How Would You Use Online & Offline Techniques To Market A Restaurant?

16 replies
Dear Fellow Warrior Forum Members,
I have been asked to provide the marketing strategy for a new local restaurant (non-chain). I would like to think that I have a few good ideas for marketing such a business but the collective power of the entire Warrior Forum is way more knowledge than any one person. So, all your thoughts are welcomed and encouraged. Sorry for the long post in advance, I am going to lay it ALL out!

I am going to break this post down into smaller chunks to make it more organized: restaurant background, pre-launch, 0 - 3 months, 3 - 6 months, 6 months - ongoing. Feel free to comment on any piece or the strategies as a whole.


Restaurant Background:
The restaurant is planning for a grand opening in September/October. An official date is still to be determined.

This restaurant is a brand new with no prior or existing customer base. This new restaurant is located in North Beach, MD just two blocks off the Chesapeake Bay and 2 blocks from the town boardwalk. You can see the water from the front sidewalk and restaurant deck area.

The building itself is an old house that was completely gutted and turned into a restaurant. It seats about 45 people in the main dining area using 10-15 tables. The outside deck area can hold another 10-15 people in its current design.

The restaurant's main offerings will be seafood, burgers, and pastas. I can't give much more detail here as the menu is still being finalized.



Pre-Launch:
I view the pre-launch period as a time to start getting the word out and building the brand. The goal being to generate interest and have people ready to go to the restaurant as soon as it is open.

For this to be successful I would imagine I have to capture contact details of interested prospects or be able to contact customers in some way when the doors are opening. Therefore, the majority of my strategy will focus on getting customers to sign-up for a list of some sort (details below). Your thoughts?

Website - I plan on using the website as the home base for most online marketing efforts. The website will be up to date with all necessary restaurant information. In addition to the usual an opt-in form will be prominently displayed to capture visitors information so they can be contacted later. I plan to entice the customers to join this mailing list with a free special appetizer. This appetizer will only be made for those individuals who join the list and then present the coupon at the restaurant.

Social Media / Twitter - I would like to get Facebook (and maybe twitter) going before open and start to draw people to our page. I have considered giving a similar offering to those who like page as done with the website opt-in above to encourage sign ups. Any other thoughts on how to find and get users to like the page before the restaurant opens?

Mobile Marketing - I want to get customers signed up to a list that I can send text messages to anytime we want. Prior to launch of the restaurant I was thinking of doing a mobile advertising campaign with AdMob or a similar service to get customers to join the list via text message for a free appetizer once the restaurant opens. Can anyone think of any other way or other enticing offers to get customers to join a mobile list?

Groupon - I have also been toying with the idea of suggesting to run a Groupon offer shortly before the restaurant opens. This would certainly drive tons of traffic through the doors. However, Groupon is very expensive for the business as they only get 25% or less of the full value of the offering. If I did this one time and coupled it with my mobile marketing strategy mentioned in the 0 - 3 month section this could provide real lasting value even with the high initial cost!

Local Marketing/ Mobile Marketing (Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Business Portal) - Taking advantage of the local business tools offered by the big three search engines seems like a great way to get some free traffic. It may take some time though to actually show up at or near the top of these results.

Gift Certificate Presale - I came up with the idea of selling gift certificates directly to customers at ½ price right up until opening day (sort of like offering my own Groupon). This could also be a good publicity stunt that a local paper, blog, etc runs with and promotes. Limiting purchases to one per household address, credit card, & email would ensure you don't loose much in the process as well as stating only one can be redeemed per table per visit.

For example, anyone that goes to the restaurant website could order a $20 gift certificate for $10. It could be redeemed anytime within one year. This really seems like a good idea. What do you all think?

Board Walk - During the spring, summer, and fall the board walk only 2 blocks down the street is filled with potential hungry customers. While chefs are making their final preparations and testing food recipes weeks in advance of the opening date the food that is cooked for these tests could then plated for individual bites and handed out free of charge to visitors on the boardwalk. This could help to draw attention and get people talking about your food. In addition, people who like the samples may start to crave some of the unusual concoctions not available elsewhere. Any other interesting ways to exploit this huge pool of potential customers?

