Most of us use the Internet daily, with Google often the first port of call before going on holiday or visiting a restaurant. So, it’s surprising that the People 1st State of the Nation 2010 report found that only 59 percent of sector businesses have a website or possess the capability to trade online. That means a staggering 41 percent of businesses are missing out on this lucrative market space.
With competition at an all time high, if businesses are keen to stay one step ahead of their rivals, the opportunities the Internet offers cannot be overlooked. Here are some top tips to help you click your way to more customers:
Website: Unless you are a self confessed Luddite, your business will have a website. Ensure it is up-to-date, has plenty of engaging, good quality, high resolution images that appeal to customers – ask yourself, if you visited this website would you like to stay at the establishment/book a table at the restaurant? Use simple and accurate titles and meta tags to describe your business for the website and update these regularly to help optimise your Google search rankings. Also, create a custom 404 page so if visitors are accidently directed to a page that no longer exists, they land on a page with your branding and a simple “sorry we could not find this page” message.
Google it: Described by some as the closest thing to an omniscient, all knowing, entity in existence. The tools available via Google to help power your business cannot be overlooked. Make sure your business is featured in the Google Business Directory. Also, advertise your business with AdWords and embed a Google map so people can find you. Use Google’s free Analytics tool to track how effective your online marketing is.
Social Networking: Twitter, Facebook flickr Linkedin and YouTube have grown exponentially in popularity. Yet, a number of businesses still struggle to master the art of using social networking tools to maximum effect. So, for example, if you are introducing a new summer themed menu: use Twitter to update the ‘status’ with a few words, use a couple of striking images to message your ‘friends/fans’ on Facebook and flickr. Always communicate the message clearly and concisely. The overarching rule in social networking is – do not say it unless it genuinely engages with your audience.
Consider YouTube as an educational tool to ‘teach’ something, so for example produce a simple video clip about the location of your B&B or restaurant or if you only serve food, show the organic farm where the fruits/vegetables for the meals come from. Use Linkedin to stay connected with both your customers and professional associations in your industry.
Offer vouchers online: Online voucher sites are a great way to enhance your presence online and reach new customers. Once registered with sites such as MyVoucherCodes, Vouchercodes.co.uk or vouchercloud link it back to your website or to your Facebook page to promote your money off voucher schemes.
Broadening your reach: Websites such as lastminute.com, Expedia and travelsupermarket have become the first place that consumers visit when looking for a holiday abroad or at home. Being listed on these sites means you reach customers not just in the UK but also across the world. Sites such as toptable, Livebookings and Bookatable.com provide restaurants with a simple option of allowing customers to book a table via a few clicks. It is said that over 60% of UK diners go online to research restaurants.
Online orders: Don’t force customers to use the phone when they want to book a room/table. Customers may not want to call you if they are in the office or if they are overseas. Provide customers with an online booking option on your website. Software from companies like SuperControl or Jomres can be integrated on to your site to provide real time booking information.
And finally...Do not underestimate your market: Some businesses who target people of mature age incorrectly assume that their customers are not Internet savvy. Therefore they themselves shy away from maintaining a presence online. A recent survey found that in the UK, over 50s accounted for the largest group of new Internet users in 2009. Yes, some tools such as Twitter and MySpace may not be so appropriate to some age groups but don’t rule anything out. Conduct a simple survey amongst your customers to learn which sites they most often visit.
Sharon Glancy, managing director, Stonebow, People 1st training division, www.stonebow.co.uk Tel: 01895 817014
Wise words. I am currently in the process of doing this for the business I work for. It is a minefield out there and I will always welcome good advice!
Glad to be of help! Thanks for your note.
CSS:Website: Unless you are a self confessed Luddite, your business will have a website. Ensure it is up-to-date, has plenty of engaging, good quality, high resolution images that appeal to customers – ask yourself, if you visited this website would you like to stay at the establishment/book a table at the restaurant?
And put your address/phone number on the homepage. Or every page.
It really frustrates me when I'm looking at a hotel or restaurant's website and I have to hunt to find the contact details. Surely the whole point of a website is to direct people to your physical business so it makes no sense to force potential customers to keep clicking for the information they need.
You've listed quite a few contact channels there, but the one perhaps you've missed, and the one that makes the swamp of internet marketing and social media look old fashioned, is the Mobile App. It's interesting that from over 200,000 mobiule apps worldwide less than 50 relate to the hotel industry, despite the bed being the most sold commodity online.
For some reason, all other industries have fully embraced APP technology (banking, retail, avaiation etc) but not hospitality...why? The benefits of App technology outstrip the internet 10 fold.
Answers on a post card.
just what I need. Thanks
We have just released into Public Beta a review site called Twitreview.co.uk. Oh no not another review site you are all crying... well yes but with a difference.
Each business has its own page, with map & details (address/telephone number) and no other business is advertised on it. All the reviews are submitted through twitter to a link that is unique to every businesses and the individual page only shows the reviews for the last 60 days (not forever like some review sites). As a business owner a reply to any review can be sent immediately via your own twitter account. Anyone looking for a place to eat can sort search results for their area by most recently reviewed or most reviewed, so the more reviews you have the higher up the results you appear.
The best part is all of the above is free.
Yes we will have a feature rich advanced analytics package that will be subscription based (that is to be extremely reasonably priced), but that won't be available till next year. So for any business that doesn't have a website or wants another way to engage with their customers we think this offers a fair alternative to other sites that are out there.
Take a look at http://twitreview.co.uk and see if we have your area in our public beta. Its free after all.
One of the best pieces of advise I find myself providing to clients is to not hide behind the website. Your website should be a means of communication before you and your clients, both in terms of information provided on the site, and also in terms of providing a means of prospects getting in touch online (some people just prefer that to picking up the phone) - so always make it easy for people to get in touch, and be prepared to respond in kind. It's amazing how many times I fill out a contact form on websites and hear nothing in return. If you have a form then respond to it, and don't hard sell back to customers. If you use Social Media then respond, always. Drive dialogue via the online space and sooner or later when that prospect is ready to call and enquire about your services they are already a warm prospect.
Digital Director at Jellybean Creative Solutions.