Healthy local businesses are essential to a healthy community. Here are some tips on how to help your business be more successful locally, be visible to your local community and help support other local businesses.
FIND LOCAL RESOURCES FAST!
Successful businesses need to know their community. Make sure you have a business license and have filled a fictitious name statement with the County. Then learn what you need to about your city, including chamber of commerce, local library, local loan opportunities, local business training, local tax and improvement incentives and selling to local government. Links to all those and more can be found here.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE FOUND LOCALLY – HAVE AN EFFECTIVE SIGN
Signs are meant to attract attention. The best signage is designed well enough to attract business, while at the same time is respectful of the environment in which it is meant to work. Click here for more ideas on how on-premise signs help small businesses tap into a hidden profit center.
HAVE A WEBSITE
All businesses need to have a website – even if you don’t sell online. It’s like having a telephone. Websites establish credibility, are essential for visibility and provides a system for customer feedback. Get Your Business Online provides a free website and domain name for a year plus training to help small businesses get online.
MAKE SURE LOCALS CAN FIND YOU ONLINE
Add your business listing to Google Places. Google Places is a free program that allows businesses to put their information online, including their location, photos and business hours. Businesses that participate in Google Places appear on Google searches at the top of the search engine results. You can also add your business listing to Bing to make sure customers can find the right information about your business.
Other ways to increase visibility online include adding your own business-related videos to YouTube. More than 25% of all online searches are on YouTube. Google owns YouTube, so if you post videos on YouTube, your Google rankings will probably improve. Don’t rush into it; click here for more tips on YouTube videos. It is also important to make sure your business is found on GPS systems. If you want to be found, your business must be on GPS products and software. There are three companies that provide services to GPS (Global positioning system) software and products: Reference USA, Navtek and Teleatlas. You can register your business with each of these for free.
ENCOURAGE ONLINE REVIEWS FROM LOCAL CUSTOMERS
Facebook and Google both offer ways your customers can provide insight to what they think of your business. Facebook has a LIKE program where you can add a button to your website or to your Facebook page so customers or website visitors can recommend your business to their friends. +1 is a program from Google that lets people support your business provided your business has a listing on Google Place.
You can also encourage customers to use Google Review and Yelp. People can easily share their opinion about your business using Google Review and Yelp. Your goal is to make sure there are lots of positive opinions on both systems. Anyone can add a Google Review to a business that participates in the Google Places program. Yelp is an independent review site where people can put negative or positive comments about a business.
Businesses with customer reviews generally post higher in the search engine results than businesses without customer reviews. So, it is important that you encourage your happy customers to give you good reviews – and that you respond to negative reviews with an explanation or indication that you have heard their concerns and are addressing them.
Research shows that for every $100 spent in local, independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spend the same in national stores, $43 stays locally. If you spend the same on the Internet, $0 stays locally. But, where do you find local businesses? There are several options! Find certified businesses in your area via the state’s business certifying agency, look in the Yellow Pages to find local businesses, buy from chamber members, look at the Better Business Bureau, or find locally grown food at LocalHarvest.org.
For help with strengthening your local business and thinking more locally, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.