How do your customers chose WHO to give their money to?
I'm going to #IndieRetail month launch event in Solihull on Sunday 1st July, I'll be up there the evening before to have dinner with the event organiser Clare Rayner aka the Retail Champion and some of the speakers.
We've decided we'll go for an Indian; something we all like and they're more likely to be an independant retailer than other styles of restaurant. (We want to support independant retailers of course, because that's the point of Independent Retailer Month!)
So I volunteered to find us a nice Indian Restaurant near the hotel, and as I started searching I realised it would make a nice blog post, using my search to explain what's important when getting your business online.
Warning! Reading this Blog Post could affect your online sales!
I warn you now, before you commence reading this blog post that I have broken my cardinal rule of keeping blog posts short, but I think you'll find there is a lot of useful information that will help your business get found by the customers who are already out there searching for you!
I'm using this real life example of how I am going to (have now) chosen the restaurant that the 6 of us will dine in. (I am writing/I wrote this blog post AS I was searching, so please forgive any errors that may occur in the tense I write in!)
This example isn't just a single sale the restaurants we're not going to will lose out on, they're losing out on 6 meals, and drinks. In addition to that each of us as individuals are fairly well respected within our fields, and we have rather large networks, within which we're influential... a recommendation from 6 customers like us could be very useful for a business!
Use Google Maps to find local businesses...
My first step to find a restaurant near to the hotel we're staying in is Google Maps.
I used "indian restaurant near Hotel Solihull, Birmingham, Solihull, UK" as my search term, and up pops up a nice clear map, showing exactly where the hotel is with a lovely green arrow, and all the nearby Indian restaurants marked with lettered pins.
(The ones that are on Google maps that is)...
Location! Location! Location!
I looked to see which of the Indian Restaurants were closest to my hotel. We could drive, but I figure the least amount of driving to and from the hotel, the better.
I saw a few Indian Restaurants pinned on the map nearby to the south of the hotel, but one of those was next to a body of water, and I thought to myself "there might be nice views from the restaurant overlooking the water", so I looked for more details...
It was called the Blue Mango (nice name)... and coincedentally was pinned "A" by Google Maps, but the reason I chose it was not because it was the first on the list, it was because of it's location;
Location! Location! Location!
Review the Information & Website
The Indian Restaurant next to the water looked promising, I first looked at the information displayed by Google Maps on the left, it showed that there were 9 reviews (promising I thought) and then I clicked through to the website...
Once I clicked through to their website however, rather than finding out more about the restaurant, the lovely views over the water, what delicious food they served, how beautiful the decor was, I was greeted with the following message:
"If you can see this page, then the people who manage this server have installed cPanel and WebHost Manager (WHM) which use the Apache Web server software and the Apache Interface to OpenSSL (mod_ssl) successfully...."
Good for them, not much use to me though! Oh dear, what an Internet marketing #Fail!
They'd takent the time, effort and energy to be shown on Google maps but then didn't have a website...
So close, yet so very far away from what it takes to market a local business successfully on line...
What is the Customer seeing when they get to your website?
The next restaurant I chose to click through to was simply the next one on the list- the one that Google had pinned as "B", it was Ashas, I clicked on their website and I found...
A pretty looking website; it was clean, clear, and made me feel like they understood the things I wanted to know about a restaurant before making my decision.
I saw some short customer reviews displayed, and that it had been listed in the Michelin guide, for several years running.
I wasn't sure that was the type of place we were looking for, but I wanted to read more.. (That's a good sign).
I looked at their menu, (it took ages to download as a pdf), but it did at least download into a separate tab (important so that your customer doesn't lose your website when doing numerous searches).
Reading the menu was a little strange, showing desserts first (My guess is they'd just uploaded the print version of the pdf which wasn't designed for display online).
There wasn't a huge variety of options on the menu, and they certainly didn't seem "authentic", but I felt confident they would be of high quality.
I clicked through to their "360 view", where I first saw 360 view of the outside of the restaurant, clever but I wasn't really sure which building the restaurant was.
I clicked to see the 360 view of the inside, and it was at that point I started feeling a little sea sick.. the images were being moved around a touch too fast.
Interesting gimmick; nice to be able to see the restaurant, but didn't quite achieve the desired effect for me.
Ashas website left me with the feeling that it was designed & created by someone who knew about internet marketing, but I didn't choose that restaurant as it didn't match the type of restaurant I was looking for, we weren't going out to celebrate with a fancy meal, we just wanted a nice meal to socialise with some very interesting people the night before a business event..
I decided to look at the next restaurant...
Are your customers really looking for an audio experience?
Sadly the third restaurant I clicked through to launched into an audio starting with a swooshing sound that was quite
I clicked away immediately...
(I did not pause to look at any of the visual display, I did not collect £200 for passing "Go" either, because I didn't, I couldn't! I wanted to get away from it as fast as I could click!)
How about combining Audio assault with outdated information and awful visual design?
I could barely believe how awful the next website was- audio assaulted, and then my eyes were abused!!
There is so much wrong with the design of this website, I'll restrict myself to mentioning one thing- having Santa Claus pointing to flashing "Christmas menu" text in June hints that the website might not actually be that current... and the design is reminiscent of websites that were around in the 90s..
The fifth restaurant I clicked through to, the Rajdoot Tandori wasn't the best I've ever come across, to start with it asked me to select
which restaurant I wanted (I thought I'd already done that by finding it on Google Maps by location, but apparently not).
