What can small restaurants teach us all about digital marketing returns on investments?
Let's see a show of hands -who here loves Indian food? You're in good company, because Ryan and I LOVE it. We're always on the prowl to find the best curry in town and Friday night was no exception. But we had a long day and we were tired. We weren't interested in reinventing the wheel. We just wanted some quick and spicy grub.
A plan was quickly formulated to visit a restaurant we had patronized in the past. Since some time had passed since our last visit, we thought it best to double check their hours of operation, just in case. And thus began a tale of two curries - and a beautiful illustration of social media successes and fails.
As I opened up Restaurant A's website, I saw that it was under construction. Some vague, distant memory floated to the front of my brain. I was certain it was under construction when we ordered take out a few months earlier. In fact, I think their website's been down for about a year! Fortunately, there was a link to a PDF scan of their take out menu. Their hours of operation were listed. Success! And just to be sure, we checked with our good friends at Google. Yep, Restaurant A was open until 10:00 pm, a reasonable time on a Friday night.
I bet you can guess where this is going. Sure enough, when we pulled up at 8:44, the restaurant was closed. Of course, I made Ryan go to the door and double check. I told you I was hungry! An employee slowly came to the door to confirm the obvious - they were closed. Ryan, somewhat confused, reported that their website was giving an incorrect time and his helpful feedback was met with an indifferent shrug.
Humph. Restaurant A made three major digital marketing fails in one night. That's rather impressive. Their web presence has been neglected and their website has been under construction for about a year. That alone is enough to turn away a lot of potential customers. That same website, along with the Google listing, has inaccurate hours of operation. And when a paying customer landed on their door and told them of the mistake, they shrugged it away. We left annoyed, with a nagging feeling that if they couldn't get it together just to list their hours, what else was slacking in their management?
How many other patrons have experienced this same frustration? Imagine if it happened just two times in a month. At about $75 a visit, that's $150 a month in lost revenue. $1800 a year! What if it happened 4 times a month - that's $3400! And that's not even taking into account the impact from negative word of mouth and not getting positive recommendations from all those would-be customers.
I can't think of a single business that would turn down an extra $1800 in revenue and dozens of extra happy customers. I can't think of a single business that would want dozens of people saying negative things about their operations. Can you?
Digital marketing failures are rarely a massive PR nightmare. There's no rogue employee posting inappropriate images on social media. There's no viral video of an angry chef screaming at a customer. Just the slow, steady trickle of thousands of dollars going down the drain - or, more accurately, to the competition.
With Ryan declaring that he was ready to eat his own arm, I remembered an Indian food restaurant we had passed a few days earlier. Once again, we turned to the internet. This time, an up-to-date, well designed website told me they were open. This was encouraging! Within 10 minutes, we were munching on poppadoms and a cilantro-jalapeno-yogurt dip with some serious kick.
Did Restaurant B provide the best meal of our lives? No. But they were pretty good. Good enough that we'd recommend them to a friend. We were now part of Restaurant B's unofficial network of spokespeople.
As we give recommendations and answer friends' questions (.... the naan? Massive portions. The butter chicken? Flavourful and creamy. The beef vindaloo? Tasty, but could have been hotter......) we are ensuring that Restaurant B gets more customers AND that those customers are a good fit for their culinary style - which leads to even MORE customers who are an even better fit. Talk about a great cycle!
Based on our casual word of mouth, can Restaurant B expect a flood of new customers tomorrow morning? No, of course not. But just like Restaurant A is losing customers in a slow, steady trickle, Restaurant B will gain them slowly and steadily - to say nothing of the potential value of our personal repeat business.
Restaurant A proved that digital marketing fails aren't necessarily the result of big disasters - and Restaurant B proved that online success doesn't come from wildly popular viral videos, from spending a fortune on your website, or even from having a massive social media network.
They were there. They were accurate. They were competent. They met the bar. Sometimes that's all it takes.
Right now, you're probably thinking that Restaurant B has a lot to be proud of, and they do. When a customer went looking for them, they were there. Their food was tasty and it's given us something to talk about. But Restaurant B had their own failures and, in some regards, they're even worse than Restaurant A.
Restaurant B has no way of gauging the success of their digital marketing efforts. They are clearly spending money on social media, website content, and management of their digital program, but there's nothing in place to measure their return on investment.
Had Restaurant B instructed their staff to greet all customers with a personal introduction and ask if it was their first visit, they would have easily gained extremely useful information on how we had found them (and, frankly, this warm and friendly chat would likely encourage us to return again soon, or even stay and linger over dessert - both big money makers). At absolutely zero cost, they'd gain valuable market research into their customer base, including the success of their digital marketing program, and they'd solidify our future investment as loyal customers. It's a ridiculously efficient formula for success.
Restaurant B also lost a valuable opportunity to expand their digital platform and increase engagement by not asking us to check out their Facebook page and not giving us a reason to do so. Again, for absolutely no additional cost of time or money, they could have closed our visit with a friendly chat, invited us to like their Facebook page when we got home, and given us an excellent reason to do so - maybe they offer a special coupon once a month. Maybe they post a weekly recipe. Maybe they announce special contests there.
In any case, it's a massive opportunity lost to grow a social media network, all while making a customer happier, all without spending a penny.
When we left Restaurant B, it was with full bellies and a large bag of leftovers. But there was also a bit of disappointment. For just pennies a customer, they could have placed a sticker on the take out dish that said "How delicious were your leftovers? Tell us on Facebook" - creating priceless free, consumer driven content and engagement.
I often hear that it's impossible to measure social media ROI when in fact it's just the opposite. Social media and digital marketing are among the easiest investments to monitor and measure - provided that you are following through on your work. Time and time again I see examples of massive opportunities for free or nearly free social media engagement go down the drain. It doesn't matter if a business invests $5 or $50,000 - you can't measure success for what you don't monitor.
And this is a critical part of what a digital strategist does. We don't just tell you what social media networks to use or what to say on them. We don't just suggest ways to design your website or recommend text for blog posts. We help you monitor and measure results and refine future action. We want you to always get excellent value for your money and the best possible results for your business. We're all about helping you with the dough -whether it's for your naan bread or your bottom line!
When did you do your last social media audit? Now's the time!
Vanessa Chiasson is the founder and senior digital strategist of Sculpt Social.