Posts tagged ‘investment’

December 31, 2009

2010 Is About Meaningful Content

Written for and cross-posted on FohBoh.com. I’m one of ten front-page contributors to FohBoh – the largest social network for the restaurant industry with over 13,000 members.

There’s been tens of thousands of conversations this past year about social media:

  • what is it,
  • how do you quantify ROI,
  • how can you compare it to traditional marketing/advertising,
  • what is the role of traditional PR/Marketing/Ad agencies with it,
  • how do you use it, and,
  • what is the most effective strategy?

Have you figured it all out?

I haven’t – social media is extremely dynamic, fluid and changing all the time. I read the leading social media theorists (Mashable.com, Paul Barron, Amanda Hite, Chris Brogan and numerous others) constantly; every day. While I’m not an expert and never want to be called a guru, I am most definitely a proponent, a social media evangelist and power user, both for my business and on behalf of some of my clients.

There’s been a number of pronouncements in the past few weeks – predictions – of what 2010 will bring for marketing, public relations, advertising and social media. I’m here on the last day of 2009 to share my distillation of these predictions with you.

The End of Traditional Marketing & Advertising (Static Announcements)

Let’s face it – have the marketing/advertising/PR strategies of the last forty years worked for you over the last two years?

  • Is running a newspaper ad every week with a coupon really working for you?
  • Is running a thirty second radio ad like a used car salesman begging people to “come on down” really working for you?
  • Is the static “brochure” of a website really working for you?
  • Is getting listed on the restaurant page of the newspaper working for you?
  • Are the menu pages in the Yellow Book working for you?
  • Is your direct email campaign really working?
  • How results-satisfied are you with text messaging the special on hot wings and draft beer?
  • Did placing an ad in the State Visitors Guide really work for you?
  • Did making that 60 second video ad for the local cable network really pay off?
  • Are static messages (think: flyers/coupons/etc) on Facebook and Twitter working for you?
  • [for the major multiunits] Did that 30 or 60 second major network ad really build relationships in your local communities?

I could go on. It seems there’s countless means to market and advertise a static announcement to the public. Is it really working for you?

2010 Equals Content

Your customers want to believe you are in community with them – for their needs, desires and wishes. Are the traditional strategies listed above really demonstrating how much you value your customer?

So how can you communicate with your customer dynamically, meeting their needs and desires?

  • Listen to them
  • Comment on their messages – sincerely
  • Let them produce content toward you
  • Don’t get defensive
  • Keep the mantra simple: It’s Not About You : It’s About Your Customer

Paul Barron and I had a conversation last week about the landscape of marketing, advertising and the social web. In an excellent post titled “Real Time Search could impact restaurants – big time!” on his blog Social Coco, Paul states “The point is that real-time is consuming the web in terms of new content that was not there just a few short years ago. This new content will impact restaurants in a big way as consumers not brands post videos, blogs, tweets, wall posts and podcasts more about their restaurant experience. And guess what all this will come up in: real-time search!”

John Jantz, in an article titled “Small Businesses Will Simply Become More Naturally Social” (cross-posted on Social Media Today and Duck Tape Marketing), states: “Social media activity and behavior can help facilitate communication and connection with your entire collaboration universe: prospects, customers, suppliers, partners, and employees and as such should be freed from the limited thinking.”

Free Stuff

We all like free stuff in this industry – free samples from the sales rep, free food and goodies from the tradeshows, etc. The old saying “free is a very good price” is part of our weekly vernacular. How many of you like free positive publicity?

Why not encourage your customers to share their life-stories with you through social media? Maybe a customer’s son or daughter videotaped the parents wedding anniversary dinner at your place. Perhaps a kid on the local baseball team is a regular customer – ask him for an interview that you can share. Take a couple pictures of your favorite businesspeople around town – share them through social media:

“My friend Joe at Zeke’s Auto knows more about foreign cars than anyone else I know. (picture link on web of Joe)”

What I’m suggesting is to use your marketing/advertising efforts to build community instead of standing on the street corner bull-horning the nightly special.

The 24 to 48 Hour News Cycle

I’m not saying never talk about your business – I’m saying make the community needs of your customers take priority in your marketing/advertising. I’m saying that even large multi-units can do this – by being meaningfully engaged in local community through social media.

