Whatas the Mode Behind Your Message?

How do you like your news? For some of us, it’s in the form of a thick (though thinning) newspaper, rolled up and thrown on our front porch, to be enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee. For others, it’s a quick scan of our favorite news websites when we set foot in the office. Still others favor their news in fewer than 140 characters—preferably accessible on their smartphones—while some want a roundup of headlines delivered straight to their email inboxes. (Editor’s note: Kudos to you folks. We here at VIBE appreciate you very, very much.)

No matter what mode of delivery you prefer, it’s likely there’s a way in which you can receive it.

And for every way there is to receive the latest breaking news, there are even more options for your customers to receive news from your company, about your company. And this can be an overwhelming thought, indeed.

You want them to know about you, and they want to know about you—but how, exactly, do they want to find out more?

That’s what people at the National Restaurant Association and LivingSocial set out to find in their research study released last month. They interviewed 1,064 consumers as well as 425 restaurant owners and operators earlier this year.

Before I read the study, I thought I’d have a pretty good handle on what people would say: Emails would be popular, especially if they include deals, and social media would be huge.

My first assumption was correct: 67% of consumers view restaurants that send emails as modern, and 87% of consumers would visit a restaurant if provided with a savings offer.

But my second assumption—fueled by the recent deluge of discount offers from chain restaurants that have filled my news feed as Facebook friends redeem them—was completely off. Though 84% of restaurant operators view social media as an effective way to bring in new customers, the actual customers view social media as the least effective mode of delivery, with 56% approval from customers. It’s still a large number, to be sure, but this study shows that Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networks currently might not be the most effective means of communicating with your customer base. For many, email remains tried and true.

But that doesn’t mean it will remain the case. In my rather unenlightening opinion, I think your Facebooking and tweeting will pay off—and for many of you, they likely already have. Some brands are doing some seriously innovative things on Facebook, and the much-maligned timeline actually has major benefits for businesses. So while it might take a little time, just wait for consumers to get accustomed.

Take, for example, my recent experience: When I first saw coupons for free food or alcohol-free beverages from major restaurant companies popping up in my news feed, I thought it was a scam. Not too long ago, I remember a few friends being sucked into a similar offer from a spammer claiming to give away free plane tickets on a major airline. So when I saw these restaurant offers at first, I thought it was a similar ploy.

I was wrong; I realize it now. And others will too. Which means big payoffs for you.

You see, the more your company keeps offering these items, the more often I—and many others—see them in my news feed. Now, these brands are “must-follow” pages. Sure, I may not be planning to visit a Chili’s any time soon, but if I see an offer for free chips and queso (like they offered earlier in June)—and the suggestion that perhaps a cold CoronaRita would help wash it down—you’d better bet I’ll be checking my calendar to see if I can make room for a quick visit.

Legalities abound about promoting discounted drinks, but who’s to say they have to be discounted? Simply mentioning a drink—even an alcohol-free one—gets it on the customer’s brain to order it next time they’re in the vicinity.

While running an effective social media campaign requires strategy and dedication, it can have major payoffs, and I think that’s something we’ll see even more frequently in the near future.

But that’s not all the study uncovered:

Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that online marketing, including emails from restaurants, emails from a daily deal provider and websites, can elevate a restaurant’s brand and attract new customers. According to the study:

Restaurants that use online marketing (emails from restaurants, emails from a daily deal provider, and websites) tend to be viewed by consumers as modern (67% emails, 59% daily deals, 65% websites) and popular (63%, 59%, 63%). Restaurant operators perceive websites (90%), TV ads (87%), social media (84%), restaurant emails (82%), and daily deals (77%) as effective in bringing in new customers.

Guests also want customization in their marketing. This could include referencing past visits to the restaurant, which would entice 68% of guests to return; allowing them to make reservations directly, which 66% say would draw them in; or simply identifying them by name, appreciated enough by 64% of people to make them repeat customers.

Luckily, you (or your marketing gurus) are generally savvy: 84% of restaurant operators consider marketing emails effective in increasing revenue for their restaurants, which almost matches the consumer’s view (78% of consumers agreed that an email from a restaurant would lure them in).

Conversely, consumers view online ads, social media and radio ads as the least effective (58, 56 and 56%, respectively).

“Many restaurant owners feel overwhelmed by the wide range of marketing options available to them,” Mandy Cole, senior vice president of sales at LivingSocial, said in a statement. “We partnered with the National Restaurant Association to conduct this study to see which tools are most effective at increasing revenue and improving business for restaurants.”

So do yourselves a favor: Take this study into account when plotting out your next beverage strategy. Your bottom lines will thank you for it.

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