Friday, October 10, 2014.
Interview with Maxine Torosian
Conducted by Dikran Iskenderian and Ajay Singh
Note to reader:
Although we give some advice here on web site creation and internet marketing implementation, the reader is advised to consult professional programmers and marketing companies in order to create and maintain web sites.
It is the author’s professional opinion that although there are currently thousands of web sites that claim to make it “easy” and “quick” to create a web site, none exist so far as to be comparable to the high quality output of professional marketing teams.
In other words do not try to create a restaurant web site yourself. As entrepreneurs we are full of ideas, yet unfortunately many of us are penny wise but dollar stupid. In the long run, you will save both time and money by using professionals to do this work. Trust me when I say I have tried to do it myself and the results were laughable. I am only saying this to save you time and money but as usual, the decision is yours.
Ajay: What’s the best way to create a web site? What’s the best platform?
Maxine: WordPress is the way to go now more than ever. Users love it. Its something you can learn on your own. With time if you want something simple and fast to publish use WordPress. If you want something very fancy and trendy you can still do it on WordPress. With [shortcodes?!] and all these crazy new features WordPress has…
WordPress communicates very well with search engines, for your web site to rank higher. Sometimes there are obstacles and stoppages with other platforms. A lot of users enjoy the ease of use on WordPress.
WordPress is SEO friendly. Often with other platforms it’s more difficult to incorporate SEO into the web site. With WordPress it’s easy because everything is there; it’s in your face.
If you are going to sell items online I would say Megento. It’s still SEO friendly and it’s more efficient. That’s my opinion Word Press is the way to go
Ajay: What are the tabs or categories that are a must for the web site?
Maxine: Obviously the home page. You have to have the basics.
The home page is a nice summary of your business. You have to have what’s going on and the latest news in the intro. You have the introduction with the header. It’s very important to have a home tab.
In the footer you have the action steps. These are what you want your client to do.
An about us page: make it personal. Allow people to get into your world and get to know about you, the history and story. People often want to know how it started.
This allows people to get into your world, and know what to do.
In the Contact us page: Use phone, email, and social media to connect. Make it easy for the user to connect with you however they like.
Also create a products and services page.
Ajay: Is it good to have “home” or just the logo to go back to the home page? Some people just have the logo.
Maxine. You should have both. You don’t want to lose clients because they got lost. It has to be clear to the user. You can have the logo as a link to your home and a “home” tab as well.
Ajay: Maxine What’s your top 3 tips for business owners in terms of marketing and advertising?
Maxine: I think that #1 its very important to brand yourself.
Because in branding your showing and displaying your personality and telling clients what you’re all about. You’re creating a culture and uniformity. Right now people more than anything else people want to be part of a something: a lifestyle. You want to make sure you are cohesive in your branding. Brand everything that’s possible.
You don’t need a huge budget. You don’t need thousands of dollars to do this. Just make sure the colors match and everything matches. Don’t mix and match colors. Consumers can get confused and they won’t know if they are actually buying from you.
I definitely think branding is very important for creating the culture.
You can do it small and do everything on your own. Make sure it’s cohesive and clear. If it’s modern stick to modern in terms of your business cards and everything else. Don’t confuse your customers. Make sure the logo, business cards, colors and everything else are cohesive.
Branding is very important, especially when it comes to creating a culture.
Ajay: How important is the name for a business?
Maxine : The name is very important. Make sure its catchy
Theres a lot of aspects of a company name we can talk about.
Zankou Chicken is a great name. It’s catchy (smiles). It’s short and to the point Also its not a generic name you hear everywhere. Repetitive names are also catchy. A lot of names use
Sometimes you can use names where the first letter of the name is the same. Like Chuk E Cheese. Dikran do you know a company like that?
Dikran: I think its called homophonic. Chuk E Cheese is a great example we have one across the street from our location here in Burbank. Great place.
Do it with intention. I know somebody that started a business. He had his brand all mixed: it involved medical, gifts, and aromatherapy. The name he chose was Infinity. People that wanted cars or insurance kept calling him. You don’t want that to happen.
