Advice for Small Business Owners and Reality Checks

pizza

What do you think of when you hear the phrase small business?

I imagine a local pizza shop  or an auto-shop. 

What do you think these small businesses are capable of?

I imagine they make good pizza or fix cars pretty well.

What do you think are their priorities?

I imagine they prioritize stock management, hiring decent workers, owning a loyal customer base large enough to pay all bills and turn a profit, and introducing new flavors every so often. 

Do you think spending $2,500 on Facebook, Google, or StumbleUpon advertising will have a positive ROI?

Absolutely not.

Getting in the Mindset of Small Business Owners

Having worked for and with a variety of small businesses, I’ve had the chance to see how owners think and manage.

Some are scummy, but their business is one of the best around. Some are awesome, but their business failed.

There are many forces at play and the cause for success or failure cannot be soley assigned to one thing. These forces include:

  • Location and proximity to target customers
  • Quality of service (speed, product, interactions)
  • Hours of operation
  • Community values and involvement
  • In-store environment (cleanliness, colors, music, games, atmosphere)
  • Additional offerings such as free delivery, discounts, coupons, rent-able space, online presence

Generally speaking, a solid small business owner will have grounding and activity in most of these areas.

What I’ve noticed is a progression path where the motivation of small  business owners deteriorates. After a few years, the spark and excitement changes to monotonous daily tasks.

The cliche but time-tested truth is that owners who are truly doing what they love will have more sustainability and a better chance to grow.

Here’s a simple motivation model for small business owners I created to better convey this point:

small business tips

Also, I should make it clear that content and active mindsets are equally fine. This just happens to be an easy way of segmenting.

Content business owners may very well have a more than modest profit, while active business owners exhaust all of their resources into futile efforts.

So what can owners do to remedy the areas they’re suffering in?

Practical Advice For Small Business Owners

The small business mindset is genuinely practical.

Local newspaper ads, flyers, and word of mouth marketing are the traditional approach and remain relevant.

However, online presence has become part of the checklist. You don’t necessarily need to have one, but it doesn’t take long, it’s free, and it can only benefit you.

Small business owners can do this themselves, all in one day. That’s it. They can update as they please.

Let’s take a look at a properly optimized small business that owns 100% of their search real estate:

sams chowder house

 

  1. Exact Match Domain, Rich Snippets, Google Reviews, and Google Plus are all working together to provide a beautiful layout.
  2. Proper Yelp classification (restaurants > seafood) and Rating/Reviews/Price verified.
  3. Proper Facebook classification (location, social stats, description).
  4. Places for Google + HQ Images verified
  5. Various Reviews verified on Foursquare, Trip Advisor, and more.

How can your small business own 100% of the search result real estate?

I’ll show ya:

Vital

These are the two vital steps every small business should take. This can be set up in one day or one hour for those with prior experience on these platforms.

What you’ll need

  • At least 6-8 hours of free time
  • High Quality / Resolution pictures of your business logo, products, and store
  • All of your standard business information: address, phone number, hours of operation, etc.
  • All of your menu information: products, prices, coupons/discounts, delivery options

Step 1 – Places for Google (free)

places for google

This is undeniably the most important step. According to Google (you can use this link to get started), 97% of consumers search for local businesses online.

When someone searches for your business or a related term appended to the city/town this listing will help you stand out.

In the picture above, an exact match search (your business name) will now show a detailed rich snippet.

A rich snippet is simply the search result excerpt for your business. If you don’t supply business number, price range, or hours of operation, they will not show up.

Lack of information might be the difference between a party of 20 people coming to your restaraunt. That’s a potential $500+ down the drain and all you would’ve had to do is upload and verify basic information.

It’s important to understand that every searcher is different.

I might search for “little baby’s ice cream Philadelphia” which gives me the exact business listing.

Or, I might search for “ice cream new york city” which gives me a much different result:

ice cream nyc

 

You’ll notice 3 things here:

  1. I can’t spell ‘york’
  2. A slideshow of listings for my search
  3. A map for my search

Businesses that have verified their information will show up in this search if their address is in NYC and they sell ice cream. Google’s ratings and reviews is a more recent feature and will play a role in the ranking order of these businesses.

This is why it’s important to set up Places ASAP. Reviews and ratings are not just vanity metrics. They’re big signals that help consumers decide.

