When it comes to online marketing, peace of mind is rarely something that small business owners are able to achieve.
Whether its planning out your next email, keeping up with the newest trends on social media, or trying to make better decisions about where to invest whatever marketing budget you may or may not have available—it can be difficult to ever feel completely comfortable that you’re doing all the needs to be done.
This is certainly true for small businesses when it comes to managing their online listings.
Today, 85% of small businesses believe it is important to be seen on major search sites like Google, Yahoo, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Yellow Pages. Unfortunately, only 30% of those businesses say they have the time to actually manage all of their own listings.Needless to say, that has caused a lot of uneasiness amongst businesses that rely on these sites to get discovered online.
A restaurant owner struggles with keeping tabs with his online listings
Since opening for business in 2010, keeping up with his restaurant’s online listings has been a major concern for Ned Church, owner of Church & Main Restaurant in Burlington, VT.
“As a restaurant, keeping up with review sites and local listings is a huge part of our business,” explains Ned. “We know a lot of patrons rely on these sites to find the information they’re looking for.”
But while Ned recognized the value of keeping track of the information that customers were finding on these sites, keeping that information up-to-date has not always been easy.
“A lot of these sites don’t make it easy for you to update or change your menu,” explains Ned. “Depending on where people are searching, they would be seeing different menus. That was causing a lot of problems for our business.”
With a menu that changes with the seasons and a wine and special list that change by the week, Ned knew he needed a better way to keep the information that his customers were finding online up to date.
Discovering peace of mind with SinglePlatform
A while back Ned was approached by a representative at SinglePlatform.
“At the time, SinglePlatform had secured places with Google, TripAdvisor, and a lot of the places we were already keeping an eye on,” explains Ned. “We were really impressed.”
For Ned, the benefit of publishing his menu with Singleplatform was twofold. For starters, it helped Church & Main get listed in all the places he knew his customers were already searching. In addition to sites like Google and TripAdvisor, by publishing his menu with SinglePlatform he was able to reach audiences on more than 100 major online listing sites and mobile apps.
“The additional exposure has definitely been one of the biggest benefits,” explains Ned. “It’s been extremely valuable to have our menu displayed in so many places.”
More importantly than being listed on all these sites, Ned says that he finally has the ability to do something that had challenged his staff for quite some time.
“I can’t tell you how valuable it has been to be able to quickly and easily update my menu in a single location,” explains Ned. “To have a platform where I can make these changes and have it automatically populate in so many places has finally given us peace of mind.”
The many marketing challenges of small businesses today
Like most small businesses, keeping up with online listings is just one of the marketing challenges facing Church & Main.
“We do a lot on social media and have tried different forms of online and print media,” explains Ned. “We also do a lot with our own website as well.”
Today the Church & Main menu is not only getting discovered on some of the most popular listing sites, but is also available to customers on both his website and Facebook Page. Ned recently started using SinglePlatform to launch the restaurant’s first ever mobile website.
“It’s great to have our menus there and have the flexibility to update them as we need to,” explains Ned. “It’s been a huge timesaver.”
We’re excited to release our newest study in partnership with our friends at market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, which shows that restaurants are the most searched industry by consumers through both mobile applications and browsers.
The study, compiled through the feedback from 1,497 consumers who own a smartphone, found that 81 percent of consumers have searched for a restaurant on a mobile app and 92 percent through a web browser in the last six months, outperforming other highly searched industries, such as entertainment, retail outlets, hotels, and personal services.
Even more important, 75 percent say they often choose a restaurant to dine at based on those search results.
With all those searches, it’s never been more important to make sure that your menu, prices, and other key information is up to date on all of the platforms potential customers search…. from Yelp to Yellow Pages to Google to Foursquare. (And SinglePlatform can help.)
Our key findings about how smartphone owning consumers find local businesses:
1) 81% have searched for a restaurant on a mobile app in the last 6 months (tweet this)
2) 92% have searched for a restaurant on a web browser in the last 6 months (tweet this)
3) 75% often choose a restaurant to dine at based on search results (tweet this)
4) iPhone owners are more likely to search for a restaurant than other smart phone owners (tweet this)
5) 80% think it’s important to see a menu before they dine at a restaurant (tweet this)
6) 84% are likely to look at more than one restaurant before choosing where to dine (tweet this)
7) 70% think it is important to be able to read the menu of a restaurant on a mobile device (tweet this)
8) 62% are less likely to choose a restaurant if they can’t read the menu on a mobile device (tweet this)
If you’ve ever searched for restaurant reviews or a great new place to eat, you’ve probably used Yelp. In fact, 100 million people visited Yelp in January 2013 alone! Now you can get your menu in front of all of those people as part of your SinglePlatform subscription.