ValPack / Great Coupons - These are two coupon services that serve our local area. There is usually 20+ restaurant's coupons in each of these books every month. These books are distributed to 10,000 plus residences in the area each month. I wouldn't want to use these long term but to boost business initially they may be a good idea. To be included in each book is $300-$500 per month. What do you think about these kinds of services?


In summary, I am laying out an offline & online marketing approach to attract customers.

  • What techniques do you have experience with that may be beneficial to this situation?
  • Any strategy that I may be missing?
  • What methods will provide the best return on investment?


0 - 3 Months
The time has come for the doors of the restaurant to open. Now is the time we hope to see a packed restaurant full of customers. The goal now is to get all engaged prospects to visit the restaurant at least once. Here is why...

Mobile Marketing - I plan to use the a text message marketing campaign to get all customers who walk through the door onto our mobile list. I plan to do this using a combination of table tents and business cards/post cards for the carry out orders. Once joined, we will be able to send discounts or specials whenever it is slow.

Website - I will continue to keep the website up to date and get visitors via the opt-in form. The opt-in form method is cheaper to communicate in the long run over text messaging.

Social Media - I plan to continue using social media to engage customers. I would like to think of some creative ways to get customers to take photos or share things about the restaurant to their fan base. Any interesting ideas for getting more fans and keeping fans engaged (contents, drawings, special posting types, etc)? Snap a photo & share to friends to receive a discount, free beer, etc? Ever seen a mention of social media used within a menu?

Four Square - I will implement four square and use check-ins as a way to reward customers who continue to come back. Anything interesting you think I should know about? I have little to no experience with four square.


3 - 6 Months
Now that the restaurant has been open for 3-6 months I don't foresee many changes in the strategy from that of the 0 - 3 months. I still think the social & mobile efforts need to continue.

If traffic starts to drop off a bit we can start to send out discounts & specials via text message marketing & email. These methods can help to overcome the slow or seasonal business times that some restaurants face.

I can foresee hosting local events or thing like that. The area isn't really big enough to house a huge band but the deck could be used for a single or very small one.

Any other ideas or additional things that should be considered here?


6 Months - Ongoing

Once we make it to the 6 month mark going strong I think we are doing well. I see the social & mobile efforts continuing. I don't know what else to expect here.

I think hosting local events will be beneficial though I don't know what kinds of events to host at this time.

Anything else you can think of that I should be doing or maybe missed?


Finally, we have come to the end of the post. If you aren't familiar with all of these strategies I hope I have opened your eyes to something new that you can use. If you have worked with local restaurants/businesses in the past or have ideas that I should consider I would love your input.

Thanks so much in advance,
Fellow Warrior
#groupon #market #mobile marketing #offline #online #restaurant #restaurant marketing #techniques
  • Profile picture of the author Matt Lee
    I have a number of restaurant clients, here's what I see you're missing:

    1. Get the restaurant listed organically for, their name, all related keywords & city state combinations.
    2. Google Places/Bing Business top listings - Make sure that you can help them show up on the first page for the local listings. Bing is gaining ground on Google, so make sure you cover both.
    3. Mobile website- You mentioned mobile marketing, which some will argue is not so effective. But a mobile template is something today's restaurants are jumping at.
    4. Press Releases - Regional Coverage Spend the money and have your press release syndicated with PRweb or similar. A little spendy but very effective and a must for something like a new restaurant launch. Worth every penny.

    Some of this may seem obvious but it's amazing what you can overlook when you find yourself in charge of marketing for a restaurant launch.
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    • Profile picture of the author midasman09
      Banned
      1) On the "Table-Tents" or Table Displays....ask diners to send a Text to you to receive Special Coupon Offers. (You have a List to Text to)

      Now...here's one that will "Blow Them Away";

      2) Create a "Mobile Website" for the restaurant and.....Place a Display ON THE FRONT DESK of local Motels that says;

      ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
      For The Best Local Places To Eat

      SCAN THIS CODE >>>>>>>>>>> (QR Code)

      or go to www.LocalRestaurants.com
      ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +

      "Tourists" who check into local motels are HUNGRY and WANT to know where local Restaurants are.....and....probably 90% have a Mobile Phone.

