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One the most expensive costs in operating a restaurant or bar business is acquiring new customers. That’s true in any business. In fact, Jon Taffer says in his book Raise the Bar that it costs an average of $60 to $70 to get a brand new customer in the door using traditional media.

That means if you have a goal to get 100 new customers in the door, you should expect to pay $6,000 to $7,000 to make that happen. Can you afford that?

The good news is that there is a simple way to get new customers in your doors at a profit.

Consider these three key questions before you start your new customer marketing campaign.

  1. Who is your target market?

Who are you trying to attract? What age? Demographic? Where do they live? You’d like to think that everyone is your customer, but that’s not true, especially depending on the type of promotion or offer you have in place. Understanding your target audience is the basis for success.

  1. Where is your target market?

If you own a restaurant that attracts people 55 and older, social media strategies might not be the best way to target them. Think about where your target market focuses their attention and place your marketing messages accordingly or risk burning through your hard-earned money with no reward.

  1. What are you going to say to persuade them to do business with you?

Most bar and restaurant owners just blast their specials and promotions, placing their logo at the top of an ad that shouts their weekly specials, contact information and a plea to “like” the restaurant on Facebook. This type of marketing is what costs owners that $60 to $70 to get a new customer in the door.

Getting new customers in your doors is all about persuading them with your marketing message. The best way I’ve found to do this is make them a “Mafia Offer,” an offer they can’t refuse.

The better the value, the more new customers that are likely to come through your door. If you placed identical ads, but one offered $10 off and the other offered $20, which one is going to bring in more people? It’s common sense, right?

In my experience, what works best is offering 50 percent off, good up to $20 off. I’ve used this with hundreds of owners in the last seven years. Trust me, you can’t lose.

You’re thinking, “This is insane! I’d lose my butt! This will kill my brand!” Stay with me.

Two Secrets

There are two secrets that make this offer the most powerful marketing and branding strategy you can apply to your business.group of friends getting great restaurant customer service

Secret Number 1 – Collect Contact Information For Long Term Profits

Set up your promotion so that potential customers must provide their personal contact information in exchange for the offer. Once they provide it, you can deliver the offer to them.

The easiest way to do this is driving them to a one-page website that states your offer and asks them to fill in their name and email so you can then send them their offer right away.

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This is called “lead generation.” When someone gives you their information in exchange for an offer to do business with you, they are telling you “I want to do business with you.” They now become a “lead.”

Can you think of anyone more profitable in the world to market to again in the future? Building a customer list like this is the most powerful and profitable marketing strategy you can apply to your business because now you can eliminate marketing to people who don’t want to do business with you and only market to those that do–all for pennies on the dollar.

With this information, you can e-mail, text, and run exclusive Facebook and Instagram ads to them. If you also collect their home address, you can pursue a direct mailing.

“Building a customer list like this is the most powerful and profitable marketing strategy you can apply to your business.” -Nick Fosberg



Secret Number 2 – Tell Them Why and Win Them Over

If you were to offer the same 50 percent off promotion to the masses with multiple coupons and Facebook posts, I agree that it could hurt your brand.

waitress helping others

Instead, tell people within your marketing message why you’re running this special offer, so it eases any skepticism or thoughts that the restaurant must be desperate.

I always say: “The reason we are doing this is to give back to our loyal repeat customers who’ve been so loyal to us, but also to hopefully drive in some new customers who’ve never been here before. We know that when new customers come in and see the amazing experience we provide, they’ll want to return for future visits.”

This type of messaging will make existing customers feel good about themselves and your brand. It will make them feel like you appreciate them. Meanwhile, new customers will see you being generous and confident in your business. They’ll appreciate the “prove yourself first” business model.  

The number one thing I’ve learned when it comes to getting hundreds of new customers in your doors in a short amount of time is not to focus on the first-time sale, but instead focus on the lifetime value of the customer. Be aggressive when going after new customers with great offers they can’t refuse, get them in the door, win them over, and then stay in consistent communication with them through their personal communication channels to keep them coming back for more.

Forget spending up to $7,000 to attract 100 new guests. Invest somewhere around $500 to implement this promotion strategy today, and you’ll find that you can make that money work for your for months and months to come.

Check out Upserve’s Restaurant Marketing Strategies Guide!

Written by   |  
Nick Fosberg is known as one of the highest paid, marketing and promotional consultants in the bar & restaurant industry and he owns 2 bar / restaurants in the Chicagoland area. He's famous for creating some of the highest grossing digital marketing promotions in the history of the bar & restaurant business without spending a penny on marketing, including "How To Attract New Customers At A Profit."
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