front door

Open the {Virtual} Front Door!

front door

Yesterday, I came across an article admonishing independent restaurants to get a web presence, and I thought the point was a good one and worthy of being re-posted.

As someone who often works with small businesses, and specifically in the areas of social media and networking, I have been known to say that if you have no web presence, you don’t exist. Sounds harsh, sure, but the article I’m referencing explains it well:

Imagine spending the whole day preparing food to serve in your restaurant that night, but never unlocking the door. Imagine your customers’ confusion as there is not a sign in the window or any communication from you; eventually they wander off to dine down the street. An absurd scenario, yes, but one that illustrates that having a physical front door that is inexplicably closed is akin to not having a website in today’s digital marketplace. You are, in fact, closing your virtual front door — the door to your online customers.

Yes. Yes! THIS is what a lack of web presence does to your business.

I’ve done it. You’ve done it (okay, well, maybe not you). Every smart phone user has done it: you are in a different area of the city, or visiting a new city, and you wonder what’s good where you are, or you see an attractive sign and wonder what kind of place goes with it.

The first resource for such a person? Google! But even Google can’t find a business without a web presence.

Take it from a person who has spent significant amounts of time looking for websites to link to from other tourism and commercial sites (with the purpose of benefiting local business and the area in general) that too many small businesses have no web presence.

What do I mean by web presence? I mean at the very least a page on the web where people can see a) your business name (and what type of business it is); b) your location; and c) at least two ways of contacting you (phone and email are preferred).

A Facebook page is great. I would go so far as to say it’s a must-have, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it replaces a website itself, because…:

…search engines such as Google and Bing have limited ability to display the content that your restaurant posts on Facebook. Without a website, the ability to attract consumers searching online for a venue is limited. Many online sites, such as menu aggregators, use websites to gather and pass along information they find. Restaurants without a Web presence can’t benefit from this online amplification.

Again with the closed door. I apologize if this post veers too closely to the point of ranting, but I sometimes feel like taking small business owners firmly by the hand, forcing them to look me solidly in the eyes, and repeating emphatically over and over: “Help me help you. Help me! Help you! Help me help YOU!”

It really is all about you, or your business, for me. As is a web presence.

And why the heck not?! My site costs me about $12/year. I kid you not. If your business cannot handle $12/year, I hate to break it to you, but your business is dead.

Sample Wix site
Sample Wix site

Where to start:

  • A domain name. I would go with GoDaddy or whatever your friends with websites recommend. Go to the site, search to see if the domain name you want is available, and if it is, buy a year or two of rights to it. Every year or two, you have to renew your rights. Easy enough, right?
  • A FREE website. Yes. FREE!! (Why haven’t you done this before, again?!) If you want to have an online shop, go with something like Shopify. Or, if you want to just have a page with your info on it, you can go with a free template from sites like Wix, Weebly, or WordPress.com. Again, ask around and go with what someone you know has used before (so you can call them if you get stuck, of course). All of these sites are customizable and re-customizable, so you can start small and build your site as you gain knowledge.
  • Ask your friend (or hire me) to help you hook your domain name up with your new site.
  • Verify your site with search engines. This sounds complicated, and it’s perhaps a little more complicated than the other stuff you’ve already done, but trust me: it’s worth it! If your site is verified with, say, Google, then Google knows you’re not spam, and therefore will recommend you to people and bump you to the top of the virtual pile. Yay, right? Virtual door wide open!!
Sample Weebly site
Sample Weebly site

I really am available for hire to help you set up your website and your Facebook page, as well as other social media outlets, email marketing and newsletters, and more. Email me at sarahekoopmans (at) gmail (dot) com, message me, or tweet me.

Even establishing a one-page website is a great start to leveraging your restaurant’s online search presence. Open your virtual front door and capture customers who are looking to discover and learn about your restaurant, and ultimately lead them to your physical front door.

Now please. Please! Open your virtual front door!

(Oh, and sorry for the accidental publish last night… a technological oops!)

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2 thoughts on “Open the {Virtual} Front Door!

  1. Oh but please, PLEASE do it right. Simply put a business needs a Facebook page, don’t sign up for as a person. So people will “like” your page, not add as a friend.
    You wouldn’t believe the number of small businesses I have found in Barrie that are on Facebook listed as people, not pages!

    • Yes, you’re absolutely right. Though for those that are a bit confused, you DO need a personal profile in order to create a page, at least in my experience.

      Again: I’m willing to spend a few hours with you (not YOU, Michelle… you don’t need it 🙂 ), or even send you screen shots from a distance if you need it.

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