Your Hello Moment (con't)

In the first part of this post, I looked at how the details you can choose to highlight for customers create a memorable impression of your restaurant. Putting those impressions to work is something to consider next.

Having a recognizable identity as a business is good common sense. You can use it to differentiate your restaurant from the average, less-knowable place.

But an increasingly important reason is that having a business someone can talk about or say something about has become a critical part of modern marketing - where peer and expert influence are crucially effective.

GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT

As I have noted elsewhere, recent surveys reveal that a vast majority of young consumers rely most on the recommendations of their friends and family for discovering new places to eat. The Y-Pulse survey I quoted put the figure at 80% for the pool of 315 respondents.

Those respondents said they value information from peers because they trust it. And it's a trust they don't extend easily.

In a recent McCarthy research report a group of Millennials (the current 15-33 age bracket) was asked to rate from 1-5 how trustworthy four conventional sources of information were: advertising, a company web site, news or friend's postings on social media, and an actual close friend.

The actual close friend rated highest with an average of 4. Postings on social media rated a 2.8 - just barely above the average for a company's web site (2.7). Conventional advertising rated last, at 2.2.

A 2013 Social Chorus Millennials study revealed this same trend more starkly. In that study, only 6% of Millennials considered online advertising to be credible. Flipping the coin, a full 91% would consider purchasing a product if a friend recommended it

Your "hello" moment has some special attributes in this 'tuned-out' environment. It's your restaurant's chance to 'speak' directly to a customer. Not by telling them something through traditional marketing, but rather showing it live and in-action, where it can be validated by customers and passed on to others.

DETAILS MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Browsing restaurant reviews or social media postings, it's striking how often people react positively to details of food or service.

It's often very small stuff - from the decor or a roomy table to what's served in the breadbasket or how delicious the coffee was. All of these are details a restaurant can choose to make a choice about.

And customers too are happy to have something to notice, talk about and post about. After all, that's what social media use is about.

A restaurant themselves might define having an effective social media presence as an active Facebook or Twitter account.

But the most effective way a restaurant can engage with social media isn't really by their own postings. It's by giving customers a reason to post about your business on their own.

Consider one particularly over-the-top example. 7-11 rolled out a playful take on Slurpees for the summer.

Maybe it's a bit much. But it's also funny and an appealing extension of otherwise bland details.

The regular 7-11 Slurpee comes in a regular 7-11 cup with a regular plastic lid. But these limited-run Slurpees come not only with the mustache (a popular internet meme) but also in a plastic 'mason jar' - which is an amusing sendup of the handcrafted trend.

Amusing, cheerful or interesting details best reflect the emotions people like to pass on to others. If your restaurant can find these details in what you do and keep them visible for customers, you'll soon find yourself as part of that cherished 'word of mouth' conversation.

THE INFLUENCE CHAIN

If you have something to talk about, you can also actively seek others to talk about it. Local food blogs are another often-untapped resource.

Large local food blogs may have hundreds of followers. Smaller blogs may have just a few dozen - or even less.

But when you add up how many blogs you can reach easily, and how many people they reach easily - you have a number that quickly climbs into hundreds or thousands of people and is generally as large as your likely clientele.

FINDING BLOGS

There are a few ways to find your local bloggers. One is Google.

Simply search for 'food blogs' using your town, area, or county - or any other unique terms that help return usefully narrow results.

You can also use Google to search ONLY sites they recognize as blogs. It's called Google blogsearch.

Another interesting way to find bloggers is through Urbanspoon.

Urbanspoon is useful because it publishes restaurant reviews from local food blogs and provides links to the blogs. If you scan the top restaurants in your area, you can quickly identify which blogs are relevant and highly followed.

You can even use Google to search for blogs just on Urbanspoon. Simply put in your search term, followed by a colon and then the site you wish to search.

Like so: "new york food blogs : urbanspoon"

PROFESSIONAL MEDIA

Urban spoon also carries reviews from regular print media.

In many cases, you will recognize the major review sources already. But if you go further down the list, depending on your location, you'll find smaller forms of legitimate but alternate press that may be worth contacting.

And when it comes to getting in touch, don't rely on a press release. Reach out to journalists or bloggers, through email or other acceptable forms of communication.

In most cases, both journalists and bloggers are as hungry for something to write about as you are to have them write about you.

Finding a way to actively join in the conversation isn't easy for every restaurant or owner. But the rewards are worth it. And remember that the most meaningful strategy isn't about becoming a slick social media guru - it's about tapping into the root of what your restaurant can do best.

Published on