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Top 12 marketing hacks to promote your cafe locally

Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to small business owners so I could understand their biggest challenges better. Interestingly, one of the top problems listed by cafe owners, was attracting more customers. Specifically, local ones.   

You know what was the most common thing cafe owners had to say?

“There are way too many cafes around us with very similar menu and pricing options! It’s so difficult to stand out in the crowd!”  

Sounds familiar?

Well thankfully, there are ways to attract more customers from around the neighbourhood. Here are our top 12 marketing hacks to promote your cafe locally:

1. Have clear signage.

This may sound obvious but it’s crucial. Whether you have a massive cafe on a busy street or a hole in the wall in a bylane - you’ve got to have clear signage. Spend some dollars on a professionally designed logo so people can remember and relate with your brand name. Make sure it’s clear and easy to read from a distance.

2. Plan for online search results.

Once you’ve set up your cafe, this is possibly the first thing to do online. It’s very common for cafe-goers to search for places nearby and it’s important for your cafe to show up in the top results. So how do you make that happen? You’ll need to ensure your cafe is listed in as many online food directories as possible. Start off with Google My Business and Yelp, and submit as many details as possible including your opening hours, phone number and directions on Google Search and Maps. Best part? Listing your business won’t cost you a penny!

3. Manage your profile on review sites.

Showing up on search results is only one part of the marketing plan. The other half is effectively managing your profile so your customers leave positive reviews for others to see. Personalise your profile - add pictures and share what’s special about your cafe. Try and respond to each review - even if it is a negative one. Be open to feedback and engage with people who care enough to say something about your cafe.

You may also like: Your free marketing plan template and guide

4. Build a website.

I know you’re a cafe owner, not a web designer. But you’ve got to have a website for your cafe. It adds credibility and a website is a good platform to share more information about yourself and your cafe. For example, you can mention your specialities and list out your menu to make it easier for potential customers. Don’t worry, setting up a website is not rocket science. For starters, you can take a look at this offer here on how to get a website for your business.

5. Get active on social media.

Like it or hate it, you can’t ignore it. Social media has become increasingly essential for food businesses and can help reach a wider audience than ever before. The only problem is, you’ve got to post regularly to hold people’s attention. If you’re thinking, I really don’t have the time for this, get one of your staff members to manage it for you. Even if you’re regular on just one platform (preferably Instagram), it’s enough.

6. Encourage customers to take pictures.

If you don’t have time or skill to take great pictures of your restaurant and food for social media, let your customers do it for you. There are enough Instagram lovers out there who would love to show off a beautiful dish to their friends. Here’s what you can do to encourage people to post pictures - 1) make sure your presentation is picture-worthy 2) serve amazing food so the caption conveys how great it tastes 3) throw in a little incentive, like a free coffee or ice cream for posting with a branded hashtag.  

7. Add your menu to Facebook and other reviewing sites.

Make it as easy as possible for people to make a decision about your cafe. With so many options available, people like to know exactly what to expect in a place before they make their final choice. Think about it - if a vegan sees that special dish on your menu, he/she might pick your restaurant over the one on the next street that has no menu online.

8. Offer deals in the local newspaper.

Don’t underestimate the power of the local newspapers. A great way to reach people around the neighbourhood is to run ads and discount offers in the local papers. People around you read these and are more likely to get incentivised to visit you for their next coffee.  

9. Host a media event.

Invite local journalists and food bloggers for a media event. Some free drinks and food will cost you a bit but the if they write about your place in popular print or online journal, you could really go places.

10. Host a charity event.

Now we’re not suggesting that you start hosting a whole range of free events. A smart way to host events is to invite people with the promise of one free drink or starter or whatever suits your budget. The idea is that they’re likely to order more once they’re there and are also likely to return with other friends if they’re happy with your service. And with a charity event, you get the satisfaction of giving back to the community and connect with your customers through a common cause.  

11. Use text message marketing.

You must have seen this happen all the time - there’s a deal advertised on your table that offers a discount if you text something to the management. For instance - Get a free coffee if you text ‘my free coffee’ on 7272. This is a clever way to collect your customers’ numbers so you can reach out to them later with future offers. It’s a great tactic - they get their free coffee, you get a potentially loyal customer.

12. Rely on word of mouth marketing.

In February this year, we ran a competition asking small business owners to share their favourite marketing tip for fellow small businesses. One of the top tips was by Jake Smith from Well Said. This is what he had to say - “Be a walking talking advocate for your business... Word of mouth marketing and online marketing are equally as powerful as each other.” We couldn’t agree more. Network with people, talk to your customers, spread the word about your cafe and what you do. You are the best marketing tool for your business.

So these were our top local marketing hacks - tell us if we missed something or if you have another tactic that worked well for you.

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