Couple taking a selfie with smartphone at a restaurant

I left my smartphone on the table in that restaurant!

Have you ever had that panic moment when you can’t find your smartphone, only to find it actually pressed against your ear?

…sigh…I’ve done it way more than I’d like to admit, but I don’t believe I’m the only one.

And what about those moments when you’re not talking on your phone, but you really don’t remember where you left it?  That one is the worst feeling.

We panic because our smartphones have become a part of how we function.  It’s the one thing you don’t leave home without.  Not to mention…smartphones aren’t exactly cheap.

Recently, a NYC restaurant operator hired a firm to find out why they kept getting negative reviews, and posted the results on Craigslist.

According to the firm’s research, comparing service from 10 years ago against service in 2014, the main culprit for the surge in complaints of slow service stemmed from customers using their smartphones.

While I’ll agree that people could always be a little bit more considerate in their smartphone usage in public spaces like restaurants, the blame doesn’t rest solely on inconsiderate customers.

Some portion of the blame falls on restaurant operators.  I say this because PEOPLE ARE GOING TO USE THEIR SMARTPHONES.  That is a given.  Being inflexible and finger pointing only exacerbates the situation.

Is there an opportunity for compromise here?

Smartphones in restaurants are actually kind of a good thing

Yes!  Restaurants have the opportunity to stop viewing the smartphone-using consumer as inconsiderate, and remember this:

  • Every time that connected consumer shares a photo, or checks in, you’re getting an opportunity to reach their whole network that you would not have had otherwise
  • It’s free advertising for you

As for consumers, we need to take responsibility for our part in slowed service.  And then stop blaming restaurants for slow service at times when we’re part of the cause.

The bottom line is, the time has come to take something that appears negative (smartphone use in restaurants), embrace it (yes, it’s going to happen) and find a way to use it to our advantage (involve the consumer in the service process).

Then everybody wins.


  • moneyoutwindow-2

I don’t know about you, but I hate losing money. Even if I were ultra-wealthy, I don’t think I’d ride down the road tossing $50 bills out the window. That would be crazy right? (Well, maybe not to the lucky ones who pick those bills up!)

But that’s exactly what I saw happen a couple of weeks ago: On a whim, my husband and I decided to meet up for lunch at the Brick House Tavern and Tap in Tampa (say that three times fast!).

We were looking for a good meal, and to have a beer in a fun and lively atmosphere. We’ve been there before and we’ve had good food, and better than average service.

My husband frequents Brick House more than I do, and although he’s experienced slow service in the past, neither of us imagined we’d experience a problem at 2pm on a weekday.

We were greeted right away at the door, and promptly seated at our booth, where we proceeded to sit… unrecognized… for 15 minutes. Servers were eagerly waiting on tables in front of us, behind us, at the bar, across the way, outside, you name it; while we sat memorizing the menu and dying of thirst.

After stopping two servers to see if they could find someone to help us, and continuing to wait (were we ignored? forgotten about?), we took our $50 and walked out the door.

And that, folks, is how slow service will make you lose $50 in 15 minutes.

Sure $50 in the grand scheme of things might not sound like a lot. I mean, don’t restaurants make thousands of dollars a day? Yes, some do, but consider this: if two tables were to walk out each day at $50 each time, we’re talking about $36,400 in lost revenue each year!

With an average profit margin of only 2-3.5%, restaurants need to  do everything they can to avoid throwing money out the door.

The August 2014 edition of Consumer Reports (already published), features a national survey titled “The Gripe-o-Meter”.  In that survey, 51% of those surveyed said “slow (or maybe non-existent) service” was their top gripe for restaurants.

51%! That’s over half the people they surveyed, who must have experienced something similar to us.

The good news is that there are ways that you can be on the right side of that statistic.  Check back next week for my next post that will give restaurant operators 4 ways to stay on top of their service.

In the meantime, what is your gripe? Are you one of the 51% or do you gripe about something else? We want to hear from you! Tweet, FB, or comment below!

Things that make you go poo.  Not “hmmm”.

I’ll never forget it – that gurgle in your stomach that’s just a little bit off, signaling something bad is on the way. And that bead of sweat that forms on your forehead, partly because you’re about to come down with something and partly because you’re begging your body – “NOT HERE PLEASE!”

