Own a small business? Want more customers? It’s easy, fast and very inexpensive to promote your business on the internet.
Things that you should have ready:
#1: accurate, current information on your business. Much of the data online about local businesses comes from phone books. The phone books are either scanned and optical character recognition (OCR) used to read it or the pages are physically or via a scan to low-wage parts of the world. There the pages are keypunched into a computer. Even with a second or third person keypunching the same data and doing comparisions to catch errors, errors still creep in. The bigger your business, the more likely this is to happen.
Even with a small business, it’s a good habit to check that your name is exactly the way you want, the categories are appropriate and the phone numbers and addresses are correct. This isn’t very exciting, so having the information in front of you is a good way to make sure you do it at each site.
#2: a website. I strongly, strongly, strongly encourage you to get a domain name if you don’t have one already. We now have “local number portability” for cell phones and land lines. We’ve had toll-free number portability for a long time. Those mean if you can get serious savings with another provider or having serious service issues with your current provider, you can move. Having an address at any provider, like CitySearch or Yahoo, means that you’re locked-in. You do NOT want this. You want people to be able to come to your domain and add that to their bookmarks or address book.
The website doesn’t have to be fancy. You want your name, address, hours of operation and a couple of pictures. A little information on your business - see #5. You also want to put your email address online. More on that in #3.
#3: You need an email address with good anti-spam measures. From personal experience, Hotmail and Gmail are both very good. I find Hotmail more familiar with how I’m used to working (folders, delete messages) but it’s a little clunky compared to Gmail. The ads are more intrusive and they have more steps to do things so they can show more ads.
So rather than worrying about doing tricky things on your website to hide your email address, figure that the bad guys, the spammers, are going to get it. Make it as easy as possible for the good guys - your customers - to talk to you. So don’t use “jdeibele(at)mypages.com” or post it as an image or whatever. Just put “firstname.lastname@example.org” out there.
#4: Have 1-3 pictures of your business that you like. Post them wherever you can. People like to see pictures of your business. Or of you. Or happy customers. Or “before” and “after” pictures of a job you’re particularly pleased with.
#5: Description of your business. This is another thing that’s good to have written out. A history about your business would be nice - who are you? How’d you get into this line of business? The more detail you can give, the better. But having 2 or 3 paragraphs to start with is a big help.
Tomorrow, we start with the first site to put this information.
Note: This is the first article in a series of articles on how to promote your local business. If you’d like to add information or have me explain in more detail, please contact me. I think you can find my email address. :-)
James Deibele is President of MyPages.com, the online yellow pages designed for small and local businesses. MyPages.com has won awards including “Cool Site of the Day" for its clear layout and fast presentation of relevant information.
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