Make sure the name you choose is not taken by another company. People were calling him for the car company or insurance. He was so annoyed and he had to change his number multiple times. Infinity by itself doesn’t mean anything.
Dikran: Hmmmmmm. That’s a good point
Maxine: Like with a name like Zankou…it could be anything. It could be a supermarket. Zankou is being branded as a famous place with chicken and garlic.
Ajay: Isn’t it two names: Zankou Chicken? Perhaps if he used two names it could have helped.
With Infinity it was just one name. You also don’t want to choose a name where it can be outdated.
Maxine: That would be a shame. Imagine spending many years and thousands of dollars on a name and then you can’t use it anymore because it’s outdated. Imagine after all that work making people familiar with your name and now you have to start all over again.
Ajay: Sometimes people use info graphics and templates that cost tens of thousands of dollars!
Maxine: Well, organizations use info graphics because they are very useful and fun to look at.
Templates are good for simple and to the point information with only 2-3 variables, like cause and effect. Most info graphics use complicated information with many variables that simply can’t be done with a template.
Dikran: So Maxine we want to ask you how do we create a logo? Imagine someone that wants to open a new restaurant, bar or café. A lot of people often ask us how to create the best logo. How do they create the logo and how do they choose the colors?
Maxine: Well the first question that I ask business owners and people starting a new business is: What direction are they headed? What kind of industry is it going to be? Is it for a restaurant or bar, is it a spa? Is it where children are involved? Is it with food?
That is important to decide the design and colors of the logo. For example if it was for a spa I would use blues and greens, pastel colors. These colors promote tranquility and relaxation.
If its for restaurants I would use a lot of red and yellow. Think Like McDonald’s: They use a lot of red because subconsciously it makes you hungry. This is probably why Zankou Chicken uses a lot of red in its logo and interior design.
When business owners come to me I often ask them about the background of the business. What’s their story? I feel that incorporating the likings of the business owner is very important. At the end of the day its their baby. They need to think about how they see themselves in a reflection.
If it wasn’t for entrepreneurs these businesses would be dead. How do they see themselves in the business?
What is going to keep you going through the ups and downs is your passion. It gets you through the most challenging times. What defines your passion? That should be in your logo! You have to incorporate your passion into the brand, into the passion.
It’s kind of like school. In school I hated finance, but in order to finish my degree I had to take finance. In school you don’t like every class but you have to take them to move forward.
If the customer is vibrant you can use a vibrant red. If they are conservative you can use a more subdued red like a burgundy.
I would create a fusion of the client’s tastes and likes. It should have marketing appeal. You don’t want to put red in a spa logo or blue in a restaurant logo. The color itself won’t really draw attention; its usually a combination of everything.
Ajay: What about the customers? Shouldn’t the customers be factored into the creation of the logo?
Maxine: I always ask clients who is your target market?
For example Ross doesn’t cater to the luxury market like Nordstrom’s and Bloomingdales does. I would definitely ask the client what is their target audience?
Dikran: What are some elements you think of when designing a logo?
Maxine: Another thing I consider in designing a logo is to make it universal and as simple as possible.
Why? Because nowadays you use your logo on the web, online, all over social media platforms, on business cards and posters. You want something that you can use on everything without having to change your logo.
A good example of this is Apple. On the devices itself its black. On the computers its opaque but I’ve also seen the rainbow, red, blue, and other colors. But people still don’t get confused or think it’s a different brand.
Dikran: Ajay and I were talking earlier about how sometimes corporations are so big that they can purchase an entire color. Coke was known to put red chairs on American Idol as a sponsor a few years ago and they didn’t even have to say anything. They just had the judges like Simon Cowell drinking coke on a huge red, sof-like chair in the shape of a bottle.
Coke has trademarked that bottle shape that resembles a slim 8 figure. But to many people coke owns the entire color red. When they see red and beverages, they think “Coca-Cola”. If you really think about it Coke owns red. Apple owns white and opaque. The VW Beetle used that kind of “white, clean” backdrop for their commercials in the 1970’s so Apple wasn’t the first to do it.
CPK uses black and yellow.
Maxine: It depends on how much money you are investing in your brand. To the point where these brands have become a culture and lifestyle for so many people.