It was a very dark design, but I'll forgive them for that seeing as the colours are "authentically" Indian...
I clicked through to the menu, again showing as a pdf, I read through looking for dishes I know I like and are usually free of dairy/wheat etc. (I have food intolerances which is why I was the one choosing the restaurant- restauranteers note- if you can't cater for us "awkward" people you might just lose bookings, in this case for 6 adults..)
I noticed an absence of beef on the menu... so I figure that's pretty authentic, aren't cows holy in India? But not sure what everyone's taste is when it comes to Indian, I decided to click throught to the next on Google Maps list..
At what point do your customers just get tired of looking for what they want?
at this point, (11pm on a Friday evening) I'm getting tired and starting somewhat to lose the will to live...
Why is it so difficult to find a nice ordinary Indian Restaurant on line?
Because local businesses simply do not know how to market themselves using the power of the magical interwebs...
What are your customers saying about you online?
The sixth restaurant website I decide to look at wasn't the next in the Google listing, but it's name caught my eye "Celebrity Restaurant".
I was about to click through when I noticed it only had 3 reviews, (the restaurant Google listed before had 6), so I clicked through to read those instead..
Oh dear... they weren't exactly glowing!
I do hope the restaurant has read them, but I doubt it, very few business owners take time to find out what the customer experience has been, and even those that do listen usually justify the poor service, saying it's due to having to keep costs as low as possible...
Arranging not to be cleaning around customers as they are dining, I would consider as a basic of customer service in a restaurant, but judging from the review I read, the management don't concurr..
Comparing the Immediate Options
I start to question again whether or not I really want to continue looking at any more restaurants..
I decide to perservere and I take a quick look at the reviews from Barajee, (the seventh restaurant so far in my search), which had 6 reviews on Google+ some good, some not so good, but one that was not so good compared it to Ashas, which is a michelin restaurant, so I figure it might not be all that bad...
But... and here's the thing, because their website didn't "grab" me-The decor looked old, and the copy was a mish mash of words that didn't flow, and in fact jarred my senses (I'm a word snob)- I went back to look at the Rajdoot.
(You might remember that was the FIFTH restaurant I looked at).
I looked at their images, they were small but I really liked the definite authentic India feel of it, much more Indian, as apposed to the traditional "British Indian" restaurant we're more familiar with..
And that's when I decided I would search no further...
I'd seen all the options I wanted to, I had now made my decision- the Rajdoot was the best of what was easily searchable..
It wasn't the restaurant with the best website, or the best food, or the best customer reviews that I chose, it was the restaurant with the things that best suited our requirements:
- Dietary needs
- Warm Friendly Relaxed Environment
- Good quality food
- Mid-Range Price
Tips You Need, so that Your Customers Can Find Your Business Online
- • Make sure your website can be found where your customers are actively looking for you! That means: Get your business on Google Maps! Show your Location! Location! Location!
- • Hire an expert to "search engine optimise" your website (SEO) so that your business is easily found on Google.
- • Have a good strong brand name that clearly embodies your brand values and resonates with your ideal customers.
- •Understand what your customers are looking for, target the decision maker, and get to know their priorities.
- • Have a pleasant, clear, calm visual website design.
- • Have pertinent information EASY to find, display what your customers are looking for (not what you want to display to them). It is a fact that most web browsers leave websites within SECONDS of their arrival! Don't frustrate them, provide the information on a plate.
- • Don't scare them away with unnecessary gimmicks- i.e- 360 views that move too fast, flashing images, and Audio..!
- • Keep your website content current and updated regularly, especially reflecting current holiday seasons/weather etc.
- • Check 3rd Party review sites such as Trip Advisor, Google+, Ebay ratings etc. Contact unhappy customers and rectify mistakes whenever possible; offer refunds, discounts etc. where appropriate.
- • Get current testimonials and reviews from satisfied, happy customers, display them on your website.
- • Invest in an expert copy writer, what and how you write about your business and product is worth a million dollars (or can be, if you get it right!).
- • Get an expert in Local Internet Marketing to work with your business, to ensure that you are the top of the results from the searches your customers are using. Don't fall prey to "search fatigue" where customers never get to see your wonderful, all singing, all dancing perfect website, because they've already looked at 7 others and are now bored with searching!
Do you know how your best paying customers previously discovered your business?
Have you ever asked your best paying customers exactly how they discovered your business?
What was it that influenced their decision to give YOU their money, rather than your competitors?
Taking time to ask your customers for feedback will save you lots of wasted time & money. You will know exactly what they want, so that you can make sure those elements form the
foundations to your marketing strategy.
While you're taking the time to communicate and engage with your customers, ask them for their recommendations! Let them tell you how they'd describe the service your business provides them- they do your marketing for you!
For general Retail business expertise check out Retail Champion - aka Clare Rayner and if you can make it, it would be well worth while coming to the #IndieRetail Month launch event on Sunday 1st July, lots to learn & access to top class retail experts.
Primary Position is an SEO company I've learned a lot from, things that have produced excellent results for my clients, and so much more that I've not had chance to implement for the Success Matters website yet!
If you're a micro business, and you haven't yet got your business online (ie you don't have a website) you might be interested in a special website package from Sucess Matters - working with you we will have a fully functioning business website live for your business, in under 4 hours.