I was sitting in row 2 of business class on a flight from Barcelona to Houston (and then Houston to Tampa) when that all-to-familiar feeling hit me last August.

It turns out, I was about to experience the worst 8 days of my life because I, friends, had picked up a nasty little food borne bacteria called Campylobacter [pronounced kamp-pil-o-back-tur] from a restaurant in Barcelona.

All I can say is…don’t get it.  EVER!  So as long as your restaurant, or the restaurant you’re in handles and properly cooks meat, especially chicken, this nasty bacteria can be avoided.

You might be wondering what any of this has to do with Facebook right?

Well I thought it would be an interesting exercise to check out the Facebook pages of some of the restaurants reported closed on one of the numerous ‘dirty dining’ reports that each of the local news outlets seem to produce to see if we could find any connection to the way these folks handle their social media (Facebook) and the public’s reaction to violations.

I didn’t have to dig too deep to learn something right away.  Whether you like Facebook or not, you need to have an active page for your restaurant.  Because if you don’t, the consumers will do it for you…and if they’re controlling it, it may not be so pretty.

Take for example the restaurant at the Inverrary Resort.  It was closed for 5 violations including roaches.  On closer inspection, a much better story unfolds and it starts with Facebook.

When i searched for the resort/restaurant, the first Facebook page I found on ‘the graph’ was this.  Yep, that’s right…either some pissed off customer, or past employee, or just plain old concerned citizen has started a page that talks about the rodent problem At Inverrary Resort.

But this page dates all the way back to 2011.  Now it could be argued that since they’re still in business, this has no effect on the restaurant and resort.  But one look at Yelp and you can see that the Inverrary Resort is operating on borrowed time.  That bill is going to come due with a vengeance.

Get this though: there was another establishment listed in Boca with 6 violations – 1 more than Inverrary.  But you take a look at their Facebook with 6,400+ likes, and 15,000 check-ins and you can see that people are taking their violations in stride.

“Things like this happen” right?  Yes, they do.  But when a restaurant takes the time to communicate with their customers…especially on Facebook, incidents like this for them seem like they at times, can be worked through amicably.

Plenty of restaurants have been forever marked by poor Facebook etiquette like Chik-Fil-A or the worst Facebook meltdown in history – Amy’s Baking Company.

What every restaurant needs to know about Facebook

Facebook cannot be ignored by restaurants.  Eating out is a social action by nature, so it stands to reason that social media fits nicely into this activity.  With Facebook being the 800 pound gorilla in the room of all things social media, it is just a matter of time before your customer will take over the reins of your social media persona if you won’t.

Now I could go on about how hard it is for restaurants to gain organic audience these days, and that’s very true. You almost have to ‘pay to play’ to get any eyeballs on Facebook FOR YOUR CONTENT.

But here’s the thing…if you’re not playing nice with your customers now on Facebook…when something negative happens related to your restaurant – AND IT WILL…you won’t remotely like the firestorm created by the rapidly-gained detractors that you will surely acquire.

Get your weekly dose of restaurant marketing hacks by signing up below.  And listen…I hate being inundated with a bunch of useless emails that I don’t want.  I promise you that you will only receive what you sign up for – once a week.  So what are you waiting for?  Sign up already…

Brazil can teach us a thing or two about being singularly focused!

Brazil’s loss at the World Cup 2014 teaches us many valuable lessons … not the least of which is to be sure we’re not singularly focused when it comes to, well … anything!

Because the five-time winner of the World Cup hadn’t experienced a home defeat in over 39 years, they lost focus on tactics, their ability to adjust their strategy to compensate for the loss of key players and emotional preparation.

They were singularly focused on their track record vs. what needed to be done to claim another victory, and we see how that ended. Congrats Germany, by the way!

That very same concept applies to health club marketing. Focus your marketing efforts solely on new member sales and at best, you’ll be missing opportunities; at worst, it will be your demise! To be effective, your marketing needs to encompass at least three other key focus areas including member retention, personal training (including private and semi-private/small group) and other products and services!

