A while back I watched a new local business start up and now I get to play Monday Morning quarterback. But sometimes you see the two cars at an intersection and you know the collision is coming, you just can’t do anything to prevent it. That was what I was watching.
What I’m talking about is a barbecue joint that had some of the best barbecue I had ever eaten. I love barbecue - one of my favorite food groups. So when you open a place that does this, I’m going to be one of the first in line. And I was - about a week after opening day.
In advance of my visit I went to the world wide web to find their hours, or their phone number, or their menu. I found none of those. The location was still associated with the previous business on the Internet and that phone number was disconnected. So when I finally went in, I asked them about their web presence and they mentioned that their consultant had recommended a half-page ad in the Yellow Pages. Wow. I told them they’d be out of business inside of six months and I wasn’t off by much.
If you choose to be a business professional in in today’s world you have already made a number of decisions. You are going to be a salesperson first. Whether you make biscuits or roofing tiles or sell grape stakes, whatever business you’re in you’re in the business of selling. That’s reality. How you reach your intended target is a different story and part of what you learn as your due diligence when choosing to start that business.
It’s a shame that this barbecue place closed because they had great food, really friendly service staff and they were fast and priced fairly. Several years after they closed people are still talking about how much they miss the food at this place. But the old adage about building a better mouse trap is only partially true, you need to let people know about it so they can beat a path to your door.
In a completely different circumstance, I watched another local eatery open and monitored their progress. They had a teaser website and Facebook page right from the get-go with hints as to what they were planning, but no specific details. As opening day got closer, details became known and when they opened for the first day there was a line out the door. In fact, there was a line out the door for at least a month partially due to the great curiosity generated by the advance campaign and also caused by the place being in the right place at the right time. And this was in our area’s off season.
So while the competition for this business often still haven’t taken advantage of all the free tools available to them, this business is thriving partially because of an effective marketing campaign that continues to this day.
What’s the right plan for you? That’s up to your customers. Whether its a website, social media, billboards, sandwich boards, a painted-up vehicle, word of mouth or any combination of these things the bottom line is that you should be where your clients and prospects are today and where you expect to find them. And, in some cases, where you don’t expect them to find you.
If firmly believe in guerrilla marketing as well where you just surprise the heck out of someone by being where they’d never expect you, but you also want to catch them where they do expect you.
Now, back to the closed barbecue joint. The place that I would have gone to first if I were that restaurant is Yelp. In fact, they might not even need their own website.
Yelp is a site where anybody can post reviews of any business, whether they’re a customer or not. In fact, some post great reviews of their own businesses, which is something that Yelp tries to discover and squash. Yelp is also highly controversial and hated by many businesses who accuse the company or prioritizing and even hiding reviews based on whether or not the business is an advertiser. This last item is something for the courts to decide.
I have a free guide that explains how to list your business on Yelp.
Even if you hate Yelp, and lots of people do, it’s important to “own” your listing, especially if you’re a restaurant but truly in any business. Why?
You can make sure all the facts are correct on your listing such as hours, location, description, photos and more. As the business owner you will also be notified when someone writes a review of your establishment.
Some people specifically don’t want to claim their Yelp listing because they don’t want bad reviews. That doesn’t work, because Yelp’s goal is to list every business and the wisdom of “the crowd” helps them find you. And once you’re on their system, you’re going to get reviews.
When someone writes a good review we all smile. But when someone writes a bad review, and they will, it can be traumatizing. But it’s also a huge opportunity. How is that? Well that’s next week’s blog post. Just know that a negative review can actually help your business.
Yelp is free and there are plenty of reasons to get a listing there, not the least of which is that Apple’s mapping software uses the Yelp listing to help find and list businesses. So when the 700 million or so iPhone users look for a business, they’re using the data supplied by Yelp. That is a huge customer base that you’re either getting or not.
Again, there is no reason to not be on Yelp and every reason to be there. You can create and edit your own listing free and, even if you earn one customer from this effort, it is worthwhile.