How “Free” Marketing Could Be Killing Your Bottom Line

The concept of digital marketing is easy to embrace. The internet provides a seemingly endless supply of free (and low-cost) marketing solutions that provide unique opportunities to engage directly with customers and drive a positive brand image, ultimately bringing more business through the front door.

That’s the ideal. In reality, too many restaurants allow “free” to translate to “less important.” Ask yourself: why are my website and social media accounts the last place I update my menu, hours, and other critical information changes when they are the first place so many potential customers will find me?

As business information changes, updating paid television, radio, and print ads becomes an immediate priority, whereas digital platforms are rarely given the same urgency. While it may sit in the back of your mind, your digital collateral is still in front of your potential customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When a Millennial pulls out their smartphone, do you think they intend to call your restaurant to ask about hours, or look it up for themselves? Outdated information online is actively undercutting any marketing dollars you’ve invested, whether it’s on your own website or one hosted by a third party.

We usually focus on tips for creating compelling content, engaging your followers, and leveraging social media to best match your goals. There is no better time than now to step back and review your web presence for consistency and accuracy.

1. Review your own website and social media accounts with a critical eye.
It’s easy to become so consumed with the creation of new, dynamic content that the “static” information is overlooked. Look at summary descriptions and determine if they still match your current goals. Ensure your menu, hours, and contact details are current and that links to other sites are all functional.

2. Think like a customer and Google your business.
Don’t close the browser window once you see your website is the first search result. Scroll through the first few pages. Review the content that pops up and keep a list of websites that list your business.

3. Claim directory listings that represent your business.
This includes Google Business™, Bing Places, Yelp®, Trip Advisor, Yellow Pages™ and any other sites that ranked high in your search.

4. Develop a schedule.
If you have a marketing staff person or contract with an ad agency, put them to work. If you’re on your own, consider scheduling an hour of time weekly to split the process into manageable pieces.

5. Update. Update. Update.
Not only do you want correct information, but make sure you populate all available fields including website address, phone numbers, and descriptions. Upload photos and menus to the platforms that allow it. Make it easy for a customer to gather everything they want to know in one place.

6. Be consistent.
Use the same short descriptions and make sure address and contact information match exactly across all platforms (South Main St. is not the same as S Main St.). In the end, this consistency helps optimize your web presence and boost search rankings.

7. Mark your calendar.
Mark your calendar for an incremental review/audit of this information. Try to make this review a focus at least twice a year and never forget new apps and sites auto populating your information are popping up all the time.

Don’t get so caught up in the nuances of digital that you look past the basics. Much like creating a dish with perfect technique and sub-par ingredients, your potential customers will know the difference.