I’ve talked about local search before, stating that I believe it to be one of the most important and practical online strategies for small businesses. I stand behind that statement 100% and find myself continually surprised that more small businesses haven’t embraced local search as an affordable and effective marketing activity.
The numbers don’t lie…
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]10+ billion (that’s “billion” with a “b”) monthly unique searches, just in the U.S.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]40% of searches have local intent*
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]5% of searches use the city and/or state name
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]2% of searches include terms like “neighborhoods”
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]0.5% of searches include zip codes
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]43% of people online are looking for something to buy locally
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]54% of internet users have thrown away the phone book
* source: Ian White, Urbanmapping.com
As you would imagine, getting found locally doesn’t happen automatically. Small businesses will need to invest some time into submitting their information to search directories. I’ve provided a list of some the more popular sites, but, in reality, if you concentrate on the first four, you’ll be in great shape.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Google Local
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Yahoo Local
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Microsoft Live Search
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Best of the Web
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]CitySearch
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Local.com
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]YellowPages.com
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Yelp
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]TrueLocal
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Switchboard
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Judy’s Book
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]SuperPages
What’s the small business marketing takeaway, you ask?
If your small business depends on customers from your city or neighborhood, you have to get found online locally. Advertising in the printed version of the Yellow Pages, is not enough in this Web 2.0 world.
I came across Bryan Person and Social Media Breakfast just before the holidays and made it a 2009 goal to start the event in the Glass City – Toledo, OH.
The above word mark was the winner of a contest to determine a visual identity for SMB. Once we get off the ground in Toledo, we’ll get our own. For now, I posted Ottawa’s logo so you could see the winner. Very cool!
From my conversations with people, the thinking is that many northwest Ohio-based small businesses are beginning to understand the importance of engaging their customers directly through knowledge sharing, two-way conversations, and the creation of valuable digital content. My impression, however, is that they are confused about social media terminology, what SMM tools are, what they can do for their business and how they go about adding them to marketing mix.
I think this ongoing event can be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to learning more about social media myself.
The Social Media Breakfast was founded by Bryan Person in August 2007 as an event where social media experts and newbies alike come together to eat, meet, share, and learn. Marketers, PR pros, entrepreneurs, bloggers, podcasters, new-media fanatics, and online social networkers are all welcome to attend.
Things have progressed fairly quickly. I started a discussion thread on the Ad Club of Toledo LinkedIn group and have had three people express interest in helping to plan SMB events in northwest Ohio.
We’ll be meeting soon to determine a venue, format and speaker for the first event. Check back here for updates.
The topic of differentiation has been on my mind for a while. I talked about it Saturday and have run across several other posts that make me think I’m not the only one consumed by the notion.
I especially enjoyed Tom Fishburne’s “blend into the herd” cartoon and post. Tom writes:
“Blending into the herd” feels like one of the most common responses to the recession. 2009 is full of so much risk on its own, businesses are becoming even more risk adverse than usual to compensate. The first projects to get cut are the speculative ones. Many companies are pulling back on innovation as a way to batten the hatches.
This defense is illusory though. If anything, retailers are facing even greater pressure to rationalize their shelves. Redundant products are in danger of getting cut. Consumers are shifting to cheaper private label if there’s no compelling reason to buy branded products. Differentiation is more important than ever. In addition, the use of custom printed tags in retail stores can give your customers a stellar experience with professional tags.
I could not agree more.
Given nothing to prove them wrong, your prospects will believe that your business is just like any other. Any accountant is good enough to complete my tax return, any electrician is good enough to install my ceiling fan and any restaurant is good enough to fill my stomach and stop my hunger pangs. We have become a society where undifferentiated businesses are lumped into the category of “good enough”, where products and services are differentiated solely based on price. This is not true. Some businesses are better and differentiate themselves.
