Whether you’re running your small business out of your home or out of a warehouse, you can always use more customers. The way to expand your customer base is through lead generation.
To grow, your business has to gain exposure to new potential clients and customers. But as industries change and evolve, so do ways of accessing new customers. Many lead-generation strategies have been around for hundreds of years, and, as a result, many consumers have become skeptical and almost immune to them.
To expand your restaurant business, you need to upgrade your lead generation strategies to approaches that work in 2019. Here are 21 of them:
1. Create an incentive-based referral system: Word-of-mouth advertising remains vital, but the way customers spread the good word about your company has become more high-tech. If anything, referral systems are useful with modern lead-generation strategies because they’re easier than ever to quantify and track. Creating customized referral codes that provide discounts for first-time purchasers as well as a referral discount to long-time customers will build your restaurant business,
2. Focus your advertising to a niche audience. Podcasts have stolen lots of listeners from the AM and FM dials, but content creators still need advertisers for the self-selected podcast downloads. This provides you a captive audience inclined to want and need your product rather than relying on radio spots, where most listeners might not be interested in your product at all.
3. Adopt a fresh approach to direct mail. Be selective with your direct-mail efforts, investing more in the physical item you’re sending out. Offer discounts, coupons, or other enticements to get new leads to take the next step. Think of direct mail as your first foray into getting someone to go to your website or call you.
4. Create lead-swapping relationships. Sharing leads with related (but not competing!) businesses is a time-honored, lead-generation tactic that remains useful when modernized. But to make this tactic work now, you have to digitize these swaps to make the most of them. Use a great small business CRM to keep track of each individual lead and what kind of returns you’re getting from the companies that are providing you with leads. Taking a “big data” approach to beneficiary relationships will help you go far beyond having a big pile of telephone numbers to cold-call.
5. Alter your deals and discounts approach. With so many discount sites in the marketplace, considering seeing if your product is a fit for any national or local opportunities. Because these sites are all about reaching new customers, they’ll do the legwork of finding the eyes for you to get your product or service in front of new customers. And with a budget and reach you probably cannot match.
6. Build and maintain a modern website. No restaurant can afford to have a lousy website. To showcase your restaurant properly, you need a website that marries elegant, smart design with speed and efficiency.
7. Learn search engine optimization. Important business fact: Only 10% of search users go past the first page of search results when looking for information. That means your business must appear on the first page of Google searches. Achieving that requires great search engine optimization (SEO), which requires investing in good content and digital-savvy writers who provide you with a clear advantage.
8. Try content-based lead generation. A well-optimized, content-based lead generation strategy allows you to increase your presence in search. The more high-quality content you produce, with appropriate geographic tags, the more you’re rewarded by search engines and dominate local searches.
9. You need more than organic social-media lead generation tactics. The days of free social media publicity are all but over. However, small businesses can invest in paid social media advertising that generally goes farther than organic posts to reach a targeted audience. Most social media networks offer robust tools that enhance any lead-generation strategy. Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook offer one-click email submissions that give businesses a simple way to collect info on potential leads with minimal hassle.
10. Start a business newsletter. Email marketing lead generation is similar to content and social media lead generation strategies. To make the most of newsletter lead-generation strategies, it’s important to provide compelling reasons for people to sign up. The promise of exclusive sales, experiences, or knowledge provides great draws. But make sure you keep those newsletters coming to maximize your leads.
11. Create white papers for download. If you are you an expert in your subject area, you need to capitalize on that knowledge. Offer free white paper downloads featuring your expertise (and, of course, your small business) to generate leads. White papers let potential leads get specialized knowledge on-demand in exchange for their contact info, creating a beneficial exchange for everyone.
12. Create a downloadable ebook. Some topics demand a little more depth than white papers, and that is where ebooks come in. With a high-quality, downloadable ebook, you can show off your company’s subject-matter expertise and acquire contact information in exchange for downloads.
13. Provide an assessment or report. Another email-for-knowledge exchange is a five-minute lead generation questionnaire. If your business provides a professional service, you can set up a quick quiz, and then provide feedback or tips based on a respondent’s answers to generate leads.
14. Host topic-driven seminars. Although more expensive and time-consuming, experiential lead generation tactics build deep, meaningful relationships with potential customers. One way to do this is to hold a seminar on the field that your business or service specializes in. Not only can attendees learn from you, but they can network with each other, your employees, and your existing loyal customers.
15. Host a happy hour event. Organize an intimate happy-hour event with potential clients and vendors. When people can casually connect with colleagues and friends, you can spotlight your offerings while sparing everyone the hard sales pitch. Local breweries are great locations for these events.
16. Create a conference add-on event. Every industry conference has multiple side gatherings in conjunction with the main event. And there’s good reason for it: Rarely can you ever get that many potential clients in one place at one time. Take advantage by creating a side event that piggybacks on a larger conference to showcase your company and its products.
17. Encourage online reviews. Because 85% of diners check online reviews before deciding on a restaurant, encourage your best customers to offer a personal recommendation about your place. Studies show that 68% are willing to write a review when asked to so. Urge your most satisfied customers to review your business on Google, Facebook, Yelp, TrustPilot, Better Business Bureau, and more, to maximize the cultural capital of your best relationships.
18. Add a live chat feature. A recent study showed 44% of respondents view a website’s real-time chat function as one of the most important features of an e-commerce page. Better yet, 63% said they were more likely to return to a site that had a live chat function, and 62% were more likely to be a repeat customer. That means live chat is a great lead-generation tactic that you should add if you do not have it already.
19. Host an expert chat. Whether through video on Facebook Live or Instagram, or even a live-tweeting session on Twitter, show off your authority on social media platforms. Choose an expert to represent your company, then host a live session to teach a certain tip or skill and answer questions. This will boost your brand. If you choose video, be sure to speak SLOWLY and CLEARLY. Enunciate your words.
20. Answer questions on expert sites. It’s a big internet out there, and lots of people are looking for answers. Dedicate time to answer questions on a site like Quora, where you can share your knowledge as a subject-matter expert in your business field. On platforms like Quora, it’s much easy to gauge customer intent than on other social media networks. This will boost the quality of your leads.
21. Lean on influencers. Establish relationships with other well-known people in your industry. They are known as “influencers,” and influencer marketing is one of the largest markets in digital advertising. More than 67% of respondents to a recent survey said influencer marketing campaigns helped them reach more specific, targeted audiences for better lead generation.