      Now....you don't have to put your one restaurant on your "Directory" site. Put other NON-competing restaurants....and...why stop at restaurants? Other businesses would LOVE to be in your Mobile Directory....Gift Shops, Car Washes, Car Repair, Realtors, Coffee Shops.

      Hope this gives you some ideas.

      Don Alm...."Idea" guy
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    • Profile picture of the author CoMpUtErGoD20XX
      Originally Posted by Mr Marketer View Post

      I have a number of restaurant clients, here's what I see you're missing:

      1. Get the restaurant listed organically for, their name, all related keywords & city state combinations.
      2. Google Places/Bing Business top listings - Make sure that you can help them show up on the first page for the local listings. Bing is gaining ground on Google, so make sure you cover both.
      3. Mobile website- You mentioned mobile marketing, which some will argue is not so effective. But a mobile template is something today's restaurants are jumping at.
      4. Press Releases - Regional Coverage Spend the money and have your press release syndicated with PRweb or similar. A little spendy but very effective and a must for something like a new restaurant launch. Worth every penny.

      Some of this may seem obvious but it's amazing what you can overlook when you find yourself in charge of marketing for a restaurant launch.
      Thanks for the insight. I will be sure to add all of this to my plan.

      You mentioned a mobile template. Do you have a specific one to recommend that works well? Also, do you do mobile redirection from their main URL or do you use an entirely different one?
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  • Profile picture of the author TracyNeedham
    Cool project! And yes, I have a couple of thoughts...

    A lot of times restaurants will have one or several pre-opening nights that they invite people on their list to, folks in nearby offices, or certain groups to (depends on who the owners are connected with). I would do this instead because...

    a) it gives people a reason to get on their list
    b) is exclusive and people love that and
    c) gives the restaurant a chance to take a couple test runs before they fling the doors open

    Plus people at a pre-opening event will usually understand if something goes awry but still think it's cool they get to be there.

    Because of reason c) I would NOT do Groupon before they open, when they still may be working out the kinks. I'd think the last thing they need is a ton of people they're not equipped to serve.

    Also, I would try to get their birthday when they join the VIP (or whatever you call it) list. That way you can send out birthday and half-birthday (6 months from their birthday) special offers.

    Finding people via social media--look to see if there are any FB groups for the town or fan pages for other seafood restaurants in town and invite those people to like your page for a special offer.

    It's probably not legal to give away a free beer or any alcohol in Maryland. In many states, you have to even exclude it from coupons.

    Will there be any entertainment at the restaurant? That's another reason to communicate with people besides giving discounts all the time. Or a changing menu (food or beer).

    Is the house historic? You could invite local historical society to pre-opening event. You could also use that as an angle in your press release--if you're going to have them pay for PRWeb, you really should try to make it newsworthy instead one of 2 billion "new business" opening press releases.

    I am not a big fan of Valpak and the like and in my area restaurants do not seem to do it for more than a month or two--which is not a good sign for it's usefulness for restaurants. I have seen restaurant reappear a lot in something we have called The Clipper -- a slick 8.5 x 11 mailer that's all ads.

    But honestly, I think you'd be better off to do a postcard mailing to people within a couple miles--at least your message would be seen for sure instead of tossed sight unseen like so many of those coupon mailers are.

    Is there a nearby Entertainment Book? That may be worth looking into.

    Is there a Chamber of Commerce? If so, I would definitely have the restaurant ask about hosting an after hours networking event there shortly after opening.

    Is there a lot of tourism? Given your location near the boardwalk, I'd say you definitely want to see about getting listed with the local convention & visitor's bureau or tourism office.

    Having an all day outdoor festival in front of the restaurant would be a good way to draw people form the boardwalk and spread the word. Probably not an Octoberfest but maybe something related to a regatta or sailing event?

    You may also want to look for any community newsletters in the area around the restaurant or nearby. Condo and housing associations sometimes have them. You can probably get ads super cheap for people who are right near there.

    Any popular local radio shows? See if you can deliver food to their morning show DJ's. Free publicity at it's finest

    And of course, see if there are any town festivals coming up the restaurant could participate in. That'll get them some visibility and give people a chance to try the food.

    Dang, I could go on forever LOL.

