I am always amazed every time I go online to look up local restaurants only to find either no website at all or an extremely poorly designed one that gives no valuable information except perhaps a phone number and flash lit photographs of food that looks like slop.
These are not the images one wants to make for a first impression.
I see this more and more, and just don’t understand why businesses which mostly operate face to face do not realize the importance of a professional online website. It does not matter whether you serve food or prepare taxes, your potential customers are looking for you online first – not the big yellow book that’s used as a door stop.
Here are 5 tips to help you start cleaning up your act… I mean website.
1. Change Your Mind!
First, you must change your mind-set. Websites are important and should be viewed as part of your business. In reality, websites fall under the Marketing category of your business. Your website may well be the first impression a potential client will see. Successful marketing leads to new sales (in your case customers), therefore if your online marketing is poor, your sales will not be as strong as they could be.
2. Websites Do Not Have to be Interactive
Despite the amazing growth and popularity of social media and blogging, websites still serve a useful function for businesses even without these tools. A restaurant owner does not need to be blogging about what kind of meat grinder they use to grind their hamburgers in order to make their brick and mortar business grow. However, he/she could still benefit from online marketing as a way increase their local following.. but that’s another topic.
For restaurants, a website is a great place to showcase your menu – even your prices. I frequently order Chinese from a local restaurant called, The Dragon Chef, which is MSG free. Where do I go first when ordering lunch at work, or getting ready to call in my order from home?
You guessed it, their website.
When I first considered going there to eat I decided to look them up online to save the hassle just incase I didn’t get a good feeling about the place. Instead what I saw was a website that gave me all the information I needed (directions, prices, menu items. etc.) and a bunch of photos of the inside of the restaurant. I could tell it looked clean, the people were having fun and I remarked to my husband, “Ok, this place looks nice – let’s try it”.
Their website sold me and made money off of me for sure – all thanks to their website.
3. Websites are Not Expensive or High Maintenance
Here is your good old capitalism at work – encourage business competition and prices go down. Today it seems there are so many web hosting companies out there that they are all trying to offer the cheapest price to motivate customers to sign up.
The provider I uses charges only $6.95 a month for the full year, or $9.95 per month on a monthly basis – plus I can have unlimited domains. Is it worth it? Yes!
I highly recommend hiring someone to develop your site for you. Either find a friend whose work you trust, or go to freelance websites such as www.elance.com where you can hire out a professional. Remember to keep it professional – it’s like a first date and impressions count!
Once your site is up and running to your satisfaction, you don’t have to worry about it anymore unless you need to update any information such as phone numbers, location, etc.
4. Convey the Right Tone Through the Website
Websites which are for small businesses that deal directly with consumers should have a personal feel to them. True, an accounting office may not reek of fun and personality, but no one wants a “fun” accountant. I want my accountant to be serious and take my taxes serious. Their website needs to convey a serious tone – but I also want him to be friendly, so I’d make sure any photos on the site are of them smiling at the camera.
For restaurants, using The Dragon Chef example above, I know I want to go there because I want to have a fun time when I go out – and according to the photographs I can tell I will. Think about the tone you want to convey for your business when you meet a customer face to face, and make sure that is the tone of your website. From the colors to the font size – this is your chance to win new business.
5. Do Not Use a Point and Shoot Camera
Ask your friends or family if they know of anyone who has a nice professional camera and can take quality photographs. There is a good reason why every wedding hires a professional photographer – it’s a memory they want to capture accurately and forever. Your website is part of your business and should be viewed the same way.
You should want to create professional images that convey a professional appearance – and this means your food that you serve. Using a point and shoot camera with a flash will leave your food looking flat, soggy and all together unappetizing. Your food is your product and you need to make sure they shine – but not from a flash!
Running a small business is very difficult, no one denies that. However, for all the perseverance, hard work, long hours and sacrifices you put in, don’t you think it is important to have a website that accurately describes what you do and who you are?
First impressions are everything and your website will indeed in this day and age leave a first impression to your visitors. Let’s just make sure it’s the right impression.