The pandemic and associated lockdowns spelled disaster to many customer-facing businesses such as restaurants, retailers, and clubs. Some of these service businesses switched to curbside pickup on delivery to keep the lights on and the bills paid. However, sales were down and costs associated with these delivery strategies cut already razor-thin margins. As a result, nearly 200,000 more businesses than normal closed their doors permanently in the first 12 months of the pandemic in the US alone. Many of these were local service businesses that lacked the expertise necessary to get found online. If you’re one of the lucky businesses that survived, you now face an uphill recovery and buzz marketing might solve your problems, at least in part.
What is buzz marketing?
Buzz marketing is a strategy relying on word of mouth and digital tactics to create a viral message that amplifies reach from a business’s campaign. Buzz marketing always existed but the massive reach possible on social platforms, in combination with supporting digital strategies, can create virality that propels a business to success. Leveraging the power of the digital world and utilizing new, exciting, and engaging channels such as virtual event platforms will be the difference between success and failure.
Of course, buzz marketing and viral marketing aren’t true strategies, since users determine which messages go viral and which languish in obscurity. With careful planning and flawless implementation, a brand vastly increases the odds of achieving virality. A plan made in this recovery period should account for current behavioral trends, consumption patterns, and lifestyles of the target customers.
Planning for buzz marketing
Obviously, nothing good or sustainable happens when it comes to marketing your brand without detailed planning and the same is true for buzz marketing. Just like I mentioned above, however, you can’t predict buzz since the spread of your message is in the hands of users. You can use what you know about your target audience, how they respond, and knowing who are the influencers in your niche to increase your chances that a message goes viral. After all, the first step in virality is to reach as many people as possible, giving each an easy option to share your content.
You already have a page on social networking sites (like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). But is that enough to capture your audience? Instead of spouting self-serving pablum to your community, think of them first in your social media planning.
Experts recommend an 80/20 split between posts valuable to your community (80%) and self-serving posts about your brand (20%). Examples of posts that provide value to your community are:
- how-to posts and videos
- life hacks ie. makeup demonstrations are among the most-watched and shared content on the internet
- expert opinions
- news, especially that related to your industry
- inspiring or funny memes
- hyperlocal news
Successful buzz marketing on social platforms also relies on posting the right content, to the right people, at the right time, which means knowing your target market. To help, here’s a graphic showing some of the major social platforms and how to use them effectively.
Using marketing automation tools, you can easily determine the best time and frequency to publish content on your social platforms to maximize reach and engagement. Of course, this takes some time and effort spent doing experiments to get usable results.
SEO (search engine optimization) applies a complex algorithm to rank content that matches user intent evidenced by their query along with their pattern of recent queries. There are a number of search engines but Google is the big fish in this pond, accounting for 92+% of all searches. Seasoned marketers and digital marketing experts say, ‘if you don’t pay attention to Google, then you haven’t done your job right.’
Google’s search engine algorithm isn’t public knowledge, although experts conducted experiments to identify major factors that impact your rank, including backlinks, fresh, valuable content, load speed, mobile-friendliness, usability, and many others. Optimizing your rank means driving a bunch more traffic to your website, which means more opportunities for creating buzz as visitors share your content or recommend your brand.
An important consideration in search is that Google indexes several social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, so those results appear in a user’s search results.
Be vocal for local!
Restaurant and other service business revenues come primarily from local customers. People generally look for food and beverage outlets close to home, using the “near me” default option when searching on mobile. So if you direct your efforts to geo-targeted ads, chances are your results are better.
The geo-targeting helps you target customers in your vicinity, up to a radius that you cater and manage. Thus, saving you money by getting rid of non-relevant clicks from users too distant to visit your business on a regular basis.
Google Adwords, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter provide free tools to geo-target your customers and run relevant ads for them. Combining ads with other hyperlocal SEO tactics, such as using Google My Business to not only promote your business at the top of search results but to host reviews that encourage others to consider your business. Below, you see an example of a search result highlighting local restaurants and their reviews. The map increases the amount of space Google devotes to the results.
Restaurant marketing in the digital space also requires a thorough knowledge of relevant tools. If you are unsure of how to do local restaurant marketing, opt for the services of a London restaurant marketing agency. They can help you understand tools to gauge your customer experience, the relevancy of your brand among them, and better target future prospects.
An email newsletter can keep your customers updated about:
- Ongoing promotions
- Festive or special menu
- New launches and innovation
- Special occasion discounts (for birthdays and anniversary of the guest)
But, you shouldn’t flood subscribers’ inboxes with your messages. Sending a message once a week is not harmful, beyond that, it can spread negativity about your brand.
When your restaurant gets coverage from a newspaper or magazine, make it a part of your website and social media. Your regulars will appreciate such news and share the word among their community. Remember, word of mouth is the best marketing tool for any business.
The coverage will not only get a cheer from your restaurant patrons, but your new customers will appreciate it too. We all love to go to a place that is the talk of the town.
Google Alerts is a tool that helps you track conversations about your brand or your market on the Internet. Once the alert is set for your business or associated keywords, you get a notification when someone puts up content relating to these terms. The tool makes it easy to keep track of what people are talking about the brand.
Loyalty is a game-changer
Consider increasing your reach through gamification and customer loyalty programs. Using gamification, you reward users who share content that promotes your business and results in buzz marketing. There are many online food applications and aggregators that help put up various content related to food. A partnership with them helps you increase the footfall in your restaurant. Every new customer is a new source of buzz.
Depending on the season, theme, and choice of offering, you can run various offers for your customers. These offers help you convert your new visitors to regulars and regulars to long-term brand associates.
Loyalty program options:
- tokens or coins that accumulate after every visit
- % discounts for cardholders or members
- free dishes or meal items upon purchases attaining a certain value
- Complimentary beverages, appetizers, or desserts on sign-up or after reaching a certain value
Customer loyalty programs increase the depth of your relationship with the customers and make them more likely to share positive feedback about your brand.
Hence, taking a step towards complete digitization of your marketing plan no only helps you reach your audience in this era. But it will help you target them better too. When you chalk a plan, keep in mind the importance of Google Adwords and Alerts, social media, and email marketing. Use the tools as buzz marketing tools to expand your reach.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.