National Small Business Week gives business owners a chance to celebrate people who often don’t receive enough appreciation: Themselves. More than this, May 4-8 is a time for reflecting on past success and looking to the future to find more.

As the week comes to a close, Merchant Centric is offering three steps you can take to grow your business and earn more customers online.

Step 1

The first and most important step to earning more customers online is to ensure that your business is listed on the Internet’s top sites and you have claimed those listings. You can check the status of your listings on top sites for free.

Since 85% of consumers find local business information via Internet searches (*Nielsen), sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Tripadvisor are more important than ever.

The question is: When a potential customer finds you, how will you appear?

If you were meeting a customer in person, you wouldn’t want to be wearing a shirt with wrinkles and a big stain from this morning’s coffee. No, you would want to look presentable and trustworthy.

In speaking with the customer, you would want to effectively communicate your business’s value, and how you can solve his or her needs.

First impressions online are no different and if your listings are inconsistent, unclaimed, or non-existent, you are missing out on a lot of free opportunities to earn more business and could be promoting your competitors, like the listing shown below.

Unclaimed Facebook listing promoting competitors
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Step 2

The second step to earning more customers online is to optimize the listings you claimed in step one by doing things such as:

  • Adding appropriate business hours and ensuring that other information is correct and consistent.
  • Asking happy customers to share their feedback online (more on this later).
  • Adding unique and eye-catching images and even cover photo slideshows on sites like Google Plus.

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Learn how to create slideshow on Google Plus

An added bonus to having complete and compelling listings is that Google will begin to rank you higher, as it searches for listings that are relevant and useful to its users. This helps people consistently find you and not your competitor, making Small Business Week last all year round!

Step 3

Last, but certainly not least, if you want to maintain a competitive edge in today’s digital age and continue to grow your business online, you must encourage online feedback in the form of reviews.

Many business owners are intimidated by the idea of review sites because they are worried about getting a bad review. They focus so much on the negative that they fail to see anything positive.

By changing their perspective a little, and by focusing on the plus side, these merchants would learn that 51% of Yelp users make purchase decisions immediately after viewing a business; and 70% of those people trust the opinions of other consumer reviews (*Nielsen).

The graph below further illustrates just how powerful review sites such as Yelp are in the customer decision making process.

Yelp

On the other end of the spectrum, this does mean that negative reviews can be harmful to your business if not properly addressed. We recommend always replying to such reviews in a respectful way that represents that you care about the concerns of your patrons (Merchant Centric offers a reply library for this very purpose). As long as you do this, some studies suggest that negative reviews can actually help your business because your reply is overcoming possible objections of other consumers who might have reservations about working with you.

30% of the people surveyed believed they would suspect censorship or false reviews from a company that has a purely positive score (*Reevoo).

So if you take one thing from this year’s National Small Business Week, let it be a desire to overcome the anxiety and reservations you have about positioning yourself online. Getting started can be intimidating, but you will learn that once your foot is through the door, each step after becomes easier.

If you find yourself needing assistance, we are here to help.

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