Our most recent SinglePlatform survey found that 85% believe it is important to be seen on major search sites and apps, like Yelp. So needless to say, we are really excited about adding Yelp to our Network!
“Consumers use Yelp for its rich, local content that also needs to be current and complete,” said Mike Ghaffary, vice president of business development at Yelp. “This partnership will help ensure consumers get the latest and most accurate menu and pricing information direct from the local businesses themselves.”
“As one of the most trusted search sites for consumers, Yelp offers local businesses a fantastic opportunity to reach new customers,” said Wiley Cerilli, vice president and general manager of SinglePlatform from Constant Contact. “And we know how critical speed is today. With this new relationship, a local business can be more agile and take advantage of changing dynamics.
“For instance, a restaurant might decide to offer an appetizer special if its local team makes it to the March Madness final four. It’s a huge win for our customers as they look to stand out from the competition.”
How a New Restaurant Owner Found a Way to Make Social Media Marketing Fit Her Busy Schedule
If you own a small business, there’s a good chance that marketing probably doesn’t fall within the category of things you love to do.
After all, you didn’t open your doors for the thrill of creating marketing emails, managing a Facebook Page, or monitoring your online listings. You did it because you wanted to build a business—to do something you’re passionate about, and to share that passion with each and every customers that walks through your door.
But these days, running a business does come with a full plate of marketing responsibilities. And the reality is that businesses—especially new businesses—cannot afford to ignore online marketing and the responsibilities that come along with it.
That was certainly the case for Sandy Meyer, owner of Blinker’s Tavern in Covington, KY.
“We opened in 2011 and knew right away that there were things we needed to be doing to attract new customers,” explains Sandy. “But as a new business, it wasn’t clear where we needed to start.”
Starting with social media
Like a lot of new businesses, one of the first things Sandy did when she opened her doors was to set up on social media.
“We knew social media would be a good tool for getting in front of our audience,” explains Sandy. “We always have a lot going on and it’s important that we’re able to keep people up-to-date.”
In addition to building an audience of local fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter, Sandy says that one of the most important parts of being on social media is to connect with the hospitality industry in her community.
“It’s really important for us to be able to get in front of the hotels in our area,” explains Sandy. “We depend on tourism during our busy season.”
Managing a social schedule
As valuable as building awareness on sites like Facebook and Twitter has been to Blinker’s Tavern, it has also come with plenty of challenges.
With a rotating schedule of daily specials for both lunch and dinner, a menu that changes with the seasons, and a wide range of events for things like holidays, anniversaries, and other local happenings—Sandy has plenty to talk about with fans and followers.
What she doesn’t have is the time to actually do it.
To make matters worse, with so many changes and special occurrences taking place week-to-week, it has become increasingly more difficult to get the menu that’s been offered in the restaurant each day in front of the people who actually need it.
Finding a better social media marketing solution
Rather than spending hours each week trying to get sites like Facebook and Twitter to work for her business, Sandy decided early on that she was going to need some help.
In September of 2012, Sandy spoke with a representative at SinglePlatform.
She discovered that on top of helping businesses manage their online menu and listings, SinglePlatform also offered a range of features designed to help businesses like hers on social media.
She worked with the representative to put together a plan for how SinglePlatform could help alleviate the stress of keeping tabs on social media and make the most of all the tools SinglePlatform has to offer.
One of the first things she decided to do was put together a calendar of special announcements for things like daily specials and upcoming events. She could manage these updates ahead of time without having to log in to Facebook or Twitter throughout the day.
“For us, SinglePlatform has been a great tool for sharing reminders about our specials and other things we have going on,” explains Sandy. “It has taken a lot of stress out of being on social media.”
That’s not to say she forgets about her fans and followers. On the contrary, she still takes the time to respond to customer questions and say thanks to fans when receiving positive reviews or recommendations.