Small business marketing takeaway:
A quality point of differentiation is in the way you do business, the way you package your product, the way you sell your service, the fact that you send cookies to your clients, the fact that you show people how to transform their lives – it’s in the experience you provide. To increase your chances of getting high-risk merchant accounts, it’s better to ask a reliable payment service provider for assistance.
Using a recruitment agency is quicker than hiring internally and will save your business time and money. Staffing firms Utah collect and assess CVs, check references, and filter talented job seekers using the best interview techniques, so businesses don’t have to. It’s also then worth considering buying a business and you can have a look at a business brokers like this one in Florida to find businesses that would be a good match.
Describe what it is that you do that sets you apart from the good enough businesses. I’d love to hear from you.
I recently asked the following question to several LinkedIn groups I belong to: As a small business owner, what are the top three marketing challenges you face that need to be addressed within the first quarter of 2009? Even though the method is highly unscientific, I wanted to take the marketing pulse of small businesses, not just in northwest Ohio, but around the country.
As you can imagine, the things that keep small business owners up at night are varied, from the economy and branding to time management and referrals. While I believe that there is no “magic bullet” to marketing, almost without exception, the answers that were given can be boiled down to one thing: finding and communicating the core difference of their business, product or service.
If you remember one thing from this post remember this: if you can’t find a way to differentiate your business from every other business that does what you do and if you can’t communicate that difference in a way that really matters to a narrow target market, then you’re basically in the commodity business. If I can’t tell how one business is different than another then I will use the only thing I can measure – price. Yes, the driving force in the commodity business is always price.
Marketing is about creating know, like, trust with your clients and developing an ongoing relationship – this doesn’t happen quickly and there’s no magic bullet. It takes hard work, time and consistently communicating your core difference to build your reputation and loyal customer base.
I don’t know about you, but I love this time of year. Yeah, sure, there’s the whole Christmas thing which is great, but right after ol’ St. Nick visits, my mind switches to what I want to accomplish in the new year.
Since I can remember, I’ve spent a quite afternoon a few days before the new year reviewing where I wanted to be and what I wanted to get done in the current year and looking ahead to the new year, in this case… 2009. I just enjoy the exercise of thinking about and focusing on positive changes that I want to make to my life whether it’s finances, career, and others. That’s why I been trying to improve my finances by focusing on the VT Markets which is a great option for this. I typically don’t have more than three per category so I don’t get overwhelmed and I keep my resolution list in plain view on the side of our fridge.
According to a recent survey by the small-business division of American Express sixty-nine percent of small-business owners plan to make New Year’s resolutions for their business.
Do such resolutions work?
Sometimes yes, sometime no. But I think the process of evaluating where your small business is and where you want it to be on (at least) an annual basis is valuable.
Here are the most common New Year’s resolutions by small-business owners and the percentage that make them:
|Be more profitable
|Be a better boss
|Get to know customers better
|Make personal time for me
|Get outside help I need
|Do something to benefit the environment
|Establish an emergency-preparedness plan
Source: Survey of 627 owners/managers of U.S. companies with fewer than 100 employees, by American Express
Considering some resolutions for your business? Here are some helpful tips:
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Choose a limited number of resolutions so you’re not overwhelmed.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Set specific goals – such as “increase revenue by $50,000″ rather than simply “increase revenue” – so you can tell when you’ve hit your mark.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Write down the steps and timetable needed to reach those goals.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Share your resolutions with someone else. Talking them through with someone, even for just 15 minutes on the phone, will make them more attainable.
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Get key employees involved. Employees’ goals need to support the owner’s goals. It may be a good idea to sit down with your employees and say ‘Here are my goals for the business this year. Here’s how I see you fitting in. What other goals do you have?’”
- [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]After three or six months, review the progress on your resolutions and determine whether you need to change tactics.
Make no mistake, 2009 will be chock-full of challenges for small businesses. But a new year can also be the clean slate needed to revive and grow your small business. Where do you want to be? What do you want to do? How do you want to live your life? Make 2009 the year where your wildest dreams become reality.
Here’s to success, health and happiness in 2009.