Hot Wings and Digital Marketing
My family recently moved to a new home, and as anyone moving to a new area realizes, part of the process includes exploring the area. Coming from the Memphis area we (apparently) took for granted the plethora of hot wing establishments that we had easy access to. So after some painting and unpacking one night we found ourselves craving some hot wings and I turned to Google for an answer.
A Google search on my phone for hot wings in our new city came up with (only) 3 options, but disappointingly only one of them had a website and it is a place that primarily serves up BBQ. What I did find was that 6 of the listings on the first page were all for one restaurant. The search listings from Google Plus, UrbanSpoon.com, Facebook and PlateScraper.com gave it great reviews but I did not understand why there was not a website. Reviews are great, but a digital presence to me says a lot about a brand, no matter how small a company it is. Your business may be doing great, it may rely on local customers and have no problems with demand. But we are in an age in which consumers are growing more and more reliant on digital media in their everyday lives. Here are some reasons why I think this hot wings place, and your small business should have a website.
- A website is pretty cheap. A basic website can be created for little cost. You can design and host a simple brochure website for less than $100 a year. This is one of the cheapest forms of mass marketing. Of course you can engage a developer for a few hundred dollars to build you a website, but there are options that can allow business owners without any experience to build their own websites for free.
- A website expands your coverage. This hot wings place probably relies mainly on word-of-mouth marketing and loyal customers. But what about new customers such as my family who just moved to the area? What about visitors coming into town on business or just passing through? In this day and age these prospects will often turn to the Internet to find local places, and a website can help you reach them while serving as a differentiating factor for your brand. The restaurant may have better food than the other restaurants, but a website is a communication tool that can be used to compete for my business.
- A website gives you some control over your brand. Leaving other websites to talk for you is risky. Although this restaurant had great reviews, what if there were no reviews or worse yet bad ones? What if a disgruntled customer, employee or unethical competitor launched a website about how much they hate your business? A website offers you a way to control the message about your brand. If you have great reviews then you can refer or link to them.
- A website is customer-centric. When I did my search I was looking for a menu and contact information. The BBQ restaurant that did serve wings and had a website was the first result I clicked on even though it was further down the page. And it offered the info I was looking for, it just did not offer the food I wanted. If they did then I would have had no reason to leave the website before calling in my order. I ended up calling the other restaurant because there were no other options and there were good reviews, but the experience was not great. When I asked for the different flavors for their hot wings I received a dozen or so in what felt like 5 seconds. A digital menu would have been a much better experience for myself and for the person I spoke with. I would have called knowing exactly what I wanted. No need to ask what they offered. No need to ask them to repeat what they said and wasting their time as well as mine.
I realize the value of a website may not be clear to many owners of small, local businesses. You may be in a small town where it does not seem practical to invest time and money when you have no issues with service or demand. But I encourage those that are reluctant to consider the trends. Internet usage is above 60% in rural areas and 80% in metropolitan areas, and this will only grow with time. Digital marketing via a website is a cheap way to support your brand and marketing. You may rely on loyal customers and word-of-mouth, but digital is becoming a ubiquitous medium in the modern age, and I feel the benefits of a proactive presence there far outweigh the real and perceived costs.
P.S. If you are ever in Jackson, TN and are craving hot wings, then check out Steve-O's...