Do you know every regular’s drink order? Or what time a family comes in every Friday? In order to effectively communicate with your customer base, you need to know them pretty well, down to their going out, ordering, and spending habits.
Of course, memorizing specific details about each customer would be unmanageable. Good news: There’s a better, more efficient way. You can build a marketing strategy based on your customers’ behaviors and preferences. The first step is to create customer personas.
Using personalized marketing to create emotional experiences
These days, customers are looking for much more than a place to grab a bite to eat. They’re looking for emotional connection built on hyper-personalized experiences. The more consumers associate your brand with meaningful events and personal treatment, the more loyal they will be—and the more likely they are to return frequently.
Think of the common customer archetypes that frequent your establishment. At a coffee shop, you might think of moms who’ve just dropped their children off at school, business people gathering for a morning meeting, and remote workers looking for free Wi-Fi with a side of caffeine. Each of these personas has different needs and wants in a coffee shop experience, but all seek it from the same place—which is why you’ll need different targeted marketing strategies for each group.
How to build customer personas
You have a treasure trove of valuable data at your fingertips. Are you putting it to good use? Start with POS data that you’re already collecting anyway. You can use this data to learn what menu items are popular at certain times, compare what different people order, or determine which items are commonly ordered together.
If you want more information, consider administering surveys to your customers. In exchange for a discount or free dessert, you could collect a goldmine of data about how your customers personally interact and engage with your business. Make sure to ask questions about their favorite items, what drew them to your restaurant, and what you can do to improve their experience.
These days, customers are also pretty familiar with using loyalty programs to earn rewards—which in turn offers you clear insights into customer behaviors. If you’re not already using a loyalty program as part of your data strategy, consider piloting a program to further improve your customer personas while also rewarding your best customers.
Of course, you can also just take a look around your restaurant at different times of the day to see for yourself who constitutes your customer base. Start asking questions about your most common customer types. Do you see families gathering to share a meal, or mainly singles out for a quick drink? At your fast casual restaurant, which of your customers tend to add extras to their meal at additional cost, and which are looking for the cheapest option?
Using this information, you can piece together what kind of customers come to your restaurant throughout the week and how they engage with your business.
Restaurant marketing strategies to reach individuals
Once you’ve identified your core customer personas for your brand, you can build your entire marketing strategy around catering to their specific preferences and increasing their average check sizes. For example, a burger joint in a busy college town’s downtown may segment customers into three buckets: sports fans, students, and locals.
For out-of-town sports fans who come to see their favorite team play, you’ll want to advertise quick and easy options so they can make kickoff and lots of TVs. For students, let them know about your most price-conscious food and beer options to break up their all-ramen diets. Locals, who often don’t want to be associated with student hot-spots, may be interested in your more artisanal menu items, so let them know about any locally-sourced ingredients and special craft brews. While each of these groups are looking for vastly different experiences, they can all find a place at your restaurant if you show them how you cater to their needs. For multi-site brands, this could vary across your region too – so understanding the different types of audiences within region is important too.
Personalize communication with your customers
Once you’ve decided which aspects of your business to market to each persona, you have to actually get in touch. If you have email addresses (another benefit of a loyalty program), you can send out promotional communications by segment so none of your customers will receive a promotion that doesn’t interest them. This helps drive that personalized touch where you are giving your loyal customers offers that they’d want and use.
Your digital marketing strategy should also include social media. Many consumers today choose their dining location leveraging social media – whether as a research tool or to read reviews. Social media is today’s digital word of mouth. Staying active on social for your brand will give customers a place to go and check out the latest offers, menu items and more – and also give guests a place to tag and engage with if they dine with your brand.
While the strategy will be different for every restaurant, everyone benefits from using customer personas. Your customers feel appreciated by your personalized service while you increase customer loyalty and boost your sales.