Make your small business marketing plan “sizzle”

For small businesses and restaurants, savvy marketing can make a major difference in overall performance, especially when it comes to promoting products and services to loyal and prospective customers.

Chris Shepherd, executive chef and owner of Houston restaurant Underbelly and 2014 James Beard Foundation Award Winner for Best Chef Southwest, is always hungry for new marketing recipes.

Since opening the well-regarded Houston restaurant Underbelly two years ago, he has learned what it takes to successfully run a small business, especially the importance of finding the right partners. That’s why he has decided to use the U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mail® service to target 2,000 local customers with news about changes to Underbelly’s wine list.

“I am always looking for new marketing strategies or to take a creative approach to an existing, proven marketing strategy to add excitement to the business and draw in customers,” Shepherd said. “Using direct mail is a great way to share news about Underbelly in our own unique voice to our neighbors.”

Fellow small business and restaurant owners can take a note from Shepherd and his advice on current marketing trends as well as these marketing and management tips.

Don’t be distracted by the ‘shiny new object.’

Business owners need to remember “tried and true” management and marketing tactics. The customer is always right. And now they are more powerful than ever with real time reviews. According to a recent study “Fake It Till You Make It: Reputation, Competition, and Yelp Review Fraud,” having an extra star on a review site can cause the revenue of a business to rise by five to 10 percent, so there is a direct connection between ratings and a business’ bottom line.

Employ big data & social marketing.

Social media was key for promoting the opening of Underbelly. Online platforms such as Facebook, OpenTable, Instagram and Fishbowl help owners gain rapid exposure, while big data drives loyalty, customer satisfaction and profitability.

But don’t solely rely on e-mail/social media to reach customers.

The average household receives only two pieces of direct mail a day compared with 157 emails. A service such as Every Door Direct Mail is an easy-to-use and cost-effective solution that helps get messages into the hands of customers. For example, Shepherd is using this service to help creatively promote changes to his wine menu to some of his most valued customers.

Understand that social responsibility is not going away any time soon. 

The demand continues for healthier menu options — not just from a calorie perspective, but sustainable, local and ethical foods have never been more important. Sourcing food from local farms garners customer loyalty and puts money into the local economy. A similar local-first and community-conscious approach serves those outside the restaurant industry, as well.

Remember that successes start local.

Trends, just like customers and menu items, differ throughout specific regions and even down to the neighborhood. Pay attention to the patterns unfolding around your operation. Services such as Every Door Direct Mail help you target mailing routes by address, city, state, ZIP code or up to a five-mile radius around your business.

Don’t forget to be authentic.

Chef Shepherd is known for his often-changing, unique menu that represents what he stands for as a chef. He encourages building a business around what is authentic for you.

You can turn up the heat on your small business marketing plan by adding the U.S. Postal Service’s offerings to the menu. For more information about essential shipping and marketing solutions from the U.S. Postal Service including Every Door Direct Mail, visit

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

U.S. Postal Service

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