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Vendasta’s Song Rattanavong on how to sell digital marketing packages to restaurants

Creating digital marketing packages represents a solid growth opportunity for agencies and other digital experts that work with businesses in the restaurant industry, given the rising importance of reviews, listings, and social media in attracting diners.

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Research compiled by TripAdvisor-Ipsos found 94 percent of Americans are influenced by online reviews when deciding on a restaurant, cafe, or pub. The number is comparable to other countries, with France at 90 percent and the United Kingdom at 87 percent.

But online reviews don’t just dictate which restaurants people select. It impacts how much they spend. For example, positive comments from customers produce an average increase in sales of 18 percent. Conversely, 22 percent of consumers won’t buy a product or service after reading just one negative review (Small Business Trends).

Vendasta’s Director of Vendor Management Song Rattanavong discusses the key elements that make for compelling digital marketing packages and how agencies can position and sell their offering to meet the service requirements and budgets of local restaurant clients.

Understand a restaurant’s pain points

In order to create and sell digital marketing packages to restaurants, you must first convince a business owner that they need your services or how you can solve their pain points better than your rivals.

Let’s walk through the common challenges restaurants, cafes, and pubs face in their quest to impress in the online world.

Pain point #1: Managing multiple listings

The internet today is resembling something quite like an urban sprawl—where people find information is constantly extending into new frontiers beyond the big city of Google. While this democratization of information is great for consumers, it creates a pain point in that local business owners need to maintain accurate information across different parts of the web.

“Restaurants are typically listed not only on directories, social media sites, and search engine sites, but they’re also listed on industry-specific sites,” Rattanavong explains.

“What a lot of these restaurants have found is that, especially due to COVID and labor shortages, their hours have been changing all the time and it’s becoming a nightmare to manually update that information on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor and so on.” “Now agencies don’t want to do this manually either. So they need to come in with a solution that helps restaurants manage all that information across multiple sites from one central portal,” he continues.

Thus, to stand out from the competition, Rattanavong says it’s important agency owners come to the table with a solution that lets restaurateurs simplify how they claim and manage their listings data from one place.

Pain point #2: Monitoring and responding to reviews

For restaurants, not responding to reviews is no longer an option. But some business owners don’t know that, while others simply don’t have the time.

Many restaurants get hundreds of reviews each month. They need help streamlining the process of responding to and monitoring reviews across multiple websites
Song Rattanavong

Director of Vendor Management, Vendasta

Consider the consequences of leaving online reviews, both positive and negative, unattended:

  • 32 percent of consumers would stop buying from a brand after a bad experience, even if they liked that brand (PWC).
  • 83 percent of customers agree that they feel more loyal to brands that respond and resolve their complaints (Khoros).
  • 41 percent of people feel noticed by companies that respond to their online reviews, and this creates a positive impression that the company cares about its customers (Bazaarvoice).

Rattanavong agrees it’s the case that not responding to reviews can put customers off, especially if they’ve taken the time to provide constructive feedback. That’s why agencies should educate their restaurant clients that responding to reviews is part of good customer care and helps them earn repeat business and win new customers.

“If it’s a positive review, you want to thank your customers for the review because it sells you better than you can and it also gets customers to come back into the restaurant,” he says.

He continues, “As far as negative reviews go, ensuring you’re responding to them shows that you care about those customers’ experiences, so it could possibly attract more customers to visit your restaurant.”

Importantly, Rattanavong encourages agencies to market the search engine optimization (SEO) benefits as part of their digital marketing package pitch.

“From an SEO standpoint, reviews help increase the restaurant’s search rank as Google factors in how much a business is engaging with its customers. Responding to reviews is one of the main ways to do that,” he says.

Pain point #3: Social marketing and sourcing new reviews

While managing listings and reviews are often straightforward and reactionary tasks, arguably the most challenging component of managing a restaurant’s digital strategy is social marketing and customer feedback.

Reviews don’t write themselves. Restaurant owners need help getting a decent amount of traffic through the door in order to be able to ask customers to tell the online world about their experience (and start that virtuous cycle of more reviews leading to more customers).

“Restaurants, especially if they’re new on the market, need to get in front of customers by creating their social media presence, posting quality content, and using digital advertising to ensure they’re being seen on feeds,” Rattanvong says.

“However, they don’t have the time to take pictures, do all that creative copywriting, schedule posts, and make sure they’ve done it within best practices for each platform. That’s where an agency can really showcase their expertise with a social marketing and digital ads plan as part of their digital marketing packages,” says Rattanavong.

How to build digital marketing packages for the restaurant industry?

Digital marketing packages should aim to solve a restaurateur’s pain points in a way that’s simple, centralized, and cost effective.

The last thing a business owner needs at the end of a busy day is to log in to Google, then Yelp, then TripAdvisor, and so on in order to monitor and respond to each review, update their hours, and post content on social media.

As a practical example, Rattanavong says agencies who partner with Vendasta tend to re-sell digital marketing packages to the restaurant industry comprising three interrelated products:

  1. Reputation Management Software: This allows restaurants to monitor and respond to customer feedback from 100+ sites, receive email alerts for each new review, benchmark their ratings against competitors and measure overall sentiment from customers.
  2. Local Citation Building: This enables restaurants to claim and manage their local business listings from one place and make updates to all of that listings data (including business hours or location) with one click.
  3. White Label Social Media Marketing: This tool helps plan, schedule, and publish content on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and more in order to engage and build a loyal audience, all from one place.

He explains that agencies pitch these digital marketing packages as part of the “foundational solutions” designed to help restaurants strengthen their online presence.

