Point-counterpoint: Don't waste restaurant marketing dollars on social media

May 4, 2010
Point: Sandy Lecher, CEO, Synergy Media Company
Social media is an important part of an overall marketing mix, and has its vital and very important place. But, I think we all need to be reasonable and logical about how much effort and resources we put into social media, and what kind of ROI to truly expect.
Social media has a lot of sex appeal, but very little "beef" to substantiate a significant spend or any traceable ROI, with marketing dollars at a premium.
While most, if not all business models must stay ahead of technology curve to thrive and succeed, I do believe the importance of social media tends to be over emphasized at many industry events, and in most industry pubs, journals, web sites, and blogs.
When I sit through sessions on social media, or read articles, I see things like, "If Facebook were a country, it would be the largest in the world," and "Twitter and Facebook offer millions of impressions every day, for a lower cost per contact." While this is all great stuff, I have a few unanswered questions:
  • Where are the customer acquisition stats? How many new customers have been acquired?
  • How often do they come in, call, or log on?
  • How much do social media fanatics spend? Average ticket?
  • Most social media is opt-in. Why provide aggressive specials and offers to fans?
  • Are you really reaching your desired audience? Or simply branding?
One experience I had personally, happened at a chain concept that my family and I visit one to three times per month. My wife joined their e-mail club, and every week we get an e-mailed Facebook offer, usually a buy-one-get-one offer. We go to this restaurant exactly the same amount of times, get exactly the same thing, and pay half the price. In fact, most places allow you to show the offer on your smart phone, so you don't even have to worry about printing it out. To me, this is a plan to go out of business.
A smart marketing plan includes:
  • Understanding who your target market/consumer is
  • Finding an efficient way to reach that market/consumer
  • Trackable media and offers, which provide a data component to understand more about your customers' likes, dislikes, and habits
  • Employing some smart database management exercises, which allow you to be smart about targeting specific offers to new customer acquisition, versus loyalty, retention, and upselling offers.
I'm not sure social media does all this.
There are companies doing a great job at employing social media as part of their mix. But I believe you will find even the most aggressive social media proponents are spending only 5 percent to 10 percent of their total marketing budgets on it, and continue to rely on "best in class" local store marketing programs to drive traffic, trial, and retention, in a formal, trackable, and sustainable way, including direct mail, signs, banners, loyalty and fundraising programs, and all forms of local and community outreach.
Counterpoint: Nate Riggs, principal at Social Business Strategies LLC
I get frustrated when I hear people bash the relevance of social media as a way to generate sales and bottom line revenue.
In 2009, there were social media tools, and there was hype that buzzed around those new tools.  While new social media tools emerge almost weekly, the buzz around them has started to subside.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes are now starting to focus on reaching objectives using these tools.  One of those objectives, as it seems, is always selling more stuff.
Whether you are one of the many B2B companies using blogging to generate leads, a call center in Canton, Ohio, who is using Facebook to retain employees and reduce annual turnover costs, or even AJ Bombers, a restaurateur using Foursquare badges to drive foot traffic and sales, one thing becomes clear.  Results come only after three simple steps are taken:
  • A clear strategy is designed that aligns social media with your business objectives.
  • The business owner is willing to investment time, resources and possibly capital into using social media tools.
  • Human beings who work for the business are trained to operate social media tools and execute the strategy you've put in place.
Why do small business owners believe that social media will not help them reach a measurable ROI?  
A 2009 study conducted by Mzinga and Babson Executive Education and published on EMarketer.com shows that 84 percent of professionals representing a variety of industries reported that they do not measure ROI.
The point is this.  If you don't approach social media with the three steps outlined above, you will never realize the potential ROI that these new business tools can provide.
As with anything, start with your end goal in mind. Then build a plan that uses social media as the tools. Outline your investment in terms of time, money and resources. Then, most importantly, execute and measure.
Stick to those steps and the returns will be plentiful.
Sandy Lechner is president and CEO of Synergy Media Team, which provides fully integrated print, mail, marketing, and fulfillment management solutions, and specializes in QSR and Fast Casual multiunit and franchise systems. You can reach him at Sandy@TheSynergyMediaTeam.com.
Nate Riggs, principal at Social Business Strategies LLC, is a communication and social Web strategist and practitioner. You can find resources, social business strategy and other valuable content by visiting Nate's blog.
*Flickr photo by Robbie Veldwijk

Topics: Marketing / Branding / Promotion

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