You’re up for taking action and doing what it takes to substantially build your sales, right?
When building out top-line programs such as catering or food delivery, your approach should primarily encompass in-store salesmanship, door-to-door sales canvassing, and methodically utilizing all of your communication platforms. I think we can agree there, right?
What I’m proposing is a supplementary tactic that shows your neighbors how much you care and also sets the groundwork for a significant relationship. The “flash drive intro” gives neighboring businesses a memento worth holding onto that provides all of the information that they could possibly need about your restaurant.
This program involves a leader from your brand going to strategic businesses and telling them that you have a special offer for them and then giving the prospect a USB flash drive that has the following:
A video tour of your operation.
An FAQ video or flier.
Your catering menu.
Your full menu.
Applicable contact information.
As a quick back story, I’m a bootstrapper, so our team started buying flash drives in bulk off of Amazon for $2 a pop to test this program. Since this initiative worked extremely well, we started to buy flash drives in larger quantities that were branded with our logo and we used a marker to delineate where the flash drive needed to be delivered.
Additionally, we found out quickly that the tour video was too long and ended up shortening it to one minute and 30 seconds coupled with a powerful call-to-action at the beginning and end. To see one of the original versions of this program, please feel free to check out this link, bit.ly/FlashDriveSales.
In case you’re wondering why this method works so well, this is what recipients of the flash drive program have told me in the past:
1. The tour video was customized for their business (side note- only the first 30 seconds was shot for them). Since the video was created by the team rather than a video production company or an ad agency, the video exhibited more care and a genuine interest in building a relationship.
2. They felt like they were “insiders” that had a relationship and an understanding of the business that most people didn’t.
3. The flash drive is engaging and concisely tells them everything that they want to know about doing business with you. If they have questions, they now have the contact information to follow-up.
4. They’ll hang onto the flash drive and use it for other files. It’s a useful gift that can be used rather than the paper menus that stay in the administrative assistant’s top drawer.
5. The flash drive is always in sight at the front desk and serves as a constant reminder of your kindness, generosity, and how vested you are in the people that you serve.
One final note: I know that you’re probably thinking that you could easily just upload this information to a cloud-based service such as Dropbox or Google Drive and send them a link. I don’t disagree with you. The only way to know for sure is to split-test both options and compare which is garnering more quality customers (i.e. who does more business with you and is easiest to work with). No matter what you choose, take action, and make it happen!
I mean that really and truly. I believe that you are, and frankly, you should be.
If this is the case, I highly recommend providing full tours of your operations as this method should be one of the best marketing tools that you have at your disposal.
Why would you do this?
Tours give you the opportunity to tell your story from a holistic point of view and provide your customers a deeper understanding about who you are and why you do what you do.
The problem is that most restaurant pros go through the motions with tours and don’t make them exciting. Your inherent opportunity with tours is creating a presentation that is so excellent that customers feel compelled to tell everyone that they know about the experience.
People have short attention spans by and large. Adults can’t pay attention for more than 20 minutes, and in the wake of the social internet, that length of time is more like 15 seconds. All jokes aside, my suggestion to you is to focus on continually improving your tour’s level of excitement, education, and entertainment (3E).
Here are my ten best practices for touring that I have developed through years of trial and error:
1. Schedule customer tours via email and your online calendar system. Copy the customer and other pertinent leaders in the “Add Guests” section of your online calendar event so that the team knows how many customers are coming, when they’re coming, and who the customers are. This type of organization assists with internal communication and allows leadership to garner additional context to personalize the customer experience when the customer(s) come for their tour.
2. Let your BOH team know that you will be bringing customers through the kitchen five minutes before the tour begins. Obviously, your operation should always be immaculate but making the team aware allots them time to tidy up.
3. Encourage the customers to take out their phones, take a lot of pictures, and ask them to share their photos on social media and tag your restaurant. If you feel comfortable, invite customers to record you or even live stream the tour. Every single connection matters.
4. Ask engaging questions every minute and have trivia handy. No one wants to listen to someone talk at them for 20 minutes (especially children). The more you involve the customers; the more fun everyone is going to have.
5. Have a candid photo opportunity spot and volunteer to take a photo of the group. You may wish to incorporate a backdrop or signage for the customers to hold. Don’t forget to incorporate a unique hashtag to help spread your brand equity on social media!
6. Allow customers to use your equipment and get an idea of how your operations work. In the past, I’ve let customers hand punch a potato, spin a milkshake, and even take a drive-thru order. There’s obviously liability with this approach so let customers do whatever you’re comfortable with. At the end of the day, it’s all about making their experience memorable and worth talking about.
