Looking to Market Your Michigan Restaurant, Bar or Catering Business Locally? Start with the World Wide Web. Part 1 of 7

In light of the growing number of restaurants, bars and caterers in any city across the state of Michigan, marketing your business and building your brand can seem an insurmountable task.  Many owners don’t even know where to start.  It may seem counterintuitive, but considering the current social climate, the best place to start marketing your Michigan restaurant business locally is on the World Wide Web.

This blog post will be #1 in a seven part series, so let’s get started.

Families are Trading in Their Phone Books for Laptops

With the overwhelming popularity of social media websites like TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, Digg, StumbleUpon, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and others, marketing your Michigan restaurant locally has become easier and less expensive than ever before.  Gone are the days of t.v., radio and print advertising for your Michigan restaurant, bar or catering business.  While the traditional markets still have merit, when marketing dollars are as tight as they are in the current Michigan economic climate, restaurant owners are no longer able to afford to saturate those markets.  And unfortunately, an occasional radio or print ad won’t give your restaurant the return on investment for which owners are searching.

Fortunately, social media and internet marketing can be very inexpensive and in some cases, costs restaurant owners nothing but the investment of their time.  If a restaurant/bar owner can establish their brand locally with a good internet presence, half the battle has already been won.  A recent Google study revealed that 90% of Americans search for places to dine and drink on the internet.  That’s right.  A staggering 90% of Americans are using internet search engines to decide where to have dinner, get together with friends or hang out for happy hour.  They’re searching for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drink specials and events online.  They’re finding and printing Michigan restaurant coupons.  They’re looking to join restaurant loyalty programs.  The list goes on and on, but the bottom line is this.  They’re doing their research via internet search engines.

Diners are Turning to the Internet to Choose Restaurants

Step 1: While internet and social media marketing can be a bit overwhelming at first, it’s really quite simple when you break it down.  First and foremost, if you don’t have a website, get one built.  Do it yesterday.  You must have a website in order to build a web presence for your establishment.  Your website is the center of what will become your entire marketing strategy.  This doesn’t have to be expensive.  A simple, yet effective website can cost as little as $500.00 – $750.00.  You really don’t need anything elaborate and flashy.  A clean, well-organized, easy to navigate website will serve your business well.

Before you can get your website built, you need to buy a domain name or url.  This will become the internet address for your business.  If the name of your restaurant or bar is available, that should always be your first choice; i.e. if the name of your restaurant is Mike’s Place, your first choice for domain name should be http://www.mikesplace.com.  However, sometimes your business name will be unavailable because it is owned by someone else.  In that case, you’ll need to get a little more creative.  There are a number of websites you can visit to find out if the domain name you want is available, one of which is http://www.godaddy.com/.  Once you settle on a domain name or url, you’ll need to purchase that domain and register it (again, this can be done through godaddy.com as well).  You can register your domain for approximately $10/year and, while you can register it for as little as 1 year, you should make a 10 year commitment.  You’ll learn more about this later, but owning your domain for 10 years tells search engines that you plan on being around for a while and will increase your ranking.

Once you’ve chosen a domain name, registered your domain and chosen a developer to design and host your website, you need to start shouting your web address from the rooftops.  Social media marketing expert, Corey Perlman (ebootcamp.com) would tell you to “hurl your url”!  Your web address should be displayed on every piece of direct mail you send.  It should be posted on your business cards, written on your menu and displayed anywhere you can think to display it.  Use every opportunity you have to promote your website because remember, this website and the domain name that will become your Michigan restaurant‘s website address are about to become the center of your marketing universe.

So that concludes Part 1 of your online marketing strategy.  Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to choose a domain name (url), register that domain name (for 10 years) and find a developer to design and host your simple, clean and unique Michigan Restaurant website.  This is a great start to what will become a fantastic local marketing strategic plan for promoting your restaurant, bar or catering business in Michigan.  My advice, if you haven’t done so already, is to get this done as soon as possible.  If your restaurant in Michigan doesn’t have a website, you’re missing out on wide variety of inexpensive brand management.

The Place to Go Before You Go Out

This information is brought to you by http://www.michiganflavor.com, the most comprehensive guide to dining in Michigan available.  Michigan Flavor is a fully interactive, online directory of Michigan restaurants, bars and catering businesses.  Users can search by a variety of criteria including location, cuisine type, features, specials and events and even coupon availability.  Once a user finds yourMichigan Restaurant Page, he/she can download and print your menu, browse through your photo gallery, view your daily breakfast, lunch, dinner and drink specials, link to your website or facebook, twitter & myspace pages, get a map and directions and so much more.  In some cases, users can even utilize online ordering and reservation applications.  Michigan Flavor is the place your customers will go before they go out.

Visit http://www.miflavor.com/ or call 248.302.2738 to learn more about this comprehensive guide to dining in Michigan.

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