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National Restaurant Association - Relevancy, customization keys to online marketing success

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Relevancy, customization keys to online marketing success

Restaurant companies that engage in online marketing are viewed by consumers as more sophisticated than other brands that don't, industry veterans and social media marketing experts said recently at the 2012 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago.

"Consumers think customized online marketing enhances a restaurant brand's image," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA's Research & Knowledge Group. "Using online marketing makes those brands appear more upscale than those who don't use it," he added.

Nevertheless, Riehle said, it is imperative that restaurateurs who engage in social media and other online marketing tools do it correctly, without annoying any of their current or future customers in any way.

"Those who engage in online marketing must make sure there are no potential annoyances to their customers," Riehle noted.

According to Mandy Cole, senior vice president of sales for LivingSocial, a national online marketer and social media company, stressed to session attendees that using social media tools requires the restaurateur to ensure he or she is targeting the right audience and that the customers like and want the messages being sent to them.

"It's not just about being there [in the space], but also the message you're delivering," she said.

Cole suggested some tips to ensure successful online marketing:

• Customize the message; know the customers' names

• Be relevant

• Remember the customers' preferences

• Offer them savings

"Collect their information so you can send out emails telling them about specials and savings," she said. "Also, make sure your message is relevant to their lives. It has to be meaningful.

The panel, which was held last week, also featured James Balda, the NRA's chief marketing and communications officer, as well as restaurateurs Troy Guard of Tag restaurant in Denver, and Christopher Badger of Freshii in Washington, D.C. It further focused on just-released research that was conducted by the NRA in partnership with LivingSocial. The study was released May 7, during the show.

The full research report provides information on "How to tailor your message and watch your business grow," a quick-tips guide, and "Online, Offline: Integrated Marketing Connects With Consumers," a concise summary of key research findings.

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