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Evoke emotion to increase marketing ROI

Five secrets to spark meaningful connections with customers through your messaging and branding


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With shout-outs from the New York Times and Bloomberg, it's hard to deny that Colorado has one of the hottest restaurant scenes in the world. As a previous owner of an upscale steakhouse in Las Vegas, I understand how hard this business is. I would also eat at every single uniquely Colorado restaurant for a living if I could. The local-business love likely fans the flame for the sumptuous experiences Colorado restaurateurs create.

Successes aside, restaurants, like any small business still struggle with efficient, effective and profitable marketing. This provides the opportunity to learn from the industry's marketing trials and tribulations.

On the surface, evoking emotion and increasing ROI seem like two phrases that are diametrically opposed.

With some help and sound advice from Dana Query, marketing expert and co-owner of local restaurant group, The Big Red F – owner of Zolo, Jax Fish House, Lola and The Tavern – they don't have to be. 

Here are five secrets to ensure your marketing efforts reinforce a connection with your customers. 

Five secrets of evoking emotion with marketing:

1. Use the data:

Often companies have data – like family lifecycle, address, gender, title, first name – but they still send out messages with no personalization. To get a response from customers, you must make them feel like you know them. If you don't personalize their message at all with the data you have at your fingertips,, they will be that much less likely to respond. Many businesses, including restaurants haven't yet started building a client database. If you haven't done so yet, get it done. You can bet your competitors are. 

2. Leverage your team members:

Whether you are in the restaurant business or any other industry, remember: Your customers don't have a relationship with your business; they have a relationship with specific team members. The interactions they have with these team members are what makes the relationship they have with your company feel personal, which creates an emotional connection. Leverage the relationship by having all communication come from that employee. For example, if I chat with a bartender three times a week, I don't want to get an email from her shift supervisor. Direct communication from her will be more meaningful and help solidify the connection.

3. Make it relevant: 

Our friend and strategy genius at The Big Red F Group doesn't have a loyalty club, and that's okay. Communication with her guests is well thought out and timely. For the chicken division, they have a database segment called "Local Birds" for customers who live within a one-mile radius. These customs get a killer deal, and that makes them feel special once a month.

4. Know their value: 

If I spend $500 a week at your business, I am going to be insulted if I receive a $2-off offer. Part of the success in personalization is understanding the value of each of your customers and rewarding them accordingly (usually as a percentage of their spend). If you want to do this right, take some time to understand how to develop an RFM model (a nerdy database marketing acronym that means measuring your customers by evaluating a blend of how recently they have been in, how frequently they come in and their monetary value).

5. Use technology – it's cheap:

Back in the day, it was necessary to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to gather client data and use it in a meaningful way. Now it costs pennies. The Big Red F Group is admittedly more tech savvy than your average restaurant or small business, but there are important lessons to be learned from them here.

It should be noted that no matter how much of an expert you think someone is, they still get overwhelmed by all the technology options out there and all the data points. These are pain points for all of us. If you push through that and do something, even if it isn't perfect, it will give you a leg up on your competition. The Big Red F Group is using a software system called Wisely as their core marketing platform. They blend a variety of solutions for maximum results. Even though Dana has this approach figured out more than most, she says, "I still worry about using the data we gather in a meaningful and genuine way that conveys a true connection and doesn't undo all the work we have done to build relationships with our customers."

The bottom line? 

Push through your fears, and use your customer data to evoke emotion and increase your company's ROI.

Even if you don't get it perfect, you will likely get it right.

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Sarah Procopio

Sarah Procopio, founder and vice president of Thrive Now, a business intelligence and database marketing firm. She specializes in loyalty program development and turning around flailing companies and marketing programs quickly. She can be reached at sprocopio@thrivenowanalytics.com or 720-308-8839.

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