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7 Marketing lessons you can learn from restaurateurs

(Business Marketing) In a world of high failure rates, it is important to look at successful restaurateurs for tips and tricks on surviving in a harsh business environment.

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Restaurateurs are some of the ultimate entrepreneurs, taking big risks in a world with a high failure rate. But when a restaurant succeeds, it is worth looking into what they’ve done well and applying those lessons to your own industry.

Heidi Gibson is the VP of Product management at Tanjarine, which is an integrated dining and entertainment platform that allows bar and restaurant guests to order from digital menus, play games and music, and pay from tablets at their tables. Gibson is swimming in the world of restaurateurs (including her own kick ass grilled cheese restaurant chain in San Francisco) every day and is part of the technology shift inside the walls of our favorite eateries. In her own words below, she offers the top seven marketing lessons that can be learned from restaurateurs.

1. Customers increasingly want and value self-service/do-it-yourself options. Technology is facilitating a shift in restaurants towards customer-driven service. Customers, especially millenials but not limited to, want what they want when they want it. Online/in-line/mobile pre-ordering/kiosks and tabletop tablets are increasingly popular for that DIY mindset. Restaurants were afraid the guests would view technology replacing humans as a negative, but they don’t – it’s a positive, and it frees humans up to be personable and responsive instead of pushing buttons on a POS. How can customer-driven service, with your customers defining when and how they interact with your product and employees, improve your relationship with your customers?

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2. Loyalty programs work and create brand ambassadors. Loyalty programs are widespread in the restaurant industry, and for good reason: they work. There are a lot of stats available proving this point. Customers love special attention and loyalty programs let you reward your best/repeat customers and motivate those who have fallen off the radar. Can you identify your most valuable customers? What programs can you put in place to reward them and motivate them to continue to be proponents of your brand? Another key piece of loyalty programs is that this is almost the only way restaurants can communicate to their guests when they’re out of restaurant. Surveys and direct mail does work but since guests are opting in to say – “talk to me” – then using technology in venue to facilitate that request is saying that the restaurant is paying attention the guests’ needs.

3. Timing is everything. Restaurants have to adjust their product mix, pricing and marketing tactics to react to seasonality, time of day, and other external factors that affect their business – even the weather is taken into account. Your business may not be affected by snows and heat waves, but external factors that change over time affect every business. Figure out what your ‘seasonality’ is, what changing external factors influence your customers’ purchase decisions, and pay attention to those things so you can pivot and adapt in a changing world. Offer what your customers want when they want it.

4. Create community! It’s no coincidence that the rise of restaurants leveraging Facebook, Twitter and Instagram came at the same time as the ‘communal table’ trend in restaurant design. Social media changed the nature of restaurants’ customer communications from one-way broadcasts (emails, TV ads, table tents, etc) into 3-way conversations between the restaurant and between the customers themselves. Restaurants quickly realized the power that creating customer community can bring, and began changing the very way guests are seated to facilitate that same sense of community and conversation inside the restaurant as well as online. Restaurants that do this well have created valuable emotional brand value, at zero cost. How can you facilitate your customers creating a community around your brand and product experience?

5. Segment and target. You can’t be all things to all people; sorry, but it’s true. In the hyper-competitive world of restaurants, this is never truer. Carefully segment your potential customers and focus hard on serving specific targets well rather than trying to address every possible need of everyone walking past the front door. Restaurants get 80% of their profits from 20% of their products, so the best ones pick the products that their target market values most and excels at delivering.

6. Be internally consistent. When you walk into a fine dining restaurants, the prices are high, the presentation is crafted, the servers are in crisp identical uniforms, and the bathrooms are nice – right? The website, the décor, the music and even the fonts on the menu all back up the market positioning as ‘fine dining’. When you hit up the local roadside BBQ joint, you have a different set of expectations – service will be fast, décor lower end, the bathroom won’t be fancy (but hopefully clean – and people DO rate service and kitchen quality with bathrooms) and if there are servers at all they’re wearing tshirts and jeans. It’s intuitively obvious in a restaurant, but a lot of other businesses don’t figure this out: every single thing you do, every detail that a customer sees and interacts with (including messaging), must reinforce your brand promise or you sow distrust with your potential customers. Imagine walking into that upscale fine dining restaurant and loud punk rock is blaring over the music system… or a waiter in a tuxedo brings you your brisket plate while you sit on a pine bench next to the smoker on the back deck. Be clear who your product is for and how you fit into their expectations, and examine every single thing you do to make sure it reinforces those expectations. Bottom line, be true to yourself (brand and identity) AND you customer!