Not only that, but with SinglePlatform Sandy has also found a better way to keep her daily lunch and dinner menus in front of her target audience—using SinglePlatform to share her menu directly to the Blinker’s Tavern Facebook Page.
“SinglePlatform makes it easy to update our regular menus and make changes when we need to,” explains Sandy. “Which is important because we know the menu our fans are seeing is the same one we’re offering at our restaurant that day.”
Extending her reach beyond social media
In addition to social media, Sandy has also taken advantage of SinglePlatform’s network of more than 100 online listing sites and mobile apps.
As a new business, Sandy recognized that awareness needs to extend beyond her social communities. By publishing her menu with SinglePlatform her business has a better chance of getting discovered online.
And because the changes she makes to her menu on SinglePlatform are automatically made on Facebook and across the entire network of SinglePlatform’s partnering online listing sites and apps, she knows the information they find will be up-to-date.
“Keeping our menu up-to-date on review sites and online listings has never been a problem for our restaurant because we’ve been with SinglePlatform since the start,” explains Sandy.
“That’s been important for our business.”
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years, you know that the way consumers find local businesses has fundamentally changed.
This is something that all local business owners need to be aware of, but it is especially important for local merchants who own or manage a restaurant.
Take James Dillon, owner of the Summer Kitchen café in Rosemary Beach, FL. When James opened for business in 1999, most restaurants were not thinking about the value of having their menus available online.
“When we first got started, we actually walked around handing out paper copies of our menu,” James recalls. “A lot has changed since then.”
Part of what’s changed for restaurant owners like James is that the needs of his customers have also changed drastically. Paper menus, print advertisements, and passing foot traffic are no longer enough to bring new customers through your door.
Customers are searching for businesses on their mobile devices, checking review sites and online listings, and using social media to connect with their favorite restaurants and local businesses.
“Today, there’s so much more we need to be doing,” explains James. “It’s something we’ve started paying attention to in the last few years.”
The danger of not being in control of your own information
Like a lot of restaurant owners, James jumped into the online world by first creating a website and eventually getting started on Facebook.
He then began to use search engines to search for his business online. The good news was that there was already a lot of information out there about Summer Kitchen Café. The bad news was that most of that information hadn’t been updated in almost a decade.
“I’m not sure if everyone is cognizant of the information that’s out there, but the stuff that’s online really never dies,” explains James. “We found menus on some sites that were 10 years old and had never been updated. It really got my attention.”
With the help of his daughter, James began looking into how he could take control of the information that was out there. Their first attempt was to track these menus down one-by-one.
“The process was way too cumbersome,” James recalls. “On some sites the menus were embedded, on others we found outdated pdfs. It was impossible to keep everything up-to-date.”
Fed up, James decided to look for a better option.
“We began looking for an easy platform that would let us update our menus and distribute them more easily,” explains James. “That’s when we discovered Single Platform.”
At first, James wasn’t sure what to expect. Up to that point, keeping up with his online listings had been a nightmare with more negatives than positives for his business.
After working with a representative at SinglePlatform to set up his new digital listing however, James’s expectations slowly began to change.
“We were surprised at how easy it was to use,” James recalls. “To be able to update our menu in a single location and have it published in so many places without any extra work has been a huge timesaver.”
With SinglePlatform, the hours James had spent updating menus online were replaced with a few easy steps. Now when a change or update was made to the menu, it would repopulate on sites like TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon, YellowPages, and other places he knew his customers were searching.
Finding time to do more
With less time spent keeping track of online listings, James says he has more time to help grow his business.
“We’re focused now on improving our own site and doing more on social media as well,” explains James. “Being able to have our menu populate on our website and Facebook has been a huge help.”
Now, no matter where people are discovering Summer Kitchen Café—whether it’s on their website, through Facebook, or via an online search—James knows the menu they find will be the same one being offered at Summer Kitchen Café that very day.
That’s also freed him up to be more proactive about getting that information in front of his target audience.
With SinglePlatform’s social media tools James has the ability to schedule and share special announcements with his more than 1,100 Fans on Facebook. He has also started encouraging Fans and patrons at the café to help “share the love” and review Summer Kitchen Café on sites like Yelp and Urban Spoon.
