Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Small Business Guide: The Value of Local Listings

With so many small businesses and local independent traders struggling to keep their heads above water, today's guest post gives some sound advice on getting your name out there.

In the current economic climate small businesses need all the help they can find to get their name out there and attract customers. Many businesses are not only operating in a competitive environment, they also have to factor in rising costs such as rent, gas and electricity. To some extent expenditure can be reduced in these areas by comparing energy prices from different suppliers, and not just the big names – for instance, Ovo reviews show that small providers can often give the best deals. But in other areas it is more difficult to cut expenses, so entrepreneurs always need to be able to innovate and search for new advertising and marketing opportunities.

Traditionally, small companies have advertised in local listings and newspapers. Today offline listings have largely been replaced by online versions and most people will turn to the internet to search for particular products or services. For the owners of small online businesses, this is all good news.

Advertising in itself is a way of informing potential customers about a business. Depending on the type of media, the company may have more or less opportunity to put their voice across and target different markets. Online listings typically allow the business to attach their name, contact details and a short description in the main field, and a photograph can sometimes also be added. The description is optional but is an excellent opportunity to provide further information about services and products.

There should also be a link to the company’s website, and it is crucial that the link is working and the website is attractive and informative. This is the first real contact a customer has with the business and they need to be convinced in a short space of time to make a purchase, otherwise they can easily look elsewhere. Listings may also provide an opportunity to state if the website has photographs or videos – if done well, using this kind of media is a great marketing opportunity, and many customers won’t bother to click on the link to a website if it doesn’t contain photographs.

Online listings also usually have a map and options to search for the businesses closest to a particular postcode. This may seem less relevant for online companies, but the power of having a nearby address shouldn’t be dismissed. People like supporting local businesses for several reasons. The idea that money is going back into the community is inherently appealing and small local companies are also often perceived as being more trustworthy than big national brands or even small businesses located further away. So advertising in local listings is certainly of benefit.

There are basically two types of listing that owners might consider advertising in. The first is the general classifieds which lists all types of business to a wide audience. These will often be the first port of call for many customers. The clear advantage here is numbers and, of course, the more people see an advert the likelier it is that some people will be persuaded to buy from the company and increase sales.

The second type is the more targeted type of listings that only cater for a particular field or niche market. These are the places where customers will often go to find out more information about particular products or services and are also worth considering, as a presence on specialist websites can confer status and suggest the company is reliable with a good reputation in its field.

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