7. Know who your real competition is, and how you fit into the ecosystem. I (Heidi) own a small chain of grilled cheese restaurants in San Francisco, and people think my big competitor is the other grilled cheese themed chain in town. Wrong! When I surveyed my target customers on their lunchtime dining habits, it turns out they won’t go more than 2 blocks from their office, so my competition is actually the other casual lunch spots within a 4 block radius – and the other grilled cheese place is clear across town. We only compete in the press and on Yelp, not in reality. Also in reality, and maybe counter-intuitively, my shops do best they’re located near other similarly-priced lunch destinations… being close to my competition helps me. Together we draw more traffic into the neighborhood than we would on our own, and over time we’ve evolved our menus to complement rather than directly compete. I think this nuanced understanding of competition, and realizing you operate in an ecosystem of products and offers, can help entrepreneurs in other industries optimize revenues and minimize marketing expenses.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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Business Marketing

Amazon attracts advertisers from Facebook after Apple privacy alterations

(MARKETING) After Apple’s privacy features unveil, Amazon adapts by taking a unique approach to targeting, disrupting revenue for the ad giant Facebook.

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Two African American women work at their desks, one viewing Amazon's advertising landing page.

As a de facto search engine of its own persuasion, Amazon has been poaching ad revenue from Google for some time. However, disrupting the revenue stream from their most recent victim – Facebook – is going to turn some heads.

According to Bloomberg, Apple’s recent privacy additions to products such as iPhones are largely responsible for the shift in ad spending. While platforms like Facebook and Instagram were originally goldmines for advertisers, these privacy features prevent tracking for targeting – a crucial aspect in any marketing campaign.

Internet privacy has been featured heavily in tech conversations for the last several years, and with Chrome phasing out third-party cookies, along with Safari and Firefox introducing roughly analogous policies, social media advertising is bound to become less useful as tracking strategies struggle to keep up with the aforementioned changes.

However, Amazon’s wide user base and separate categorization from social media companies makes it a clear alternative to the Facebook family, which is perhaps why Facebook advertisers are starting to jump ship in an effort to preserve their profits.

This is the premise behind the decision to reduce the Facebook ad spending of Vanity Planet by 22%, a home spa vendor, while facilitating a transition to Amazon. “We have inventory…and the biggest place we are growing is Amazon,” says Alex Dastmalchi, the entrepreneur who runs Vanity Planet.

That gap will only widen with Apple’s new privacy features. Bloomberg reports that when asked in June if they would consent to having their internet activity tracked, only one in four iPhone users did so; this makes it substantially harder for the ad campaigns unique to Facebook to target prospective buyers.

It also means that Amazon, having demonstrated a profound effectiveness in targeting individuals both pre- and post-purchase, stands to gain more than its fair share of sellers flocking to promote their products.

Jens Nicolaysen, co-founder of Shinesty (an eccentric underwear company), affirms the value that Amazon holds for sellers while acknowledging that it isn’t a perfect substitute for social media. While Nicolaysen laments the loss of the somewhat random introduction charm inherent on Instagram, he also believes in the power of brand loyalty, especially on a platform as high-profile as Amazon. “The bigger you are, the more you lose by not having any presence on Amazon,” he explains.

As privacy restrictions continue to ramp up in the coming months, it will be interesting to see how social media advertising evolves to keep up with this trend; it seems naive to assume that Amazon will replace Facebook’s ads entirely, tracking or no tracking.

Apple's privacy landing page showing iPhone users ability to shut off location services and a desktop image of a user's ability to control how their data is managed.

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Business Marketing

How many hours of the work week are actually efficient?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Working more for that paycheck, more hours each week, on the weekends, on holidays can actually hurt productivity. So don’t do that, stay efficient.

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Clock pointed to 5:50 on a plain white wall, well tracked during the week.

Social media is always flooded with promises to get in shape, eat healthier and… hustle?

In hustle culture, it seems as though there’s no such thing as too much work. Nights, weekends and holidays are really just more time to be pushing towards your dreams and hobbies are just side hustles waiting to be monetized. Plus, with freelancing on the rise, there really is nothing stopping someone from making the most out of their 24 hours.

Hustle culture will have you believe that a full-time job isn’t enough. Is that true?

Although it’s a bit outdated, Gallup’s 2014 report on full-time US workers gives us an alarming glimpse into the effects of the hustle. For starters, 50% of full-time workers reported working over 40 hours a week – in fact, the average weekly hours for salaried employees was up to 49 hours.

