How do people find your business today? Traditional advertising methods over the years have included ads in yellow pages, radio, newspaper, and local TV. However, according to Bill Gates, ““Yellow Page usage … will drop to zero, near zero, in the next five years.” (March 2007)
Consumers today are increasingly using search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, along with social media sites such as Facebook, and review sites like Yelp, whirLocalor Angie’s List. There are actually over 1500 sites similar to these. We call this the “new normal” of how somebody finds your business.
When it comes to search engines, almost 7 out of 10 web searches originate on Google. Interestingly enough, 89% of all clicks on Google happen on page one. Unlike traditional media like yellow pages, the majority of people simply don’t go to page two.
The good news is that 84% of web searchers are looking for local main street businesses.The bad news is that your business may not be showing up on page one.
Of course most business owners point to referrals as the number one source of new business. But what is the first thing people do when they are referred to you? They “Google” you to find out more about you and the type of business you are. If your website, social media, and online reviews are not up to par, the referral may not turn into new business.
In fact, 52% of consumers say that online reviews are themost influential factor when making a purchase decision. The ability to find out what people are saying about you on social media sites like Facebook and reviews sites is why reputation management is becoming a critical piece of the marketing puzzle for local main street businesses.
The bottom line trend that we are seeing is that consumers are trusting online reviews, social media postings and “shares”, and organic search results more than any ad – “traditional” or online – that you can place.
To help market your local business with these trends in mind, here are four strategies that we recommend;
- Setup a Facebook fan page for your business: Fan pages are for your business, unlike a personal profile, which should be about you. We recommend using the three “E’s” when coming up with content – Educate, Encourage, and Engage.
- Network via Linkedin.com: Linkedin is a professional business networking web site that allows you to virtually “network” leverage the connections and relationships that you build. The system allows you to see up to three levels of connections, which can help you get warm introduction to a potential prospect versus a cold call.
- Create a YouTube channel: YouTube is the world’s 2nd largest search engine, behind Google. Why? Because people often trust authentic video more than slick TV commercials, so they search for what they need on YouTube. Google and other search engines now return videos as part of keyword related searches, so this can be a great way to get found and build online trust.
- Ask for reviews from your customers: As mentioned above, online reviews are now playing an increasingly important role in whether somebody decides to do business with you. It is important to be proactive about asking for reviews from your customers. You can direct them to sites such as whirLocal, Google Places, Yelp, or even get authentic video testimonials to load on YouTube.
What can all of this mean for a local main street business?
- Multiple storefronts: By setting up online social media profiles and what we like to call “Channels”, you now have the opportunity to have multiple online storefronts and the opportunity to build solid relationships with your target market.
- Increased search engine results: Google is now increasingly including social media sites, reviews, and even sites that your friends on social media circles “shared” on the first page of search results pages. Using these recommended strategies will help your search engine results.
- Build and manage your online reputation: By being proactive about asking for reviews, you also become more engaged in controlling your online reputation, which is critical in today’s recommendation age.
- Build your buzz, brand and business: Using these tools will allow you to generate more leads, prospects, customers, and raving fans.
Today’s recommendation age is a great opportunity for smart local business owners to use the tools and systems available to grow their reputation and business.
Tim Fahndrich is a founding partner of thirdRiver Marketing, LLC, a nationally recognized, locally based new media marketing agency and creator of whirLocal, a reputation management system. He is a frequent speaker on the topic of social media and reputation management for business. You can reach Tim at 503.581.4554 or visit their web site at www.thethirdriver.com.