When my husband and I launched a literary themed restaurant, we knew it would have to be about more than just the food. We wanted it to be somewhere that would foster discussion, education, and culture in a community that needed it.
So, before we even planned the menu, I set out to make sure that all of our marketing would convey just that. I knew the website would be where we created buzz around what Beginnings would become—where I would start discussions, connect with my customers, create a retail extension of our theme, and of course, where I would announce and promote our events.
I also needed something that would be easy. After all, this is my side hustle, and my current role at The Muse doesn't leave me much time for doing web work. Also worth noting, my husband is a traditional front-of-house restaurant guy with limited marketing or design experience.
We started with a simple, clean website with a photo of a typewriter and the line, "A literary, culinary experience." The site was up and running in a few hours and was exactly what we needed to get our business off the ground and on the path to success.
Now, after going through this process, I feel confident in doling out some words of wisdom. So, if you're ready to launch your business, I've got some tips to help you get started.
Pick the Right Template
I wanted a website that would set us apart from other restaurants in the area—something classic, yet unique. I chose Squarespace's "Five" template because it has a clean customizable header, and two sidebars, which were perfect for creating a field to allow customers to join our mailing list. Email is an important part of our customer retention strategy and this template allowed us to grab customer contact info up front while remaining stylish.
But, don't just pick what you think looks best. Decide what your business goals are, and find the template that will help you accomplish them. For me, that meant a template with a form where I could take reservations right on the site. For other businesses the right template will look and function differently. For example, if you're building a photography business, you're going to want space for examples of your work. If you're building an E-commerce store, you'll want to choose a layout that makes it easy for customers to purchase.
Putting together a list of your needs before jumping in will make it easier to build a website that works for your business. And the better your site meets your needs, the more successful your business launch will be.
Once you create your site, understand what insights you need to succeed. For example, knowing where my referrals were coming from was key for my business. Using Squarespace Analytics, I was able to determine that many of my referrals, or people who viewed the menu and reservations portions of my site, were coming from Facebook and parenting blogs. So when it came time for me to decide where to promote my restaurant and events, I spent my money there vs. more traditional restaurant referral networks (like Yelp, for example).
Analytics is also useful for tracking E-commerce. The analytics panels show you things like average order value and order history so you can easily identify valuable customers and target them with the products you know they will be interested in. Spend some time reviewing the data that analytics mines for you and you'll be able to optimize the time and money you spend on marketing later.
Talk to Your Customers
The more you interact with your customers, the better. And you can do it right on your website. We set up a dedicated page where our patrons could discuss the books they were reading at the moment. It's a great way to determine what books we should feature in our book club, or highlight in our Taste of Literature dinners each month.
I've learned so much about what our customers like from this, and in turn, what to feature in our restaurant. Customer interaction helps build brand loyalty and being able to hear directly from my customers is key.
Set up a similar interactive component on your site and get the conversation going. If you're starting a blog, why not allow commenting? Or if you're starting an E-commerce site, have a place where people can reach out to you. There's no better way to get feedback than going straight to the source.
Go Beyond Standard Marketing
I am a Canva queen. It's where I compliment my site by making fun event and promotional fliers, and the free version is awesome. If you aren't using some sort of easy design application yet, start now. I can't tell you how many times someone has asked me what designer I use to make my graphics. Um...me. And you can be a designer, too.
Building a business isn't easy. It's a lot of trial and error to find out what's successful. A lot of trying new things and hoping they will resonate with your customers. And quite often, a lot of worrying. But done right, it's also a lot of fun. And with the right tools, you can do it as fast as we can get a meal out of the kitchen on a busy Saturday night.