The other day a friend of mine posted on Facebook that a new antique store opened in our neighborhood, and she thought it was a great little place. I started searching for it online so I could find out their hours (my friend couldn’t remember them). Personally, I hate driving to places only to find out that they are closed. I searched everywhere and could not find the store anywhere online. As part of the 92 to 98% of those who start a search online, I quickly got frustrated. Sunday came around and I had some time so I stopped at the shop, and, of course, they were closed. To top things off, they had no hours posted anywhere. Well, I have not been back.
Opening a small business is hard work and it takes a lot of time, energy and money to get going. Often times there are no funds left over to start a website. Does this mean that you can’t have a presence online? Why no it doesn’t. You just need to invest some time, and it will be well worth it, as, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, seven out of ten new firms last at least two years and about half survive five years. So get a head start and get found.
Here are some places to get listed for nothing but your time:
- Google Places Listing: Claim your business and complete your profile. Be sure to include your hours!
- Bing Local Listing
- Yahoo Local Basic Listing
- Yelp for Business Owners: You may think this site is only for restaurants, but many others types of businesses are listed here. Get yours set up!
- Foursquare for Business: Search and claim your venue. You can even offer specials to those that check in with your business. Remember, those who check in can choose to have these updates posted to Twitter and Facebook. Speaking of Facebook….
- Facebook: Create a Facebook page. Be sure to create a business page and not a personal profile. You can post pictures of great items coming into your store, specials, industry news, and cool things happening in the neighborhood. Get those that “Like” you to interact.
- Yellow Pages Online
Most of the listings above offer a way for visitors to post reviews. Be sure to monitor those sites and respond to reviews, either positive or negative. Offer to correct a bad experience, or provide some kind of discount for a subsequent visit for a positive review. Sometimes just acknowledging the review is a good idea.
As your business grows there may be an opening in the budget for a website and Internet marketing services. But until then you can utilize the many free opportunities that exist to get listed and found online.