2009 November: Wicked Web

website, web, onlineOn a February evening in 2007, a Boston computer programmer named Jascha Franklin-Hodge received a call on his cell phone. He noticed the caller ID displayed a Chicago number. He was asked to create a robust, Web-based communication strategy for some guy named Barack Obama.

That evening, history was set in motion. The Web, for the fi rst time ever, would be the main approach in seeking the White House. The winning strategy included YouTube, Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. Tens of millions were mobilized on a moment’s notice with instant blog-based news fl ashes, text-messaging and email blasts. No question, the next election cycle will be Web driven on both sides like never before.

The Web will be to your pizzeria what fi re was to cavemen. It changes everything. The big pizza chains can’t look any bigger or slicker than you can. Sure, you won’t get the traffi c to your site that they get to theirs, but the traffi c you do get will be there because they want to be there. And, where TV commercials indiscriminately bombard people, a visit to a Web site is initiated by the viewer. They want what you have or they wouldn’t be there. Shame on you if you squander this opportunity.

Here’s what you need to know:
Domain: The foundation of a Web presence starts with your own Web page. That page will reside at a “domain.” You can register your domain name where I do at www. godaddy.com (fast, cheap and easy) or type “domain registration” in your Internet search bar. You’ll be fl ooded with more options than you’ll know what to do with. If you do not have a domain name yet, you should register one this very minute. The very first domain name ever registered was “Symbolics.com” on March 15th, 1985. Two years later only 100 domains had been registered worldwide. Today, 20,255 “.com” domain names are registered every single hour. Chances are extremely high that the name of your pizzeria has already been snagged by someone else. You’ll most likely need to get creative. If “Bobspizza.com” is already taken you’ll need to play around with “BobspizzaBuffaloNY.com” or whatever combination of words you can come up with.

HTML or Flash? Plain old HTML sites (think static, still, quiet) are becoming the horse and buggy of the Web. Flash (think movement, action, excitement) is more affordable than ever. Go with Flash. Google “pizzeria fl ash Web templates” and you’ll fi nd a dizzying assortment of professional, pre-made fl ash templates that are practically ready to use. And they’re dirt-cheap, too. Some can be had for less than $50. You’ll see gorgeous photos and layouts for every type of restaurant. Your Web site should showcase your:

  • Menu
  • Specials
  • Full color photos
  • Directions
  • Testimonials
  • Guarantee

Social Networking: These sites are free to use and growing like a weed in popularity. Facebook, Twitter and Myspace are the biggest sites to date.

Use this medium to create a profi le of you and your restaurant and tell your story. This humanizes your business and helps to create a bond beyond the simple purchase transaction. Post a link to your social network page on your Web site.

Online Ordering: 79 percent of all consumers have visited a restaurant Web site. Seventy percent visit to check out the menu … 27 percent are there to place an online order. Online ordering is booming. Papa John’s has already cranked out more than $1 billion online. Ticket averages skyrocket when people place orders online, too. Online ordering invites browsing and exploring the menu and side items. And if your online ordering system is doing its job, it will automatically upsell for you. It will suggest menu items as customers make selections. It will offer package deals with higher profi t margins. Yep, and this is all available right now.

Now, there are literally hundreds of choices when it comes to online ordering, and prices are all over the map. Some systems are clunky and awkward to use, while some are very slick. And of course, if you end up with a clunker, your customers will likely not enjoy the experience. Don’t select an online ordering system until you go through a demo. If it’s easy for you to use, it will be easy for your customers to use. The big chains make their online ordering link the “star” of the Web page (take the hint).

Loyalty Marketing: Another major advantage to having your own Web site is that you can include a little sign-up area where people can join your loyalty program. The big new thing — and it is red-hot at driving sales and profi ts — is a good loyalty program (with automated outbound marketing). A program of this nature enables you to contact customers with specials and offers — at a fraction of the cost of direct mail. You should aggressively promote a loyalty program on your site.

The future of communication is here. And the playing fi eld is level for all — even you. It’s fast, cheap and easy. You just have to recognize the opportunity staring you in the face and grab it … quick. ?

Kamron Karington owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a consultant, speaker and author of The Black Book: Your Complete Guide to Creating Staggering Profi ts in Your Pizza Business. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today.

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