7. Provide product samples and offer a sneak peek at products that you’re developing. Everyone loves to get a little taste of food and feel like they have insider knowledge.
8. Stage team members in ways that will both surprise and delight customers. I’ve had the kitchen give the touring group a round of applause, instituted secret handshakes, and had team members sitting in “time out” at random points on the tour. These tactics never cease to make a customer smile and have a better overall experience.
9. Provide a gift for the customers to take home with them. In the past, I’ve given out hats, t-shirts, a drink for the road, a bounceback card, or a custom magnetic pin to commemorate their experience.
10. Practice! It’s important to refine your presentation with team members and objectively grade other leaders on their tours. Everyone will get better as a result.
Those best practices are just scratching the surface and I know that you can come up with better ideas and make tours more exciting for your customers and your team.
The personal connection and insider look at operations can’t be replaced by virtually any other methodology. Therefore, take the time to commit to this practice and perform with excellence so that you can reap the benefits!
A youtil-a-what? A youtility is a local group, social media account, or service that you create which provides substantial value to the community but is not directly tied to your business. My mentor’s good friend, Jay Baer, coined this term and he wrote a fantastic book about its principles.
A “youtility” can come in the form of a networking group, business masterminding meeting, a community service or helpful, local blogging. Whatever type of group you choose, just ensure that it provides value to the community and that there are people interested in meeting around the topic as your restaurant will be the meeting place. The benefits of this approach are vast but here is a list of the top five advantages that you will accrue:
Build team’s leadership and organizational skills.
Promote goodwill within the community.
Influencers will have context with your operations.
Relationships with strategic communal verticals.
A formula that can be applied to more local groups.
Tools to Create a Youtility
Let’s say that you want to create a communal group, the first thing that you’ll need to establish is how the members prefer to communicate. For example, I run food blogging groups that repost other bloggers’ pictures of lesser known restaurants and dishes on Instagram and Facebook.
We also wrote food reviews on our blog and built our email and text message marketing lists through our website to communicate about events that we were hosting (which saw thousands of people pay to attend).
Ultimately, the audience knew that my food blogging group was a trusted source for finding unique local options and that restaurants couldn’t just buy their way into placement like most of the other industry sources.
Here are the tools that I recommend that you utilize as you go to create your own communal groups and bring them into your restaurant:
Meetup- Be clear about what your group does and how it benefits the members. Promote your group on personal social media accounts, ask friends that would be interested in what you’re meeting around to attend, and network with similar groups to interest their members in joining your group as well. Meetup also allows for emails to be sent to all of the group members so take advantage of this feature!
Facebook group- Start a group rather than a business page so that members are automatically informed of group updates in their status notifications. You should also create “Events” for any get together that you’re hosting at your restaurant and encourage group members to invite other people that might like to come by sending the event invitation to them.
Ticket Distribution- If you’d like a hard count on who will be attending an event, use a free resource such as EventBrite.com or EventSmart.com. You can also sell tickets for events through these websites if you want to ensure that attendees are vested in coming but please be aware that there are transactional charges. If you have your own website built on a platform such as WordPress, you can splurge on a plugin such as Event Tickets Plus (theeventscalendar.com).
LinkedIn group- The advantage with a LinkedIn group is that you can communicate with the group once per week via email and it has a much more professional setting than any of the other mediums. If you’re looking to prospect local influencers from the business realm, then you’ll certainly want to communicate via this platform. Be clear about how the group operates and update the group regularly via your weekly email and “Conversations” wall. For a complete overview on how to start and lead a successful LinkedIn group, here’s a tutorial that I made for you: bit.ly/StartingLinkedInGroups.
Other platforms- You can also utilize other communication mediums such as Instagram, Snapchat, Google Plus or YouTube. However, unless you’re an expert at using these platforms, I would only recommend using the tools mentioned above and concentrate your efforts on hosting a remarkable event which will be covered in the next section.
Organizing the New Group
To ensure that group members come back and tell others, it falls on the group leader to sufficiently engage and entertain them at events. To organize the group members, I thoroughly recommend instituting the “211D Rule” which is a communication method where a series of four emails are sent out two (2) weeks before, one (1) week before, one (1) day before, and the day (D) of the event.
It also helps to send out an online calendar event invitation and make sure that you copy all of the attendees’ email addresses under the “Add Guests” section. If you don’t already have the email addresses of the group members, make sure that you collect this information via Google Form as part of the sign-in process when attendees arrive at your restaurant for the event.
