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Growing Means Letting People Know You

Posted by Devin Cole  November 10, 2011 04:33 PM

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This summer Main Street Partners worked with a small business whose story seems to be all too common for today’s small business.

The situation: the owner of a small Pakistani and Indian restaurant in East Boston was starting to become very concerned that the business wasn’t growing as fast as he would like and he couldn’t pinpoint why. The restaurant (Mehak) makes exceptional food (the Chicken Tikka Masala is as good as it gets) and their customers spoke very highly of the restaurant to their peers and online. Nevertheless, business seemed to have plateaued and without more revenue the business wouldn’t be able to survive.

Sound familiar? Having spoken with dozens of small business owners this story seems to be a reoccurring theme. The good news is there are some very easy ways to break out of this pattern. The key is to understand that even if you have THE BEST product or service available, you cannot count on your potential customers to do all of your marketing for you. They will not embark on an hour-long search to find you – on foot or online. You have to go to them and make their search easy.

This process can have many components but if you are a restaurant, grocery store, or service provider, the following posts include three steps to optimizing low cost, high impact tools that we have found to be great engines for driving new business.

1. Your Website Is Where It All Starts

The first and most important piece of helping customers find you is developing a website. For those who think this is a “nice to have” but not a “must have”, consider the following: if I were a customer who really wanted to buy your product, how would I find you? Would it be the Yellow Book? I’d first have to go out of my way to even find one. SuperMedia Inc., the company that makes Super Pages, saw a 61% decrease in revenues from 2009 to 2010. The reason isn’t that people are searching for businesses anymore, it’s that they are doing so elsewhere.

Mehak - MSP.JPG

Image Source

With search being the new king of how potential customers find businesses, not having a website means that you are missing an enormous market.

In the case of Mehak, the restaurant did not have a website for two reasons. First, the owner had placed a major marketing emphasis on print advertising, namely printed menus. These menus were given to people who ate at the restaurant and were intended to “give to friends.” This approach was central to the restaurant’s problem – an overemphasis on existing customers. The second reason was that the owner “didn’t know how to program”, a pretty common theme amongst most small business owners who are not reincarnated software engineers.

The good news for those who get jumpy at the thought of website coding and design is that there are now an excess of companies that let you build a website without any formal training. For Mehak we used a builder called Wix. For $100 bucks and about half a day of novice work, we were able to build a presentable web presence (and you can too).

As you can see below, the site went live on July 17th and within two months the small restaurant had over 1,400 pages views from over 300 unique visitors. Most importantly business, especially the delivery business, quickly got a boost.

Thumbnail image for Google visitors.JPG Source

Your website is your face, and every small business, from the neighborhood hardware store to the corner deli, operating today MUST have one.

Next up: Once you have a website, how to really make it work for you.

Main Street Partners is a nonprofit that seeks to create jobs and improve local economies by providing Small Businesses with the resources and human capital necessary to dramatically improve their business. They offer all-volunteer consulting services to eligible companies.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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