A recent study by TMP Directional Marketing has found that the first source Americans turn to for local business information is an Internet Search Engine. For the first time ever more customers found local businesses by searching on Google than through the Yellow Pages!
You can capitialize on this trend.
If a local business is not listed on Google they’re missing out! Not only are more consumers using their mobile devices to find area restaurants, stores and service providers, they’re using Google to research before they buy. Another study revealed that consumers are 7 times more likely to purchase if a store or product comes up high in Google’s natural search than if the buyer clicks on one of those paid Adword ads displayed on the right hand side. Even better news for the small business owner is that they can achieve a high ‘organic search ranking’ by taking a few simple, and often times, free steps.
That’s where a web savvy entrepreneur can help. (That’s you if you are reading this article). Many small business owners are still in the dark ages, don’t understand why they need to be listed on Google, and don’t want to invest five minutes in learning how to list themselves. That’s right; it only takes a few minutes to set up a listing in Google’s Local Business Directory! The other secret: it’s free!
THE BUSINESS PLAN
Here’s the idea:
Create a business card and a brochure explaining the benefits for the small business and start canvassing your local business district. Let store owners know you have a laptop (or home computer) and can set them up immediately. Leave the brochure and business card in case they need to think about it. Offer the service relatively cheaply — so it’s more of an impulse purchase than something they must work into the budget.
Depending on how large your metro area is, charge somewhere between $25.00 and $75.00 per listing. That should make sales and turn a profit. After, all you should be able to do one listing in about fifteen minutes. Let’s say you did five a week at $50.00 each – that would add up to $1250 a month.
Google’s local business listings not only show the location, but gives additional information like store hours, a blurb about the business, photos and even YouTube videos. Owners can encourage browsers to visit their local business by including a coupon that displays on the listing.
All of these additional services may be part of your initial service bundle, or you can offer them a la carte. If you know photography, video or are a good copy writer, make those services part of an up-sell. I suspect many business owners would pay a few dollars extra to have their store front photographed and added to the listing. While you are passing out the flyers take an extra second to snap a digital photo or two of the storefront.
MARKETING THE SERVICE
Approach the local Chamber of Commerce and offer to do a talk about the importance of Google Local Search for Main Street businesses. Offer a special One-Time Only Members’ Rate and ask every Chamber member to recommend you to another business owner.
Another way to get the word out about this service is a press release. Write up a simple press release and send it to the business section of your local paper (remember your target audience are computer neophytes) and local business journal.
Don’t forget local trade shows as well. Many local business owners will attend a home show or garden show this winter and spring. Go with business cards in hand. It’s another place to find a concentration of small business owners. Google provides an uploader for large businesses with several locations. If you have a local chain of restaurants or corporate headquarters — contact them! In the Puget Sound area we have Costco, Starbucks, Microsoft, Boeing, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Buzz Inn Steakhouses, etc. You get the idea. You can set up a website, but I suspect you may want to do it more as a way to show off your talents to local business owners, than as a way of attracting new clients. Although, you might prove me wrong. There are many busy Internet Entrepreneurs who may find your web site and pay to have you list their services.
We talked a little bit about charging to set-up a coupon and taking a photo of the business. How about a video? If you understand a little about video, you could take your video camera and tour the store or restaurant, or offer to record testimonials. You don’t need fancy equipment. A Flip video camera will do nicely.
To be listed in Google’s Local Directory, businesses don’t need to have a website. But to get higher rankings and to give customers even more information about their businesses, the local owner might be interested in setting one up. If you know HTML or WordPress, you can offer to create one as a follow-up. If you don’t know web design, find a web person to JV (joint venture) with. When you send the invoice, or send a follow-up letter, you can recommend your JV partner and offer a special discount. Provide them with a code number for the special discount that the web designer knows is from you. Set up the terms ahead of time, but most good JV’s are happy to pay a finder’s fee for the new business.
HOW TO SET UP A GOOGLE LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING
Go to the Google Local Business Center by clicking this link: http://www.google.com/local/add
- Sign in, or set up a Google account. (For your client, you’ll need to set them up with a new Google account).
- Click on the ‘Add a new listing’ link.
- Start filling out address and description information. Of course the more keywords you can fit into the description the easier it will get top ranking when searched for that specific term.
- Add photos and videos.
At the end you’ll have to verify your account by providing Google with a PIN number. If you are with your client when you set the listing up, have Google call them immediately. Otherwise, have Google send a postcard and ask your client tell you the PIN number when they receive it.
Rinse and repeat with a new client.