While anyone who works at or manages a restaurant can tell you that the industry is unique and nuanced, there is one element of the restaurant business that follows straight forward, well-established business principles.  When your restaurant is growing and doing well, there’s even more work to be done than if your business is suffering.  As your eatery gets more established, starts making a decent profit, and needs to re-invest, you will have to think long and hard about where to spend your dollars.  And for many restaurant owners, the best place to re-invest dollars follows straight forward business logic again: when business is booming, boost your marketing budget.

By investing in marketing when times are good, you can assure that your restaurant’s name will spread even further and wider, and you will build up a larger regular clientele to help your business weather leaner times.  So marketing is a no-brainer.  But in the digital age, where exactly should restaurants spend their marketing dollars?  What’s “inbound marketing,” and how does it differ from “outbound marketing” in the digital age?  Read on for our analysis of the pros and cons of outbound marketing for restaurants in the digital age.

What Does “Outbound Marketing” Mean These Days?

In traditional marketing lingo, outbound marketing was any kind of “interruptive” marketing that would confront people during their day to day lives and promote a business or brand.  Bus bench ads, ads in newspapers, ads run on t.v., radio spots, cold calls, mailing lists: these are all traditional examples of outbound marketing, delivered directly “out” to your customer base.

But with the advent of the digital age, inbound marketing has come to dominate advertising strategies, and the use of outbound marketing on the internet has been redefined.  With inbound marketing strategies, restaurants promote themselves by trying to bring customers to them at their own volition.  Things like blogs, ebooks, and infographics are all examples of inbound marketing, aimed at landing customers on your pages and eventually converting them to customers.

In this context, of the dominance of inbound marketing in the digital age, outbound marketing has evolved dramatically.  Instead of billboards plastered on highways with phone numbers, billboard space is now bought on websites and sports web links.  Instead of t.v. spots, outbound marketers in the digital age buy ad space on social media sites, and invest in reaching customers through “interruptive” practices on the internet.  From a theory perspective, outbound marketing hasn’t changed at all: you are trying to get your business’s name out there and gain new fans through direct exposure.  But in practice, the internet has changed everything.

Pros and Cons of Outbound Marketing in the Digital Age

For restaurant owners, how have these changes in outbound marketing practices changed the strategies worth?  And is outbound marketing the right move for your restaurant in the digital age?  While every restaurant owner will need to answer that question for themselves, here are some pros and cons of outbound marketing as it applies to the internet.

Pro:  Your Potential Reach is Bigger than Ever

Whereas a benchside billboard can only reach a  very narrow regional population, the right banner placement on the internet can reach millions and millions of viewers.  That means that outbound marketing dollars can get your name out to a lot more people.

Con:  Directed Marketing is Harder

The huge reach of the internet does mean that a lot of people can see your ads, but it doesn’t mean that the high value, regional customers you want, necessarily will.  To fight this, advertise on regionally popular websites or through more directed social media platforms.

Pro:  It’s Easier than Ever to Run Ads

Before internet marketing took over , you had to hire a specialized agency to design and run most outbound advertising campaigns.  Now, it is easier than ever to use cheap software and learn to make your own ads, or run them yourself after hiring a graphic designer.

Con:  The Advertising Field is Overcrowded

With DIY capabilities easier than ever to utilize, there are millions and millions of ads online, and the field is way more crowded than traditional outbound marketing practices ever were.

Pro:  Analytics Make it Easier To Review your Ads

The digital age has brought about immense analytical capabilities in every industry, and you benefit from this as a restaurant owner when running outbound ads on the internet.  Net tools let you see how many people are seeing your ads, how often they are clicked, and more useful information.

Con:  With So Many Options, Where Should Your Dollars Go?

Scroll over the “pros” above, and you can see that outbound marketing is more powerful and accessible than ever in the digital age.  But there are lots of other advertising methods constantly evolving.  Which begs the question we started with: where to put your dollars?  You will have to decide, but outbound marketing is still a viable option.