You have the opportunity to create a localized 24 to 48 hour news channel that benefits and build community. And when you talk mostly about others, when you put others first, when you give to the community – it will reward you.

People will respond – and they will love the occasional story from your crew! You – as restaurant owner, as chef or line cook, as general manager, bartender or waiter, hostess or dishwasher – have the opportunity; the right even… or perhaps responsibility, to connect community together – just as much as the minister, town council member or fireman.

Tell your community’s stories first through your messages and your stories last. People will notice. Make your message revolve around your customers, not you.

Blogpost Fluff: Top 2009 Facebook Statistics

Facebook currently boasts over 350 million users

50 percent of Facebook users log on in any given day

Each day, 35 million users update their status

55 million status updates are posted each day

2.5 billion photos are uploaded to the site each month

3.5 million events are created each month

There are more than 1.6 million active Pages on Facebook

Over 700,000 local businesses maintain active Pages on Facebook

Users

The average user has 130 friends on the site

On average, users spend more than 55 minutes per day on Facebook

The Like button is used on 9 pieces of content on average each month

25 comments are written by users on Facebook content each month

Most users are member of at least 12 groups

International

About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States

Over 300,000 users helped translate the site through the translations application

December 3, 2009

Restaurant Websites: Where Creativity Goes To Die

Restaurant Websites: Where Creativity Goes To Die
by Zachary Adam Cohen on November 30, 2009
Originally Posted on Zachary Adam Cohen

The Agony and Pain of Restaurant Websites

Smooth Jazz? Flash? Impossible Navigation? Incredibly Long Loading Times?

The current state of restaurant websites is pathetic. Haven’t we had enough of this? Why do restaurants think they can get away with putting up a brochure of their offerings and expect their customers will respond by flocking to their establishment? In a city like New York, with thousands of dining options, it is simply not enough to broadcast your service to a sophisticated public. Even in smaller cities and towns with far fewer options, restaurants are failing miserably to adapt to the realities of how consumers spend their money today.
Let’s Take a Look at Why

The 20th Century is why! All one had to do was broadcast, hire some P.R. people, get the word out and hoped and prayed that the customers started flocking.

Not anymore folks! American’s get a bad rap for being lazy, apathetic gluttons who watch too much TV and lack any real culture. Silly I say! Social Media is changing that perception right quick! And more importantly, it’s changing the truth about Americans.

American consumers are quickly becoming a discerning sophisticated consumer. Part of this is due to the recession. We are all going through a phase of re-prioritizing just what it is we REALLY want to spend our money on. And what we want to spend our money on is places, products and people we believe in, that we feel connected to, that we feel we have a stake in.

Social Media makes this all possible. We can now communicate directly with the brands and businesses that get, or could potentially get, our spending money. And it’s all public. No more ruses, no more telephone hangups, no more poor customer service. Why not? Cause when you piss off a customer these days, they can get you back. They can Twitter it, they can post a youtube video, they can blog about it.
What Do Restaurants Need To Excel in Social Media?

First thing’s first, you need a blog. There are so many stories to tell. Who are they? WHY are they? What motivates the chef, the servers? Give me a narrative damnit. I want your food but I also want your story. Restaurants are one of the few remaining places that we go to truly disconnect. To be with our loved ones, our friends, our family. We get to connect in real life after SO much connecting online.

But I want to do so in a place that has captured me with their story. And you can’t do that without a blog. Start one, make the time to learn the basics and start sharing. You will quickly find a lot of people willing to share your story. You’ll find your natural constituency. Are you a Nouvelle Mexican spot in Boerum Hill? Well, talk Mexican food. Share stories about authentic Mexican ingredients. For the Chef: Write a post about any stage work you did in Mexico or Spain or wherever! Who trained you? What did you learn?

Where does your food come from? Talk about your vendors, the farms and middlemen that get the product you serve? Talk about the menu, how was it created? What inspired this dish or that? Give us some context. You don’t have to give away every little secret. We still like to be surprised. But give us something!

Oh, and can we please get your social media links? Every website in the world has their social media links proudly displayed on their website. And you don’t? I know 14 year old Indonesian scam artists who have better designed websites than you do. Oh and btw: you got ripped off royally on your site.

And tell us who is doing the twittering? Is it a host? What’s her name? The Chef? The PR Firm? Let’s get some transparency people.