Step 2 – Facebook Business Page (free to set up, paid to promote/manage)

Restaurants aren’t the only businesses that have review and rating systems. The example below shows how the recovery center, 12 Keys in Florida, has verified and optimized their Facebook page.

12 keys facebook

 

  1. Social stats signal authority and influence customer decisions
  2. Verified business information, just like Places for Google, helps funnel more potential customers
  3. HQ Images and related media/campaigns increase Page engagement

Establishing a verified and optimized Facebook Page for your business is an instrumental part of the social equation.

Given the social nature of Facebook and massive cultural acceptance, it can prove beneficial to have an active presence.

Setting up the page grants the same benefits as Places for Google, but the benefits of growing a socially engaged community on Facebook can be promising.

That decision is up to you.

Optional

The following steps are optional in terms of current necessity. These steps involve more time and resources, and might result in no ROI.

Step 3 – Directory & Review Listings and Management  (free)

Verify and update all business and product information on your present review sites. You can manage reviews by replying to positive/negative ratings in a politely manner.

Step 4 – Small Business Blog (paid to manage)

Blogging with a goal in mind, such as driving traffic to an online ordering system on your site, is a popular strategy; however, this requires hiring a content marketer. You may not have the allocation to create something like Victor Pest’s Learning Center (all the guides, videos, tips, FAQs, images, strategies), but maybe you have a professional cameraman friend who can make a sweet store tour video for you.

Step 5 – Twitter Business Page (paid to manage)

Setting up a Twitter profile for your business takes one minute, but maintaining it requires time/hiring an employee. This allows current and potential customers to engage with your business online more. Benefits include cross-posting your blog,

Small Business Resources

To a seasoned internet professional (basically, anyone from my generation) the previous steps can be knocked out in one hour or less.

If you’re savvy enough with smartphones, you can manage Facebook, Google+, and Twitter while multi-tasking (if you’re up for the challenge).

It’s really just social monitoring and extending your customer service reach. If someone can just read a review about your business, rather than try your products myself, that’s they’ll do.

Most people trust ratings and reviews.

Whether you have a content or active mindset, you still need to make social and online presence a priority.

It can even be temporary. Get your listings verified, fill everything out, and update anything that’s outdated. Only return to it if you want to.

There are many guides and strategies out there for improving your online efforts. Here are some resources you can check out:

For a small business blog, or blogging in general, check out the secret sauce of successful blogs and dissecting content strategy.

For social media strategies, check out 40 Social Media Strategies (including experts from Intel, Google, reddit, Thrillist, and many more!) and tips to make money with social media.

And if you really want to learn more about driving relevant traffic to your site and increasing web revenue, check out any of the blogs from the 17 best inbound marketing blogs list.

About author View all posts

Jesse Aaron

I'm a blogger, homebrewer, and community manager. Aside from writing, I have a passion for music and design.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Seems like a no-brainer to get registered on Places for Google if you’re a small business, Jesse.

    I just checked out the search results on Google. I hadn’t realised things were so detailed, particularly with the new Google Maps.

    • Yea – you’d be surprised how many local/small businesses (usually dive bars and corner pizza joints) don’t verify or update their Places info. Even with exact match searches, their competitors/related biz will show up in a top 3 spot which should never happen if they verify Places, Facebook, and at least one of the review sites.

      The SERPs for businesses are definitely going in a more visual, immersing, interactive direction.

      Thanks again for stopping by Tim!

  • 97%?

    Wow, that’s a lot of customers.

    Then again, it makes sense, especially now that I think back to how many times I have used Google (or Google maps) to find a business.

    Take for instance: Today, I was trying to find a restaurant (It was relatively easy to find the location on the map).

    Imagine if there wasn’t a Google map.

    I would probably be looking at Map quest (Honestly, I am not a fan of Mapquest!) or perhaps a directory (you know, call them and find their location).

    Get the address and type into the GPS. Now, all I got to do is search and select.

    Anyways, great tips you have here, Jesse. Can’t argue against any one of them 😀 I am not a fan of SEO (basic optimization is required…but don’t get obsessed by it).

    I like the active business and that’s probably what I would want for my blog (I am trying to convert into into a business :D).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing these tips! Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

    • Thanks for stopping by Jeevan!

      Yea, 97% surprised me as well but the more I think about how often I look up a biz address/number on my computer or phone the more it seems realistic. That stat comes straight from Google as well.

      And I’m looking forward to seeing Daring Blogger develop!

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