Entertainment is simply a matter of making people feel welcome, appreciated, and a part of something bigger than themselves. You may choose to hang a banner, publicly recognize the group at the restaurant, give private tours, offer samples of new products, or organize different activities and games for the group to play.
If you’re unsure about how to get started, ask other local group leaders what they do to engage their members and attend events with an open mind aboutwhat you can learn and how you would optimize them. Ultimately, attendees will always accrue value when they have fun, meet other influencers, and feel a sense of community.
LinkedIn groups have completely changed as of the beginning of 2016. In the olden days, there were subgroups where you can delineate conversations. This is no longer the case and there are now only two primary walls for communications, “Conversations” and “Jobs.” Regardless, there are a few reasons why starting a group will be beneficial to you:
You will be seen as a leader within the particular vertical.
You’re able to position yourself as the focal point of connection when you go to introduce people that can provide value to other members.
Organizing people, facilitating conversations, and curating content further positions your leadership and skills.
You will have the ability to directly email the members once per week (opportunity to make the group aware of what you do for a living).
You can grow your overall network by adding all of your group members as connections.
Groups are a big time undertaking between promoting the group, moderation, adding content, engaging the members, and serving as a communication catalyst. However, if you’re willing and able to create 3-5 hours per week, there’s no reason why you can’t create your own group and strategically grow your network. Ultimately, people join groups because they’re looking to accrue some type of value, meet like-minded people, and grow their overall network. Remember these factors when you go to build a group.
Choosing the type of group that you want to create depends on the type of value that you, and the people that you’re looking to serve, are searching for. What most people misconstrue is that the group has to be directly related to your area of expertise or job.
For example, if you’re a professional speaker, it would be great to form a group for other speakers where they’re able to share useful speaking educational resources. That would build goodwill within your network but would it directly benefit you though? Would speakers necessarily be coming to you with speaking opportunities? Perhaps they would partner or share the spotlight but they certainly wouldn’t be looking to give to you as they have to look out for themselves first.
What if, instead, you made a group for event planners that are constantly on the hunt for top-notch speakers? What pain or problem can you help them with? It could be that event planners just want recommendations for helpful information from other event planners or a directory or resources without being beaten down by professional speakers that incessantly pitch for gigs.
I firmly recommend thinking about the type of people that you’re hoping to attract and why they would want to be engaged with the group on a daily basis. Please remember that you’re not creating a group just to receive as you’ll be sorely disappointed with the results if this is the case. When you go to give abundantly without looking for anything in return, you’ll receive much more down the line by remaining patient and generous.
Make the rules clear
People need structure and order. In fact, they might not explicitly state it but they desire order. This is not to say that you should start spanking the members of your group and sending them into time-out. I’m pretty sure that’s a misdemeanor. My point is that there is a lot of self-promotion and virtually useless information pushed at LinkedIn members. All they’re trying to find is genuine connection and value so why not give it to them?
Be very explicit in the rules section, description, onboarding communications, and weekly communications about what members should and should not be doing. As it was mentioned earlier, unfortunately there are no subgroups and the only two walls for communication are “Conversations” and “Jobs.” Regardless, I recommend setting one wall for connecting to other members of the group and the other for helpful resources. For instance, your rules would state that the “conversations” wall is for sharing resources and the “jobs” wall is the place to introduce yourself and what you can do for the other members of the group.
I typically create a quick one minute video to show people around and make sure that I send them a message with the video that makes new members feel welcome and helps them get acclimated quickly. If you’re interesting in seeing me create a group from scratch, check out the video below.
Growing the group
Unfortunately LinkedIn makes the same mistake with group invitations as they do with connection requests. LinkedIn automatically populates a default message (which cannot be changed) that gets ignored like the plague. The default message says, “[Your Name] invites you to join [group name] on LinkedIn.” Based on my experience, I’ve seen up to a 45% acceptance rate when I send a personal message and I have never eclipsed a 10% acceptance rate by broadcasting the generic invite. In other words, everyone ignores the one tool that LinkedIn gives you to grow your group so it’s imperative that you get a little bit smarter with how you build. Here are a few best practices for steadily growing your group (don’t forget to ask the members to replicate the same actions):
Derivative groups- Approach groups with related interests and ask to build a mutually beneficial partnership by cross-promoting your groups to one another. Most groups that are in direct competition will see this a threat to their community which is why you have to look at related interests that aren’t necessarily a conflict. For example, a group aimed at sharing best practices for physical marketing collateral would probably be interested in meeting a group of event planners as the two groups of people need what the other has.
