In today’s online world, leads can come from anywhere and everywhere. Don’t believe us? Ask your next customer how they heard about you. A common answer is:
“Well, my friend told me about you – so I did a quick search online and found your website, and then decided to call after I read a couple reviews about your services online.”
More often than not, customers have multiple contact points with a brand – like Google, Yelp, Foursquare, Manta, and LinkedIn – before deciding to buy from you (or call your competitor).
The Internet allows small businesses to learn faster than ever before. The goal of today’s post is to cast a wide and unified net across the web to provide customers with as many entry points to your business as possible. By owning and monitoring as many major profiles as possible, your company will have a better understanding of:
- how and where prospects are finding you, and
- what they are saying about your products or services.
Getting Started: Ensuring a Cohesive Presence
Before jumping in, we highly suggest taking a few minutes to create a template for your business that contains as much relevant information as possible.
Creating a universal document will not only speed up the process (by preventing you from typing out the same information multiple times), it will also help ensure a cohesive presence across all of the sites we recommend.
Open a new word processing document, and type the following information about your business out on a separate line:
- Business Name
- Contact Name/Role
- Mailing Address
- Phone Number
- Fax Number
- Email Address
- Hours of Operation
- Business Website
- Facebook Business Page (URL)
- Twitter Profile (URL)
Verify all of the information is correct. The purpose of creating a document ahead of time is to prevent any typos on the individual sites we’ll share below. But if the information is wrong in the original file, it will take some time to go back and fix later.
Use this document to Copy/Paste your information into the appropriate fields on each site. Most of the sites follow a similar format, so using this document will streamline the process and save you time in the long run.
Store each site’s profile information at the bottom of this document. This will help you remember all of the email addresses and passwords you used to set up each account, should you need to modify any of the information in the future.
The Major Players
There are likely thousands of listing sites that you could submit your business to. Each site serves a slightly different purpose, but in tandem can expand your business’s overall presence and in some cases deliver some insights into how people are discovering you online.
That said, the law of diminished return quickly sets in online, which is why we will be focusing on the sites that will yield the biggest bang for your buck (and time) today.
- Google Places (http://www.google.com/places/) – We know that people use search engines to begin an overwhelming majority of their online research. For this reason, we’ll start with the most highly-trafficked search engine in the world: Google.Google Places is a simple and straight-forward suite of tools that helps small businesses be more visible through online searches. When tagged correctly, Google displays business listings FIRST, before website search results and – in some cases – before their own advertising.
- Bing Business Portal (http://www.bing.com/businessportal) – Similar to Google, customers are searching Bing to find businesses and services in their local area. Claiming your business listing can help increase your visibility and influence customers to visit your business when they search for keywords related to your business through Bing.com.
- Yelp (https://biz.yelp.com/) – The mother of all social review sites, Yelp boasts over 54 million unique visitors to their website each month. Best of all? The site focuses on real reviews by real people. How? Much of the site’s activity is driven by highly active community managers in your city: REAL people who coordinate live events and interact with users of the site on a consistent basis. Use Yelp to keep an eye on what customers think of your products or services.
- Foursquare (https://foursquare.com/business/) – As more people use mobile phones to access the Internet, location-enabled apps like Foursquare will continue to grow in popularity as well. Claim your Foursquare profile to see who is “checking in” to your business and what tips they are leaving for other people nearby.
- Manta (http://www.manta.com/claim) – More than 30 million people visit Manta every month, and in just a few minutes of your time, you can claim or add your company profile and tell these potential customers exactly what you want them to know. Your profile can: link to your website, display your logo and business hours, highlight the products and brands you carry, and provide links to Twitter and Facebook.
- LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/company/add/show) – If your company is focused more on B2B than B2C, setting up a LinkedIn Company profile is a must. Establishing a LinkedIn Company profile also allows your employees to link their personal profiles to the page, further exposing their networks to your brand.
A Word on “Bad” Reviews
We know: putting your business out there for everyone to see is scary. Consumers can now find you – or worse, talk about you! – online, 24-hours a day.
Our advice: do it anyway.
“Consumers are already talking about you online. Monitor what they say to respond & improve future customers’ experiences.” Tweet This Quote
Criticism is a rational fear that all small businesses face. We want every single person to be happy with the work we do. But even on our best days, someone is going to be unhappy with the work we do.
Luckily, people do business with people. By listening for feedback online, the Internet allows small businesses to respond in a very human way and provide a level of customer service that would be difficult to achieve traditionally
Negative feedback also allows small businesses to make changes to the way they operate. Companies that operate in a vacuum and fail to acknowledge negative feedback ultimate continue down a path to their ultimate demise.
More often than not, if your business is doing great work, customers will undoubtedly share that information online. From a marketing standpoint, this is a great opportunity to follow up with these people and use their reviews as testimonials to attract future customers as well. Using the power of social media, it makes spreading those good stories easier than ever.
Have you set up your business listings on any of these sites yet? What questions do you have? What other sites would you recommend?