The real impact comes from leveraging the right tools with the right message with the right audience: Online vs., offline. Informational vs., sales-focused. One-time vs., regular. You get the idea!

Compare your marketing approach with our “Health Club Marketing” infographic to see if you’re missing anything critical!

Health Club Marketing Infographic - Fitness Marketing - Exakt Marketing

Questions about how you can better leverage your gym marketing efforts? Drop me a line at joe [at] or give me a call at 888-949-5487 x701.

If you want your website to earn money for you, read on.

When I opened my very first business I just knew that the day that we launched our perfect (or so I thought) website, that we were going to be overwhelmed with business.

We launched.  I waited.  Crickets.

It didn’t make any sense to me.  We had spent hours coming up with the perfect words. The perfect colors. The 10 Restaurant Website Hacks [Infographic]perfect pictures…and I think we probably had a whopping 100 visitors 3 months in.  Disappointing results to say the least.

But the nice thing about failures is the lesson that you have the chance to learn if you’re open to seeing it.

And although my first colossal website failure was not a restaurant website, the lessons can be applied perfectly to restaurant websites.

I read a surprising statistic in a study SinglePlatform and Chadwick Martin Bailey conducted (I would recommend giving this a read).

The study found that out of 1,497 surveyed consumers, 92% searched a restaurant website through a web browser in the last 6 months.

92%!  1,377 out of 1,497 people searched a restaurant website through a web browser!  Those numbers are ‘nothing to sneeze at’.

Bottom line: you need to have a website – a good one for your restaurant.  It’s that simple.

10 Website Hacks To Get More Customers Walking Through The Doors Of Your Restaurant:

  1. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes.  Then go through every piece of your website and observe the experience.  If it’s not easy and intuitive to follow, change it.  View every action to be taken as an experience, and make sure it’s a good one.
  2. Keep the design clean and simple.  See hack #1…remember what your customer is coming to your website for. So, for example, if your restaurant doesn’t have any outside seating, then there is no need to place a weather widget on your home page.
  3. Make sure it’s responsive.  Responsive means that your website is built to detect what type of device your customer is accessing your website from and automatically “responds” to make the viewing experience great.  In other words, minimizing the acrobatics (scrolling, changing orientation, etc.) while viewing your site.  If you don’t have access to a web developer or designer,  you don’t have to worry. There are tools to add responsive functionality to existing websites like the WPtouch Mobile plugin for WordPress sites. Just remember to add tools that are specific designed for the platform your website is built in.
  4. Create a digital menu in an easily readable format (no matter the type of device it’s being viewed on). Remember, it’s pretty hard to view a menu as a picture from a smartphone or even a browser.  At a minimum, a pdf is an option, but actual dedicated, responsive pages on your website is a considerably better way to go.
  5. Make the access point to your menu prominent.  Access to your menu needs to be so obvious that even the most technologically challenged person can’t miss it.  That study that I mentioned earlier found that 80% of consumers think it’s important to see a menu before they eat there.  It’s pretty hard to argue with those types of numbers.
  6. Place your address and phone number in a very visible and intuitive location.  The main reasons that your potential customers are visiting your restaurant website can usually be attributed to 1 or a combination of these 3 things: 1) your menu, 2) your address or, 3) your phone number.  And don’t forget your hours of operation.
  7. Add links to your social media profiles.  No matter what you do, people are going to take to social media to discuss their experience at your restaurant.  The easier you make it for your customers and potential customers to access these other communication tools, the better your chances are to stay on top of addressing feedback – good or bad.
  8. Use photos wisely.  See point #2.  The best photos to have on your website are professional ones.  But for many operators, it’s not feasible from a cost perspective.  The good news is that with the right app and a smartphone, you can still put together some pretty decent photos.  We’ll be showing you how next month with our Photography for Restaurants course.  Be on the lookout for details.
  9. Anticipate customer questions.  But more importantly, make it easy to help them find the answers.  You already know the questions you get asked repeatedly.  Make this a part of your website and therefore the experience.
  10. Add an “order online” function.  Again, there are tools available to add this functionality to sites – platform specific.  Try a Google search like “online+ordering+plugins” and see what results are returned for the platform your website is built on.