Personal invites- Send personalized invites via direct message to tell others succinctly what they stand to gain by joining your group. In your ongoing communications, ask your members to replicate this message. Every group member should bring at least three more!
Mass email- Use this very sparingly, if at all. Go to “Your Connection Export Settings” and download the contact information of your LinkedIn connections into a .csv file. Only invite the people that you know your group would provide a lot of value to. BCC all of the recipients and try to make this email as personal as possible. A canned message is going to be ignored and will not bode well for your reputation. I recommend sending this message on a one to one message but if you insist on mass emailing then at least make it look organic.
Your LinkedIn profile- List the link for your group in your profile and/or headline (use a goo.gl or bit.ly link shortener) and emphasize the value that the group members receive.
Your web properties- Promote your group via your social media channels, email signature, website, and virtually anywhere else where potential members will see your value proposition and would be interested in joining.
Finally, you may want to buy a URL for your group so that you can easily tell others about it. For example, if you had a group called, “LI Direct Sales” (you’re not allowed to have the word “LinkedIn” included in your title) then you could buy LinkedInDirectSales.com and redirect it to your group. This would make your group much easier to tell others about and spread to others. By the way, that URL is available as of the time of this writing so please feel free to snag it if you’re interested.
As it was mentioned before, consistent communications are arguably the most important component with groups. The good news is that LinkedIn makes it very convenient to onboard new members, keep members engaged, and remove people that simply don’t know how to follow the rules. Go to your “Manager Settings” and ensure that you have the following communication templates established:
Request-to-join (RTJ) message- A prospective group member will receive this message shortly after they apply to join your group. I recommend being very explicit about what you would like prospective members to do before and after they’re accepted. Some groups choose to have its prospective members send an email to a specific address to validate the email account (which also captures your information and is super smart). Others will ask you to join or follow their accounts on other social media networks which is another great move. At the very least, emphasize what the new member will have to do in order to stay in the group and be aware of the group rules.
Welcome message- This can be similar to your RTJ message where you make people feel at home and well aware what they’re being asked to do. This way, members will be clear about how to stay in the group and appreciate the ongoing value that the group has to offer.
Decline message– Be specific as to why someone may have been denied admittance to the group and encourage the applicant to reapply if they’re able to change or fix the components that may have led to the denial. You may also want to list your contact information if they wish to appeal their case.
Decline and block– This is a message that will be sent to people that simply cannot be allowed in the group no matter what. For example, if you organized a group solely for event planners and a professional speaker tried to enter the group, they can’t be allowed in because they do not fit the criteria. Again, offering your contact information if they have any questions is an option to list here.
One of the most important components is keeping your group top of mind by sending out a weekly recap email. I recommend formatting this email as a newsletter that highlights all of the happenings with your community. I like my weekly email to showcase the newest members (with a quick back story and their LinkedIn URL to connect with them), include links to the most useful discussions of the week, feature one “member of the week,” and have one “resource of the week” which is a link to the most useful bit of information. Personally, I’m a proponent of video so I send my message out with all of this information in a text format with a link to a video at the top.
All you need to do to send out a weekly announcement is go to this link: https://www.linkedin.com/manageGroup?dispAnnounce=&gid=[YOURGROUPNUMBER]&trk=grp_mgrsenda. Obviously you’ll need to replace [YOUR GROUP NUMBER] with your own seven digit group number without the brackets. Draft your message and then send away! Don’t forget to setup a calendar reminder so that you remember to consistently send this message out. When you recognize people and provide useful information, this email will become the best part of the members’ week.
If you’re going to position yourself as a connector, it’s important that you follow the same formula in order to scale your success. Think about the last time that someone made an introduction to someone else for you. There’s a pretty good chance that the intro was less than stellar and/or didn’t go anywhere. If you’re anything like me then you’ve receive at least two weekly “introductions” from a friend (which you didn’t ask for) and the connection that they make ends up being a salesperson that would “love the opportunity to just take 15 minutes of your time to tell you what they can do for you.” By and large, this is ineffective and a waste of everyone’s time. Here is the exact formula that I use for every single one of my introductions and it works like a charm to accrue value and establish lasting relationships:
Contact both sides either in person, over the phone or via email (I prefer it in that order for contextual reasons). Be very clear about why you’re introducing the two sides, when you’re going to make the introduction, and what the next step(s) will encompass.
