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Main Street Partners is a nonprofit that seeks to create jobs and improve local inner-city economies by providing small businesses with the resources and human capital necessary to dramatically improve their business.


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MSP Volunteer Recognition Event- Spring 2012

Thanks to all of our friends and volunteers for making it out to the Spring 2012 Volunteer Recognition Event at Channel Cafe..  It was a great opportunity to thank our teams for all of the great work they’ve been doing with this round of small businesses – a local cafe, toy store, flower shop and salon.

 

Your website is optimized…where to from here?

So far we’ve covered the importance of establishing a web presence and setting up basic optimization. Now that you have your site up and posted, how do you know if anyone is seeing it? You track it!

When walking the owner of Mehak through the chart below, he was immediately blown away by how we “knew how many people were checking him out.” The secret? We didn’t. That’s Google Analytics. Its extremely easy to use, and most importantly free. Once you have your website set up just go to www.google.com/analytics and from there Google will do an excellent job of walking you through the process. Once you have it set up you will not only be able to see how many people come to your webpage, what pages were the ones they stayed on the longest, but also HOW are they finding you.

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Beyond just using Google Analytics, be sure to ASK your clients how they found you. Perhaps it won’t be your website that drives your new customers. Perhaps it will be a sign you posted or your biggest fan talking to all of their friends. No matter how you are getting your new business, the person who knows best are the customers themselves, so ask them! And once you know, follow the old marketing adage and “feed what works, and cut off what doesn’t.”

Being a small business is tough right now is harder than it’s been in decades. In the case of Mehak, the owner was giving everything he had to make the business successful and still was not seeing the success he wanted. In this economy, everyone is trying their best, so those who thrive will be those who find a way to get to their customer quickly and easily. These three steps are the just the basics of small business marketing. Stay tuned for more advanced tactics.

Best of luck and if you get hungry on your journey, I strongly suggest checking outwww.mehakboston.com and trying the Chicken Tikka Masala.

Easy optimization: If you build it they will come…but only if they can find it

In our last post we hammered home just how important it is for every small business to have a website. So important that it bears repeating: Every business MUST have a website.

So now your website is done, it looks great…why aren’t people visiting?

Well, your site is one of the over 350,000,000 websites that exist. With that much out there, people are going to need a little help finding yours.

So how do you do it?

By thinking like a babysitter. It sounds crazy, but think about how babysitters (or at least my little sister) gets customers. She makes a flyer and posts it everywhere she thinks people will bring their kids. Your website is your flyer, and the internet is filled with places you can post it.

In the case of Mehak, since it’s a restaurant the first place the website we posted the website was Yelp. Whether you are a Yelp fan or not, it must be acknowledged that Yelp is a juggernaut in cyberspace business reviews. Yelp gets about 41 million visitors A MONTH and that is only growing. (In a future post we will talk about the impact of Yelp on growing your business but that’s an article in and of itself.) Mehak already had dozens of Yelp reviews, but little information on the business hours, prices, or menu offerings. We decided to add the Mehak personality to the Yelp site by adding pictures and most importantly, the menu so that people could quickly act upon the good reviews they came across.

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From there, we posted the website to every place we could find, from food review sites to Halal-specific listings. And how much did this cost? Zero dollars and zero cents. Many sites WANT your website listed there and almost none will charge you for it.

When you decide where to post your site, think about who your target customer is and how they would find you. Are they going straight to your website because they need a mechanic and they know that you are located close by, or are they looking at a number of review sites to find the one who is going to treat them most fairly? Find where your customers would go when they need you, and make sure your site is there.

Once your presence is established, think of each site as a neutral space to converse with customers. Check the reviews often for positive and negative feedback and take it as suggestions for improvement. Add more information as your hours or offerings change – let your customers know that you care enough to give them all of the info they are looking for.

Next week – How to check your progress

 

Growing Means Letting People Know You

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.

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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.

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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.