Proactive Management of Online Information is Crucial
In a world where someone’s opinion about your business is just a click away, it is increasingly important for entrepreneurs to control what appears about their business online.
Developing a good online presence is a challenging task for many small business owners, and it requires a great deal of attention, effort and patience to maintain. By choosing to engage and manage the online image of your business, a small business owner can easily use the Internet to create effective marketing and customer relationship channels.
The first step toward creating a positive online presence is making sure that search engines list correct address and contact information for your business. Entrepreneurs should set up a Google Places and Bing Places for Business page as soon as they have a physical location and phone number.
Setting up these pages helps ensure that customers find your contact information easily when they search online for your business. These location listings can also provide other helpful information about your business, such as your web address, logo, hours of operation and the kinds of services you provide.
Once your location is listed, the next step is to “claim” your business on review sites. Another common misconception of online presence is that a business owner must explicitly allow customers to review their business online. Customers are free to review your business on sites like Google Reviews and Yelp at any time, without your consent. Businesses in the food and entertainment industries must be especially careful here, as customers are conditioned to frequently post reviews of their experiences to sites like Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor.
Taking ownership of your business on review sites, however, is a very effective way to reap the benefits of happy customers while mitigating the damage done by unhappy ones.
Responses to negative reviews are a great way to show potential new customers a vested interest in improving your business; similarly, thanking a customer online for a positive review fosters appreciation and an increased chance of repeat business.
Remember, customer service rules still apply to review sites, no matter how rude or unfair the reviewer may be — always be positive, courteous and respectful, and avoid long arguments or multiple responses to one customer.
Creating and controlling an online presence is one of the most challenging aspects of small business marketing, but doing so effectively is one of the most powerful tools an entrepreneur can utilize.
While there are many different ways to engage customers online, listing location information and engaging reviewers are simple, no-cost ways of improving your online presence. Your business will eventually have an online presence, whether you choose to develop it or not — by proactively managing your online business information, you ensure that you can engage customers in a positive and helpful way before they choose to do business with you.
(You can also view this blog in the Rio Rancho Observer)