It’s not just a name. Some people no longer say the products they just use the brand. You often hear people say ,” Do you have a Kleenex?” They don’t ask if you have a tissue. So that’s powerful.
Dikran: At our restaurants sometimes people ask to “have a Coke.” They don’t ask for soda they ask for a Coke.
Or for another example if you see someone drinking coffee with a green straw you automatically assume they’re drinking Starbucks. It’s product placement and brand marketing that companies do that entrench them into our conscious and subconscious minds.
Maxine you don’t just do web sites you also help with brand creation and social media. What would you say is your top three advices you would have?
Maxine: #1 Brand as much as possible. Have a plan and incorporate branding into everything out there. Define your businesses’ personality. Get it out everywhere: Online, in print, on business cards, everywhere. Make sure you use the same type (modern versus traditional and stick to it).
For a restaurant you want to use the same colors on your menu. You want to feature the same colors. People will easily recognize you. There is familiarity and uniformity. You don’t need a huge budget to achieve this.
There are so many ways you can brand virtually anything. You should be a walking talking extension of your brand everywhere you go.
Dikran: Recently you’ve also been helping people with their social media. What advice do you have for our readers regarding social media and how to best
Maxine: You should immerse yourself and keep updated with the latest social media trends going on right now. Define your business personality, build a solid plan, and follow that plan. Use the brand colors on social media.
People sometimes just reach your Facebook page, or Twitter or Instagram as a final place to determine if they want to do business with you. Often they don’t even visit your web site. They’re end-result decision-making is often done on social media.
Find out where your customers are. Each social media platform is different. If your customers are on Facebook you need to be on Facebook.
If you are not hanging out where your customers are they will not find you.
Dikran: As the final advice what would you say to people on saving time and money? How can they do things right from the very beginning and avoid costly mistakes?
Maxine: Make sure you don’t ignore the “call of action” aspect of your marketing. Give them the next step; make it easy for them to buy. It can be a buy now button or call number button. Make it easy for them to make their purchasing decision.
Accept all forms of payment. If you have an E-commerce web site, make it easy for them to pay.
Accept all merchant accounts. You can use web sites like authorize.net. You should accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and not just PayPal. Make it easy for customers to purchase and also make it a “user friendly” web site.
Dikran: Why should commercial web sites be user-friendly?
Maxine: Web sites should be user friendly because you don’t want your online users to get lost when all they’re trying to do is buy something.
They’ll just as easily give up and walk away.
Dikran: Sometimes these web sites are spending tens of thousands but they just have too much stuff. It’s easy to just get lost and walk away.
Maxine: Put yourself in the user’s shoes. Make sure no mistakes are made.
You want them to stick around so make it easy for them to find it. Feature it in the header, feature it again in the footer, make the buying easy to do and easy to find.
Site mapping should be available on the site and you should have a search function. Ask random people where they would go to find that information, then place it there.
Dikran: Why should someone have a blog?
Maxine: Yes because blogs are great for SEO. Besides the SEO you want to give your best customers advice, tips, and always talk to them. It’s like a two-way communication. It’s important to connect with your community.
Blogs are very useful. The more people are reading your blogs the better it is for your marketing efforts. People will frequently check on your web site, and alternatively your blog to always see what is new.
Customers love getting free, expert advice. Just as an example for Zankou Chicken you can have a blog where you show busy moms great recipes on how to use the chicken at Zankou at home making salads and other dishes with it. Imagine great new recipes using the garlic sauce!
You don’t want to throw promotions in their face. You can feature it and talk about it in the blog. And by people reading your blog Zankou Chicken would always be in the back of their mind.
Blogs are important for restaurants because customers have so many questions. There are so many random web sites now just based on people’s questions, like Yahoo Questions and (Kora.)?
By always giving them great advice you gain their trust.
Dikran: Why do people often send mixed messages? Why is that bad?
Maxine: If you don’t know what your best service or item is, how are others supposed to do it? You should not market yourself as different things.
Show people what you are best at doing. This is huge. In school they always talk about missions statements and core values because it sets the stage for everything else.
Dikran: Wow. That was really good. Thank you Maxine for joining us in our expert panel and we look forward to featuring you in the book.