LSM – The Internet and Marketing Your Business

For this last spot on Local Store Marketing we must talk about keeping up to date with LSM methods and how to reach Gen Y and the ever growing internet market.

This section is mainly for the small business owner or franchisee as 99% of medium to large franchisors will have at least a dedicated web page if not the full range of web related activities.

First up, I am no expert on this subject but do understand the importance of at least a web presence for any small business. So what is a web presence and how do you get one that will suit a small business or a small start up franchise? Well let’s start with a single store small business. Why should you spend time and money on a web presence when you are already well known in your area? Simple, this is the time when you are trying to grow (or at least maintain) your customer numbers and one of the best ways to do that nowadays is on the web.

The minimum you will need is a web page that gives your customers details of who you are, what you do, a menu, store hours and how to contact you. Take a look at some of your competitor’s web pages and work out what you want your page to look like and what information you want to pass along to your customers. Make it customer friendly. Most people know how frustrating it is to find a web page for a large corporation and find that there is no way to actually talk to someone if you want to ask a question. Remember that you are in the hospitality business and the best way to gain new customers is to talk to them personally.

The next step is to find a good web page designer to work with. There are plenty of ways to do this and one way to keep costs down is to look through your local university. If you are on a tight budget, there are students who will often create a website for the cost of your domain registration (web address) and web hosting. The design can be a project for school and the hungry student would be happy with free pizza or coffee vouchers as payment!  Word of mouth is also a good way to find a reliable web developer. Ask other small business owners who have good looking websites for their recommendations. Another way is to do a Google business search for designers in your area. Ask if they will come to visit you and discuss what they can offer. Ideally you want to go with someone whom you can meet personally. Check prices and ask to see web pages they have designed. Check them out and get several quotes from experienced web designers (or hungry students!). This should not cost more than $500 – $1000 (for a more complicated site) for a simple 3-5 page information website. Remember you get what you pay for and be sure to get a commitment for a date of completion.

If you have not gotten a logo or store identity you can check with the folks at 99 designs who have thousands of designers waiting to do great work  for you (they also have web designers, T-shirt designers, etc)!

Additionally you want to make sure that your website can be updated and can grow with your business as well as be used for specials and LSM. A good idea is to run a small in-store promo that asks your customers to leave their business cards in return for a chance to win a small prize, free meal etc. and do it monthly so you can build a data base. You can then use that data base when you have developed your web site by sending the link to those customers with special, promos etc.

Additionally, you should set up a Google business listing and a Facebook fan page. A Google business listing is free and includes a map to your location. With the yellow pages becoming a thing of the past, many people use the internet to find a location and this is a great way to be found. As for the Facebook page; you encourage your regular customers to become fans and you can use this site to highlight special promotions and discount coupons, new menu items, decor changes (you can put pictures up!) and just keep your fans up-to-date with what you are doing.

After writing this I have decided to get a guest blogger in to talk more about meeting with your web developer and what questions to ask  and some buzzwords to make you look and feel more informed before you start your search. Watch this space!

R. Stevens

Local Store Marketing (LSM) Part 2

OK so what works and what doesn’t as far as LSM goes. That is a question that is impossible to answer with the variables that go along with our business. Those variables include but are not limited to:

Current economic climate:

Customers are looking for value for money and with most concepts giving them exactly that, they are learning fast that they don’t have to look far to get great discounts on most products. What you have to work out for your business is what will attract more customers and what is cost effective for you.

The type of concept:

What you sell, what your cost structure is and what your average check is will do a lot to guide you in what type of LSM you can do.  For example a high cost of goods product will probably lend itself to a value added promotion. That added value should cover what your customers want, but try to utilize some of your low cost products. For example, restaurants can offer free soda refills, free coffee, etc. with full priced meals.

Low cost products such as coffee houses can go for it with BOGO’s or buy one get one for a dollar. The dollar should cover most of the cost of the give away.

Your franchisor:

Your franchisor, in their opinion, has invested a lot of time and effort in putting together a full year of promotions so it is in your interest not to do LSM that will be in direct competition with your current media promotion. Do something that is totally different or compliments the promotion.

Your franchisor should have a bank of LSM ideas that have worked in the past over a number of different demographics and economic climates along with the art work to go along with them. Just ask, it’s what your franchise fees are paying for.

If your franchisor does not have that information or you are an independent business owner then talk to other franchisees in your business or even other businesses that don’t compete with you but draw from the same customer base. Ask them what has worked for them, share ideas and past LSM wins.

Hey that is what this blog is hoping to do, share ideas and best practice among franchisees and small business owners to the benefit of all.

What can you afford:

With most franchisees and small business owners caught in a vice grip of rising costs and diminishing revenue, no one can afford to not do some local store marketing. Those that do not do everything they can to keep or increase their customer base during tough economic times will lose that customer base to those that do. Proven time after time!

The trick is to work out how much you can afford to give away, discount, or spend on LSM versus the gain in total customers that you need to ensure your business remains viable. Only you can do that. Sit down with a piece of paper and a calculator and work it out. If you have an idea for an LSM idea cost it out and be 100% sure about what increase in customers you need to break even, if you don’t meet those objectives then either drop the promo or don’t run it again but do come up with something to take its place. Again you cannot afford to sit there and let other businesses take your customers!

A bit long winded again. Someone shut me up by letting us know what LSM has worked for them and sharing it with us. I think I have one more LSM post to go….watch this space!

RStevens