The Hidden Menu to Content Marketing

paneraNow I’m not big on fast food but I have to say that I have a complete weak spot for Chipotle. I just can’t resist stopping for a quick bite to eat anytime I drive by that Chipotle Mexican Grill sign. As a matter of fact, I’m a frequent customer. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I learned that my favorite fast food chain actually has a secret menu. At first I was confused, wondering how could I have not known about this? Then as I began to inform everyone else about my discovery, I learned I wasn’t the only one. I began to wonder what the point is of having a menu that you’re keeping your customers from seeing.  I realized that these restaurants may be getting somewhere with their marketing strategies.

The idea behind keeping a hidden menu is to get customers to find out about products through word of mouth in order for them to feel more connected to your company. Just imagine a customer as surprised as I was. Their astonishment to your hidden items leaves them feeling like their in on the big secret. Restaurants have used this to their advantage. As customers go to their favorite chain restaurant and order an item off the hidden menu, they feel a sense of loyalty to this place. Restaurants have actually built great customer relationships just by keeping a few of their items low-key.

Content marketers can learn something from these chain restaurants. To start, here are a few items on the hidden menu to effective content marketing.

Learn to Keep a Secret

When you first create a product, you’re initial reaction is to get the word out about it immediately. Not so fast. The process of customer appreciation can be a slow one so it’s important to start just as slow. You want your customers to discover your product through word of mouth so that they can feel like loyal insiders. The truth is every customer wants to feel unique to a company in some way. What better way than for them to “suddenly” discover one of your products.

Choose your Customers Wisely

Now I’m not saying to completely avoid getting any news out about your latest innovation. Use social media to add subtle messages, questions, topics or images that pertain to what you’re secretly promoting. Those customers who happen to figure it out will feel like the insiders. Panera Bread has a way for their most curious customers to scan a QR code to access their hidden healthy-crazed menu.  As QR codes become more popular, now is the perfect time to use them to your advantage in promoting your products. The idea is to target your most social customers so that they can get the word out to everyone else.

Keep it New and Fresh

The problem with getting the news out about a product too quickly is that the news will wear out fast. As more people find out within a short amount of time, your product gets old. The restaurants behind these hidden menus know that more of their customers are going to find out as time goes on. That’s why they continue to add new items and remove the ones that become old news. Timing is key here- you want your customers to find out about your new product slowly but surely. By the time everyone finds out, you’ll be ready to release you’re next big product.

Focus on Your Brand

You’re hidden menu isn’t supposed to be a top secret and not all of your products need to be on your hidden menu. You need to choose the ones that can help you target the right customers. The most successful businesses find the right customers with the right products. That’s why you need to focus on your brand by exploring the possibilities of your “secret items.” This is a great way to engage your audience. Your select few customers will get the chance to explore your products before anyone else and give you their feedback. Feedback is important in any business and can help you figure out what you need to work on in the future.

Now that you know all the content marketing secrets, don’t be afraid to get the word out to achieve effective marketing strategies.

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