"Scheduled" and "Automated" are actually NOT bad words when it comes to restaurant marketing

Okay. I can feel it coming already. What I am referring to is my subscribers (and also my "slowly growing on me", group of trolls) desire to automatically comment on this post, simply based on the title. BUT, before you do, I ask you kindly to just read the entire post and then make your opinions be known, in black, white and read all over the internet. Sound fair? Okay, let's go!

FACT: Scheduling and Automation are not necessarily bad, when planning your restaurant's marketing and social media schedule

There. I said it. Now before y0u get all crazy on me, hear me out. Scheduling and automating some of your restaurant's social media and marketing efforts isn't bad, simply because as restaurant owners and managers, you are busy. Unless you have a dedicated marketing team, my guess is that you are short on hours in the day. Why not at least lay and schedule the groundwork to go down, so you can then focus on the most important elements in the health of your restaurant: The quality of your food, the quality of your service, and the quality of the dining experience.

As I have noted before, "Getting the desired results you want, and reaching your goals for your restaurant is not complicated, but it is difficult."

One of the difficulties is getting caught in the trap of "easy". Automation is clearly easy, BUT used correctly, it can free you up to focus on the most important tasks, making you more successful than ever before. To those ends, I have put together a quick list of "do's and dont's" that you should keep in mind when trying to figure out the perfect balance of "Automation Vs. Doing It By Hand".

The "DO" List

1) You know big events are coming up. Just get them scheduled and done

You know you are busy, so when time permits, think ahead. If it's mid-april and you already know what you guys are going to be doing for Mother's Day, and maybe even Father's day, why not set up your promotions, schedule them to deploy, and get it over with NOW, rather than waiting to the last minute.

I was thinking about this, this week, when two of our restaurant client's hit us up with Mother's day promotional materials they needed designed and distributed, only 3 days before Mother's day. Granted, they have us to design all their stuff and get it all set up and scheduled for them, but even then, why wait until the last minute? Why not take advantage of every drop of juice you can get out of your promotion, guaranteeing a big day for your restaurant?

Even worse, if you are a small restaurant that handles all this stuff internally, why stress? Planned events, such as holidays, anniversaries, etc., are the perfect time to pre-schedule and make things easier on your staff.

2) Why continually run the treadmill of posting your regular "weekly specials" on your social media properties, website and blogs?

Seriously, if you have regular, weekly specials, why not pre-schedule these things to fire, for you, so you don't have to constantly remember them.

NOTE: I'm not suggesting setting the same exact post to repeat every week, forever and ever.

But, that said, why not have your staff, or outside design team design 4-6 ads for each daily special, and then program them in your marketing system to rotate accordingly? This will give the illusion of someone making "custom posts", but free you up to focus on other things.

After a couple of months, you can go back to the drawing board and design a whole new sequence of ads, accounting for seasonal changes, menu changes, or even specials changes, thus furthering the though in your patron's minds that these posts are being done by a human and not "pre-scheduled".

3) DO NOT forget the current and "newsworthy"

So you have your posts set up for distribution ahead of time, and then some amazing pop-culture or news worthy thing happens. What do you do?

ANSWER: You cancel your scheduled posts and use your creative mind to do something interesting for your patrons.

This, to me, is an obvious thing, but I can't tell you how many restaurants call us every week, to discuss our
  Restaurant Marketing Services and they don't have even the slightest inclination that they should do this.

Anytime you can make your marketing seem hyper local, or current, in relation to some major pop-culture or news event, you will obviously seem as if you are "on the ball". The best examples I have seen of this are placed like
Tied House, and other sports bars that are constantly referencing what is going on with local teams, league standings, and league and player "gossip".

The "Don't" List

1) If you schedule your posts, you still HAVE TO pay attention to what people say and how they respond to you. REPLY TO THEM

This should be a no-brainer, but as I have said before, it's easy to get sucked into the trap of automation. If you are a single location restaurant that does everything internally, or even if you use an outside firm to handle the scheduling of your marketing and social media, you MUST make for certain that there is a live person that is alerted and that actually responds to EVERY reply or comment your restaurant gets across ALL channels.