    One thing though, did you look at the demographics of the town's residents? I'm not familiar with North Beach, but I know some of those towns along the Chesapeake skew a lot toward an older crowd and that would definitely affect the strategies I'd choose.
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    • Profile picture of the author CoMpUtErGoD20XX
      Originally Posted by TracyNeedham View Post

      Cool project! And yes, I have a couple of thoughts...

      A lot of times restaurants will have one or several pre-opening nights that they invite people on their list to, folks in nearby offices, or certain groups to (depends on who the owners are connected with). I would do this instead because...

      a) it gives people a reason to get on their list
      b) is exclusive and people love that and
      c) gives the restaurant a chance to take a couple test runs before they fling the doors open

      Plus people at a pre-opening event will usually understand if something goes awry but still think it's cool they get to be there.

      Because of reason c) I would NOT do Groupon before they open, when they still may be working out the kinks. I'd think the last thing they need is a ton of people they're not equipped to serve.

      Also, I would try to get their birthday when they join the VIP (or whatever you call it) list. That way you can send out birthday and half-birthday (6 months from their birthday) special offers.

      Finding people via social media--look to see if there are any FB groups for the town or fan pages for other seafood restaurants in town and invite those people to like your page for a special offer.

      It's probably not legal to give away a free beer or any alcohol in Maryland. In many states, you have to even exclude it from coupons.

      Will there be any entertainment at the restaurant? That's another reason to communicate with people besides giving discounts all the time. Or a changing menu (food or beer).

      Is the house historic? You could invite local historical society to pre-opening event. You could also use that as an angle in your press release--if you're going to have them pay for PRWeb, you really should try to make it newsworthy instead one of 2 billion "new business" opening press releases.

      I am not a big fan of Valpak and the like and in my area restaurants do not seem to do it for more than a month or two--which is not a good sign for it's usefulness for restaurants. I have seen restaurant reappear a lot in something we have called The Clipper -- a slick 8.5 x 11 mailer that's all ads.

      But honestly, I think you'd be better off to do a postcard mailing to people within a couple miles--at least your message would be seen for sure instead of tossed sight unseen like so many of those coupon mailers are.

      Is there a nearby Entertainment Book? That may be worth looking into.

      Is there a Chamber of Commerce? If so, I would definitely have the restaurant ask about hosting an after hours networking event there shortly after opening.

      Is there a lot of tourism? Given your location near the boardwalk, I'd say you definitely want to see about getting listed with the local convention & visitor's bureau or tourism office.

      Having an all day outdoor festival in front of the restaurant would be a good way to draw people form the boardwalk and spread the word. Probably not an Octoberfest but maybe something related to a regatta or sailing event?

      You may also want to look for any community newsletters in the area around the restaurant or nearby. Condo and housing associations sometimes have them. You can probably get ads super cheap for people who are right near there.

      Any popular local radio shows? See if you can deliver food to their morning show DJ's. Free publicity at it's finest

      And of course, see if there are any town festivals coming up the restaurant could participate in. That'll get them some visibility and give people a chance to try the food.

      Dang, I could go on forever LOL.

      One thing though, did you look at the demographics of the town's residents? I'm not familiar with North Beach, but I know some of those towns along the Chesapeake skew a lot toward an older crowd and that would definitely affect the strategies I'd choose.
      You make some excellent points here. I will be using a lot of these ideas.


      The entertainment has not been planned out yet. I agree that entertainment is great for marketing and gives something to talk about besides giving discounts. The goal is to maximize the bottom line not give everything away, right!


      Unfortunately, the house is not historic. We will have to come up with some other hook for the press release.


      Yes, there is a chamber of commerce. We have already started the discussion with these folks to find out about opportunities.


      There is a lot of tourism. A good size hotel is within 2 miles of our located right past the opposite end of the board walk. Not sure how restaurant friendly they will be though as they also own their own restaurant next door to the hotel. We will try and see what we can do though.


      There are definitely older folks who live in the area. There is a senior citizens place in the town close by as well (big opportunity). The median age was 33 years. 27.3% under the age of 18, 7.3% from 18 to 24, 37.2% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 7.2% who were 65 years of age or older (Wikipedia).


      Thanks so much.
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  • Profile picture of the author cwjones
    One thing I did not see was mention of email marketing. If you have a VIP card, I would use email marketing vs. SMS to reach them on a regular basis. I have several restaurants as clients and we do a weekly email (Friday afternoon - just like Papa Johns as I figure they did their research) which has several links to the website for the weekend and next weeks specials as well as entertainment and any thing else that might be going on in the week.

