OK, so you’re a small business owner. You know your business, its values and its customers better than anyone else. But, chances are, you’re not a marketing expert — by trade, at least.
There are scores of highly effective tools just waiting for you to use them to get the word out. But let’s be real: You don’t have the time, the energy or the money to take full advantage of everything.
What do you need to do to get the most out of your local marketing investment both in terms of time and money? Consider these helpful resources.
1. The Better Business Bureau
Don’t overlook the value of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB is a nonprofit organization that seeks to encourage trust in the market. Its website offers search functionality where customers can search business categories by location.
As long as you have been in business one year or more, you can list your company. The organization offers two options:
- Free listings: Link your business, description and receive a citation. Just for claiming your business, they will give you an A+ rating.
- Accredited listings: Accrediting your business comes with costs: $39.95 for businesses with 10 or fewer employees, $63.33 for businesses with 11 to 19 employees. Why accredit? Your accredited listing will, hypothetically, instill consumer trust in your business.
This online credibility is easy to acquire, with very minimal effort. Win-win.
2. The Chamber of Commerce
Let’s keep it old school. Many consumers — especially Baby Boomers — will often turn to their Chamber of Commerce to find businesses. According to research organization The Schapiro Group, consumers are 63 percent more likely to buy goods and services from a small business that is a member of the chamber of commerce.
Among the perks of joining, you’ll get to:
- Add your business to its online business directory under your category.
- Display a description of your business, logo, link, photos and contact information.
- Access tools to dispute negative reviews as well as reputation management reports.
Similarly, don’t forget to look into other locally focused small business organizations in your city and state. For example, the nonprofit Local First Arizona boasts more than 2,500 members seeking to strengthen the Grand Canyon State’s economy.
Once you have joined a local business group, site visitors will be able to find your company indexed in the right category. Plus, you’ll get the opportunity to participate in highly publicized events in your area. This passive form of local marketing can translate into new clients without any legwork.
3. Ratings sites like Yelp and Angie’s List
Ah, now the good stuff. Used incorrectly — or ignored — review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List can torch your business. Embrace them, and they’ll fuel your marketing fire. For free!
First, list your business on Yelp. Then, add info to your listing and track customers as well as user views.
If you opt for an enhanced profile, you’ll get additional benefits:
- Photo slideshow to help your listing stand out
- Expansion of business description
- Blocking of competitor’s ads on your page
- Accessible dashboard where you can track metrics
- Option to add an account manager
Angie’s List enables users to recognize and rate your business. The site hosts information about home repair companies and health care professionals in 700-plus categories. In addition to the website, there is also an app, magazine and call center.
If your business fits into one of its categories, list it for free by visiting http://www.angieslistbusinesscenter.com.
But here’s where you come in. This isn’t a one-and-done situation. It’s up to you to stay engaged and put out fires. No one likes an argumentative business owner — in fact, that’s probably the quickest way to lose future business. However, handle customer complaints with grace, and you’ll win back customers new and old.
So, you probably use Google all of the time. The site considers trusted sites like the Chamber of Commerce and the BBB when determining search rankings. Good news: A presence on these sites will help fuel your search engine results.
Speaking of Google, does your company have a Google+ presence? Having a business page on Google+ does wonders to help you improve your local search visibility. Sure, it’s pretty much worthless as a social media platform, but that’s not the goal here.
Just investing a few minutes to create the page can help boost your search engine results. That means new customers and revenue.
Once you’ve established your Google+ account, don’t miss signing up for Google My Business. This tool enables you to edit your business on Search and Maps. You can share updates and respond to reviews. Customers can find you across their various devices. That way, if they want to call you on a mobile device, they can simply click.
Take your Google+ pages as well as your personal profile pages and connect them to your website. This gives your website a greater overall reach.
5. Search engine optimization (SEO)
The SEO lines are getting blurred. The days of only worrying about SEO and properly indexing one’s website are long gone. In fact, sources including Forbes have reported that Google still does consider factors such as the number of +1s on a Google+ Business Page when determining ranking order.
Google’s algorithm calculates search engine results based on factors such as blogs and quality content, social media presence, the use of sites like the Chamber of Commerce and Google+.
- Accurately describe the page’s content
- Create unique title tags for each page
- Use descriptive titles
- Use words in URLs
- Write easy-to-read text
- Create content primarily for your users, not search engines
- Supply alt text when using images as links
Even if you’ve been in the biz for some time, don’t forget about the basics. You’re not (or shouldn’t be) above simple marketing techniques like registering with the local chamber of commerce or creating a Google+ page.
That is, unless you have too many sales … Great, that’s what we thought. Get marketing!