In a recent TV interview Dragon’s Den investor Deborah Meaden said she expected every company to have its own website and if not she didn’t think it was trustworthy or was serious about its business.
Meaden has a point; a website is an important advertising tool and companies without even a basic one detailing what their business is and where it is based are missing out on telling the 16 million households (National Statistics 2008) in Great Britain what they do and what they’re about.
However, the online world moves fast and although having a website is a good start there are ways hospitality businesses can make their websites work more effectively to help get more diners through the doors of their restaurants or more guests booking rooms at their hotels - and it needn`t cost a penny.
With the current economic climate, there has never been a more important time to promote your business, but because we know time can be short in this industry BigHospitality has spoken to two online specialists on your behalf to compile a basic guide to marketing your business successfully through the web.
Step one: Keep control
Of your website, that is. You may have to employ a developer to create your site in the first instance, but if you’re going to use it to market your business properly, you will need to keep the content updated, “either by having a good relationship with the developer who will update it for you without high charges or having your own content management system,” says Mark Forrester, Managing Director of hospitality internet marketing company Occupancy Marketing.
Step two: Keep it fresh
It refers to the content on your website as well as the food you serve. Presuming you’ve taken step one into account, you should be able to access your own website with ease. With this in mind, you should be regularly updating the content on it to reflect the season you’re in. A customer trawling the internet to find a venue for their Christmas event will continue searching for another restaurant or hotel if they can only find details of your special summer barbeque or Valentine`s menu. Keeping content fresh also encourages search engines to revisit, says Bea Hatherley, co-founder of DIY website company Mr Site, helping to push it higher up the search results pages of a search engine and in turn increasing the amount of visitors to your website where you can show off what you do.
Step three: Don’t be flashy
Flash animations, videos and images on your site may look good, but they’ll do nothing to promote your website through search engines, where the majority of customers will come to your site from. “Pages containing only images are likely to get either a low or no listing at all. It’s best to avoid images on their own, or otherwise balance them with a reasonable amount of text describing each image,” advises Hatherley.
Step four: Gather customer information
Many companies put downloadable discount vouchers on their websites to encourage customers to visit, but if you also ask customers to register their details when they download it, you’ll instantly be able to add them to your customer database. The same can be done with restaurant and hotel websites with their own online booking system, says Forrester. “Use that email database to send out targeted messages to your clients about promotions or deals you’re running. It works very well and it’s not difficult to do," he adds.
Step five: Use other sites
Linking to other sites through your own website will also help boost your rankings with search engines, which, as mentioned in step two, makes your business more visible to potential customers. Being listed on external booking sites or umbrella sites such as toptable.co.uk, opentable.co.uk and priceyourmeal.com will also make it easier for existing and new customers to find you. This is important if your restaurant doesn’t fit into the established culinary categories ie. Italian, French or Indian. “Restaurants with the most diverse cuisines tend to be the more overlooked ones,” says a spokesman for restaurantworldtour.com, a website set up to give diners access to as many different cuisines from around the world as possible.
To find out about building your own website visit www.mrsite.com
For more marketing advice and to view case studies on companies helped by Occupancy Marketing visit www.occupancymarketing.co.uk