When it comes to running your own restaurant, there’s a lot you need to know: Where will you get your produce? What type of programs or methods will you use for bookkeeping/accounting? Will you have any dining specials and if so, when? What types of processes will you use for hiring and discipline? And how are you going to generate business?

Fortunately, the last part comes pretty easy, and that’s by promoting your restaurant online. It won’t be difficult to do, but it will take you some time and a bit of know-how. Here are the five steps you must take when digitally promoting your business.

Get Your Domain & Website

Before anything else, you need to purchase your domain and hosting. Nothing else should be done until this is complete. Ideally, your website domain (the URL) should be your restaurant’s name; if your restaurant’s name is too long, shorten it to a way that makes sense (like a nickname):

Sophie’s Pastries = www.sophiespastries.com

Sophie’s Sweet Treats & More = www.sophiessweets.com or www.sophiestreats.com

If you make your website too long, people aren’t as likely to remember it. That’s why Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google have one-word names. It makes the domain easy to remember. Have a few domain names in mind in case yours is already taken.

After you secure your domain name, you’ll need to find a hosting site. Hosting sites offer server space where can store your website. Popular hosting providers include GoDaddy, HostGator, and WordPress. Because there are a variety of options, conduct research prior to making any purchases. Some providers let you purchase a domain and hosting through them, meaning you have less to worry about.

Claim Your Listings

After designing your website and filling out all relevant information (including location, contact information, and menu), you should go and claim your listings. There are many sites out there that keep listings of restaurants, like Yelp and Open Table. In fact, there are so many business directories and listings for online businesses that is can be hard to keep track. Conduct a search of a list of online directories and create a list based on the specific listings you want to claim, such as Google or Bing. You’ll want to claim it for popular sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, and YellowPages, but don’t forget about others that seem “obscure”—you never know where a customer might find you!

Once you have this list, go through each and make sure your contact information is correct as well as any other information it may request, such as your website or business hours. You want to ensure that prospective customers can not only find you online but also easily find accurate information about your restaurant. Also, getting listed accurately in multiple locations has a beneficial effect on your search engine marketing

Remain Visible on Social Media

A good portion of your customers will be active on at least one social media site, so you want to go where they are and set up a presence. Set up a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Snapchat so you can keep in touch with customers even when they aren’t patronizing your store. Social media is all about maintaining a connection. Like your business pages and listings, you’ll want to put out as much information as possible regarding your restaurant like your website, phone number, location, and hours of operation.

When it comes to posting, have fun with it: Take pictures of your dishes, promote upcoming specials, hold contests, introduce new employees, and more—anything that showcases your restaurant’s personality. Don’t forget to embed your social media feeds to your website.

Establish a Loyalty Program

A great way to help promote your business is by offering a loyalty program. What the program offers and how patrons go about earning rewards is up to you. It’s an easy way to encourage customers’ continued business. It’s also a way to get their information: They provide you with their name, phone number, and email, and you offer them something of value in return, such as a coupon toward their next meal or a free dessert.

Use this information wisely. Don’t spam their inboxes with pointless emails. Send them updates about the loyalty program, special events (such as bonus points if they dine in between certain dates), and coupons for a free birthday treat.

Ask for Customer Reviews

According to smallbiztrends.com, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as they do a recommendation from a friend, and that 74 percent say positive reviews make them trust a local business. That’s why it’s more important than ever to encourage your guests to leave you a review online. All you have to do is ask, and many will comply.

When you do get reviews, respond to them if you can. If they left a positive review, thank them for their business and compliments. If they left a negative review, see if you can get hold of them and fix their error. Not only does it make one customer happy, it shows all your other customers that you care about the experience they have at your restaurant and helps you build your restaurant reputation.

Now that you have an idea of what you need to do, it’s time to start promoting your restaurant. Take these steps one by one and you’ll start on the path to marketing success.

Chris Hickman is the founder and CEO at Adficient with 15 years of experience in search marketing and conversion optimization. Since 2006, he founded GetBackonGoogle.com, helping businesses and websites suspended in Adwords to Get Back on Google.
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