1. Finger on the pulse
The hospitality industry has been a difficult place to be over the last year or so. Pubs, hotels and restaurants are closing down daily, with even the high-profile chains suffering. Staying ahead of the game has never been more important. This means keeping abreast of what’s important to your potential customers, and telling them how you fit the bill. Casual Dining Group, for example, have capitalised on the trend for delivery of high quality food by opening new delivery brand, Stack & Grill, from Café Rouge kitchens. Even something as simple as the changing weather can work wonders – you may have a great beer garden, a special offer on Pimms or a roaring log fire – pick your moment and then tell the world.
2. Be relentless
Brand communication isn’t something you can dip in and out of. To maximise results, you have to commit or engage with a person or agency or on your behalf, to a consistent, relentless strategy of promoting positive messaging and getting your brand out there in front of your potential customers. When marketing types talk about the “Rule of 7”, it is the idea that a potential customer needs to see your marketing message 7 times before they take action.
3. Know your market
Just as you design your menu and pricing with your core market in mind, so you should approach your PR and marketing activity in the same way. Having a genuine and accurate understanding of who your customers and potential customers are, is gold dust. Take time to understand your market, and then build your messaging with that market in mind – if you think about what will appeal specifically to them, you are likely to say something that captures their interest, and therefore custom.
4. Social media
The majority of your customers and prospective customers are using social media. Knowing your target demographic will give you a good idea of which social media platform/s they favour, and therefore where to focus your energy. Developing a loyal social media following among your existing or past customers is the place to start: let those who already love you tell others how great you are – a peer to peer referral is a powerful thing; get your posts shared by a happy customer, and you reach all their friends and family without lifting a finger.
5. Reputation management
In hospitality, reputation is everything. Don’t be afraid of the occasional bad review or negative comment on social media, but do address them. Respond, be reasonable and, wherever possible, take the conversation off-line – the last thing you want is a public argument on social media with an unhappy customer. Be robust if you aren’t in the wrong, be humble if you are, but do something: in the digital age, bad publicity can spread like wildfire.