Why it’s important for small businesses to evolve to meet the needs of their customers
A lot has changed for James since the days of passing out paper menus to local residents. What hasn’t changed however is the type of service or the quality of the dishes being offered at Summer Kitchen Café.
That’s great news for James and his customers. Today it’s never been easier for people to find out what’s on the menu.
“We depend on customers being able to find us—whether they live in our community or are located hundreds of miles away,” James explains. “Knowing we’ll be found in the places our customers are already searching has given us peace of mind.”
If you’re marketing a restaurant online these days, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Aside from the website, you have to think about creating a Facebook Page, a Twitter account, and about a dozen menus and information for just as many review sites.
It doesn’t take long for everything to get scattered. The menu on your website may be current, but the one on Yelp could be completely out-of-date. If you have multiple locations, the hours for one could be right, but the hours for another could be totally wrong.
That’s what Judi Window found when she started marketing for Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse, locally owned, New Hampshire-based restaurant franchise with three locations across the state.
“We would have one website where our menu was from 2007, then another with a PDF that you couldn’t even open,” she says. “I knew I had to find a way to present everything in one big circle and that’s when I found SinglePlatform.”
Out of the frying pan and into the organizer
Judi was already an avid user of Email Marketing from Constant Contact, so when she heard about SinglePlatform, she was intrigued.
“We had old menus shuffled around everywhere on different sites, so I had to do a lot of organizational clean-up,” she recalls. The old menus made for a confusing experience across the board, whether you were a diner or the owner of the restaurant.
Judi wanted to find a way to make one menu that could be promoted across dozens of different sites at once and continually changed, too, so she could update it with specials and promotions.
She moved everything onto SinglePlatform in late December.
“I love SinglePlatform. I just go to one place to update the menu and it gets published on TripAdvisor, Google Places, our website, our Facebook Page and more, all at once,” she says.
Now, with just a single click, Judi can make sure that all three restaurants show the same menus, promotions, and specials, on every site where diners can find a menu.
The long future of Shorty’s
Without having to worry about whether or not there’s an errant menu from five years ago on a review site, Judi is free to focus on her other efforts to promote Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse.
She says that her big initiative now is to redesign the website and make it more user-friendly. She’s also experimenting with what works when it comes to using email marketing to connect with Shorty’s 9,500 contacts.
“SinglePlatform has saved me so much time,” she says. “I’ve started encouraging a lot of other organizations to use it, too, because it just makes everything so much more streamlined.”
Judi has big plans for the future. Now that everything is organized she can think about how to strategically publish specials, promotions, and offers, because no matter where diners are looking online, they’ll find the same menu.
I'm admittedly a bit of a social media/tech geek. I love to try out the latest and greatest (or not so great) social networks and apps and often insist on telling people about them. I also generally like everything. To that point where I have even come around on Google+, which I used to really enjoy bashing.
But I am a marketer by trade and literally get paid to know all this stuff. As a local business owner I can only imagine how it must all feel. Just when you start getting comfortable with one marketing channel, another appears. And another, and another and another.
In fact, our latest eBook shows that 70% of local business owners state that they don't have the time to keep their online listings up to date on all of the networks that consumers use. Heck, I barely have time to keep up with all of networks and I'm not trying to run a spa or a restaurant or a construction business.
So, what should you do about it? I have three pieces of advice.
1) Focus on the networks that matter to your core audience. Maybe you know what your customers like already, but it never hurts to ask them what channels they like and what they want to hear about from you. For some businesses Twitter is right, for others it’s Yelp. For many others it’s Facebook. Don’t risk wasting your valuable time by just guessing! Not sure what each network does? Check out Constant Contact’s Social Quickstarter web site for a quick overview.
2) Use a tool to help you manage your listings. While there are certainly challenges associated with the multitude of listing sites and social networks there are also many positives. Even as the Internet splinters into tons of networks you can get your products and services in front of people by using software (like SinglePlatform) that lets you update once and publish everywhere people search online. You can make yourself crazy by trying to be everywhere at once but there are tools to help make your life easier!
3) Run your business first. My friend Mark Schmulen, co-founder of NutshellMail (also acquired by Constant Contact), likes to say "there is no marketing cure for sucking" and I totally agree. If you're not creating a great experience for your customers when they visit your business than it doesn't matter what networks you are on.
