e all cringe when we hear the ol’, “there’s a guy out here who would like to talk to the manager or owner.” Our usual response is, “tell him I’m in a meeting.” We all get bombarded with people trying to sell their snake oil daily, so how do you sort out the gems from the time wasters? Don’t worry, I did it for you.
Here is a list of the best emerging products I’ve seen as a result of taking every meeting that is requested and sitting down with anyone and everyone who asks.
Granted, some of these are not new at all, but they should still be on your radar. Like most overnight success stories, there are often years or decades of starting out slow and struggling before a successful product actually breaks into the mainstream.
Whenever I introduce new marketing tools like this, I have to add the disclaimer that I am not being compensated by these companies for this mention. I just think these are cool products that I personally recommend. The minute I get compensated for these mentions is the minute I lose credibility.
Here is my honest short list of marketing tools you should keep an eye on.
Surf: Display Your Bar or
Restaurant in Uber and Lyft
You can now tap into that guy showing up at the airport in an Uber or Lyft and get your brand in front of them before anyone else has the opportunity. Surf places tablets in high-performing Uber and Lyft cars for the entertainment of passengers and to promote local businesses and brands. They select top-performing Uber and Lyft drivers, give them a free tablet, free data, and pay them monthly up to $150 to carry the tablet in the car.
The Surf tablet contains passenger entertainment such as videos, games, and music. It is free for the passenger, and the passenger controls their ride experience. Local businesses and brands can also use Surf to promote their messages to a captive audience sitting in the car for an average of 17 minutes.
Currently, Surf operates in Phoenix, LA, and Austin, with over 500,000 monthly passengers using and seeing the tablets. Businesses and brands control how much they spend, where they spend it, and when, allowing the advertiser to also be in full control of the experience they provide to passengers. Stay tuned to ridewithsurf.com to see when they plan on expanding to your town.
Localfluence: Take Advantage
of Instagram Influencers
We’ve all wondered how to get more Instagram influencers through our doors in the hopes that they write an incredible story about their experience. The problem here is they are either impossible to reach or are way too expensive.
Localfluence (localfluence.com) reaches influencers on a much smaller scale. As much as I hate the name “Localfluence,” I love the concept. They find Instagram “influencers” in your area and send them discounted offers to your bar or restaurant. They do this in exchange for a great, organic-looking Instagram photo along with tagging your business and letting their friends know what a good time they had at your place.
When you hear “influencer,” don’t think of the celebrity with 10 million followers. Think of them as locals in your area with a modest following of close friends and family. This makes total sense if you think about it. What is more important to your business—reaching a nation of people who would never walk through your doors because they live three states away, or the friends and family of someone who lives a mile from you?
When you offer these people a deal, say a $15 spend credit, they enthusiastically show up to take advantage and very often end up spending way more than that. In essence, you’ll probably break even with the additional food they usually order. They then take an organic-looking picture of your food, branding, and/or atmosphere, and share it with their Instagram followers.
You pay Localfluence about 10 bucks or so per person for this service, which is more than fair in my opinion. The bonus is they are asked (not required) to leave a glowing review on Google or Yelp for your establishment if they had an amazing experience. Those who had a less-than-stellar experience are asked to handle it internally so there is never a risk of this ending up on a public forum.
Zenreach and Cogobuzz:
Wi-Fi Marketing Platforms
Wi-Fi marketing still remains very effective with minimal, if any, effort from the staff. There are several Wi-Fi marketing platforms available on the market, and each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. My personal two favorite ones are Zenreach (zenreach.com) and Cogobuzz (cogo.buzz).
These systems come with their own router, which plugs directly into your existing router and is a potentially very simple install. Depending on how your current Wi-Fi is configured, this could be a one-minute install or a total nightmare of endless calls with your IT guy. Be prepared.
When your customers log into the free Wi-Fi on their initial visit, the system will store their MAC address and is able to record every visit. Living in the “Big Brother” world of today, this system actually knows how many times each customer’s phone walks back into your business—regardless of if they log on to the Wi-Fi network every time or not.
