In my experience, I’ve found a few major hurdles that new, existing, and down trending store units must overcome in order to succeed in their trading area:
- Getting your team, or an extension of your team, outside the four walls of your unit to promote your establishment.
- Creating community awareness – just because you’re there, doesn’t mean people know you’re there.
- Competing in your market, knowing that promotions such as the $5 value meal is stoking competition for share of wallet.
I get it. As a franchise owner-manager, you’re swamped. You’re trying to run operations, teach and empower your team, ensure cleanliness and efficiency, and keep up with all the standards of your franchise brand. But that leaves you with little to no time to leave your store and promote your brand to neighbors and the greater community.
Sure, maybe you’ve been up and down your strip mall to introduce yourself to the business owners next door. But that’s probably five or six businesses, at best. People could be working three blocks away from your business but may never know you exist because they turn right when they leave work, instead of going left to drive by your establishment. The restaurant industry is ultra-competitive these days, and as a result, consumers not knowing that you exist is not as far-fetched as you think.
So how do you get out there, find time to promote your business, and let people know you’re there? Here are four tactics I’ve used time and time again to ensure brand awareness and visibility and drive traffic through doors.
- Business-to-Business Canvassing Campaigns – I find these campaigns to be key, especially in densely populated business areas where there are many multi-tenant office spaces. Hiring a small team of brand ambassadors to go door-to-door of businesses to introduce, or re-introduce, your brand and location can help drive foot traffic immensely. Especially if you provide the right special offer. Remember, employees are consumers too, and they have families that like to eat out!
- Street Teams – Great for more retail-focused spaces like a mall, strip mall, or outlet mall. Employ a handful of brand ambassadors to canvas outside in the trading area and engage with shoppers. You can incorporate data capture and lead generation aspects as well, so your brand can reach back out via email or text. Maybe you do a digital scratch-off on iPads for shoppers to win a secret prize or submit their phone number in order to receive a special offer via text message. I’ve even validated special prize winners by having a brand ambassador drive them into the store to decode what they’ve won.
- B2B and Community Samplings – These perform well anywhere from farmers markets to soccer tournaments to fairs and festivals, because almost no one will turn down a free sample, especially if it’s food. I’ve done everything from handing out free orange chicken samples from a branded truck to sampling burgers at a community event to highlighting a unit grand opening; you guessed it, special offers were distributed to drive foot traffic back into stores on a future visit.
- Sign Shaking – You’ve all seen the people on the corner of busy intersections reminding drivers that they offer $19 oil changes or the furniture store is having a sale. But do you wonder if they actually drive any foot traffic? The secret is, they really do! With the right, concise message, sign shakers can actually drive quite a lot of foot traffic. And that right message all depends on the offer you provide. Consumers love a good special offer, whether it’s a free trinket or a small discount.
The key with all of these tactics is to drive people into the unit. That’s the hardest part is to get people to stop in, experience your special sauce as a franchise, and to enjoy a meal.
You’ll notice all of my tips involve two highly recommended tactics:
- Employing a small group of temporary staffers to get the word out, and
- Providing a special offer to entice foot traffic.
You don’t have the time to go canvas office buildings or drive around a sample truck yourself, and you need your staff to run your shop. But working with an outside company or agency to hire a brand ambassador team for a few days can work wonders for your foot traffic in store. These companies will work hard to assemble the perfect team of brand ambassadors to represent your unit. They’ll train them in what to say, provide scripts and sample conversations, ensure they’ll be ready on the day they show up to work, and more. A brand ambassador agency’s job is to provide a seamless experience for you, and to drive impactful engagement for your brand.
And as for what your brand ambassadors will offer to entice foot traffic in your unit, this is where the special offers play a key role. It’s up to you what you can manage and ultimately afford to offer, but sometimes it doesn’t take much – 10-percent off, a free breakfast sandwich, buy one get one half-off, the deal options are endless. People love a free cookie or a catering offer for their office’s next employee gathering! Experiment with these and find what works, but always offer something to get people in the door. The payback will be tenfold.