“It’s really about making the phone ring and the door swing. It’s framing these solutions as digital marketing packages that help increase search rank, which in turn increases foot traffic and web traffic. That’s how the agency would position it,” he says.

How should digital marketing packages be priced?

Pitching and selling digital marketing packages is often straightforward given business owners often understand the reality of why their online presence is important.

The harder part for agencies is how to tailor and price their service offering in order to meet the requirements and budgets of local business owners.

Rattanavong suggests digital marketing packages can be built in three ways, outlined below:

Package #1: Do-it-yourself (DIY)

The simplest and low touch of all service offerings, DIY is where an agency simply re-sells foundational solutions (Reputation Management, Listings Builder, and Social Marketing) to a client, educates them on how to best use it, sets up one-off response templates and leaves the restaurant to its own devices.

Vendasta’s partners typically price DIY packages at $99–$199 per month and aim to capture a profit margin of about 50 percent.

“This is affordable for the business owner and doesn’t require any extra work such as responding to reviews or crafting social posts,” Rattanavong says.

Package #2: Do-it-with-me (DIWM)

In DIWM, an agency handles some of the actual workload for the restaurant. This may include:

  • Responding to reviews on the client’s behalf
  • Making updates to listings information
  • Posting content the client creates for Facebook and Instagram

Because someone from the agency is required to handle these tasks, the price needs to be higher. Typically, Vendasta’s partners charge at minimum $499 per month for DIWM and aim for a margin of over 50 percent.

“The advantage of DIWM is that it’s not that much more labor intensive, but it can add to revenue and margin for the agency because they’re doing some of the work themselves,” Rattanavong says.

Package #3: Do-it-for-me (DIFM)

DIFM are the highest-return, highest-effort digital marketing packages as they entail handling every digital marketing task for the restaurant.

This offering could include complex tasks such as:

  • Working with the client to create and continuously refine their holistic digital marketing strategy
  • Taking photos and videos and writing copy about the restaurant’s offerings
  • Creating a cadence of weekly posts on social media
  • Managing their digital advertising budget
  • Finding business listing websites to list on
  • Coming up with ideas to encourage customers to post more reviews

“While DIFM offers the highest earnings potential, an agency needs to carefully think through whether they have the time and capability to deliver this level of service to one client,” Rattanavong says.

“Do you have the ability to fulfill the work? Do you have content creators? Can you hire them or outsource that work to someone reliable? Do you have the time to proactively engage the client on their marketing strategy?”

The bottom line: if you offer it, make sure you can fulfill it.

3 Tips for selling digital marketing packages to restaurants

The restaurant industry is an attractive niche to target for agencies because there are many restaurants, cafes, and pubs out there, and business owners often don’t have the time to manage their own digital marketing.

In that regard, Rattanavong offers the following tips to help your agency build its reputation and scale its customer base around the food industry (and not take that juicy recurring revenue for granted).

Tip #1: Hire specialists who know the industry

One of the easiest ways to sell digital marketing packages to restaurant clients is to hire sales teams who have worked in the food industry and understand its challenges.

“If you decide to become vertical-specific, get specialists for those accounts who know how restaurants operate and can empathize with business owners during those sales conversations,” he says.

“If you have staff who know the industry and customers from the same industry, you can scale your sales messaging and how you position and calibrate tasks like review responses and social posts to be similar. That helps you become more efficient in managing those clients,” he continues.

Tip #2: Regularly communicate and provide performance updates

Restaurants, like gardens, need constant care and watering.

Don’t be that agency that sells digital marketing packages, charges money, and then does nothing after, even if you sell something as simple as a DIY package.

Don’t be that agency that a client needs to chase to understand the value they’re receiving from their marketing spend.

“Set up recurring calls with your client to stay top of mind for them,” Rattanavong suggests.

“Show them the work you’re doing for them. If you provided a DIWM or DIFM package, show them that you responded to 500 reviews, published 50 social posts and listed their restaurant across 10 new websites.”

Importantly, tools like Executive Report can be automated to be sent monthly to clients to provide proof-of-performance reporting around improvements to their online presence, ratings, quantity of reviews, and more.

Tip #3: Be prepared to upsell

If you’re doing a good job for your clients, being proactive with digital marketing packages and ideas, and regularly proving the return on investment of your work, it’s only natural that your clients will want to deepen their relationship with you (and refer you to others).

The beauty of digital marketing packages is they’re not set and forget; they can evolve.

A client may want to upgrade from a DIY to a DIWM package. Or once they’re convinced of the value of foundational solutions, they may want your help with website services, digital ad campaigns, and SMS software so they can text deals to customers.

“You always want to be one step ahead of your clients and think about what they need in the future. That’s how you cement your position as the trusted local expert they can turn to for those additional services,” Rattanavong says.

Find your recipe for digital marketing success today

In the face of stiff competition and highly visible public opinions, restaurant owners need all the help they can muster to strengthen their online presence, get found on key websites, and develop trust with customers.

From Reputation Management to Listings Builder and Social Marketing, Vendasta can provide agencies with all the ingredients they need to create tailored, simple and cost-effective digital marketing packages for local businesses looking to make a mark in their communities.

Why not check out what we have to offer today?

About the Author

Vishal Teckchandani is a Content Marketing Specialist at Vendasta. A newcomer to Canada, he spent the last 14 years of his career in Australia as a financial services reporter and TV host. He has written extensively about how technology companies are transforming business processes and lives, and interviewed the CEOs of global banking, payments, SAAS, and cloud storage providers including Afterpay, ELMO Software, Macquarie Group, National Australia Bank, NextDC, and Zip Co. When he’s not creating content, Vishal loves to cook, explore Saskatchewan with his family, and volunteer for his community.

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