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Episode 289: Marketing in the Shifting Restaurant Industry With Jen Kern of Qu

Episode Summary

When COVID-19 hit, most marketers — especially those in the foodservice space — feared for the future of their industry. Jen Kern, CMO at Qu, an enterprise restaurant chain POS platform, saw an opportunity to reshape the way she markets to customers.

She listened to her customers’ needs, focusing on earning their trust when they needed it most. Though Jen doesn’t use annual marketing plans, 70% of the marketing budget was in events — so she had to quickly pivot Qu’s marketing efforts. That meant switching content plans, among other efforts. Qu’s marketing team created a COVID survival kit and a blog post about how restaurants can optimize their online menus for COVID.

“Doing things that are going to be helpful — and that’s the whole premise of inbound marketing … is helping and educating your buyer — not selling,” says Jen.

In this episode of Tech Qualified, Jen goes into detail about how Qu shifted marketing plans to reflect the realities of the pandemic, which included launching an online ordering product that restaurants of all types can access and an initiative pairing restaurants with local first responders for food delivery.

Plus, she discusses her top tips for success in marketing. “Listen to your gut. That’s the best advice I could give to marketers,” Jen says.

Guest Profile

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  • Name: Jen Kern
  • What she does: Jen has been working in marketing for almost 25 years. She’s currently the CMO at Qu, an enterprise restaurant chain POS platform, which helps consolidate restaurant data to make online ordering more seamless and holistic.
  • Company: Qu
  • Key Quote: “The whole premise of inbound marketing is helping and educating your buyer, not selling.”

Key Insights

  • In the era of COVID-19, trust with customers is more important than ever. With things changing rapidly — particularly in the restaurant space — Jen says marketers need to be extra thoughtful about creating messages that are thoughtful and compassionate. “Every message you put out today is more important than ever,” she says.
  • Jen understands that sales and marketing can’t be siloed. Instead, she sees an intersection of the two — there’s a HubSpot term she’s fond of for describing this called, “smarketing.”
  • Effective marketing requires what Jen calls a “steep angle” — something that is different from what your competitors are doing. When the pandemic hit, Qu watched competitors put out a ton of free stuff into the marketplace. Jen says the team took the time to be thoughtful and come up with a similar approach that would work for the customers they serve, so they created a quick-start online ordering product. “We pressure tested it,” Jen says. “We went way down out of our enterprise space. … any restaurant, any size table service, quick service, fast-casual, whatever — anybody can get access to this product. You don't need to sign a contract, there are no hidden fees.”

Episode Highlights

  • Consolidating data for a seamless ordering experience
“[W]e build POS systems for restaurants and you can imagine our world has completely flipped upside down in the COVID days … Our vision has always been to take the hardware and the POS out of the middle of the equation and make it more about the customer engagement and that ordering process as seamless as possible.”
  • Building trust with customers is more important than ever
“[B]ack in the nineties … everybody wanted to be a trusted advisor … but actions speak louder than words … So I just really challenged myself every day to make sure our messaging, the things that people are seeing on social channels and the emails we send aren’t overdoing it and that each message is really thoughtful.”
  • Reacting to COVID-19
“[T]he whole plan that I had for Q1 completely, pretty much went out the window as soon as COVID hit. We have 70% of our budget in events … So we didn’t rush too fast, but we did come up with what I mentioned, which is what we call order up, [an] online ordering product and it works.”
  • Thought leadership creates valuable relationships

“[W]e created a COVID survival kit for restaurants and we got that live a couple of weeks ago and we wrote a blog about how to optimize your menu for COVID. [We’re] doing things that are going to be helpful — and that’s the whole premise of inbound marketing … is helping and educating your buyer — not selling,”

  • Take time to refocus and recenter
“I have to put time on my calendar to take breaks. I can’t emphasize enough to marketers how important it is to step away … I’m doing things like eating well, meditating, taking time to exercise … When I step away and then come back, I work better the rest of the day. I have better ideas.”
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