Make a quick email intro and reiterate why you’re introducing the connections along with a quick back story about how you know each person. End the email by being clear about which person needs to follow up.
Create a Google Calendar reminder to follow-up with both sides one week after you’ve made the intro to gauge how the conversation went. Here you’ll be able to tell if you’re providing the aforementioned value as a connector as well as who you can depend and who you can’t.
Introductions within your group will make you look like a superstar that provides a lot of value. Connecting is arguably the most valuable piece of running a successful group. The reason why is because when people form genuine relationships around you and your group then they’ll always be willing to help down the line.
Why start from scratch?
If you can’t necessarily find a niche to create a group for, why not approach an existing group? Moderating, creating content, curating content, and connecting are all tiresome responsibilities for group administrators and they’re always looking for help in these areas. Try joining some up and coming groups where you know that you can help the members and approach the organizers with an offer to help them in these capacities. Now you have the ability to leverage a lot of the brand equity that has been established without having to do all of the upfront work.
This is very easy to accomplish. Want to watch me do it? Check out the video below.
We’ve invited all of our clients, we’re posting useful resources, and no one is paying attention. What a waste of time!
This is what a recent financial client emphatically stated to me about their Facebook page. I suppose you would feel the same if you had 1,394 “fans,” 67 of which even saw your latest APR calculator post, and only two took their precious time to give you a thumbs up. Yes, every connection matters, and obviously engagement doesn’t happen overnight. However, this sort of “failure” is frustrating to say the least.
…So what should you do instead?
Keep your brand’s social media accounts (the overhaul is a topic for another day) and allocate the time to create an account that serves as a helpful resource. This isn’t a new approach either. This is the exact formula that Guinness used to create the Book of World Records and that Michelin used to create their famous guide.
It doesn’t matter what your industry is or who you’re trying to reach. This simply encompasses a little bit of critical thought and creativity.
There are two keys here:
Create something valuable which will become synonymous with your brand.
Remember that you won’t see an immediate return. This resource will help you over time on the platforms where the eyeballs and ears are gathering.
Let’s look at three examples to see how this works. Here’s the first:
My good friend, Sean, is the Triangle Food Guy and what he does is brilliant. Here’s his formula:
Sean is known as the source to consumers when it comes to Raleigh-Durham restaurant news. To do this, Sean asks the community to share the latest happenings with local restaurants and organizes the information into a weekly newsletter.
Restaurants, food trucks, cafès, and bakeries are all eager to get in Sean’s good graces in order to be featured on his platform.
Sean subtly mentions that he also serves as a catering intermediary. In essence, Sean coordinates catering deals between his clients (consumers that follow him) and restaurants (the ones that desperately want to be featured).
All Sean had to do was go out to help and organize some information which turned into his full-time income. Kudos to Sean!
Let’s look at another example. Julius Solaris created the Event Manager Blog (EMB) almost 10 years ago and it’s brilliant. Here’s a look at EMB’s Twitter account:
Here’s why this approach works so well:
Instead of fiercely competing for attention in the speaking world, Julius created a useful resource for the decision makers that book the events.
Julius has positioned himself as the event planning authority and subtly mentions that he can tackle speaking topics around event planning. Instead of being a “pusher” like everyone else, Julius is now a “puller.”
The speaking industry is about as cutthroat as it gets. Julius flipped the script and looked to help when everyone else aimed to take.
Finally, here’s an example of an Instagram account that I started with some colleagues:
Here’s what works about this approach:
We’re aggregating the best food pictures from around the city and recognizing the creators. The next step is to continually engage the audience and organizing events which creates “community” amongst the foodie and general Instagram audience.
Consumers know that they can follow this account to discover the most unique food joints and dishes in the Charlotte area. The problem with most accounts is that they can be bought, and thereby, are biased. As a result, restaurants are mad when they find out about the rigged game and consumers no longer trust them.
I don’t care about the monetization (see: last point). I’d rather have a relationship with the blogging and social media audiences which I may leverage in the future.
The best part is that you can leverage this approach in different verticals, on multiple platforms, and with different audiences. Get it right one time and scalability becomes a very real possibility.
What does this mean for you?
This strategy doesn’t necessitate that you go and spend $10k to build a website and hire copious amounts of labor to manager your social platforms. Start simple and do the following:
Establish what platform your targets use the most.
Figure out how you can best help them.
Subtly mention who you are and what you do over time.
The bottom line is that you don’t need to “sell” when you’ve provided value and people have learned to trust, like, and respect you. Or, you can continue to struggle with that .0014% Facebook engagement rate. My advice…