How Can You Use a Blog To Entice Customers?

As I am known to do, I asked Twitter AKA The Hive Mind about this today. One user, a new friend name John True suggested letting blog readers know about special “off the menu” items. This is a fantastic idea. Every so often the restaurant could end a blog post with an “Easter Egg.” Basically, they could leave a clue telling readers (or twitter followers) about something special going on. This a great way to make your readers feel their are privy to something special. And it’s another creative way to convert readers to customers.

What about letting blog readers, or Facebook Fans, or Twitter followers get first dibs on any special events? And what about video? And Pictures?

Start a YouTube channel, get a Flip HD camera and start interviewing regular customers. Is someone coming by once a week? Get him or her on tape to tell us why? What draws that customer back? Maybe we’ll feel the same way. Are testimonials so hard to produce? Stop relying on a big media dinosaur to come to your rescue. Yes, The New York Times is still important, and hopefully always will be, but for the most part, the impact of professional critics is nominal. If 20 food bloggers love you, and 5 critics don’t, guess who wins? It ain’t the critics. No one trusts them anyway.

Zac is a friend active in social media services in NYC and a VERY accomplished food blogger with the award-winning blog Farm To Table: The Emerging American Meal

November 6, 2009

Are your servers making spitballs of “bad” comment cards?

Do your restaurant managers get every comment card guests fill out? Are waitstaff trashing the bad comment cards? Do you have an effective means to capture guest contact info via “opt-in”?

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Rewarding Feedback – a phenomenal new consumer-focused product that was invented with the primary focus of driving revenue to restaurants, gaming establishments and service firms.

This unique process collects guest experience data at the time of the experience in exchange for coupons for a future visit. The Rewarding Feedback process replaces the need for paper surveys, online questionnaires, telephone follow-ups and even mystery shopper services. The process provides the opportunity for the business to obtain feedback on every customer interaction (rather than the typically low volume of feedback results currently received by conventional means).

The standard restaurant implementation has the on-site hostess present the guest with Rewarding Feedback equipment to complete a quick survey at the end of their meal. Upon completion of the survey, the data is analyzed instantly. The guest receives a valuable coupon, regardless of the survey results, but if the guest experience has been satisfactory, a second coupon is provided to the customer to share with a friend. If the guest experience has been deemed less than satisfactory, on-site management is notified of the problem immediately, thereby allowing the establishment to “save” the relationship with the guest, before they get their bill. Coupon types and expiries can be varied, depending on the marketing campaign established.  In addition, you can market the coupons to other organizations – creating additional revenue.

What makes the Rewarding Feedback process so valuable is that it allows every establishment to collect real-time, actionable data while at the same time turning the consumer into a valuable marketing resource on behalf of the business.
Our reporting portal allows management resources to review individual establishment results or compare results from a single establishment against others in a defined region and/or chain.

For more information visit Rewarding Feedback.

September 22, 2009

Chalkboarder.com Updates Week 39 of 2009

Chalkboarder.com is busy this week, very busy. Here’s what’s happening for us:

Confirmed Actions:

  • Negotiations with Montana Stock Growers Association, the oldest cattle ranching association in the USA, resume after Errol Rice, Executive Director, returned from a week in Washington D.C.
  • Negotiations have started with a creative media/marketing firm in NYC regarding provision of sub-contracting services for the benefit of their clients. We’re not at a stage we can reveal the other party – perhaps later this week.
  • Negotiations continue with private parties on Phase Two investment.
  • Jeffrey Kingman, CEO of Chalkboarder.com heads to Seattle to speak at Coffee Fest 2009 on social media in hospitality.
  • Friday, Jeffrey joins Dr. Ola Aynei, CEO of M-Dialog.com as a guest speaker via webinar on ‘Restaurant 2.0: Social and Mobile Media at 130 Central time.
  • Strategic planning and continuing execution are ongoing with clients in the Oregon and Massachusetts markets.
  • Networking and advertising begin for major metropolitan Commissioned Sales Directors.
September 19, 2009

ROI and Effective Best Practices in Social Media for Independent Restaurants

How can my restaurant effectively plan and execute a social media strategy that provides return on investment?

Discard using comment cards – social media is a much more powerful tool.

