Firstly, I want to take this up a level and just discuss something more important than whether or not you should be marketing online, but instead should you be launching?
Is your product good enough?
Let’s get something straight – if you are expecting to launch a restaurant booking service by just running some great marketing to restaurants then I think you are going to fail quickly.
Unless you have many millions of dollars in your bank account and you just don’t care how long it takes to be successful.
At present there are many restaurant-booking sites, the core question is: “Why does a restaurant use your booking service and not one that is already out there?”
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- It’s cheaper. It might work, but you are going to have to be drastically cheaper or you have no point of difference.
- It’s got “this function”. Unless that function makes the user experience go from “good” to “insanely awesome”. You just have a gimmick.
- You already have a handful of customers that want to buy it. That isn’t a business. That is just a hobby.
Your product needs to do the marketing
If there is one key thing I have learnt after 10 years of experience, it is this: “Make your product your marketing”.
Make your product so good that it markets itself. Spend the extra money on making an amazing product and marketing is a whole lot easier because you get word-of-mouth.
Focus on making your customers’ lives better and you will make a great product and your marketing will work.
Online marketing options once you have a decent product
Once you have a decent product, online marketing works. I have bet my career on it with Finder.com.au.
Top ways to market online
- Paid Search. It works really well. Use Google Adwords for a test and buy the keywords that are relevant, eg. Restaurant booking engine, restaurant booking software, online booking software.
- Natural search. It takes awhile to get going and is something you want to invest in. SEOMoz have written an amazing beginners guide to help you get started. The smart entrepreneur will hire an SEO.
- Banner Ads. They are expensive and only good for branding and small amounts of click-through. Best used for when you are a larger site and need to build your awareness in the market.
- Email database. I just don’t think this is going to work. The best way to get ignored is to send emails to people you don’t know. (That is called SPAM.) Instead, if you were to partner with another website that did something similar but not in competition and paid them for every subscriber to your email newsletter, which helped restaurant owners get more patrons, you might find you get a better response rate.
Other suggested approaches
- Figure out what sources of traffic are making them sales.
- See what types of search engine marketing they are doing and try and replicate it and see if it works for you.
- Consider an affiliate program to sell your software. Unlikely to work if your software isn’t simple. Although bloggers and restaurant sites for business owners might be interested.
- Offer (ensure you have a good offer).