If you found this article helpful, please share it. Sign up for our weekly restaurant marketing hacks emails below.

Gym Members - Exakt Marketing - Fitness MarketingMember retention.  The ultimate challenge for club operators today. There is no doubt that retaining members is critical to your gym’s success. A deeper look into the economics paints the picture.

Recently I had to deliver the unfortunate news to one of our new gym clients that the first 30 members that they had signed up for the month didn’t even count. Translation – $10,000+ per year in lost dues caused by attrition!

Because they didn’t have a solid member retention strategy in place, they couldn’t even begin looking at gains in revenue until after the sales team signed up new member number 30!

The client I describe above is not unique.  Interestingly, we have found this to be a real problem for GMs who are so heavily focused on new member sales, that they forget that members have much bigger expectations from their clubs these days.

So giving them a reason to stay HAS TO BE A TOP PRIORITY!  When equal focus is given to member retention, more of those new member sign-ups move your gym toward growth mode, rather than just keeping you at the same level (talk about “spinning your wheels!).

If you happen to be one of those GMs that may not have been equally focusing on member retention, you may be wondering where the heck to even start. The answer might even seem to be a bit counterintuitive, but I’m going to walk you through it.

Member retention starts with the new member orientation.

Yes, that’s right!  Member retention starts long before the member has completed even one workout or one group fit class or one personal training session at your facility! Why?

It comes down to the top reasons why people stay at a gym (to name a few):

  • getting in shape
  • improving overall health
  • making progress towards fitness

As Nick Murtha, Account Executive of MBSC Thrive put it, ”If people are getting results, they are likely to remain members. So why not start new members off in the right direction from the beginning to ensure the highest possible likelihood that they will get results and meet their fitness goals.”

Seems like a no-brainer, right? But we can all agree that getting people to first, schedule an orientation and second, to actually show up, are quite a challenge!

What if I were to tell you if you make just one simple adjustment to your sales process – the secret member retention tool that the big chains use – that your new members will not only willingly schedule orientations … they’ll actually follow through and show up!

Here’s the secret: Build the value proposition for the new member orientation (aka fitness assessment) from the moment the sales rep comes in contact with the new member.  So technically, this means that the value proposition for the new member orientation has to be built before the prospect even becomes a member.

“Too often, I see membership sales reps go through the entire pre-tour, tour and post-tour process without even mentioning the orientation. Then as a last step of member sign-up, they say something like ‘ok, let’s get you scheduled for your orientation,’” commented Murtha.  “This rarely results in a successful outcome, especially in cases where the new member has belonged to a gym in the past and either believes that they do not need the orientation or that it is a loosely veiled attempt to sell personal training services,” he continued.

I’m going to share with you the exact steps we used to take the client that I mentioned earlier (that was losing $10,000+ in member dues) from losing 30+ members per month to less than 15: a 50% improvement!

Meet with your sales team right now and have them do this:

1.  When meeting prospects at the front desk, the membership sales rep should explain the process they will go through (“we’ll discuss your background and goals; I’ll give you a tour of the facility; we’ll review membership options; then I’ll get you signed up and scheduled for your orientation to make sure you start off with a plan in hand to accomplish your fitness goals”).

2.  During the pre-tour process, make sure your reps are identifying and understanding the prospect’s fitness goals and looks for opportunities to relate them back to the orientation.

3.  During the tour, your membership reps should stop by the training area and introduce the person or people who conduct the orientations, saying something like “This is John. He’ll be helping you with your orientation to make sure you start with a plan that will get you the results you’re looking for.”

4.  At the close, your membership rep should politely “assume the meeting” and say “we can schedule your orientation with John tomorrow at the same time. Does that work?”

The goal is to make the orientation so valuable all through the process that by the end, the new member not only gladly schedules it … but they eagerly show up!  If you are getting 75% of your new members to schedule an orientation and 50% or more of them to show … you are making a significant investment in member retention long before your new members hit that plateau or get busy with life and stop using their membership.

Need help implementing the above changes into your membership sales process or want to discuss other ideas?  Please drop me a note at joe [at] or call 888-949-5487 x701 to get a complimentary 30-minute phone consultation.

