Ray Kroc, McDonald’s Founder/Fast Food Innovator, said it best, “Look after the customer and the business will take care of itself.”
This business is all about people. You have to be able to adapt, evolve and ignite areas of the business with customers always being at the forefront of decisions being made. Engaging with customers on a local level is crucial for achieving long-term success, especially in a customer-driven competitive market. Therefore, it’s essential to prioritize customer satisfaction and build relationships with the community to thrive in this industry. By connecting with customers on a personal level through face-to-face interactions, personalized experiences, and uniquely valuable touch points through online tactics, you build a solid base for brand trust and credibility.
Local store marketing (LSM) is one of the most impactful ways for restaurant brands to provide those touch points. This means tailoring marketing campaigns and activations to local events and holidays, forming charitable partnerships and introducing new product launches through street teams and boots-on-the-ground support. It’s an incredible way to build brand sparks and emotionally engage with the community to introduce your brand’s story, products and services.
Here’s an example of LSM in action:
In 2009, I had the incredible honor of spearheading the launch of the McCafe brand in Raleigh as an identified test market. We knew we were going up against several other coffee giants in the region and needed to find a way to connect with customers to build their trust in a brand with a reputation originally established around burgers and fries. We launched a McCafe Mini Campaign statewide with a street team armed with BOG (Be Our Guest) cards, a wrapped McCafe Mini Cooper and full-sized product samples to hand out during events in high traffic areas. We set up tables during parent meet-up events with samples to grab n’ go, also in tandem introducing our newly launched apple dippers for kids to taste and try. We answered questions on the sourcing and sustainability of the new products and provided valuable face-to-face conversations with our customers during their experience.
It’s an incredible way to build brand sparks and emotionally engage with the community to introduce your brand’s story, products and services.
We also worked with local media outlets to conduct onsite interviews and radio remotes and ensured that our campaign was seen all over social media. As a result of the diligent and consistent effort, customers waited hours in line to taste the limited test supply of full-size samples, secure freebies and be among the first to experience a brand rollout.
The takeaway. This campaign occurred over a decade ago, but the importance of getting the product into customers’ hands by all means necessary has not changed today. In fact, it has become even more impactful for consumers to see, touch and taste products upfront.
While boot-on-the-ground reigns superior for those brand-amplified experiences, utilizing online marketing strategies must remain a critical part of customer engagement. By building a strong online presence through sharing engaging content that elicits emotion and showcases your store’s unique value proposition, you can attract new customers and keep existing ones coming back for more. This can be a powerful way to reach and engage your target audience. In addition, location-based advertising to target potential customers in your area is incredibly valuable, as is search engine optimization, to increase your visibility, and reach a wider audience. Consider special promotions or incentives to encourage customers via your social media channels to visit your restaurant and become loyal followers.
Finally, don't underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising, either. Encourage your happy customers to spread the word about their exceptional experience and your store to their friends and family. By harnessing the power of local store marketing, combined with digital and word-of-mouth activities, you can grow your business and thrive in the competitive restaurant landscape.
By taking the time to connect with your customers and build relationships within the community, you can establish your brand and build a loyal customer base that will support your restaurant for years to come. So if you haven't already, it's time to start thinking about how you can implement local store marketing strategies in your restaurant business.