If your restaurant uses comment cards, or if you have ever filled one out yourself, odds are, you have found yourself answering the question “How did you hear about us?” This little piece of information can be amazingly helpful by providing guidance in your decisions for marketing and advertising. Now, with so much of marketing and advertising done online, an individual simply placing a checkmark in the “Online” box gives you a picture of how your customers find you, but it is as detailed as my 3 year old son’s finger paintings. However, there are tools that allow you to have pinpoint details about how your customers find information, and I am shocked and surprised how many restaurants fail to utilize those tools to maximize their online presence. If your restaurant has a website, which it should, tracking software should be one of the first things you implement on your site. If you plan to make any changes to your restaurant’s website, do this: choose and install analytics tools on your site that allow you to track, in detail, the success of your marketing campaigns.
There are several analytics tools on the market. Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics) is one of the leading tools for website analytics. They offer both a free and paid service, but most smaller businesses and restaurant groups find that the free offering is sufficient for their needs. StatCounter (www.statcounter.com) is another great analytics tool. They offer both a free account as well as paid accounts that start at $5 a month. Both of these analytics tools are relatively simple to add to your website, and your web design or system administrator should be able to have an analytics tool installed and running within a day.
What can these tools track? Everything. You can see how many people visit your site, where they came from, and what they are seeing. You can see what operating system is used the most, what browser they are using, and you can see where they go after they leave your site. You can see what area of the country, state, or even city the customer views your site from, and you can immediately see if tweets or facebook posts are effectively driving traffic to your site.
Now that you have it, use it.
Use custom landing pages for campaigns
When running a specific marketing campaign, whether online or offline, use specific landing page addresses to track the success of that campaign. For example, if you decide to advertise in your urban paper a new happy hour, instead of simply putting your website URL in the ad, create a uniqute URL for that campaign (www.yourrestaurant.com/happyhour). With your tracking software, you can now see how many of your website hits came from that print source and use that information to determine how successful the campaign was.
Find What Is Working
Analytic tools allow you to determine exactly what website referred the customer from. This includes social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and email campaigns. If you find that a large percentage of your website viewers come from Facebook, make sure that you continue the dialogue created by facebook. More importantly, when you find a communication method that is not working, don’t jump ship. Determine first if the content is keeping customers from finding you, and fix it!
Drive Traffic To Your Site
Your website should be the treasure chest of information about your restaurant. Use social media and advertising campaigns to not only drive customers to your restaurant, but also to your website. The key is to keep your website dynamic and interesting. Do not allow Facebook to be the source of new information for your restaurant. Instead, use Facebook to drive the customer to the website to get more information.
Answer Your Own Questions
With analytics, you can track where your customers go after they have viewed your site. With some analytics tools, you can even determine if they used a search tool to get information. If you find that a large number of your customers are searching for information or explanations of something about your restaurant, consider adding that content to the site. For example, if you specialize in international cuisine, provide a quick explanation of your dishes if you find that many of your customers search for what something is or what it tastes like.
The less your customers have to do to get information, the more likely they are to visit your restaurant. Use your website to educate and excite your potential diners about your particular culinary offerings.
Website analytics tools are extremely powerful in helping you determine what marketing and advertising methods are successful, both online and offline. Without analytics data, many of your marketing efforts will be like driving in the dark without headlights. Stop guessing what your website visitors are doing and start converting them to customers.