    If you are going to opitimize for local search you will want to put a review system in place as well to ensure that they can keep any position obtained.

    I would use the SMS more sparingly for specials, events or nights when you just want more traffic and send out a text or the next 20 people that come in with an offer.
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    • Profile picture of the author CoMpUtErGoD20XX
      Originally Posted by oldinc View Post

      One thing I did not see was mention of email marketing. If you have a VIP card, I would use email marketing vs. SMS to reach them on a regular basis. I have several restaurants as clients and we do a weekly email (Friday afternoon - just like Papa Johns as I figure they did their research) which has several links to the website for the weekend and next weeks specials as well as entertainment and any thing else that might be going on in the week.

      If you are going to optimize for local search you will want to put a review system in place as well to ensure that they can keep any position obtained.

      I would use the SMS more sparingly for specials, events or nights when you just want more traffic and send out a text or the next 20 people that come in with an offer.
      Thanks for the message. I had mentioned email marketing in the pre-launch website section but I didn't make it its own point as I should have. You give some other helpful information so it was definitely worth the post.

      Thanks!
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  • Profile picture of the author mjbmedia
    How do they want to be considered by their prospects/ clients?
    If you go too much down the voucher/ deals route then they will instantly be known as a place for cheaper dining, is that the clientelle they really want to attract or can they be postioned from the start to attract the higher value and therefore more profitable clientelle that dont care for 2 for 1 deals or discount vouchers, do buy all three courses, will have the lobster when its on the menu, will have a quality bottle or three of wine with their meal etc etc

    Get local dignitaries and top press people to the opening night, together with succesful well connected business owners, get the positioning right from the outset.

    I gotta say loved your opening post, great to see genuine strategies rather than a couple of lines and then pure hope that everyone else will fill in all the gaps. All the best with it.
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    • Profile picture of the author CoMpUtErGoD20XX
      Originally Posted by mjbmedia View Post

      How do they want to be considered by their prospects/ clients?
      If you go too much down the voucher/ deals route then they will instantly be known as a place for cheaper dining, is that the clientelle they really want to attract or can they be postioned from the start to attract the higher value and therefore more profitable clientelle that dont care for 2 for 1 deals or discount vouchers, do buy all three courses, will have the lobster when its on the menu, will have a quality bottle or three of wine with their meal etc etc

      Get local dignitaries and top press people to the opening night, together with successful well connected business owners, get the positioning right from the outset.

      I gotta say loved your opening post, great to see genuine strategies rather than a couple of lines and then pure hope that everyone else will fill in all the gaps. All the best with it.
      You make excellent point. A major goal is to certainly work on attracting a more upscale clientele.

      I think it makes sense to capture the customers information but we will use these deals and coupons sparingly. We can work on communicating other information besides just deals such as specials, entertainment, events, etc.

      We have already started working on planning out select guests for pre-openings and grand opening events. Again I like your point about getting this right from the outset.

      Yes, I have been told their will be multiple quality bottles of wine. At this time I don't think they plan on carrying lobster. But we will be doing many dishes with Lump Maryland Blue Crab meat.
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  • Profile picture of the author Anewbist
    before all of the marketing techniques that are listed interview and get professional photographers coming to the restaurant and choose one to photographer the food. if the restaurant already have a list of customers send out a promotion to selling the items half of on the day of the photoshoot. the restaurant that I worked with have over 129 items. we did the photoshoot in one day but needed two to not over work the professional photographer. Use the photos for the menu. And after that create the videos for different categories for the menu items in animoto etc and post the videos which is an up sell for creation and distribution $200 per video.
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    • Profile picture of the author CoMpUtErGoD20XX
      Originally Posted by Anewbist View Post

      before all of the marketing techniques that are listed interview and get professional photographers coming to the restaurant and choose one to photographer the food. if the restaurant already have a list of customers send out a promotion to selling the items half of on the day of the photoshoot. the restaurant that I worked with have over 129 items. we did the photoshoot in one day but needed two to not over work the professional photographer. Use the photos for the menu. And after that create the videos for different categories for the menu items in animoto etc and post the videos which is an up sell for creation and distribution $200 per video.
      129 items is a pretty big menu I think. The restaurant I am working with has plans for 60 items or so. Great ideas! I had thought about taking photos and using Animoto to turn them all into a stunning video. This would be great to link up to from the website and also include in the Local Business Listing (Google, Bing, & Yahoo). Hiring a professional photographer is a good idea that never even crossed my mind.

