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 How Small Businesses can build their Online Reputation

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Times are tough and the economy is not helping small businesses.  Yes their are spending bills and loan programs etc but the real backbone of any small business is or at least should be great customer service.

After all, it’s the one thing you can do better then the big guys and it costs you nothing right?  So why don’t more small businesses do more to build up their customer service reputation?  That is, beyond the obligatory thanks and “Nice to see you, come back again soon, hear”

What I am getting at is why don’t more small business owners better harness and utilize the internet and search to help drive business, take business away from bigger competitors and build consumer loyalty.  Well, that’s easy,  many small business owners  just really don’t understand the internet and search and are scared to learn.  But really, is that a good excuse?

If their is one thing you do for your small business advertising and brand it is that you should learn how to leverage the internet and search to build and promote your customer service, manage your online reputation and drive leads and sales.  It’s just too easy and effective to ignore.  Sites like MeasuredUp.com and Yelp and Angies list and many others allow you for the first time to actually compete on an even footing with the big box stores.  Yes, you heard me right.

Think about it.

Most consumers today start a purchase with research on the internet.  Even if they are just looking for the address of that big box store or a coupon for Amazon.com they are “Searching”  on Google or another search engine and this is your opportunity to intercept them with your business and products.  Entice them to deviate and come on by.   Motivate them to try you instead of them.

You could not compete with the advertising budgets of the big stores.  The newspaper ads, the tv commercials, the billboards.  But now you have a means to interact with potential customers at the exactly the moment that they are researching a purchase.  And you can do it for Free or almost free as effectively as the big guys.  Really, what more could you ask for.  The internet has truly leveled the playing field when it comes to small business marketing and local advertising.  For a few dollars a day and maybe an hour a week you can mount an online offensive that will keep your business front and center for online shoppers, researchers and browsers who are looking for your core products and services.

You can start to really develop a customer loyalty, following and customer service brand.  This is called your online reputation.

To start building your online reputation go to Google.com and do a search for your business name, the core products you sell and the general category you are in.  Look at the Organic search (free) results.  Look at the paid ads on the top and the right of the search results page.  See what your competition is marketing, the prices and what they are saying.

Now think about your business.  The products that you feature, the prices, and the customers.  Find where your competitors are weak.  Is it the hours? The location? The prices?  The selection? Or the simple fact they are big and impersonal and you are small and local.

Spend the time to figure out your brands real positioning and value proposition.  All this means is “what is it that you do better then anyone else”.

Now, go to www.MeasuredUp.com, Yelp and Angies list and write a review about your business.  Be honest that you are the proprieter.  Readers dont like to be misled and can spot a phony review.  Be clear about your business and your value proposition.  Share a promotion or sale.  Talk up your free parking, selection and most important, your hometown and great customer service.  If you do not have good customer service then this is your time to get focused on it and make it a business priority and investment.  If you already have a good customer service reputation and online reviews then great.  Your job is never done.  Write more.  Have your customers write more.

The point is that the more sites you write a free review about your business on the more good reviews their are about your business online and the more likely that a potential customer comes upon your review in their search and comes on by to give you a try.

It’s free advertising.  It’s targeted.  It works.

If you really want to go the extra bit then tell your best customers to go on MeasuredUp.com to write a review about your business.  Again, the idea is that the more good, honest reviews about your business online the better.

Their are many other ways to market your business online from Google adwords to banners to PR and social media but until you take advantage of the Free online reputation management tools you should not bother with the others.  Your Customer Service reputation is your Online Reputation and the good reviews shoppers read about your customer service and business when they search online will build your brand, drive leads and increase sales.

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