For most new companies the first six months of existence is a make or break period. Both at times nerve-wracking and exhilarating, this period is about growing the company and doing so fast.
With most businesses incurring chunks of debt to first get off the ground, it is important that they begin to take in revenue quickly to alleviate those pressures.
One of the primary marketing areas a company is wise to invest in, is the creation of a local business presence through the web.
Given the exponential growth of smart mobile technology and the overtaking of the phone book through local searches, these methods are the low-cost and high-impact marketing channels most small start ups crave.
It is hardly a shocking claim to point out that customers are taking to the mapping programs of top search engines to help them find local products and services. In fact, at its Worldwide Developers Conference two weeks ago Apple announced it would be premiering its own mapping technology to better compete with Google and serve on-the-go customers. This allocation of Apple’s resources is clearly in response to the rise in demand from users.
The value of finding something close with a few keystrokes is significant, and small businesses need to take advantage of it. The best part of these first steps are that they currently incur no fees to become a part of, and in most cases you don’t even need a website (although I strongly recommend that you do). All three large search engines, and soon enough Apple, have their own local mapping displays. A small business should immediately create a profile and presence on all four. To begin the process simply navigate to the search engine of your choice for directions to do so and fill in as much information in the fields that come up.
The more information that you can provide to a client typically the higher in the results you will appear. This is also based upon the location of the searcher as well. There are some minor verification steps for Google and Bing, and likely Apple will have some, when their service opens up, but it you have represented yourself properly these are very easy verifications to pass.
Be a Manta and Yelp! Yourself
The next step a small business will want to take is joining the ranks of sites which either acts as reviewed directories for businesses, or deal within the niche of the company’s industry. In other words, if you are a restaurant, urbanspoon.com is applicable, or if you are a tech start-up a site like cruchbase.com can help you gain more exposure. A quick Google search can yield several niche sites, but as is the case with most online directories, the top results are the only niche directories worth joining. Even if your company works in a field that lacks a niche directory there are still established sites from which a small business could quickly draw traffic. These sites are more familiar and typically cover all business regardless of field.
Sites such as manta.com and yelp.com offer free profiles and are used by consumers throughout the web. Most of these sites work through a local filter, allowing individuals to find reviews and updates about local businesses before using them. They also provide business owners a public forum in which they can address any complaints or criticism. This response feature can be very valuable in customer service. At the end of this piece is a list of websites which are recommended to small business owners to garner vital local exposure.
The third step of this process involves the use of social media websites to take advantage of the traffic and exposure which the first two paragraphs conjure. Social media networks are a great way to reinforce the type of branding you are hoping to associate with your business. Whether a community oriented recycling center, an authentic Japanese restaurant, or even a law office social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+ allow the company to take some control over the public perception of its image.
This is an invaluable marketing tool. Furthermore, by remaining in direct contact with a customer base, your service will never stay too far from their minds. First a free business profile should be set up on all three. If you have already created a place page for your business through Google Maps, congratulations, you already have a Google+ page. Once created, tie in your profiles to your website through buttons on the side or top. This will allow you to ‘capture’ users who come to your website through the mapping software previously discussed, or the other directories listed above.
One final tip to help create further local exposure is to experiment with hashtags on Twitter. Hashtags are identified by the pound symbol and accompanied by a topic (e.g. #NYCPizza). By coupling hashtags to the true name, regional names, or even local nicknames you can bring in individuals perusing these locally based forums.
Both cheap and effective these first steps should help any fledgling business gain significant exposure in their immediate area.
A List of Recommended Sites:
Image Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net