There’s a lot of discussion recently about the human resource cost of embracing social media in the restaurant industry. Some operators are denying that social media will impact their operations – they may not be seeing that now, but what about six months from now? Many operators are curious about what this paradigm shift in connecting with customers means to their business:

  • How should my restaurant use social media?
  • Can I just use it as a way to advertise?
  • What networks should I use for maximum impact?
  • Can I train one of my staff to do the work?
  • How can I afford to do social media?

These are just some of the questions being talked about this year whenever hospitality leaders congregate. Here’s my topic – what are the best practices in social media and how does an independent restaurant implement these into an effective process, fully integrated into the operation with minimal investment, that generates return.

First, let’s define return on investment. Social media is radically changing the organizational environment. By next year, more people will get their news from cell phones than any other media. By next year, more people will look for a restaurant to eat at through their cell phone – than through any other media. Restaurants have to get on those phones to not only survive, but prosper. This month, only 10% of restaurants in major metropolitan (US) areas are using social media. Only 6% of restaurants in those markets have established a Twitter presence.

Let’s talk a little more about return on investment. Let’s imagine a situation where in one week fifty people message their friends about eating at your place. They do this on Facebook, on Twitter, leaving comments on Yelp or Urban Spoon and perhaps on community networks like Ning.com. We’ll assume that they each send out one message – fifty total. Do you have time to sit down for an hour at the start or end of your day to look for these comments and messages? What if four of them had a bad experience? You know the saying – a great meal gets a few referrals, but a bad meal gets twenty down-shouts.

It used to be that a bad meal only affected the close network of the diner. Not anymore. Now, that bad meal could be (and likely is) tweeted to hundreds before the diner leaves the restaurant. Not only does this mean increased pressure to have great game from your staff so this doesn’t happen – it also means you have to know about it and be able to fix it – to engage immediately. You have to spot it, contact, listen, and react. You have to fix it that day.

Need more on return of investment? There are hundreds of food bloggers now. Anyone with a laptop or a cell phone (currently 95% of the adult US population) is a micro-food-blogger. There are more than fifty home-grown food-bloggers online and active in PortlandOregon today and you can bet the cow that they’re all following each other. What if that food-blogger is at table sixteen and having a great meal? They’re snapping a couple of pictures to put up later that night on a blog that will not only get read by a hundred or more in the next few days – but also by other influential food-bloggers with more stature. And let me share something – those food-bloggers on Twitter announce to the universe when they publish a new post (that might be talking about you).

What’s the return now? When both a bad and a good situation have hundreds of people reading about it today and tomorrow, what price are you willing to pay? Here’s a great article published this month by McKinsey Quarterly on the global benefits of using social media. How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0: McKinsey Global Survey Results

Social Media Best Practices for an Independent Restaurant

Let’s run a scenario by illustrating a restaurant operation (annual sales of $1-3 mil) utilizing social media best practices as defined by leading SM experts (links to best practices follow this article). Remember – social media is all about dialogue and engaging customers. It’s no different than visiting tables and deepening the connections.

Setup

  • Update and establish a consistent brand presence across the networks you choose to participate in (i.e.: Facebook, Twitter, Ning.com, FohBoh.com)
  • Update your webpage with cross links to social networks (make sure the links open on a separate webpage tab and use small SM logos)
  • Bring key staff together to participate (Chef, Sommelier, Bartender, FOH Manager)
  • Determine the minimum frequency on the various networks you will message through and commit to six months

Weekly

  • Plan your messaging for the week to allow time to create compelling content that followers want to share with their friends
  • Listen to the networks and what people are saying about you. Think before responding. Always respond positively.
  • Leading theorists on social media encourage involving your key staff through their personal accounts. Empower them to engage the dialogue from their personal accounts. Give them guidelines and a social media policy (part of your employee manual) so your expectations are clear.