      Thanks Again!
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  • Profile picture of the author MWGrubb58
    As a restaurant, the best thing they can offer is the food, right?

    Once the restaurant is open, have someone dress up as a cook and hand-deliver some of their BEST items to a real estate office (Call first to find out how many agents are there that day) ALONG with a flyer TELLING A STORY on one side and a MENU on the other.

    Real estate agents will ALWAYS tell their clients where a good restaurant is located.
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    • Profile picture of the author CoMpUtErGoD20XX
      Originally Posted by MWGrubb58 View Post

      As a restaurant, the best thing they can offer is the food, right?

      Once the restaurant is open, have someone dress up as a cook and hand-deliver some of their BEST items to a real estate office (Call first to find out how many agents are there that day) ALONG with a flyer TELLING A STORY on one side and a MENU on the other.

      Real estate agents will ALWAYS tell their clients where a good restaurant is located.
      This is a great idea. Not only do real estate agents tell others about good restaurants but they are also frequently out and about and sometimes need places to meet clients. How great would it be for a real estate agent to always come by your restaurant when they are trying to meet or take clients out?

      Thanks so much.
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  • Profile picture of the author mjbmedia
    hold up, why do people go to restaurants? restaurant owners will nearly all say TO EAT of course.
    Really? They can all EAT at home.

    Most people go to restaurants for the occassion, for the experience , maybe to try new tastes, certainly to spend time with people important to them if not for business reasons and to celebrate etc.

    Food is important but its a way down the list.

    Eg A lucrative crowd of 15 go out for a special meal in their hom etown having all returned from Uni/Work/forces etc, meeting for the first time for too long , theres no enquiries made by the restaurant when the table booking is made and the group are sat at a lovely table wth good views....but its right next to the music speakers or right next to the kitchen entrance, either way theyre planned evening long catch up on what each other have been doing ends up being a real struggle and is deemed most unenjoyable, sure the food was good but 'we didnt get a chance to talk over the noise, we're never going there again' .

    Another group of 15, same scenario book at another eatery and are asked the reason for the booking, there are then purposefully put in a quiet area of the restaurant, not great views but they can talk to their hearts content all evening, the food isnt perfect either, maybe even the service isnt great, but you know what, the 15 had a whale of a time reliving each others memories and vow to eat there again often 'for old times sake' .

    People dont go to restaurants for the food, they have food at home.
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  • Profile picture of the author zenyatta
    Lots of great ideas!!

    I would start building your SMS list NOW. Take advantage of the boardwalk 2 blocks away by handing out flyers/postcards with mobile coupon offers or even a sweepstakes with a free dinner and other various offers if they join your VIP Text Club.

    I would also cross market with complementary businesses. Network with night clubs, hair salons, spas, fishing charters, hotels, and any upscale non competitive business that caters to upscale clients you are trying to attract. Offer them future use of your marketing list or discounted/free dinners.

    Work with nearby professional businesses and offer 10% off for 1 person, 20% off for 2 people, or 30% off for 3 or more people so you can try to attract everyone from that office. Adjust the discounts according to your pricing strategies.

    With all your great ideas I would avoid Groupon and the 30-50% you would have given them. This way you can be offer better/more discounts to your future loyal customer base that you will build quickly.

    Good Luck with the Grand Opening!
    Zenyatta
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  • Profile picture of the author Mary Wilhite
    Offline marketing is very similar to online marketing, either way, word of mouth is one of the best forms of advertising there is, but a huge part of that involves getting to know the people around you.
    Online, that might mean joining and actively participating in groups and forums. Offline that could be taking a sincere and active part in your local community. The more active you become in your local community, the more people get to know you and your business naturally. I WILL DEFINITELY SEE YOU AT THE TOP! you could do with alot of giveaways like toys for kids,discount coupon,etc
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