Have you ever checked the ratings or times of a movie online? Have you looked up reviews for local restaurants? Have you wondered where to buy that specialty ingredient or tool? If you are a local business owner, your customers are doing the exact same thing. You can help them find you better online by following any of these six steps. You can even be seen without having a website!
1. Be online – somewhere!
Many online businesses are already listed with Google Places, Yahoo! Local, DexKnows, YellowPages, and a number of other local business lists. Take advantage of those – claim them and fill out the information as completely as you can.
Create a Facebook fan page or group. As people become fans or join the groups, their friends and family will be exposed to your brand. Just make sure the listing is thorough and useful!
Websites don’t need to be complicated – provide the information mentioned below and yours will already be better than most. They also don’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. You can set up a free blog or website with only a couple of pages
2. Have Photos
People want to know what to expect entering a store. Show what it looks like from the outside, the inside, a few feature items, a picture of the owner or workers – anything that reflects the experience you want them to have in your business. Photos can be posted on your website, on the directory listings above, on Facebook, or provided to media.
3. Provide Accurate Information
You will need to keep your business information up-to-date, otherwise it can easily work against you. As you add more information to local listings and websites, make a list. Then, whenever you change your hours or prices, you know exactly where to update the information. Be sure to include contact information, locations, and hours. Think about what your customers are searching for or trying to find out.
4. Show What You Sell
Customers are looking for something specific, and they want to know if you can help them or not. Be direct about what you are selling: post a menu, brand names and items you carry, or a list of services you offer. Make sure any sales are posted online and then removed as soon as they are done. If you have testimonials or recommendations, or even a feature menu items or a “letter from the owner,” you can help customers make up their minds about buying a certain product.
5. Encourage Reviews
Most online listings allow people to rate your business. Know what people are saying about your business, and address any concerns they might have if you can. Since complaining customers write reviews more often than pleased customers, make sure that your happy customers know that they can submit reviews online as well.
6. Make it easy to find you offline
Remember that your online presence might be the first experience some customers have with your store. If they want to contact you or go to your location, help them! Make sure the address and phone number of your business are clearly listed, along with the hours, directions, information about parking, and public transit information. You can even list the estimated travel time from nearby major cities.
There are plenty of ways to promote your off-line business online, but these are a great way to get started. Help your customers find you!