- Word-of-mouth marketing sounds like it should be easy, but it actually requires time and planning.
- To get started, choose your pizzeria’s strongest selling points and figure out how to direct them into the public view.
By Megan Prevost
The landscape of marketing has changed dramatically in the digital era, but conventional wisdom has always held that word of mouth is the most effective form of advertising. There’s still a lot of truth to this—targeted social media ads are all well and good, but it’s hard to beat a story told by a friend. Spreading the word about your business takes time and planning, but the rewards are nothing to sneeze at. If you’re trying to get your restaurant’s name on everyone’s lips, consider these tips.
The First Big Step
If you’re using word of mouth to advertise for you, then you need to spread that word! Word of mouth requires a little up-front advertising. Make the best or most unique parts of what you offer public knowledge. Choose your strongest selling points and figure out how to direct them into the public view. There are countless strategies to do this, but here are a few tried-and-true methods.
- Outdoor signage. There’s no reason to go overboard—you don’t want to clash with your aesthetic—but one good eye-catching sign is a great way to send a nice, clean message. Snag a sandwich board design and set it up outside your doors, and if possible, near the street. Sandwich boards can send a clear message to prospective diners: If you’re hungry, you’re in the right place.
- Free samples. Everybody loves free food! It’s not a bad idea to break some popular dishes down into bite-sized bits, put them on a tray, and take them somewhere with a lot of foot traffic. Offer them to anyone passing by, maybe along with some free appetizer coupons. The advantage here is that you’re creating a sense memory, a moment your prospective guests will think of the next time they’re hungry.
- Flyers. If you’ve got something to advertise, flyers are an evergreen way to send your message. Just like the sandwich board, throw together a slick flyer and print up a whole mess of them. Post them around town on telephone poles, coffee shop bulletin boards, or even drop a few in hotel lobbies or waiting rooms! Flyers are always something of a scattershot approach; the more expansive your spread, the more likely your reward.
Putting your name out there is a lot of work, but, thankfully, you’re front-loading it here. The more comprehensive and protracted your ad campaign is, the more likely you’ll get the results you need. But what’s the next move?
Keep Them Talking
After all, word of mouth is what you want, right? But it’s important to realize that word of mouth isn’t as simple as it once was. Facebook posts and reviews, Instagram pictures, even Snapchat messages—in the modern era, all of these count toward word of mouth. You want people tagging you online, leaving reviews and pinging your restaurant as a popular location. Keep in mind that this step assumes you’ve already got people coming to check your business out, and you want them to talk about it.
- “You eat with your eyes first.” The old saying is more relevant than ever, with the ability to share pictures and videos of a dining experience constantly at guests’ fingertips. This is the digital version of word of mouth because it captures the unique experience of a single diner. Bearing this in mind, try and curate your interior aesthetic and food presentation thoughtfully. With some visual styling, you’ll have future diners DMing your guests to ask where they took that picture.
- Bring in professionals. If you can contact local influencers and food bloggers, invite them out for a night at your restaurant! Influencers know how to spread the word better than anyone. (After all, it’s their job.) Search for local influencers on TikTok and Instagram, get them in the loop, and let their brand of word of mouth speak above the chatter.
- Don’t overthink it. Ultimately, there’s one thing that frequently generates word-of-mouth advertising: just providing a fantastic experience. If you’re creating an excellent dining experience with great service, outstanding food and drinks, and pleasant surroundings, your guests will talk about it to others. Ask nearly anyone and they can remember the best meal they’ve eaten out with near-perfect clarity. It might be the no-brainer solution, but it’s important to remember why you’re trying to get the word out in the first place: You have something to offer.
Once you’ve got people talking about your restaurant, you’ve got the momentum you need to capitalize on it. Being the talk of the town is great, but why stop there?
Have Fun With It
Once people are talking about your business, you can dial in on specific ways that word-of-mouth advertising can work for you. For example, if you follow the advice in the previous step and collaborate with an influencer, you could give them a special discount code for online orders or that could be mentioned to a server during a dine-in experience.
You can also use your social media presence to get people talking about your business. Modern diners like brand accounts that lean into the memetic nature of humor and marketing, so don’t hesitate to play around. Do TikTok trends, send joke tweets, or post goofy Instagram stories. Even if people see your efforts as a little corny, they’ll still be talking about your business, and that means traffic, both online and in the building.
All told, if you put these pieces together into a continual strategy, you’re likely to generate plenty of word of mouth. But bear in mind that the best way to generate buzz around your business is to be persistent. Is it a lot of work? Absolutely, but the rewards you can reap from your efforts will make them completely worth your energy. Get out there and spread the word! Your future diners are waiting to tell their friends, and you’ve got the topic that will end up on everyone’s lips.
Megan Prevost is a marketing content writer for MustHaveMenus. When she’s not writing about restaurant marketing, she’s hanging out with her three cats and binging the latest television shows. Her work has appeared in App Institute, Bar Business, CLH News, FanSided, FSR, Miss Details, Modern Restaurant Management, PMQ, QSR, RestoBiz, RestoHub, Site Social SEO, Small Business Currents, and The Daily Fandom.