Your Social Network Messages

  • Must be authentic. Today’s savvy customers see through hype and traditional marketing. They want to know who you are, why you are in the restaurant business, what your passions are and about your adventures, concerns and successes. They’re not merely looking for a good place to eat. They want to know what inspires you and your crew. If they like you, they are very willing to offer constructive suggestions, perhaps things you never thought of. How much value is that – your customers telling you what they need? Authenticity = Loyalty.
  • Use Images. A recent Harvard Business Review article stated that messages with compelling images received a 70% click through rate. We humans love eye-candy. Maybe it’s a picture of that outstanding rack of lamb, or your cute bartender (female or male) interacting with a customer – or, that loyal dishwasher that works harder than anyone else (and you introduce him/her to your followers with an intriguing story). Here’s an idea – a one to two minute gonzo journalist video interview (from your iPhone) with the chef on the line during service talking about tonight’s special. Compelling content = Viral distribution.
  • Pace your messaging. Different networks have different frequencies of appropriate distribution. Facebook and Ning.com are a one unique message per post environment. It is okay on Twitter to send the same message multiple times in a day; just don’t over-do it. Here at Chalkboarder.com we’ll send a unique message repeatedly on Twitter about once an hour during our workday. Appropriate frequency = Follower growth.
  • Then listen. This is the key part. Collect the responses from the Facebook-type networks, but reply that day. If a negative comes in, reply positively in private communication first if possible and give them thanks for caring enough to share. Listening = Customer service.
  • Respond. Always be positive in responding and get back to them as soon as possible.
    • Use negative messages as positive critique (more down below on that). Respond quickly to nip issue in bud before it gets re-broadcasted and so they will message again how quickly issue was resolved. If you do this publicly, others will see how authentic you are as an operator.
    • Thank positive messages and respond in a way that compels them to share more about their positive experience. If they are seeking to know you better – share away – it only deepens your relationship with a new core customer center of influence.

Create and Maintain an Active Blog

Only 2% of USA restaurants, maybe less, use blogging as a way to connect with customers. Blogs are a fantastic way to engage – they provide the escape from daily life that so many of our customers deal with. It’s best to post weekly or more, keep articles semi-short and use images.

It’s very easy to set up a blog – there are several free services out there like WordPress and Blogger. I like WordPress over Blogger because it provides an easy dashboard to analyze the metrics of who’s visiting and what they are reading. I also find it much more intuitive and simple to use. One beauty of these services is being able to generate articles in MS Word (as I am right now) and then email it to my blog. It posts with all the formatting and images I’ve put in using Word.

Make sure you tag your blogposts with appropriate tags. For this article I’ll tag with – social media, social networking, restaurant, twitter, facebook, blog, and etc. This allows people internet searching to find your article.

After you’ve posted – share the article on your social networks! Don’t be afraid to promote the blogposts for 24-48 hours once an hour on Twitter.

Summary

Social media for hospitality is replacing traditional marketing, advertising and customer engagement in a fundamental way. Instead of waiting on days and weeks for traditional marketing to take effect – social media offers operations a 24/7 communications cycle.

Instead of having the luxury of days to respond to issues, operators now have a huge opportunity to engage immediately and resolve/satisfy a disgruntled patron.

Planning and executing a successful social media campaign has to be incorporated into your business plan. Operational management has to embrace and lead the effort. Pull your top human assets into the execution. Be prepared for constant dialogue and use positive leadership.

The expense of social media really comes down to human resource management. Operators can design and implement effective programs themselves or they can outsource the tasks to a trusted and authentic agency. Either way, social media is here, the return on investment is significant and it can easily help grow your satisfied customer base.

For more information or dialogue, drop us a line. Chalkboarder.com can recommend a research list for social media best practices, advise operations on developing their programs or provide outsourced services.

Best Practice in Social Media Theorists

August 14, 2009

SOCIAL NETWORKING A CROWD-FUNDED INVESTMENT STRATEGY

A new medium calls for a new way for investors.  We’re approaching our social networks so we can grow.

This summer my partners and I launched a social media/networking service firm for organizations called Chalkboarder.com.  We’re getting a lot of immediate interest from potential clients, business counselors and the public we talk to.  We’ve had enough interest to secure startup investment early in the summer.  Now its time for Phase Two.

In response to queries regarding investing in Phase Two of initial growth for Chalkboarder.com, the LLC members have devised a new way to become involved.

This new way aligns with Chalkboarder.com’s commitment to create meaningful employment, to always choose eco/economic sustainability, and to always strive for authenticity in service and in relationships.

Phase Two of our growth seeks $20,000 from investors. Rather than seek out venture capitalists or submit to the banking industry’s whims, we have decided to offer a limited number of small fractional memberships of the LLC itself.