  • Pizza and fresh ingredients picture - Exakt Marketing - Restaurant Marketing

I remember it like it was yesterday.  The steaming hot melted mozzarella.  The banana peppers.  The sautéed mushrooms.  The perfect crust.  And this sausage that practically melted in your mouth, with a flavor that could make you ‘slap your momma’.

Well not literally slap my mom, because that would’ve landed me on the floor, probably picking up some teeth.  But the point I am trying to make as I remember this pizza is that the sausage tasted so good…that you might just think for one, fleeting minute about slapping your momma!

It was from Italo’s Pizza in North Canton, Ohio.  I was 5.  It was 1978.  And though I haven’t had Italo’s Pizza in well over 20 years (mainly because I won’t visit Ohio between the months of September through April – leaves me a very small travel window), I know that I would patronize that place in a heartbeat (regularly) if I lived closer.

That was a really long way to say I freaking LOVE PIZZA!  I could eat it morning, noon and night.  I’ve tried so many different types of pizza from different places that I could probably write a book on all of the little things that made each place unique.

It’s my love of all things pizza that made me sniff out this piping hot story about a new pizza place (Blaze Pizza) coming to the Fort Lauderdale pizza shop market.  Not only have these guys actually come up with a genuinely fresh pizza concept, but they’ve managed to get some great press with titles like “Lebron James-affiliated restaurant…”.

Should the 12 other pizza joints within the 3-mile radius around the upcoming Blaze Pizza Cypress Creek location be worried?

Let’s see…hmmm…that would be a big fat YES THEY SHOULD BE WORRIED!  Because Blaze Pizza – marketing juggernaut.

Personally, I think it’s a great thing.  Blaze Pizza is simply raising the bar.  And if the existing places want to compete, they’ll do something about it.  And if they don’t…well I hear old Pizza Huts make great morgues (this is not a joke).

6 Marketing Lessons to be Learned from Blaze Pizza

  1. Their website is 100% built for their audience.  These guys have clearly identified a primarily millennial audience and they’ve nailed the way to connect with them.  It’s interactive.  It’s responsive.  And it’s FUN!
  2. They have mastered using Facebook to engage with their audience (more on that later).  I’m not going to name any names (of the existing pizza places near where Blaze will be)…but a Facebook group started in 2011 with 34 members is not quite going to cut it.  With the saturation of businesses on Facebook these days, it’s damn near impossible to get much in the way of organic engagement.  But these guys know the secrets, and they’re using them.
  3. Their Twitter feed is alive with the sound of music…well, maybe not music, but it is definitely alive.  People love this place and it shows.  They are very logically using hashtags and photos instead of an endless drivel of their daily specials that nobody really gives two [insert your favorite descriptive word here] about.
  4. They get Instagram.  They may only have 42 posts, but it’s not their profile that should interest you as much as the 7,197+ posts for #blazepizza.  That’s a lot of ‘free advertising’ if you ask me.  Write that down.
  5. When they have a grand opening, their events are kick-ass!  Free pizza for an entire day?  Yes!  Now that’s the proper way to get some good press young grasshopper.
  6. They are very much in touch with where the trends are heading.  I read a staggering statistic the other day that something like 72% of the U.S. population is overweight.  Seriously?  Almost three quarters of the population?  Not good!  Pizza could very easily be placed in the “no-no” category, right?  Blaze has the answer for that too – How do I know that before a slice of this sure-to-be heavenly pie passes through my lips that I will know exactly how many calories, protein and other stuff I will be consuming?  Because of this.  BRILLIANT!

Here’s the bottom line: the energy that these guys are creating with their marketing is contagious.  PEOPLE WANT TO EAT HERE and more importantly, tell the world about it.  This is the best kind of marketing for a pizza shop.  Heck, it’s the best type of marketing for any restaurant.

Do the places already in business stand a chance?  Sure.  But if they want to ‘blaze with the big dogs’, they’re going to have to heat up their marketing efforts or get out of the kitchen.

Operating a pizza place and have questions about the ways that you can boost engagement from your marketing efforts?  Shoot me an email.  I’ll be happy to spend a few minutes to discuss.  derek [at]

Come back next Monday, July 14th for number 1 in my 6-part series detailing the 6 lessons above.  Or subscribe below to receive the post via email automatically.

