Local Business Listing Optimization Becomes Important For All Businesses

You may have noticed that a Google search result now shows the local map on the right side and the local listings (aka as Google Places at Google) are part of the organic search results. If you follow the evolution of local listings on search engines since 2007 you will find that this local marketing tool is invaluable to any business.

The disappointing issue is that most businesses have not tapped into this local marketing tool. While the industry is 3 years ahead of businesses, the businesses that are dependent upon the local geography for their revenue are unclear that they can actively manage these listings instead of watching them passively.

All Businesses Can Take Advantage of Local Businesses
First of all, a local company is not a small business. While we will discuss this in more detail in the future, we have to keep in mind that national chains with local presence are also dependent upon the local economy for their revenue. So, it doesn’t make a difference if you’re as large as a Target store or as small as a local florist, local listings will benefit any size business.

Secondly, the recent change at Google is a telling sign that this is related to both Business-To-Business (B2) as well as Business-To-Consumer (B2C). If you think that B2B won’t have its customer posting reviews then you are in for a surprise. Also, a B2B business that requires revenue from the local marketing should equally be tapping into local listings like a B2C business.

Customers Decide To Business Based On Search Results
The recent search results change at Google not only displays the regular organic search results, but if there are local listings that are relevant to the requested search they are showing up above fold and tend show more results than the organic website results.

The local listings results are also interesting in that they show quite a bit of information to a local customer or consumer. Of course the basic information like business name, address, phone number, telephone number, website link and location on the map is pretty standard. However, the number of customer reviews and the average star rating is prominent to the person searching. Translated this means the local customer or consumer are very quickly see if they want to even click on your local business listing or call you.

Optimization Becomes Important
Businesses now have two marketing tools that need optimization: their website and their local business listing. Since the local business listing is effectively the interactive yellow pages of the 21st century, businesses need to stop passively watching and actively engaging with their local business listing.

The process requires that you first claim your local business listing, followed by your initial update, and then you have to consider monitoring and managing the local business listing just like your website.

You will find that the local business listing can actually be a website, but probably better to use it as a support tool to your primary website. In order for you to show up in the search results you have to be sure the local business listing has all the right information about your business, products and services.

That is then followed by adding photos, videos, coupons, offers, discounts, events and other information that will help the local customer decide to do business with you.

Managing your local business listing includes managing customer reviews and engaging with them not only to secure positive reviews from satisfied customers, but to insure positive public relations with any customers that are less than satisfied.

Finally, the optimization process includes watching the local business listing analytics (separate from your website) and making decisions about how to tweak your listing.

…and did we mention this goes well beyond Google? Variety of other websites are included such as Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Local.com, Merchant Circle, Citysearch and many others that include search engines, social communities, 411 websites, GPS websites, and business directories.

Outsourcing Your Local Business Listing Management
There are generally two types of companies that provide local business listing management services. The first are those that provide “data” only services, which really doesn’t help you much since they don’t get involved in the claiming process. The second provides marketing services, but be careful here since some of them are not well staffed to do anything beyond Google.

This is no different than seeking professional help for your website’s search engine optimization. You will need to not only have professional help in the optimization of your local business listing, but someone has to monitor for duplicate listings, customer reviews, updating your marketing information, and analyzing the analytics.

Ways Your Business Can Fail

Here, we are going to discuss why businesses fail. This is the most common questions that we receive as we have produced a number of articles pertaining to how to appropriately start a venture. Foremost, most businesses do not work out in the end primarily due to the fact that they should not have been launched in the first place. Essentially, many small business owners did not complete the appropriate diligence that is necessary in order to determine whether or not their venture would be economically viable. As such, we strongly recommend that before you engage in any type of business operation that you complete a full business plan that showcases every aspect of your venture. Most importantly, you need to complete a full demographic analysis regarding your market so that you can be sure that you will receive the necessary traffic that you need to your operation as time progresses. We strongly recommend that you develop a business plan that focuses on the first five years of your operations so that you can completely understand whether or not the market will sustain the type of business that you’re looking to start.

Statistically more than 60% of new business ventures fail. However, while this statistic seems high, it is not primarily due to the failure of the owner. Primarily, a business fails simply because it should not have been launched in the first place within it specific market. This is a special especially true for traditional brick-and-mortar companies. However, some businesses are able to thrive in any economic environment. Popular businesses that are able to sustain themselves whether there is an economic recession or economic prosperity is franchises. As such, and if you are starting out as an entrepreneur, you may want to examine these incidences first so that you can substantially reduce the risks associated with your venture.

Entrepreneurship is not about taking an excessive amount of risk. Rather, entrepreneurship is understanding the risks that you’ll be taking and how to mitigate these issues as you progress through your business operations. We strongly recommend that you review all the potential risks associated with your venture before you even begin to think about launching it. Common risks that should be evaluated include financing risk, market risk, and pending legislation that may impact the way that your company does business. For instance, a very popular line of payday loan businesses has recently undergone a significant amount of change due to legislation changes. As such, as an entrepreneur, it is imperative for you to ensure that any type of market change or legislation change will not impact the way that you do business.

Also, one of the reasons why a number of businesses fail is due to the fact that they are under funded. There are very few businesses that become profitable very quickly. As such, it is imperative for you to have a significant amount of capital on hand so that you can effectively ensure that you will reach profitability for your patch reserves dry up. This is something that we are going to continue to discuss through a number of different articles so that you can be made well aware of how to properly manage your cash flow as it relates to starting a new business venture.

