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

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