work on. You can also take the opportunity to rectify any negative feedback before it gets put on the internet.
- Keep track of your Google, Tripadvisor & Facebook profiles
Make sure you check popular websites and claim your business listing. ‘Unofficial’ listings or pages added by customers (or others) can be potentially dangerous as the details are out of your control, and feedback that is added to those pages may not be responded to appropriately. Online referrals are regularly used by potential customers to make choices and can bring great benefits to your business – as long as you manage your profiles well.
Small business marketing doesn’t need to be a costly exercise – it just requires motivation, good planning and ongoing effort. Take advantage of some of these suggestions to boost your sales and help your business to survive through these times of community uncertainty.