Once upon a time, helping customers to find your small business was relatively simple. You just needed a website, direct mail, referral networks, a listing in the Yellow Pages, and maybe some local directory listings.
Today, the online landscape has completely changed. There are millions of websites on the internet, reams of free information for readers to get lost in, and countless establishments in each industry competing for the same web-surfers.
Amid this cacophony of competition, how do you get your small business to stand out on the Internet, and make it easy for the right people to find you?
An example of how small businesses can get themselves found online
Back in 2007, when people wanted to find a restaurant, they simply looked for places to eat on the internet. Restaurant owners came to rely on this trend, which had been supplying them with customers ever since the mid-nineties.
How to get found in services like Yelp?
But over the last few years, things have been changing. Services like Open Table, Yelp, and Google mobile apps have drastically altered the way your customers – especially smartphone-wielding millennials – look for restaurants. These location aware services have created local internet marketing opportunities that we will look at in depth in this post.
The competition is stiff
In the new Pittsburgh, which has been referred to by the New York Times as the new Brooklyn when it comes to food, the food scene has transformed in front of our eyes – and with it, the rest of the city.
The number of restaurants has expanded – not just in Pittsburgh, but in many other places as well.
The rapid evolution of technology also plays a role. You may have heard of Moore’s Law – the law that states that computer power doubles every 18 months to 2 years, while the price remains the same or goes down.
I’ve personally observed this law in action. When I bought my first personal computer in 1983, it cost $3,500, and it had two floppy disk drives, 64 kb of memory, and a four-color monitor.
By 2007, when the iPhone came out, processor speed had increased close to 10,000 percent, and my Apple desktop had a 30-inch display and four processors, which had a base hard drive of 320 GB and 2 GB of memory. In that same timeframe, the first smartphone has evolved to be as fast as the desktop of 2007, with the same amount of memory, almost the same storage in a solid-state drive, and a faster internet connection than the cable modems of 2007.
So in the course of just ten years, our desktop computer, which I am still using occasionally, has mostly migrated to our pockets or purses. This is important to you because of millennials, who have known nothing but smartphones being part of their adult lives, have all that technology at their fingertips 24×7, and they know how to use it.
So amid this plethora of options that your customers have to choose from, how do you use the rapid advancement of technology to get your establishment to stand out – especially if it’s relatively new and hasn’t built a reputation yet?
Here are a few ways to use local Internet marketing to get customers to try your restaurant:
Today, over 70% of people make their buying decisions based on online reviews, and they make those decisions on the fly. So when they’re hungry and looking for food, or preparing for a celebration or event, it’s important to put your business in the places where they’re looking.
That being the case, here are four key ways to make your restaurant more visible to potential customers:
Local directories and review sites
If you do a Google search for “Restaurants in Pittsburgh”, you’ll probably see sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and OpenTable near the top of the search. These are sites where businesses can post profiles, pictures, and information about their establishment, and users can post reviews.
Many of your customers, especially the more conservative ones, depend on these reviews to tell them which restaurants are worth trying out. So it’s vital to have both an accurate, appealing profile, and some positive customer reviews.
How do you get reviews for your business?
One way is to offer a deal in exchange for a review. This deal could be an entry into a draw for a prize, a small discount, or a free product.
Another is to have a newsletter, with which you can give valuable and interesting information related to your industry, let your customers know about new dishes and daily specials, and ask them to post reviews.
And one of the best ways is to survey your customer right after the transaction and ask them how satisfied they are with the service.
If your business specializes in serving a particular geographic area, location-aware advertising, or location-based advertising, is a great way to let people in your area know who you are, where you are, and what you’re offering.
What is location-aware advertising?
It’s advertising that’s sent to people based on their location.
Examples of location-based advertising include Coca-Cola providing maps with nearby vending machines that offer the customer’s chosen beverage, and a mall sending coupons and sales alerts to customers as soon as they come within 50-500 meters of the building.