Like any marketing tool, it’s only as good as the content pumped through it. If you push crap content through a social media channel, it will fail. If you push meaningless junk through a Wi-Fi marketing tool, it will also most definitely fail. Make sure your offer or message is of significant value to the customer. A “thanks for visiting us, be sure to follow us on Facebook,” is an absolutely worthless message. A message that says, “thank you for discovering us, enjoy a drink on the house on your next visit,” is a solid value.
Zenreach sends out what it calls “smart emails,” which are based on each user’s habits. These smart emails include ones targeted at a “first-time customer” as well as several others targeted at a “repeat customer,” “lost customer,” and the all-important “birthday” customer. You now have the opportunity to send a single email to a single customer based on their frequency of visits. Here’s the genius part of this—single emails are way less likely to get caught in a spam filter and actually make it through to the intended recipient. Zenreach is also able to send email blasts out to your entire database of customers without having to export/import into an email blast service like MailChimp or Constant Contact.
Cogobuzz does all of this but adds a text message option. If email isn’t your thing, sending each customer a text message may be the ticket. They offer what’s called “Welcome” and “Welcome back” messages structured a lot like Zenreach. Here’s the part I like—if you have a sponsored drink of the week or
a liquor distributor who wants to do a spend, now is your chance to get that special in front of your customers without having to rely on your staff to remember to mention it.
Your Welcome message when customers sign on to your free Wi-Fi could say something like, “thank you for joining our free Wi-Fi, enjoy any Cuervo marg for $4, this week only!” Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Now the liquor distributor has an incentive to pay for your Wi-Fi marketing service! Win-win.
UPshow: TV Screen Displays
UPshow (upshow.tv) is the service that allows you to simply display your graphics on your in-house TV screens. You can promote to a captive audience of your exact target demographic—they’d better be after all, they’re sitting in your place.
As with anything else, this is only as successful as your content. I highly suggest against the easy road of having your liquor distributor create these graphics. I get it, they’re free and easy, but free and easy almost never equals successful.
You can display and promote your happy hour specials, upcoming football game specials, future UFC fights, etc. Just have these produced by a professional graphic designer. Spend a few bucks here, and it will be worth it in the end. A one-off flyer should cost you about $100 unless you already have a go-to guy.
These graphics can also be scheduled to appear on certain days, at certain times, and you can set them to expire after a specific event (like the UFC fight) is over. You have total control over your graphics with this system.
UPshow also lets your customers’ own social media photos appear on your TV screens, if you choose that option. When they use a specific hashtag and post to Instagram or Facebook, their photo will show up on your screens within a few minutes. It’s a pretty cool option, if you have that type of crowd.
Canvas Hospitality Systems:
The Best of Both Worlds
This is a relatively new product from some hospitality industry veterans. Canvas (canvaswifi.com) essentially combines the features of Zenreach and UPshow! The best part—it’s considerably cheaper than buying independently. Now you can have one central dashboard that controls both your TV screen content and your Wi-Fi marketing. The less “things” you have to log into, the better in my opinion.
What’s cool about Canvas is that it is also used as a reputation management tool. After your customer’s initial visit and after signing into your free Wi-Fi, it will send out the first email with something
to the effect of, “this is the owner of (blank), we’d like to know how we did and how your visit was.” This heads off any potentially negative reviews before they end up on Yelp. It will continue to keep in touch with the customer and follow up, without being annoying.
Look for my full, in-depth review of this system in the future. In my opinion, systems like Canvas are the future of digital marketing. When everything works and is integrated, it makes your day a hell of a lot easier—and cheaper.
Erik Shellenberger has been in the restaurant and bar industry since he was 13 years old and worked for his mother in the food and beverage department at a ski resort. Since then, he has held every position in the industry. With a decade of corporate marketing experience, he now runs Bar Marketing Basics (barmarketingbasics.com). His book, Restaurant & Bar Marketing:
The no bulls#it guide to improving guest counts, is now available on Amazon.
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