Business Owners Cannot Ignore the Age of Online Marketing

Are your online promotional efforts going beyond a simple company website to take advantage of every opportunity to reach local customers?
Business Owners Cannot Ignore the Age of Online Marketing
Judy Kneiszel

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If you ran a portable restroom rental business a decade or two ago, it’s likely all of your customers were local and most of your business was done offline. Back then, a limited Internet presence for your company was probably adequate. But today the Internet is an essential tool for local marketing that some small businesses continue to overlook.

Even if you understand the importance of local Internet marketing, it can be daunting. But there are simple things you can do to give your local Web presence a boost that don’t take a lot of time or money.

Everybody knows your name

Long-time local business owners assume everyone in their service area is familiar with their company. Your customers have known you for years. They drive by your business regularly. They honk and wave at your drivers, right? But what if they are on a job site and want to call you? Or at a networking event and want to refer your company to a friend? Can they find you? You may be “in the book,” but what if that phone book is back at the office or, more likely these days, behind the office in a recycling bin?

Picture yourself running late for a dental appointment. You don’t carry a traditional bound phone book in your car, you didn’t bring your dentist’s business card, and you don’t have his number programmed into your cellphone. So you use your smartphone to search for him. His website is non-existent or doesn’t work well on a mobile device. That’s okay; his name comes up on a bunch of local business listing sites.

You begin clicking and find your dentist’s phone number isn’t included on any of them. You begin to wonder if you want a guy who is so far behind on technology working on your teeth. You hope he upgrades his dental equipment more frequently than his marketing. Likewise, your business may seem antiquated and out of touch to potential customers if you aren’t easily accessible on the Internet.

You are already there

It’s rare these days that a business doesn’t have a website, but if you are that rare exception, get one. Even a quick build-it-yourself-for-free site is better than nothing, as long as your phone number and location are prominent. Just make sure it displays well on a mobile device.

Also realize that, website or no website, your business is most likely on the Internet already, so you’d better make sure the information is complete and correct. It’s not uncommon for small local businesses to ignore online listing services.

Conduct an experiment and do Google and Bing searches for your business name. See if and where you come up. Also search your type of business by location, i.e. portable restroom rental, your city, state. Hopefully, if you have a website, it comes up near the top. If it doesn’t, you may want to look into Search Engine Optimization, which means adding key words and phrases on your website to boost your position in search results. Your business should also come up in Citysearch, YellowPages.com and other listing services.

Take the time to ensure that your business entry on these listing services is accurate, and that there are direct links to your website and the phone number and street address are in place and accurate.

Claim it

Other online directory services where you might find your company listed include Bing Business Portal, MerchantCircle, Angie’s List, Yahoo! Local, SearchLocal and SuperPages. If one of these sites lists your business, claim it by adding more details to the listing, such as your company website URL, a map, phone numbers or business hours.

Be aware that the Internet is not stagnant. Even if your listings were up to date in the past, they may not be now. Google Places pages, for example, began disappearing about a year ago. Small business owners must now create a profile and join the Google Plus network in order to maintain a local business listing in the Google Plus Local results.

Many of these local directory sites allow customers to leave feedback and reviews. You may want to encourage some of your best customers to post reviews of your services. You could even provide incentives for them to do this. For example, offer a 10 percent discount on a future rental to a customer who writes a review. This encourages repeat business as well as reviews.

Paying to upgrade

After you’ve taken all the steps you can for free to boost your local online presence, monitor the response you are getting. Then, if you aren’t pleased with the amount of business the Internet is bringing to your door, consider paying for more extensive online local listings. Just like upgrading the basic free listing in the old-fashioned print phone book to a bigger, more detailed paid ad, you can upgrade on most online business listings. If you decide it would be worth the expense to put some money into online local marketing, but need guidance, there are local online marketing service agencies that can assist you (also for a fee).

If online local marketing seems like a hassle, consider the hassle of ignoring it. If a potential customer is looking for a restroom rental company in your town and can’t find you online, they’ll probably find your competition there.



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