If running a small business were easy, everyone would do it. But not everyone does it. It takes a gutsy human being to start their own business. It takes a strategic brain to keep it in business, a friendly smile to get new customers, and a youthful spirit to adapt to changing times. It takes a lot.
So if you’re lagging and need to catch up, or if you’re at the front and you feel the threat of newcomers at your heels, it’s good to take some time to sharpen up your digital marketing practices. Here are five online marketing musts for any small business:
Let’s talk about these things…
Customer reviews are hard to get, because first you have to provide a quality customer experience and then ask them to compose some positive words and post them publicly on the internet.
But they’re easier to get than you may realize. If you’ve provided a quality customer experience, it’s very likely these customers are not only willing but eager to share some good words about your business. There are really two steps to acquiring positive reviews:
Firstly, make sure you have either a Yelp listing or a Google+ Local listing and copy the URL.
Secondly, email that URL to satisfied customers with a request for a positive review.
And that’s it! Some customers will ignore the email, some will write you the review. The more customers you ask, the more reviews your business will get.
Helpful tool: create your own review handouts with Whitespark’s Review Handout Generator.
The words “social media” are not scary. They are your friends. Your customers are there, and they want you in their lives.
Social media for businesses can be tricky and can get very complicated very quickly, but only if you let it. If you keep it simple, it will pay rewards well beyond the time you put into it.
Our advice to small businesses is to stick to one platform – Facebook or LinkedIn, most likely, but for some visually interesting businesses perhaps Pinterest or Instagram is the way to go. At any rate – start with just one and keep it there. Spend just a few minutes each morning using your preferred platform and watch people engage your work.
Be bold. Take that step. Embrace social media.
Helpful reading: check out Social Media Examiner’s Beginner’s Social Media Guide for Small Businesses.
Google+ Local might also be called “social media,” but really, it’s more like socialized search, by which we mean it’s a product of a search query that users can interact with. Think of it as your new yellow pages listing. You can verify it to make quick updates when you need to, you can use it to show photos, link it to your website, and all kinds of great bells and whistles, but at its core, this listing is for people to find your contact info.
The best route to finding your listing and making updates is through Google Places. Simply go to http://places.google.com and log in.
If you’ve never used this before, you may need to follow the steps to setting it up, but they are clear and simple. If your listing is there but is not verified, you can have Google send your store a postcard with an ID number; once you get the postcard, log back into that same address and enter the ID number where it asks you. It’s a process that can take a couple weeks, but believe us – it’s worth it.
Further reading: see our blog post on Google+ properties.
Maintaining a blog is not as time consuming as you’d think, and it’s one of the best ways to improve your site’s relevance to search engines. Your customers will also get a kick out of reading about the goings-on at their local shop.
The secret to simple blogging is planning ahead. Find some down time and craft a few blog posts – like storing nuts for winter – and post them regularly throughout the month. You can even schedule them for future publication in some content management systems like WordPress.
Local business directories are great resources for site traffic that converts for small local businesses. There are major players in each industry, but there are also some handy all-around business directories that cover nearly every city in the country. Find your business on local directories and make sure the info is correct – phone, address, your business name, and your website. The more consistent your business appears across local directories, the stronger your presence will be and the more qualified traffic you’ll receive. It’s a time consuming task, but you’ll definitely want to make sure you appear correctly, and it’s something you can do for free.
Here’s a helpful trick: most local directories get their data on your business from one or two of the five biggest data aggregators in the world. If you are correct on these data aggregators, the data will get correct on the local directories.
Get straightened out on these five directories and you’ll have a major leg up:
Good luck, small business owners!
…Of course, if you would like some help with all of this, you can always contact Custom Creatives!