How much do you worry about keeping up with the latest consumer networks?
Download our free eBook to see how local businesses are using local and mobile search to drive their business.
On this blog we often talk about how the way that consumers find local businesses has fundamentally changed over the last few years.
While traditional methods of attracting new customers to your location still may work, those local businesses who do not take advantage of online and mobile search directories, ratings and review sites, and social networks to find new customers will be left behind. In fact recent industry data shows that 2/3 of consumers use local search to find businesses at least once a week.
The good news is that many local businesses are starting to reap the benefits of this leveling of the playing field. Today, you can win by being found online without buying tons of ads that many small businesses can’t afford. But it’s not enough to just have your name and your hours published in your online listings across the internet. You need to be include your products, your services, your prices, and more so whatever people are searching for they will find your business if you have what they need.
According to Google, more than half of local searches don’t have a specific destination in mind. That means that your potential customers are searching for things like “flowers” or “buffalo wings” or “auto repair” near them and not just “Danny’s Pizza” or “Flower Barn.”
In fact, according to our own just released research, 78% of small businesses believe that they are getting new customers through search engines today and 85% of small businesses already believe it is important to be seen on major search sites like Google, Yahoo, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Yellow Pages .
While local businesses have traditionally been slower to adopt emerging avenues for getting new customers in the past, tons are already seeing the benefits of creating compelling digital storefronts across the web.
If you’re not putting your best foot forward by featuring your products and services on key search sites and mobile apps, you may be missing opportunities to reach consumers as they search for a great local business to visit.
Learn more by downloading our free eBook: 10 Facts: Why Small Business Owners Need to Pay Attention to Mobile and Local Search
Earlier this week we put out a press release that included the fact that in 2012 alone, SinglePlatform’s digital storefronts (a rich digital listing with a menu of products and services along with key information like hours, location, and contact info) had more than 100 million consumer views from across our publisher network. That's a lot of views!
The fact that so many consumers are viewing digital menus and photos when trying to choose a location is further proof that a simple listing without the substance of what you offer and what it costs just isn’t enough to attract consumers to your store or restaurant.
We learned long ago that the number one thing diners look for when making a dining decision is a menu, and we’re thrilled so many people are using our information to find a great place to eat or shop.
On Tuesday, I attended The Street Fight Summit that featured some of the most exciting innovations and top minds in hyperlocal content, commerce, marketing, and technology. The session I was most interested in was “What Do SMBs Want from a Local Commerce Solution?” featuring a number of leaders in the space: Jay Weintraub, president, LeadsCon Media Group (moderator); Logan LaHive, CEO, Belly; and Stuart Wall, CEO, Signpost, and our own Wiley Cerilli.
So, what do SMBs want from a local commerce solution?
It turns out that the answer is quite simple – more customers! However, it’s the challenges associated with drawing those new customers in the door that often keep small business owners up at night.
The group discussed key local commerce tools driving innovation in the industry, including loyalty programs, POS services, full digital marketing programs, and much more.
As Wiley pointed out, the internet is shifting from a listing directory where consumers would go online looking for a specific business, to a discovery engine where consumers search for the products or services a company offers. In fact, according to comScore’s Local Search Usage Study 49% of searches for local businesses occur without a specific business in mind which means they are searching for an item not a place.
Think about that for a minute: if your business isn’t easily discoverable via all the ways we as consumers search (search engines, ratings and review sites, mobile apps – and, as of yesterday, Facebook’s Graph Search), you are missing out on roughly half of the potential new business that is out there.
To The Next Step!
As Stuart Wall pointed out, it doesn’t end with getting discovered. Small businesses will find success by linking acquisition through discovery with retaining customers. Some ways to create this retention is by creating a memorable experience for your new customer and by listening to feedback from your existing customers. This is a critical next step in the discovery engine to help drive your business.
The panelists also highlighted the importance of the industry coming together to help small businesses tackle this “discovery” challenge. Whether you run a small business or a big one, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the vastness of the internet and in many cases it seems impossible to cover all your bases to make sure you are listed on the thousands of sites and apps that consumers use to make purchasing decisions.
The key take-away for me is that as an industry, it’s our job to guide small businesses through this process and, most importantly, make it easy and efficient. By doing so, you’ll be positioned for greater success going forward.