In other words, when Chalkboarder.com profits, the increased value will belong to its clients and its investors, not to a bank or venture capitalist. We believe this path is the most egalitarian and work-affirming way we could raise our needed working capital.

It seems everyone is aware of social networking and social media, but very few understand its abilities and strengths – especially in building communities for organizations.  There’s a great video published by Mashable.com that easily explains the opportunities that social networking/media present.  You can find it here:   http://mashable.com/2009/08/03/what-is-social-media/

Chalkboarder.com provides the human resources to organizations to build and maintain their digital communities.  We’ve got a good concept in a hot market, a sound business plan and the ability/desire to grow nationally.  Our mission statement focuses on three key areas based in sustainability:  creating good jobs for underemployed people, providing top-notch service to our clients and providing fair return on investment to the owners.

We are at that planned milestone now – raising $20,000 through a crowd of small investors – secured entirely through social networking and digital communities – to help us with our desires:

  • Create meaningful employment for people
  • Provide top-notch social media/networking services
  • Create sustainable return on investment to owners

This investment provides Chalkboarder.com with operating capital through December, allowing us to grow a client portfolio that sustains us and lays the foundation for further growth.

The details:  fractional ownership is available at $500 each.  This represents 1/200th of company ownership.  Only forty of these fractions are being offered.  Single investor may own more than one fraction.  Monthly, quarterly and annual reporting.  Investors will be listed in a revised Articles of Incorporation with the Oregon Secretary of State.  We’ve set up a PayPal account strictly for use with our investors.

To all of you who already inquired – thank you!  To those of you with new inquiries – welcome!  Please contact me with any questions you may have.

Best,

Jeffrey Kingman

President

Chalkboarder.com

www.chalkboarder.com

Twitter = @JeffreyJKingman

Skype = WolfeCrick

(800) 409-8144

jkingman@chalkboarder.com

August 12, 2009

Chalkboarder.com Sustainability Statement:

Chalkboarder.com Sustainability Statement

We made some strategic sustainability decisions at Chalkboarder.com in the past couple days. Here they are:

  1. Business model: increased focus on personal relationships. We paid serious attention to lessons learned from Truitt Brothers, Country Natural Beef and Duke Marketing about growing a business through long-term sustainable relationships. We’ve replaced our focus on rapid-growth with a focus on sustainable growth. While this may mean less revenue generation – it does mean we are in truly personal relationships with our clients.
  2. Eco-Sensitivity: taking responsibility for how we impact the environment. This decision is a reinforcement and deepening of some philosophies we already had in place. Strategies we’ve revised:
  1. Travel – using mass transit as much as possible. Long-distance trains vs. airlines, renting only alternative fuel vehicles and using public transit. Encouraging staff to commute using public transit or human-power.
  2. Digital Media – using digital means to communicate. Two immediate examples:

i. Printing – we’re only printing business cards. We decided to not use printed sales literature (this also has a benefit in reducing expenses).

ii. Advertising – our original business plan structured a portion of marketing on traditional print advertising through FoodARTS and Nation’s Restaurant News. We will only use personal networking and digital mediums to market our services (this has an expense-reduction benefit as well, saving us over $170,000 in planned expenses first year).

iii. Tradeshows – Chalkboarder.com will exhibit at tradeshows with a minimum of “take-away” materials. We will structure exhibitor presence with a maximum amount of digital media and less emphasis on printed “take-aways”.

  1. Office-space – our plan was to use short-term office leasing in the beginning; we’re not changing that. Our plan also included adaptive reuse of a quasi-industrial loft space at a future time. When we get to that milestone, we’ve identified a local architect with a long-history in Eco-Office design.

Sustainability Promotion: being an active proponent of sustainability. We’re in discussion right now on how best to pursue this. Questions we’re asking ourselves include:

  1. Do we take on clients that have zero belief in sustainability?
  2. What other areas of sustainability assessment, philosophy and practice can we implement?
  3. How can Chalkboarder.com help others to learn about, develop and practice sustainability?

As you can see, this conference was eye-opening for Chalkboarder.com. It will restructure us. It will empower us to grow carefully and in deeper consideration of the relationships we build – of the legacy we develop. We welcome any comments or suggestions you may have for us.

Best,

Jeffrey