This article goes into some of the tactics for having a strong local presence. While I originally wrote these steps up for a personal friend who owns a local restaurant, these tips apply to any business that has a real world presence.
These tips for local business reputation also apply whether you have a single location or 500 national locations. For a single location business, understanding how this affects your business over time is the new “life blood” of future success. For larger retail or franchise groups, these tips have a radical effect on performance and overall business results that create a cascading level of success or failure.
With that said, we can jump into ways of having a healthy local business reputation.
1- Control your information. Just like traditional phone directories, online web directories and review sites use whatever information they can get. Take control of your online presence at the very beginning by creating profiles on relevant sites like Google Local, Facebook, FourSquare, Yelp, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, and your blog. These profiles will mature over time, creating results in Google when consumers look for your business online.
IMPORTANT NOTE: these profiles will show up for specific keywords you use in the title and description. If you are concerned with your business name being a long term asset, make sure to use exact wording and LINK the profiles to your site, to each other, and have links from your site to your profiles whenever possible. This helps search engines identify information about your business and pushes the relevant profiles to the top of the search results.
2 – Be engaged. If you take a pro-active effort you can build trust with your supporters and have a superior level of highly visible customer service. If a problem exists online (in the form of a negative review or criticism) it is often best to take immediate action and show that you are an engaged business owner that cares about your clients and the quality of services/products you deliver. If you just post your information up one time and wait – one of two things will happen:
- Nothing. You’ll see declining business for 18 months and then close your business.
- Someone else will ‘own’ your digital brand. While you ignore your presence online, a savvy competitor or angry consumer can easily reach your customers by writing information about your business or simply listing your information in directories you don’t control (examples could be CitySearch, Yelp, etc)
Getting in the right frame of mind
Embrace your customer culture.
Keep the following idea in the back of your head:
People want what they love
People love to talk about what they want
Create an atmosphere that supports this.
Create a voice that creates value.
STUFF YOU SHOULD DO
complete a full set of user profiles on the following sites.
All of these profiles need to be named “Your Business”
-this is critical to having the profiles populate search engines for your business name.
Collect your logo, a few images, and a one paragraph description of your business. This will be needed to populate the profiles.
- Google Local
- Facebook Page
CONTENT… AND MORE CONTENT.
VIDEOS: Videos do really well for online search results. There are dozens of affordable digital camcorders on the market that can take HD video. You can often create 10 to 20 videos by sitting down with employees for introduction clips, talking to supportive customers who like what you are doing, or even interviewing other local business owners (this is a good idea if you are new to the area, as it helps engage the support community of other local business owners.)
IMAGES: get a banner or recognizable backdrop and have a “fan club” or “I was here” wall. Print photos for the board. Upload images to Flickr. Have a monthly drawing for people on the board. For images with people in them, make sure to have an image form that collects name, email, facebook, and twitter info.
TESTIMONIALS: whenever a client has a good experience with your business, ask for a testimonial or review of your service. This is a quick way to learn the things you did right and the things that you can improve on. If you have the ability to do it- this is an easy way to integrate videos and images into your brand messaging. Testimonials are your opportunity to have a genuine and personal impact on local business reputation.
Make your business fun.
Most of this stuff can be centered around days of the week: Twitter Tuesday, etc.
It is really important to note that the ideation and strategy behind these contests needs to focus on encouraging repeat customers.
- Contest 1: Have a weekly or monthly contest. It needs to have a little thought, but the concept is simply write or take a video about “why you love the Business ABC”
Give out a free dinner for two ticket. It doesn’t have to be an expensive award. Highlight these on your main site.
- Contest 2: You can use FourSquare and Facebook places to create a “check in” layer that shows up on Google. This is incredibly useful for creating a buffer in the search results. While an occasional person looks at Yelp directly, most people find Yelp by seeing the results in Google. Foursquare, Twitter, and Google also give a reason to check in.
- Contest 3: Review check-in punch cards. Print up a business card that has the five to ten of the profiles on it above and create a simple game: leave a positive comment or vote on a site to get it punched. Get 3 punches, get X. Get 4 punches, Y. Get 5 punches, get entered to win a nifty prize.
- Contest 4: If you have a business that involves waiting (a professional office or restaurant), think of a table game using Twitter/FourSquare/Facebook. Print table cards telling people how to play. This revolves around encouraging people waiting for food to ‘Like” you for a discount, or to get X number of people to retweet / like their comment to win a prize.
- Contest 5: Facebook Places / Foursquare / Twitter. Reward people with multiple check-ins within a certain period. 3 in a week or twice in a day, free beer. This idea can also tie into the check-in punch cards, as well as act as a more general membership card.
Local business reputation involves frequency and doing things in person. Take ‘good events’ and cross-post them to Eventbrite and Upcoming. If you do this on a master account as a service, it is awesome for business because it gives you access to contact information for everyone attending the event. This is good because it builds your list over time. If you collect 25 people a week through small events each week, you pick up 100 people a month you can reach out to with specials and event announcements.
This is very important for building community and returning customers for your business.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Realize that business games can be integrated with computers and mobile phones. Encourage people to be aware of contest and events. Think up special contests for groups of consumers to compete with. Easy ideas can be such things as “most retweeted person in group A gets X” or “1st person on Facebook to name the musician of the theme song for X movie wins Y”
Explore clubs and organizations that involve your business. You can find most of these organizations by using Google and adding the search terms clubs, association, or organization to some basic search queries.
Since you are a local business, make sure to do some searching for all the neighborhoods and communities within your serving area. This should include school and university names, large shopping malls, etc.
Google rewards local businesses that are relevant to local searches, so providing information to Google using specific neighborhood and community terms is an effective way to win valuable exposure on search engines.
Don’t do it alone. While you are going through this process, engage with one or two other local businesses that you can work in a supportive partnership with.
By having a core “digital partnership” established, your local digital partners can
- Improve your brand. Having an association with other local businesses makes potential clients and current customers aware that your business supports the community and plays well with others.
- Improve your search optimization (just like your profiles and sites, each site they have can give valuable links that affect local search engine optimization)
- Provide feedback/review online. A small group of 5 to 20 friends and family for a handful of local businesses can fend off some of the worse case ‘reputation attacks’ and negative reviews you can find on services like Yelp.
- Share the cost of tools. There are dozens of free tools and services to help with having a healthy digital presence. Paid tools can range from $10 to $500 a month and can often be used for multiple businesses. Agree to test new tools together and share in the cost.
- Share your networks/clients. By running ‘cross company’ promotions, company A can send company B business with a special coupon code shared on Facebook or Twitter. By developing a monthly rotation, every business in the partnership gets some healthy business exposure.
With all of these tips and ideas,
what are your best tips for having a healthy local business reputation?