Small Business Marketing

How to Write an RFP for a Website Redesign

February, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

So, you need a to find an agency to manage your website redesign, but you don’t know how to weed through the endless array of development firms vying for your marketing dollars. Choosing the right option for your redesign shouldn’t feel like an impossible mission, but many small business owners find it downright overwhelming. Writing an RFP, or request for proposal, will help you narrow down the solutions available to you.

Ready to get started? Use the tips below to write an effective RFP that will save you both time and money.

What Should My RFP Include?

Many entrepreneurs wonder if writing an RFP is even worth the effort when it’s relatively easy to ask for a quote from a web designer. The short answer is a resounding yes! An RFP will ensure you receive the best product at a competitive price.

Your RFP should perform a few different functions. Firstly, it announces your intent to compare a firm’s quote against its competitors. This gives you a headstart on the negotiation process before it even begins. The RFP also outlines the expectations and needs of the project, ensuring no wires are crossed down the road. RFPs detail the scope of a project, explore the limitations of your existing site and include your requirements for the submitted proposal. Finally, an RFP must reference budget information.

Provide the Right Context

Unless you’re a budding web developer in your own right, you’re probably more familiar with your goals than the solutions your website should use. Instead of providing a laundry list of “must have” features, use your RFP to explain what you’re looking for and why. By giving the recipient some flexibility, you may find you receive better suggestions and recommendations.

Keep the Right Perspective

While it may be true that the buying power rests in your hands, don’t offend your developer with a bevy of proposal requirements and a ridiculously low budget. Also, you may be ready to start working on your new project tomorrow, but a busy developer likely has to juggle a full roster of other clients jostling for his attention. Don’t insist on an extremely tight lead time, and don’t act like you know everything. Remember, you’re partnering with an expert for a reason—they know what it takes to get the job done right.

Once you’ve drafted your RFP, take some time to customize it for each web designer you contact. A template RFP may provide a smart starting point, but you don’t want to spam 12 different companies with your request and sit back on your laurels. Instead, aim to initiate a conversation about what you’re looking for, and use your RFP to crystalize your wants and needs. By taking this approach, you’re bound to find a development partner who will work diligently to bring your vision to life.

To Blog or Not to Blog: Should My Small Business Bother?

February, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Digital marketers love to extol the benefits of business blogging: from increasing sales figures to boosting foot traffic, blogs supposedly represent nearly limitless potential for real-world businesses. And yet, many restaurants, breweries, and other hospitality businesses have found their blogs generate little interest and no tangible results. What gives?

Whether you’re plagued with an under performing blog or you’re considering launching one for the first time, use the following keys to supercharge your blogging prowess.

1. Start a Compelling Conversation

Many business owners try to use their blog as nothing more than a promotional vehicle, and surprisingly enough, very few customers want to read long-winded sales pitches. Instead of using your blog as a sales vehicle, use it to build authority in your industry. Many restaurants use their blog to cover food trends across the nation, while hoteliers cover topics like travel, vacation, and local attractions. Your goal is to spark a conversation that relates to your overall brand message.

Struggling to come up with ideas? Moz recommends blog owners ask questions about their product or business to come up with interesting subjects to cover. You may also want to use customer feedback, upcoming community events, or trending topics in pop culture to spark your readers’ interest.

2. Turn to Twitter & Facebook

From craft breweries to neighborhood diners, plenty of businesses have lackluster social media feeds. Instead of thinking of your social accounts as separate entities, use your blog to feed your profiles with interesting content. Not only will this result in more traffic for your site, but it will also help you grow your clout by amassing new likes and social connections.

3. Focus on Consistency

Some of the web’s most popular websites churn out new content multiple times every day, leaving business owners feeling overwhelmed at the idea of creating a blog. In reality, you may find it difficult to make blogging once a week a priority. Fortunately, you don’t need to write a new post every hour on the hour to stay relevant.

Instead, simply create a posting pattern that feels consistent for your site visitors. Focus on a few times a month initially and become more prolific as time goes on. If you struggle to generate enough content on your own, consider outsourcing your blogging needs to a ghostwriter or marketing agency. This can help you keep your blog alive with content, all without neglecting your other responsibilities.

It’s important to remember that blogging for your business is just like any other marketing effort. It takes time to generate impressive results. You didn’t have thousands of customers pounding on your doors within minutes of your opening, and you won’t have an endless stream of readers immediately reading the posts you publish. By building a schedule, sticking with it, and nurturing your blog bit by bit, you’ll be able to generate long lasting results and equip your business with another tool for snaring the interest of your target audience.


Newsletters: How Can Restaurants Build Digital Marketing Campaigns?

February, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Of all of the marketing tools available to restaurant owners, newsletters are often overlooked in favor of social media and traditional print advertising. Many restaurant owners simply aren’t aware of just how powerful newsletters often prove. From building loyalty among existing customers to boosting overall sales figures, digital newsletters can make an impressive impact for restaurants of all sizes. If you’re considering launching a newsletter for your own eatery, learn more about the hidden potential email campaigns represent.

Examining Case Studies

Newsletters have consistently generated tangible results for restaurants across the nation, as evidenced by countless case studies observing their usefulness. In one study conducted by Fishbowl, a small restaurant owner in Bethesda, Maryland managed to grow his customer base by 1,000 new clients, while boosting the average spend of his diners—all in just six months. Another restaurant in Pelham, New York used email marketing to promote musical acts performing for customers, resulting in a 15% uptick in sales.

Creating an Effective Newsletter

The evidence may speak for itself, but many business owners don’t know where to start building their own restaurant email marketing campaigns. A few simple keys should help any restaurant get started on the right track:

1. Use the Right Tools

Don’t be tempted to mass email your clients using a standard email account. Instead, build your newsletter using one of the countless products made for this purpose. Software you may wish to consider includes Mailchimp and Aweber. The aforementioned Fishbowl also offers industry-specific marketing tools for restaurant owners.

2. Develop a Consistent Strategy

There are no two ways about it: creating compelling newsletter content takes hard work.
Don’t allow yourself to fall behind and stop sending newsletters for months at a time. Instead, consider building an editorial calendar well in advance. Brainstorm potential subject matter to include in your newsletters, and create publication deadlines to help you stick with the program.

By creating your newsletter with an established software tool, you’ll also be able to better automate the process of publication. You can cue up your newsletter days or weeks in advance, and have the software automatically distribute your marketing materials at set intervals.

3. Establish Achievable Goals

Much like any other marketing initiative, it’s important to set clearly outlined goals for
your newsletter, which will help maximize the success of your efforts. Whether you’re striving to improve low sales, attract more visitors, or simply grow your mailing list, setting these goals will help you to create content that actually converts. Furthermore, as you see results achieved, you’ll remain motivated to continue investing in your company’s newsletter.

Newsletters have proven effective across myriad industries, which makes this growth avenue an exciting prospect for hospitality businesses. Best of all, exploring email marketing initiatives for your restaurant represents a relatively small upfront investment. Remember, a one size fits all approach is not the best approach for most restaurants. Instead, think consciously about the needs of your business and try to use your newsletter to meet those needs in an innovative fashion. With plenty of hard work and a bit of good luck, you should find this approach incredibly useful.

Every Business is an Online Business!

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Small business owners often overlook the need for a dynamic business website. According to research conducted for GoDaddy this past summer, 59% of small businesses still don’t have a dedicated website. Survey respondents provided a number of different reasons for this trend, with 35% of participants citing their small size for their lack of a web presence. Unfortunately, these businesses are missing out on a myriad of benefits, while simultaneously jeopardizing their financial health.

Why Do I Need a Website?

In 2016, every business is an online business. The internet is not only a tool for retailers who provide services to clients via the web. Instead, it’s a vitally important resource for connecting real-world businesses with customers. If you’re still on the fence about building a web presence, consider the following invaluable benefits an effective business website provides:

1. Your Website is a 24/7 Salesman

Think of your website as the best salesperson on your team. Unlike human staffers, websites never take a break or clock off for the day. A professional website allows consumers to learn more about your business and the services and products you offer. Best of all, this advertising is incredibly affordable. Unlike traditional ad campaigns, you won’t fork over thousands of dollars to keep your website performing optimally.

2. Websites Increase Your Visibility

How many customers are you losing to competitors who market themselves effectively online? According to a Google study, a full 50% of consumers conducting mobile local searches visit a business in person within 24 hours. Buying habits have shifted in the 21st century, with customers turning to the internet to make informed decisions about which local businesses to patronize.

3. A Professional Site Boosts Customer Engagement

Any business owner can recognize the importance of fostering customer loyalty. Your best customers will repeatedly visit your business and recommend you to others. Building a web presence is a powerful tool for customer engagement, as it allows you to foster relationships with your existing customer base outside of physical interactions.

Whether you choose to build a targeted email list, promote new products or sales, or simply keep your customers abreast of changes in your business, your website allows you to make a powerful impact. Generating interesting content also gives your loyal buyers something they can share with others via social media, further contributing to your online clout.

If you’re eager to invest in the future of your business, stop thinking about in terms of “online” and “offline.” 84% of Americans use the internet, while a further 65% use a smartphone. The internet is a ubiquitous resource that nearly all consumers are already using to make buying decisions. By refusing to embrace the power of the web for your small business, you’re only driving would-be customers away and endangering your livelihood.