When I’m looking for a new place to go out to dinner, I almost always solicit the advice of friends and family for recommendations. And not-so-surprisingly, I’m not alone in this sentiment. 78% of restaurant diners said they are likely to base their choice on a friend’s recommendation, according to Toast’s Restaurant Technology Industry Report.
Word of mouth marketing, often referred to as WOM or WOMM, is one of the trickiest concepts to understand since it often seems left up to chance.
Similar to going “viral,” there isn’t one specific set of steps to guarantee success. Still, there are definite tactics to spark the flames to get the people talking.
And, let’s face it, everyone wants their restaurant to be the talk of the town.
To better understand WOM, let’s go on a journey through the traditional marketing tale.
Traditional marketing practices originally revolved around the 4 Ps: product, price, promotion, and place. What did those mean to the business? Well, you had to sell something great at the perfect price while inspiring sales through exciting deals, all while being in the right place at the right time.
While those tenets are still at the core of any successful business, the shift towards a more interactive approach to marketing is an increasingly importance force in the decision-making process. Consumers are seeking information from friends, family, reviews, and other sources of information that you can’t necessarily directly control in your restaurant.
Still, there are various ways to influence those sources of information. Forbes contributor Kimberly Whitler described the process of moving from the 4 Ps of marketing to a word of mouth marketing approach. Whitler and Forbes outline this process with the 3 Es of word of mouth marketing.
"Give your fans the gift of you. Engage with them. Listen to what they are telling you. Be part of the conversation about your brand. Be a presence in your fans’ lives.” –Whitler
In simple terms, let your customer base know that their opinions matter, get to know what they are looking for from your restaurant and menu, and make the conversation a two-way street.
At first, the Internet wasn’t the first place people would go to share information with each other. Now, it’s become a behemoth, creating news ways for people to interact, even if it is behind the screen of a computer.
Social media for restaurants has become a huge platform for interactive discussions between restaurants and customers. For example, Paris Creperie in Boston has done a fantastic job of addressing countless Yelp reviews that they receive, both positive and negative. By taking the time to interact with individual people, they create a transparent and honest brand that gives the feeling that they are more than just another restaurant.
“Give them reasons to talk. It can be amazing products, great service, insider knowledge, social elevation, incredible stories, unbelievable facts or even funny disclosures.” – Whitler
Equipping customers with reasons to start talking should be the core mission of your restaurant.
Why are you passionate about the restaurant industry? What made you decide to own, manage, or work in your specific restaurant? What makes you different?
It is important to take some time to reflect on those concepts, because they often translate to the “reason to believe” that so many diners seek.
So, how is your restaurant different from the one down the block? Here are a few ways you can cultivate that sense of uniqueness:
“Give consumers different ways to talk and share. Let them know that they are important to you and that sharing their opinions is important to you.” – Whitler
Alright, by now you’ve given diners reason to talk, but what’s next? In order to conjure up the best word of mouth marketing for your restaurant, you’ll need to provide them with different avenues to share their opinions.
Lays was one of the first companies to come up with a creative platform for empowering with their “Do Us a Flavor” contest. Consumers were asked to submit their flavor suggestions which would go head to head in competition for actual creation. According to AdAge, in the first year of the campaign they had over 3 million submissions, and “Garlic Cheesy Bread” emerged as the winner against “Chicken & Waffles” and “Sriracha Sauce”.
The 3 E Framework is just the start to help conjure up some word of mouth marketing for your restaurant. Have other ideas to get the mouths moving? Share below!