The right promotional idea for your deli could make a world of difference for your customer base and your business. The key is to find the promotion that makes the most sense for your deli.
David Galic of POS vendor Kounta makes a great point about the value of finding the right kind of promotion for your deli: “If you’re creative and thoughtful about your promotions, you’ll not only bring new folks through your doors, you’ll be more likely to attract the kind of folks you want to do business with—the kind that will sign up for your loyalty program and keep coming back.”
That should be the end goal for any promotion for your deli: not to simply boost sales on a single day, but to build a base of loyal customers. This is what a truly great promotion can do for you.
“A well-designed promotion will differentiate you from the competition,” writes Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of the Zingerman Community of Businesses. “And it should build positive, memorable experiences for customers, which in turn creates great word of mouth.” BuzzTime Business agrees, noting that promotions with more creativity and customer involvement tend to be more successful.
The Entrepreneur editing staff points out that word of mouth still remains the most popular and tried-and-true approach for restaurant marketing. Examples of incorporating word of mouth into promotional materials include gift certificates, sponsorships, discounts, loyalty programs and menu promotions. “Make the foundation of your marketing program an absolutely dazzling experience that customers will want to talk about and repeat,” the guide concludes.
We take have taken this sentiment and run with it, creating a handful of winning promotional ideas for delis. These promotional ideas for delis use the best of both worlds — active marketing with a personal touch.
1. Keep it Classic: Create a Contest
Switch up your typical day-to-day operations every so often by offering a contest to your regular customers. You could create a new sandwich and offer a gift card to the customer who comes up with the best name. Or, you could host a summer sandwich eating contest. You could even let customers create their own sandwiches (not exactly a contest, but it keeps things interesting).
What matters here is that you are engaging customers in a new way from time to time.
2. Connect with the Community With a Fundraiser
If these promotions are about connecting with your customers, opening up the opportunity for fundraisers is a great way to build these community relationships. It can be as easy as putting up a poster advertising that the deli partners with local projects and charities. Giving 10 percent of proceeds on a Thursday is sure to pay off in more ways than one (including bringing in more business from friends and family).
“To succeed nowadays, it is imperative that a business engage directly with their guests: make them feel as if they are investing in something, rather than buying a product,” writes global restaurant consultant Aaron Allen. Hosting a community fundraiser engages guests in an authentic way that also benefits the community around your deli.
3. Build an Undying Following With Free Samples
It’s a well-known fact of life that everyone loves free samples.
Beyond giving passers-by a chance to try out your food, this tactic also immediately creates an implied reciprocity. “In exchange for receiving something from you, they feel compelled to do something ‘nice’ in return — like purchase a product as a ‘thank you’ for getting to try a sample,” writes Kali Hawlk at Shopify. If it works for eCommerce, why not for a deli?
“Getting customers to try your food is the first step to getting it sold,” Samantha Kemp points out in the Houston Chronicle. “Provide a sample tray of goodies on your deli or restaurant counter.”
4. Get Creative With Cooking Classes
These days, consumers are often looking for an experience and ways to interact with their favorite companies. Offering cooking classes can scratch both of those itches.
It doesn’t have to be complicated to be successful — offer once-a-month group classes on a Saturday, for example. Spending time with your customers will help you get to know them and is sure to build the loyalty you’re looking for.
5. Reward Loyalty With a Program
Customer loyalty will go a long way toward keeping your deli profitable and popular in the neighborhood. The program can be managed with something as simple as a punch card, or a digitized program with lots of perks.
Either way, the benefit is clear. As POS vendor ShopKeep points out, “Formulating a customer loyalty program to tie in with your email marketing initiatives is a great way to keep new customers engaged and existing customers coming back.”
This is particularly important for delis that offer catering or group deliveries to nearby businesses. Those can be very valuable relationships. The WebstaurantStore blog presents a specific idea of what this could look like: “Offering free drinks and desserts is often a good choice because they’re less expensive than an entree, but they will still make your guests feel appreciated.”
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Word of mouth and personal recommendations are what will set you apart from your competition. What better way to get your customers talking about you than to offer perks for being a loyal customer?
6. Host a Social Night
You don’t have to be limited to the lunchtime rush. Offering a special event a couple times per month can be a great way to bring in customers in the PM. An open mic night is a perennially popular option, for example.
Of course, in the process you can hone your craft of upselling. “Have you trained your staff in the power of suggestion?” asks Mueller Creative partner Annie Mueller. “Many restaurants do, but you might have overlooked it. Wait staff or counter staff should always have an upsell suggestion at the ready.” This can be particularly beneficial for an event that features a special offer.
7. Send Out Special Offers to Loyal Followers
This can take the form of a newsletter sign up or a texting program, and (again) it does not have to be complicated.
The AWeber blog points to the Super Duper Deli in New Jersey as a case study in quick marketing. “Without extra time to spend collecting subscribers, the deli just lets it happen through the natural course of the day,” the blog notes. You can simply encourage customers to sign up after they have made a purchase.
As part of your newsletter or loyalty program offerings, you can periodically send out special offers to a subset of your customers. It could be weekday lunch specials or a weekly secret menu item. Either way, it’s a great way to attract repeat business from customers, says the team behind business app Mach1.
A $5 daily special can be texted directly to customers who have signed up to receive the offer. Then, all they have to do is show the text. It’ll keep customers coming back and create new business in the process.
8. Try Out Specialty Items and Dietary Options
This isn’t a promotion so much as keeping up with consumer insights. According to Donna Barry at Food Business News, consumers (especially millennials) are increasingly looking for organic, natural and fresh products. Natalie Taylor at Winsight Grocery Business agrees, writing that the “deli category is increasingly cooking up wholesome offerings to appeal to the health-conscious consumer.”
Allen Seidner, a partner at Good Earth Natural & Organic Foods in California, suggests developing a range of products that “address the special diets of your customers.” According to Seidner, these can include offerings for vegetarian, vegan, raw, wheat-free and low-sodium diets.
Of course, this doesn’t apply only to diets. If possible, offering organic or locally sourced products will prove extremely popular with certain customers.
The Bottom Line: Treat Promotions as a Two-Way Street
The common thread that runs through all of these promotional ideas for delis is that they are customer-focused, encouraging community in the context of your locale. Instead of treating a promotion as a chance to win a few extra sales, you should see it as an opportunity to engage with your customers.
Writing for the Toast Restaurant Blog, Robert Hale makes the importance of the customer focus clear: “No promotion is successful without thinking deeply about your customer base.”
QSR’s Denise Lee Yohn echoes this statement, pointing out that truly brand-building promotions seek to resonate with customers’ sensibilities. So, before you go implementing one of these winning promotional ideas, make sure it fits your customer profile.
You can also treat these initial promotions as an opportunity to expand your user-generated content across your social media profile and your website. “Huck Finn made his friends happy to paint a fence, and restaurants can persuade their customers to supply photos, videos, and fresh content without straining the budget or taking much administrative time,” notes marketing firm Shuttlerock.
With this kind of perspective, you can treat these promotions as just the starting point for building a strong and loyal customer base for your deli.
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