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It’s a great time to be a big brand. They have nothing to worry about when it comes to search, and have it all: top page ranks, multiple links.

Google is even currently testing overlarge banner ads for big companies in its search results. Big brands will be fine.

It seems that Google is doing more and more to support big brands, filtering out the flotsam and jetsom of the internet and providing users with ‘trusted’ big name brands they recognised, pushing the more dubious websites further down its SERPS.

But what about the little guy? The little guy who makes a great product or provides a quality service. How can this valuable but tiny start-up company possibly hope to compete against the giants of commerce?

At Searchlove yesterday, Distilled’s co-founder and CMO Will Critchlow used the London based restaurant chain Hawksmoor as an example of a successful local business to provide his own insight and guidance on how your small business can market itself in the face of staggering adversity.

Your small business has many advantages over the big brands…

  • Agility. Your business is small, you can do things off the cuff without having to get multiple directors to sign-off on an experimental piece of marketing or trial of a new social media channel.
  • Passion for your own product. You wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t have a huge passion and belief in your own product. You’re the heart and soul of your company, so put that at the centre.

    How many middle-managers working at Coca-Cola right now are thinking to themselves 'I bloody love cola'. 

  • Your team. It’s highly likely that as a small business your team consists of you and your friends, or you and your family, or you and some colleagues who have become as close as friends or family.

    These people aren't stored away in another building with a different mindset to yours. They are multi-tasking, multi-disciplined advocates who are as heavily invested (financially, emotionally or both) as you are. Use this close-knit association to do great things.

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor's founder Will Beckett went from opening a small restaurant in Shoreditch in 2003 to now running the fifth best company to work for, according to the Sunday Times.

Only a decade later, there are currently five restaurants to the Hawksmoor name.

The important detail here for your small business, in terms of providing hope for your digital marketing effort, is how Hawksmoor appears on Google.

Search for ‘steak restaurant' and this is what you see: 

Hawksmoor is right at the top. There aren’t even any paid links above it. 

Now go local and earch for ‘steak restaurant London’:

There’s paid links at the top of the screen, and Hawksmoor is second in the organic listings underneath Time Out.

However, if you click on the Time Out link, Top 10 London steak restaurants, look what’s at the top of that page…

Be the best at what you do

One key factor in Hawksmoor’s success, that it got right from the very beginning, is that its excellent at what it does. Hawksmoor cooks steaks and makes cocktails extraordinarily well. 

Start-ups fail because they are not good at what they do. It’s a simple fact, especially in the restaurant trade which has more reliance on word of mouth than most businesses.

If someone has a good meal they’ll tell a few close friends, if someone has a bad meal or terrible service, they’ll tell everyone.

Take the online offline, and vice-versa

Offer your customers an experience that can’t be replicated online. Offer your online followers an experience that can’t be replicated offline.

Will Beckett maintains that the fine dining experience is one of the few businesses or services that Google can't replicate online. Increasingly anything information based can be read on Google’s own SERP without even the need to click through to a website.

If you want a delicious steak in a good looking restaurant with great service, Google will never be able to do that for you. Well, not without a massive overhaul of its business strategy at least.

Hawksmoor published a book. A giant, lovingly crafted hardback that can be purchased in the restaurant. This is impossible to replicate digitally with the same quality and weight. This is Hawksmoor’s ‘big content’.

Hawksmoor invites bloggers to come have a steak (we'd love to, thanks;)). By using the very thing that makes you noteworthy in the offline world, you can easily capture online attention.

Whenever Hawksmoor open a new restaurant, it sends an employee to go round every local business and invites them over for a steak, or to specific events.

Making these local links will build a strong community and good base of support, and is also key in spreading positive word of mouth.

Make it personal

Run your own Twitter page. Will Beckett still runs Hawksmoor’s Twitter account, which is essentially an effective customer service channel for it. Hawksmoor doesn’t pay for expensive tools to measure engagement, it just listens to people and chats to them.

Once diners who have booked through Hawksmoor's online system have left the restaurant, they receive an email direct from Will Beckett that asks them if they enjoyed the experience and if anything could be improved. The responses go directly back to the source.

Allow constant access to people, either through social media or with live chat on your own website. The benefits of live chat are explained here. Chances are that the person using your chat function is a little confused about something on your website.

Engage with them directly right there and then, and they’ll probably spend their money with you.

Invest in high quality photography

You can’t replicate taste online, but this is the nearest thing to it…

 

Show off your product in the best possible way online.

Create evergreen content

Hawksmoor created this video that sits on its homepage.

It was expensive to make, being as it’s animated, professionally shot and edited, it also hasn’t had a lot of likes, shares or tweets.

What it achieves however is to provide a huge talking point for the majority of customers who talk to Will Beckett and the other Hawksmoor employees. It will sit on the website forever and always pay for itself in terms of interest. 

Your business either has time or money

If you’re a start-up without money, you will definitely have time. Use that time to create something amazing, memorable and completely different to set yourself apart from the pack.

You have the gift of time in which to forge these new ideas, so use it early while you have lots of it.

For more information on how to succeed online, check out or essential small business website checklist.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 30 October, 2013 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (2)

Heledd Jones

Heledd Jones, Head of Search Marketing at Confused.com

Great case study, enjoyed it... and now I'm craving a steak!

over 2 years ago

Heledd Jones

Heledd Jones, Head of Search Marketing at Confused.com

Great case study, enjoyed it... and now I'm craving a steak!

over 2 years ago

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