For some health clubs, paid trial memberships seem like a no-brainer: give people a low-cost taste of your product that goes beyond a complimentary workout in the hopes of their committing to a longer term membership when it ends.  But is your paid trial membership really helping to generate additional leads and full memberships at your gym, health club or athletic club?  Maybe not!  If your club meets any of the following criteria, it’s quite possible that a paid trial membership is simply prolonging the buying process!

  • Your monthly dues are $50+ per month
  • Your facility is “the only game in town” at your price point/value level
  • Your club provides differentiating amenities beyond your competition such as tennis courts, a pool, a gymnasium, functional training, etc.

Put yourself in the shoes of your perspective member and imagine you are making the decision of whether or not to join. Given the above circumstances, it is nearly impossible to “comparison shop”, meaning that your decision will either be a “yes” or a “no” vs. “should I join club A or club B”.  Does the gym offer the equipment, programs and amenities you desire?  Is it clean?  How is the energy?  Is it overcrowded?

Your facility stands on its own and either delivers or doesn’t.  You simply need to give people an opportunity to make this determination.  A 30-day paid trial is very unlikely to be any more effective in landing new members than a generous “all access” guest pass program.  So in this case, just offer the free trial!

Chicago Athletic Clubs, whose monthly membership rates start at $75 on the low end, does not offer a paid trial but instead provides potential members with a one-day all access pass to the club location of their choice.

Bill Higgs, General Manager of Shula’s Athletic Club in Miami Lakes for the past 33 years, agrees that paid trial memberships have their place.  “For us, [at Shula’s], we’ve concluded that paid trial memberships are simply not very useful. We offer a very known, unique product in our local market and the decision to join our club is unlikely to be impacted by a paid trial membership.”

Rather than offer paid trial memberships, Shula’s offers a one-day all-inclusive guest pass, giving potential members the ability to experience the facility, the energy and group fitness classes free of charge. And since their price point is on the higher end ($59 – $69 per month, depending) and there are no other options competing in that space, members who join Shula’s are there because they want to be. “Our product is strong and there are no other providers in the area which match our value,” noted Higgs.

Not sure if you should employ free or paid trial memberships to generate leads or to increase sales at your club? Drop me a note at joe @ or give me a call at 888-949-5487 x701 to get a complimentary 30-minute phone consultation!

It’s always been really important to me to make sure that everything we do as a company is authentic, honest and above all else beneficial to the people that we’re associated with, no matter the capacity.

That being said, I felt like it was pretty important to provide an explanation for why we’ve been so “quiet” over the last 9 months in terms of this blog, and our company social media profiles.

The simple answer is that there has be quite a bit of retooling happening behind the scenes – actually a lot.

I knew it was time to make some changes because we kept noticing that nearly every time people would ask us “what we do”, and we responded “marketing”, we were inevitably met with the puzzling question – “What do you market?”

To us, something that seemed so understood was in fact very, very misunderstood.  And considering what we do for a living, if we’re not delivering a clear message, then we’re not doing our job very well.

Let’s answer that question again.  What do we do?

We make your product or service irresistible to the consumer.

Now don’t get it twisted…if your product or service is no good, we won’t be able to make it irresistible to the consumer.  The great news about this is that experience has taught us when to avoid taking on those types of products or services, so we don’t take them on.

Here’s what we’ve been retooling so that we can continue to perfect our craft:

  • New offices in both Tampa and Fort Lauderdale in convenient locations for our clients
  • Some new talented team members that are bringing fresh ideas and perspectives to the table
  • Several exciting new products that we’ll be releasing throughout the rest of 2014
  • Our client base has been retooled to more accurately reflect our focuses and the areas where we know we’re strongest in making our clients’ product or service irresistible to the consumer

What hasn’t changed is our commitment to provide exceptional services to our clients. We’ve still got the same ridiculous almost obsessive focus on quality and results.  And we’re still the same fun people who aren’t afraid to laugh at ourselves.

This has been and still is a huge learning experience, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Jump in with us, we promise it will be a fun ride.