It’s the new marketing year again. Our brand’s Facebook page has grown considerably to almost one hundred thousand likes, and we have a very decent website already. We are in the food and restaurant industry, and we are not a multinational company with big budgets. For this year, it seems we are stumped on what to do. Do we just continue with our efforts in Facebook? We are looking for new ideas for 2014. Please help. - Jan S., Social Media Manager
 
Digital is the last place where you will run out of creative ideas or innovative ideas. In fact, the digital world is teeming with ideas waiting in line for execution, before they become obsolete. The challenge of digital, more often than not, is to choose the right idea that breeds the best business results.
 
Since you mentioned that you are in the food and restaurant industry, I am sure you have seen, consciously or not, that the service industry has been very aggressive with digital initiatives the past year. For one, it reached its peak with group buying sites. Restaurants, hotels, spas, among others, have partnered with group buying sites to drive awareness to their brands and traffic to their restaurants. Some have enjoyed tremendous gains from customers, while others saw their margins and profits slashed to bits. But again, this was a good exercise as we see that the concept of group buying that was wildly successful in the US was able to get enough consumption here.
 
We have also seen service brands embarking heavily into Facebook, using it to promote their new products and dishes, and promotions. Some have gone heavy into Facebook advertising, sponsored posts, and even simple applications that engage their audience base. I have seen discount coupons where people can print through an app from Facebook, and then redeemed in the store. The idea is interesting, although I am not sure this kind of execution generates good numbers. Others on the other hand, have utilized listings on websites like Clickthecity or Spot.ph, and others have tied up with bloggers to feature their new products and services.
 
Finally, I have seen a lot of experiments on mobile. Beyond the use of QR codes on coupons, we have also observed that some groups are developing mobile coupon and rewards systems to encourage store visits and purchases. All in all, we are seeing an aggressive experimentation of your industry in the different facets of digital marketing.
 
Moving forward to 2014, we expect that the service scene, particularly the restaurant segment, will remain at the forefront of digital marketing. This is because you have direct contact with your target customers, and every engagement you have, for example, if they eat there, easily translates to a testimonial, whether good or bad. So, whether you like it or not, it is important that you take your digital marketing presence more seriously. I do not expect a lot of expensive apps or websites, but I would like to commend your industry for being entrepreneurial and showing the way to multinationals on how things can be done in an efficient manner.
 
I would recommend therefore, that if you already have a working website, and since your Facebook page already has decent numbers, then focus on engaging your audience base on Facebook further. Ensure that your website is credible and provides all the information about your restaurant and your product offerings. Then use your Facebook page as the source for engaging your fans. Make sure that you post new content everyday and that you respond to every post. Thank every good review you have, and thank also the bad reviews you may have, and tell them that you will do better.
 
However, do not forget your marketing fundamentals as they are more important. What is your business goal for this year and how does digital fit?  Break your year into months, analyze seasonalities and dayparts, and then look at how you can use digital to help you with your business goals. Do not do ad hoc digital initiatives, but focus more on how digital can fit into your overall business goals and marketing strategies.


 
Donald Lim is the Chief Digital Marketing Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., the country’s leading marketing and sales training company. He will be conducting the 12th Digital Marketing Plan Seminar on February 26-27, 2014. For more information, email info@mansmith.net, call (+63-2) 584-5858 / 412-0034 or text (+63) 918-81-168-88. We are also happy to answer any marketing, sales and strategy questions sent to mentors@mansmith.net.