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To market, to market

Marketing is one of the surest ways I know to build a successful foodservice business. With some careful strategic planning, you can build your brand in the marketplace, differentiate yourself from your competition, give your customers a reason to keep coming back to your restaurant, and boost gross sales. And as I've always said, gross sales solve all problems.

Some of the best marketing available costs little to nothing at all. Here is a simplified approach. These building blocks of marketing afford you the most important element in a marketing program — the ability to start today. The important message in this Trade Secret is borrowed from a company that's a master at marketing: Just do it! Here's how.

Build a database
Start building a database of guests using your guest comment card to capture names, mail and e-mail addresses, and birthdates. Read Guest Comment Cards and You Can Learn A lot by Just Asking for the proper format and methodology.

Low tech/high touch
You can keep in touch with your existing customers by sending out communications to your entire database periodically. Low tech options include: a postcard with your logo and a simple message relating to week-night specials; a flyer describing special events; or a chatty newsletter. Have your staff hand address these as part of their side work. It really doesn't take long and it makes a big difference. A handwritten name on the other side and a personal signature from you are little touches that make a big impression.

High tech/high touch
"Get fancy" and send personalized communications that acknowledge a birthday or anniversary. These may or may not include a gift certificate. It's not always necessary. Many customers respond to a simple invitation to join you on their special day. Utilizing something as simple as our Birthday Club, you can add a very personalized touch with very little effort. Again, hand addressed cards and letters are a rarity in today's world, so make the effort.

Marketing: Just do it. And keep doing it. The content is secondary. It's consistency that matters. And as I used to say about a fickle friend of mine: whoever talks to her last wins. That's top of mind awareness — and that's the name of the game.

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