It is every business owner’s priority to offer a great product or service, and while it’s an essential part of any successful business, it is no longer enough on its own to ensure success, regardless of the industry in which you operate. More than ever, independents need to harness the advertising power of their brand and understand its value to customers. Spreading the word about your brand is imperative and your promotional strategy must become a permanent fixture within your business plan to ensure you remain visible and relevant for current and prospective clients alike.

However, with the average consumer getting bombarded with anywhere between 250 and 3,000 advertisements per day, it is increasingly difficult for businesses to cut through the noise and reach their desired audiences. There is a lot of competition within the hospitality industry, which means business owners have to get creative in the ways they promote themselves.

Often that means letting go of traditional, large-scale advertising methods, and finding alternative, targeted solutions that work best for their businesses. Here are some of the best ways you can promote your business without advertising.

Word of mouth 2.0

Gaining customer trust and loyalty within the hospitality industry is key. It can take as little as one happy customer recommending your brand to a friend to snowball into widespread public awareness. Tried and tested method word of mouth still holds sway over customers’ choice of where to eat, drink and spend their hard-earned pennies, especially in markets that are crowded with options.

While organic recommendations are a great way to gain visibility, they happen over long periods of time. To help jumpstart the process, you can bring word of mouth to the digital world and develop relationships with influencers who can help get your brand in front of people. While you may be initially tempted to target the big names, it is often best to start with your local community members, who will often have more impact.

Make yourself approachable and attractive by inviting them to in-store events where they can get a feel for your brand. Once that relationship is established, make sure you keep them up to date with relevant communications via email and social media. If you manage to gain even one spokesperson for your brand, it will be well worth the effort.

Be the best kept secret

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, keeping your business a secret can be a great way to increase excitement. The success of ventures such as Secret Cinema, along with the rise in demand for hidden bars and speakeasies in the UK have proven that secrecy as a marketing tool works. You can start by drip-feeding information about your business to create a sense of mystery and anticipation. The select group of people you initially target will feel part of something exclusive and advertise on your behalf.

To add to the feeling of exclusivity, you can limit access to certain areas or products. This can apply to anything from a unique cocktail or meal offered for a limited-time only, to controlling the volume of people and time they are allowed to spend in your venue. If you’re creating an experience, demand will increase and being put on a waiting list will quickly become a measurement of pride for your customers.

The detail is in the data

Once you’ve got a customer through the door, you need to make sure they have a great experience to keep them coming back and encourage positive reviews. You’re not expected to know every customer individually, but using data in smart ways can make a customer feel like you do. If you have a system in place that can collect and analyse data effectively, it will enable you to send personalised offers and discounts.

For example, you can tailor your communications to each customer about their favourite food or drink, or even offer discounts for the day they are most likely to eat out.

Being able to access your business’ data will also help you better understand your customer base. This will help you identify how to best communicate with your customers, and give you the insight you need to target new consumers. Do your customers use Facebook or Snapchat the most? Do they read the local papers for recommendations or search online for reviews? Knowing this information can save you some serious money on testing to wide audiences without much conversion.

It is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to how businesses advertise themselves. As an independent you should test out different promotional methods until you find the winning formula that works for you and your target audience. Staying creative and coming up with ways to promote your brand organically, without the need for aggressive advertising will help you stand out from your competitors and get through to your customers more effectively.

Dax Dasilva is CEO of Lightspeed

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