Make sure that your messages are valuable to your subscribers. You want them to WANT to open your messages because they know that they’ll learn or receive something that matters to them.
Also, get straight to the point. Users often spend only 8 to 10 seconds on a mobile advertisement, so by the end of those few seconds, they should already know why your message is relevant and why they should want to know more.
Social media – and local Internet Marketing
With all the time the younger generations spend on social media these days, you can’t afford to overlook this valuable marketing channel if you want to grow your business.
According to QSR Magazine, Snapchat is the single best way to capture the 13–34-year-old demographic.
Young consumers have shorter attention spans, so pictures and short videos that can make an impression quickly are a great way to catch their interest. Find ways to make interacting with your brand fun and personal, and give them a reason to share that interaction with their friends.
For example, Taco Bell created a filter that enables people to turn a picture of their own head into a taco with their face on it. Then they’d share that funny, branded image with their friends, which added up to a lot of free advertising for Taco Bell.
What about referrals?
Because people tend to act on recommendations from people they trust, partnering with people who already have a following of your ideal clients is invaluable, and can help you get more reviews.
For example, a wedding planner or party organizer could get you to cater for their event. You could also work with local businesses by offering a special deal on an employee appreciation dinner, which introduces their entire workforce to your restaurant.
Don’t look at referrals as being separate from your review and reputation management processes; it’s far more effective to integrate them. So don’t forget to ask your referral partners and the clients they bring you to post reviews of your business online.
Another method is to include food from a well-liked company in your restaurant, to have another establishment offer some of your food, or to work together in the same building with a complementary establishment.
For example, if you serve hot meals, you could partner with an ice cream shop and share a building. This creates an appealing one-stop shop for your clients and gives people who were primarily interested in the other company’s products a reason to check out yours.
This applies to businesses other than restaurants, as well. We recommend finding businesses that offer services that complement or necessitate yours – for example, a wedding planner could partner with a bakery and a dress designer. Consider the creation of an arrangement where every time you refer customers to each other, the referrer gets a percentage on the sale.
That way, not only do you have a great source of warm leads that you only pay for when you get paid, but you earn both extra money and your customers’ goodwill by helping them to find the services they need.
You can use the internet to facilitate this arrangement by having a list of resources on your site and encouraging your referral partners to put a link like that on their own site. Don’t forget to have referral tracking software in place, so you know where your visitors came from, and remember to review your referral partners online.
Are you monitoring your reviews?
Having an online reputation management strategy is vital – not just on Google, but on other search engines as well. For the iPhone user, Bing is essential, so don’t ignore it in your marketing plans.
Despite the importance of online reputation management, many business owners neglect this key marketing tool.
Let me ask you: how often are you looking at review sites to see if you’re getting negative reviews?
How do you know if a competitor is getting people to give you negative reviews?
Effective reputation management requires proactively looking at all of your reviews regularly – but as you were probably just inwardly protesting, that can be highly time-consuming!
The good news is, you don’t have to take the time to do all that yourself. There are services that take care of it for you. At onCOREventures, we use technology for our clients to make sure that their profiles in all the local directories are set up and monitored correctly, as well as a tool to survey the customers of our clients and ask them for reviews.
These tools also monitor all online material about our clients for them and provide monthly online reporting of the results. That way, you never have to wonder whether your online reputation is bringing you customers or driving them away because we manage that reputation for you!
Want more help to stay competitive and attract clients in today’s high-speed environment?
You don’t have to figure this out for yourself. As a company with years of experience in helping new businesses to get started, small businesses to grow, and large businesses to get even more successful in our ever-changing world, we’re here to help.
If you want to bring more leads and customers to your business, to make a difference in your community, and to turn technology’s rapid evolution into an ally of your business instead of a stumbling block, we’d love to make it simple for you. We have affordable tools to handle these processes, and we can show you how to get started with no obligation on your part.
Simply click this link and fill out the information on this page to get a free assessment of this opportunity, and to start using this invaluable technology to grow your business.