2) Automation requires you to "switch it up"

As I have described above, you can't run the same weekly ad, every week, for 52 weeks. Why you ask? Because after 2-3 weeks, people will ignore it. If people ignore your posts and advertisements, it not only hurts your business, but also your social media properties strength and stability, as many of the site algorithmically will eliminate your posts from your fan's news feeds. You DO NOT want this to happen.

The best way to combat this is to assign, or hire someone to make variations of all your ads, based on season, holiday, menu changes, anniversaries, or other notable events. Rotate those, and you should be in the clear.

3) No matter what, DO NOT rely solely on automation

Again, the take home message is "don't be lazy". It is easy to assume that automation will be the "cure all", but let me tell you, it IS NOT. Even our clients that opt to have us give them the full service restaurant marketing treatment, require us to do a fairly large percentage of "on the fly" social media.

It stands to reason. After all, the restaurant industry moves fast. It is impractical to assume that we'll have all the information, or that we'll know "everything" about what might be a dray to get people into a restaurant on any given week.

That type of knowledge requires constant analysis, revision and re-deployment of media. That kind of treatment clearly cannot be automated.

And that's not all folks!

Clearly, I just picked a few things that are the obvious "do's and don'ts" when trying to automate some of your marketing. The fact of the matter is that there are many more things to take into consideration. There are also many requirements that such a strategy will require. For instance, if your current marketing vehicle doesn't allow you to pre-schedule marketing, and then "on the fly" reschedule it, DUMP IT. It's not worth your time.

As with all things, there is no "quick fix", but automating some of the things you can will free you up and allow you to focus on the things that truly matter. Your patrons, your food and the experience your patrons have in your restaurant.

Are you frustrated with your current Restaurant Marketing System? Would you like some FREE advice on how you might capitalize on what you are currently using? Would you like to explore changing things up and possibly switching to our system? If you answer "yes" to any of these questions and would like to speak with me, please CONTACT ME anytime. I am more than happy to lend an ear, my professional assessment, or even suggestions on which product(s) might best suit you and your restaurant's needs.



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Tags: Fishbowl, Marketing, Murgent, Restaurant, auotmated, automated, dinercentric, electronic, management, marketing, More…media, restaurant, social


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Comment by Chris Leo on May 18, 2012 at 3:14pm

You're right Dave, but I think at the individual unit level, you have to also think in terms of they 1) don't have time to do what you are asking of them and 2) given the time, many times might screw it up. I think the effort is a team effort, if it is going to be a successful one.

Comment by Chris Leo on May 18, 2012 at 3:13pm

You are exactly right Michael. People all too often forget the "Social" part of "Social Media". Thanks for the comment.

Comment by Dave Dronkers on May 18, 2012 at 2:37pm

Great stuff Chris... Easy to read and to the point.  The biggest frustration we have in providing social media services is that 1) the client thinks that social media is the golden egg and 2) therefore expects us to provide great content that will achieve that success.  Having honed my operations and marketing skills at the chain level, there was always a marketing plan.  With many of the smaller chains and independents, many of them do not have the discipline to write a sound marketing plan.  When we put into place a social media business and content plan for our clients, it represents the first time they have seen that type of discipline.   So not only do we have to convince our clients that 1) social media is only a part of a larger marketing plan and 2) quality content needs to come from the client, not us.  We can certainly make suggestions (many of which you have mentioned) but without updated and quality content, the danger of repetitive photos, surveys, and boring food shots can cause fans to turn elsewhere.  Thanks again for sharing!

Comment by Michael Pingree on May 17, 2012 at 2:55pm

#1 on your DON'T list is a biggie. Just because you are automating the processes doesn't mean you can forget to engage with your followers. Hence the term SOCIAL media.




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