The other common reason why a business fails is that they did not obtain the proper location. Again, for example, a restaurant can serve great food at a great price that can be invisible to the general public to do the fact that they do not have a location that draws a substantial amount of foot traffic. Prior to launching any new venture, you should thoroughly examine the market as a whole also looking at the specific location that you may sign a lease on to launch your new business. According to many statistics, about half of businesses that fail simply did not have a good location.

Another reason why businesses frequently do not work out in the end is that there’s too much competition within the market in order to sustain an economically viable business model. Prior to engaging any type of new business venture, you should always thoroughly examine the competition that you will continue to face as you progress through business operations. This is especially important if you intend to operate a local business venture that potentially has a number of competitors that offer services that are similar or identical to those of your own. As such, you should always complete a thorough competitive analysis within your business plan and within your business proposal documents so you can understand exactly how you intend to retain a competitive advantage over other individuals. One of things that entrepreneurs often make the mistake about it is that they feel that they are going to be the only competitor within their respective market. However, this is rarely the case. Though only a few times in which an individual business is the only company that provides a specific product or service that is demanded within any specific type of market. As such, you should always list the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are associated with operating a business in your local market.

10 Key Steps for Starting a Business

Starting and running a small business is tough. It is quite different from working for someone else and you will need to deal with a measure of uncertainty that you may never have experienced before. To a greater degree you have to be responsible completely, all risk and all reward! But if you are suited to running a business, you may find that it is one of the most exhilarating and rewarding choices you make in your life.

Don’t underestimate what you need to know!

There are many stories of business owners learning by experience and some of those lessons were hard and sometimes finished a business off before it became established. Only this weekend I have been reading about the unexpected pitfalls of lack of knowledge or lack of resources that await some small business owners.

There is plenty of information out there and that in itself becomes a problem: who do you ask, who can you trust? What do you NEED to know?

So here is a brief guide to some key steps to consider when starting your own business:

Step 1 – Do you have a viable business idea?

This means have you a product or service to sell that you know through research, has a market place where customers/clients will buy from you (not just hopeful expectation). This also means researching a pricing structure based on real information and not just chosen because it undercuts your competition.

Step 2 – Does your business idea or product have a real point of difference, either real or perceived?

Are you able to clearly set your business apart from your competitors or any service or product that would divert prospects from coming to you as supplier of choice?

Step 3 – Self reflection

Do you have what it takes? Consider the personal attributes and qualities that will help you through the challenging times as well as the good times? What skills do you have and what skills will you need to be successful in business? Do you think that when under pressure you will be resilient? Be able to take criticism or rejection?

Step 4 – Do you have a written plan?

The one key activity in the early stages is planning – the process of planning helps you identify all areas of your business that will need to be considered. Starting a business is often done on a shoestring, so important choices have to be made in allocating resources, the key here is to KNOW that you are spending your limited pot of funds on activity that will promote sales, build your brand and profile and protect the business from unexpected events that could derail you early on. Your planning should consider your idea and define that day to day activity and practicalities in running a business.

Step 5 – Develop your identity/brand

Consider how you want to present your business, its image and its culture. This also means ensuring a consistency of message that you and your team (if you have one) are proud to be associated with and can confidently market and promote.

Step 6 – Know your marketplace

Research who you will be aiming at, so consider who will buy and why they will buy from you. If you do this you will start out understanding more about your potential customers and be able to research your competitors too.

Step 7 – Plan the most appropriate marketing strategy

There are many ways of marketing and social media has become a very popular part of many small business marketing strategies. However, it has already become apparent that some businesses suit a social media strategy and have grown almost exclusively using social media whilst others have used more traditional methods successfully. As a start- up it is critical that a full appraisal is made of marketing activity and a strategy developed using the most appropriate and effective elements, so that you ensure the best return on any investment you make.

Step 8 -Networking

I am separating out networking from marketing to reinforce its value in business. Networking in this case is nothing to do with meeting people to sell to – it’s all about relationship building and maintenance and it’s a long term activity. The people that you connect with at some point, may well become customers but networking offers so much more than a quick sale. A support system, people that you can talk to about issues you are having, suppliers, people who once they have got to know you and your work might refer you to prospects. They may be people that you can help out with referrals and support too.

Step 9 -Practicalities

Where will you work from? There are many ways of starting out and NO rules. These days more than ever the use of technology means that more people are working in a flexible way. The choices made now are really determined by the sort of business you have. Many individuals start from home and then when necessary use small business incubator hubs, where you can rent desk space or meeting rooms as you need them. Or you may be starting a business that requires, shop space or storage/manufacturing space. Again this is an area for research, talk to contacts, build that network of people who can provide you with help and assistance and at sometime in the future you may well be able to reciprocate. This as part of your planning process means looking at the ‘HOW’ – How you will deliver your services? – What do you need to have in place to ensure your business will deliver consistent and great value products and services? What do you need in terms of financial help?

Finances – Start up costs, cash flow management processes and planning, together with management information for future planning and funding growth plans. Also consider tax and NI compliance.
Intellectual property protection (your brand, logo and proprietary information)
Legal guidance (business structure, business registration, terms and conditions, shareholders agreements and contracts, trademarks and copyrights for intellectual property etc) – other compliance areas like Health and Safety.
HR (contracts of employment for staff and terms and conditions of employment and compliance policies
Insurance (personal and business)
Contingency plans? What would happen if after just starting the business something happened to you and you couldn’t work for a while

Step 10 – ENJOY IT

Self employment is not an easy choice and it is very likely that you may become overwhelmed with the small business way of life – if you can incorporate some balance between work and home early on you will benefit from it. It’s a good idea to establish some boundaries and start some good habits. You will need to recharge your batteries from time to time, so that you can stay on the top of your game.