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!)

Advertisements
My Herb Garden

Worthy Distractions

Things have been quiet on the personal blog front for a while. My apologies. First, there were final papers. Four due in five days. Let’s just say I lived on coffee, three hours of sleep per night and was very grateful to get two extensions. Then, there was exams. Oh, and losing my wallet. I […]

Ontario honey

{Locality} is a Lifestyle

Today’s (last-minute pulled-together) post is kind of a continuation of what I talked about last week in my “Changing {Locality}” post: the values of “Local,” or in my case, {Locality} doesn’t necessarily have to do with the area that I’m living in. Rather, it’s about a mindset that values what is around you, wherever you are.

I realize this is a growing trend in some hip, cool communities, but I think that not enough people are aware that it’s the small businesses that make our society great. Sure, the big stores and big names are easy to find and easy to shop at, but wouldn’t you rather know you’re putting food on a local business owner’s table instead of lining the pockets of some corporate bajillionaire?

No, I’m not soap-boxing, but there is a LOT to be said for small businesses. Get ON that!

This also coincides with my recent rise to official status at the Ruralist. I have yet to publish my first post, but many of the posts have been edited by yours truly, and I am behind the scenes in other ways, too. In fact, I am proud to announce my new title: “Editor and Social Media Consultant.” Sounds spiffy, doesn’t it?

The official status was made possible by an internship, thanks to the MIT (no not that MIT) internship coordinator at Western, the “fairy jobmother” herself, Susan Weekes. But reality is, we kinda just needed a reason, a way, for me to jump on board in an official capacity. And here we are.

That being said, if you still haven’t checked out the Ruralist, again, I urge you to ask yourself what you are waiting for!

These are my favourite {Locality}-related posts to date:

Inside the Arva Flour Mill

Hive fashion

Shop Local Infographic

Ontario honey

What’s your favourite {Locality} candidate?

Ruralist Intern

It’s official: I’m a Ruralist!

Ruralist Intern

If you’re not already following Ruralist.ca, what the heck are you waiting for? I kid. But seriously, it’s a fantastic website that promises to grow up to be truly great.

I like to compare it to Etsy: Ruralist.ca will be to rural Ontario what Etsy is to all things handmade.

It begins with an online magazine, where you can see a curated selection of the best of what rural Ontario has to offer. Then, coming soon, is the List (RuraList, get it?), which integrates micro sites for the featured shops and shopping capabilities! For more on the List, check out what the Ruralists have to say about it.

Erin Roy and Erin Samuell have teamed up to make Ruralist.ca a reality. Erin Roy is the numbers and business whiz and Erin Samuell the photographic and graphics genius. I am lucky enough to know both of them, and I was invited to hear their ideas and contribute my opinion since the idea of the Ruralist was born several months ago.

I have also been editing many of the magazine posts and consulting on things like social media and web design, in an unofficial behind-the-scenes capacity. But, as of last week, I am no longer behind the scenes at Ruralist.ca. I am the summer intern!

That means that I can significantly expand my involvement in this exciting project, receive school credit for it, and dive in to help Erin and Erin as they ramp up the site in preparation for the unveiling of the List. They needed a third person and I was eager for an internship, and one day, something shifted and we realized I could come aboard in an official capacity in a way that would be beneficial to everyone involved.

And voila, here we are: I’m officially a Ruralist! Head over to Ruralist.ca to read my welcome.

Here’s a bit more about the Ruralist:

Welcome to the Ruralist

changing locality

Changing {Locality}

changing locality

My geographical locality has changed since my last {Locality} post. I’m no longer an official resident of Huron County. My new county has the word “sex” in it: Middlesex. A respectable enough county name, though one rarely thinks of the county when one is in a city.

The transition has been odd. Not only did I move from the country to a city, but I also moved in with my boyfriend, a big enough life transition in and of itself. The “me to we” transition, as my “mother-in-law” Deb put it, hasn’t been that big of a deal (though perhaps I should add a “yet” to that). After more than two and a half years as a serious couple, we were already used to living life together, even from two different geographic locations.

What keeps causing me to bug out is the staying in London. I think if it were any other city that I wasn’t so familiar with, it would be different, but because I have known London for so many years–gone there for shopping and movies, attended university, gone for medical appointments and to visit family members at the hospital, etc.–as a place you go to and leave again, it is very odd to just stay, to not get in the car and make that very familiar trek north up Richmond or Highbury or Hyde Park, aiming for Ontario’s West Coast.

Regardless of my physical location, however, {Locality} continues to be important to me. No longer does it refer specifically to Huron County–it now has everything to do with what is local wherever I am, wherever you are. From now on, {Locality} posts will extend across Ontario, perhaps even across Canada, North America, or the world!

{Locality} is a mindset that avoids box stores, large corporations, and that aspect of democracy that tends to put money before people. It champions the owner/proprietor, the entrepreneur, the organic farmer, the rural shop, the one-off boutique, the people with personality and heart that you love to see again and again.

It can exist wherever you are, country or city, big or small.

I will continue to champion the rural, the small-town, the “back home,” but I undoubtedly will find places in my new locale that can pass the muster side-by-side with the Bayfields and Goderiches of rural Ontario.

In fact, stay tuned for an announcement tomorrow that underscores my dedication to all things rural Ontario!

shop local infographic

From Ruralist.ca: 8 Reasons to Shop Local (an Infographic)

You already know that I get excited about local and rural shops, but here is a beautiful graphic worthy of printing and hanging on your fridge or desk or wherever you might look at it, to remind you that while box stores might be convenient, the local store is where it’s at:

shop local infographicLet’s start a revolution: pass it on!