So, what’s the deal with 40 hours anyway? The 40 hour work-week actually started with labor rights activists in the 1800s pushing for an 8 hour workday. In 1817, Robert Owen, a Welsh activist, reasoned this workday provided: “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

If you do the math, that’s a whopping 66% of the day devoted to personal needs, rather than labor!

Of course, it’s only natural to be skeptical of logic from two centuries ago coloring the way we do business in the 21st century. For starters, there’s plenty of labor to be done outside of the labor you’re paid to do. Meal prep, house cleaning, child care… that’s all work that needs to be done. It’s also all work that some of your favorite influencers are paying to get done while they pursue the “hustle.” For the average human, that would all be additional work to fall in the ‘recreation’ category.

But I digress. Is 40 hours a week really enough in the modern age? After all, average hours in the United States have increased.

Well… probably not. In fact, when hours are reduced (France, for instance, limited maximum hours to 35 hours a week, instead of 40), workers are not only more likely to be healthier and happier, but more efficient and less likely to miss work!

So, instead of following through with the goal to work more this year, maybe consider slowing the hustle. It might actually be more effective in the long run!

This story was first published in January 2020.

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Business Marketing

Jack of all trades vs. specialized expert – which are you?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It may feel tough to decide if you want to be a jack of all trades or have an area of expertise at work. There are reasons to decide either route.

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When mulling over your career trajectory, you might ask yourself if you should be a jack of all trades or a specific expert. Well, it’s important to think about where you started. When you were eight years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Teacher? Doctor? Lawyer? Video Game Developer? Those are common answers when you are eight years old as they are based on professionals that you probably interact with regularly (ok, maybe not lawyers but you may have watched LA Law, Law & Order or Suits and maybe played some video games – nod to Atari, Nintendo and Sega).

We eventually chose what areas of work to gain skills in and/or what major to pursue in college. To shed some light on what has changed in the last couple of decades:

Business, Engineering, Healthcare and Technology job titles have grown immensely in the last 20 years. For example, here are 9 job titles that didn’t exist 20 years ago in Business:

  1. Online Community Manager
  2. Virtual Assistant
  3. Digital Marketing Expert
  4. SEO Specialist
  5. App Developer
  6. Web Analyst
  7. Blogger
  8. Social Media Manager
  9. UX Designer

We know that job opportunities have grown to include new technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, consumer-generated content, instant gratification, gig economy and freelance, as well as many super-secret products and services that may be focused on the B2B market, government and/or military that we average consumers may not know about.

According to the 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics after doing a survey of baby boomers, the average number of jobs in a lifetime is 12. That number is likely on the rise with generations after the Baby Boomers. Many people are moving away from hometowns and cousins they have grown up with.

The Balance Careers suggests that our careers and number of jobs we hold also vary throughout our lifetimes and our race is even a factor. “A worker’s age impacted the number of jobs that they held in any period. Workers held an average of 5.7 jobs during the six-year period when they were 18 to 24 years old. However, the number of jobs held declined with age. Workers had an average of 4.5 jobs when they were 25 to 34 years old, and 2.9 jobs when they were 35 to 44 years old. During the most established phase of many workers’ careers, ages 45 to 52, they held only an average of 1.9 jobs.”

In order to decide what you want to be, may we suggest asking yourself these questions:

  • Should you work to be an expert or a jack of all trades?
  • Where are you are at in your career and how have your skills progressed?
  • Are you happy focusing in on one area or do you find yourself bored easily?
  • What are your largest priorities today (Work? Family? Health? Caring for an aging parent or young children?)

If you take the Gallup CliftonStrengths test and are able to read the details about your top five strengths, Gallup suggests that it’s better to double down and grown your strengths versus trying to overcompensate on your weaknesses.

The thing is, usually if you work at a startup, small business or new division, you are often wearing many hats and it can force you to be a jack of all trades. If you are at a larger organization which equals more resources, there may be clearer lines of your job roles and responsibilities versus “the other departments”. This is where it seems there are skills that none of us can avoid. According to LinkedIn Learning, the top five soft skills in demand from 2020 are:

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Adaptability
  5. Emotional Intelligence

The top 10 hard skills are:

  1. Blockchain
  2. Cloud Computing
  3. Analytical Reasoning
  4. Artificial Intelligence
  5. UX Design
  6. Business Analysis
  7. Affiliate Marketing
  8. Sales
  9. Scientific Computing
  10. Video Production

There will be some folks that dive deep into certain areas that are super fascinating to them and they want to know everything about – as well as the excitement of becoming an “expert”. There are some folks that like to constantly evolve and try new things but not dig too deep and have a brief awareness of more areas. It looks safe to say that we all need to be flexible and adaptable.

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