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Word-of-mouth with a megaphone: Building a restaurant’s digital brand

This guest post is by David Rutkauskas, who is the founder, president and CEO of Beautiful Brands International, an innovative restaurant development company based in Tulsa, Okla., and is responsible for the successful launch of worldwide, franchised brands including Camille’s Sidewalk Café, FreshBerry Frozen Yogurt Cafe and Rex’s Chicken. The goal of BBI is to develop profitable restaurant and retail concepts, package them beautifully and expand them throughout the globe through franchising.

Have you ever heard it said that a satisfied customer is worth 10 billboards on a busy highway? I sort of like that analogy because our customers really are the most important asset of our business and without a doubt the best ad you can have to help your business grow.

I believe as a business owner you have to recognize the customer as your most valuable resource in increasing your business. Traditional advertising is OK, but if you don’t reach out to your customers and connect with them in a real and meaningful way then no amount of glitzy advertising will be able to drive sales for your business.

And so if a satisfied customer is just as valuable as having 10 billboards placed on the busiest highway in your city, just imagine the possibilities of that customer on the information superhighway.

We are living in the information age.

There is so much available on the Internet today through the various social websites, blogging and community sites. Make a customer happy and he’ll tell his whole world on the World Wide Web. If you mess up, you will also likely have that message spread to hundreds, thousands or possibly millions of others.

Just picture the Internet as a giant mouthpiece or megaphone for word-of-mouth advertising for the 21st century.

At my company, Beautiful Brands International, in the last 90 days, we launched a campaign to develop the digital brands for our restaurants Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe and FreshBerry Frozen Yogurt Cafe. Before May 2010, our reach on the Web would grow every 90 days by only 400 and 1,000 for @MyCamilles and @MyFreshBerry, respectively. However, just since the launch of our digital brand strategy we’ve grown by over 8,500 for Camille’s and 12,700 for FreshBerry in total Web reach. That’s over 21,000 brand mentions, re-tweets or posts in the last 90 days!

Since our partnership with Paul Barron and his company DigitalCoCo to develop our digital presence and utilize today’s technology tools to connect with consumers we have been able to increase our brands’ Web reach by delivering content to our followers and fans that can be consumed and dialogued about among social Web users. This creates a viral effect and multiplies the effectiveness of word-of-mouth advertising for our restaurants.

Twitter Grader, a website that measures the influence of brands on the social Web (how Twitter Grader works), in a recent evaluation based on connections, mentions, relevance to followers and engagement, gave both Camille’s and FreshBerry a perfect grade of 100 on a 100-point scale. The website also ranked our brands among the top 22,000 users out of over 7 million worldwide. According to Twitter Grader, @MyCamilles and @MyFreshBerry outrank many of the competitors in the industry based on followers, fans, engagement and total reach on the Web.

That is word-of-mouth with a megaphone!

Think about it: Every brand has the goal of growing their presence through someone telling a friend or family member about them.

“Oh, you’ve got to go to Camille’s for a wrap and smoothie … “. Those words are music to my ears!

By developing a relationship with our fans and followers online, delivering content that moves them to mention, post or tweet about us, we are achieving social Web’s version of word-of-mouth advertising and it is the ultimate compliment for a customer to give us.

We’re very proud of our campaign in achieving these numbers in record time and believe we will be growing even more in the future as we continue to make it about our customers and communicating with them regularly.

When someone asks their friend where they should go for lunch or dinner, don’t you want your brand to be named?

Then you should probably engage them on the superhighway.