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How to Use Location-Based Mobile Marketing to Promote Your Restaurant or Bar


By Rieva Lesonsky, AllBusiness.com

Location-based mobile marketing is a growing trend—and for owners of independent restaurants or bars, it can be a great way to reach your customers when they’re on the go (and hungry or thirsty).

This year, 2.18 billion people are expected to use mobile phone messaging apps and that number is expected to grow to 2.48 billion in 2021. As text-addicted Generation Z grows up, mobile marketing will become indispensable for small business owners.


Location-based mobile marketing basics

Location-based mobile marketing taps into geographic information about mobile phone users’ locations, then delivers messages relevant to them. A restaurant might message a customer passing by with an offer for a free appetizer, for example.

There are several different ways to send mobile messages: You can use text messages, push notifications, or in-app messaging (such as within Facebook Messenger). Whichever mode you choose, be sure you’ve obtained customers’ permission before sending them messages.

Using “geofencing,” location-based mobile marketing draws a perimeter around a certain area, such as within a one-mile radius of your bar. When customers enter the perimeter, a message is triggered. This ensures you only message customers at relevant times. (Messaging a customer about your lunch specials when they’re out of town on a business trip will only frustrate them—and they might stop coming to your restaurant.)

Location-based mobile messaging can also be used to make customers feel welcomed as they come in the door. You can greet them via message and point out some new menu items they might like based on past orders. Getting a message like this enhances customer loyalty by making them feel special. Just make sure your staff is welcoming in person, too!

Want to try something a little bit devious? Geo-conquesting lets you target customers who get within a certain range of your competition. Is your pizza parlor in a battle for supremacy with the other one in town? Next time customers get within a few blocks of your competition, send them an irresistible offer and watch them make tracks for your pies.


Best practices for location-based mobile marketing

Try these tips for more successful location-based marketing:

Offer free stuff. A free dessert or appetizer with an entrée is usually more appealing to customers than a percentage off. It also benefits your bottom line because the diner is still paying full price for the meal.

Boost traffic during slow times. You don’t need more people in your bar on St. Patrick’s Day, but on a random rainy Tuesday night, you may wish for more customers. That’s when limited-time offers delivered by mobile messaging can pay off. Try a two-hour window for the special deals to get customers hurrying in.

Design your messages for the weather. Offer hot soup on a rainy day or an ice-cold beer in the dog days of August to attract more customers.

Tempt to customers’ appetites. Go beyond plain text: A mouthwatering image of a yummy menu item or specialty drink can drive customers in the door.

Don’t overwhelm them. If you message too often or send offers of too little value, customers will decide your communications aren’t worth it. Choose a solution that lets you track customer response and set the perfect messaging cadence for the individual customer based on how they interact with your messages.


Get help with location-based mobile marketing

Search online for companies that provide location-based marketing services for small business. Another option: Use existing messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger to communicate with customers.

Bigger small businesses (such as multilocation bars or restaurants) might decide to invest in building a mobile app. This can help grow a restaurant business by enabling quick and easy online ordering and even letting customers pay within the app.



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