Restaurant Marketing: 10 Tips for Promoting Your Restaurant

Restaurant Marketing: 10 Tips for Promoting Your Restaurant

When it comes to the restaurant industry, marketing requires more than just advertising in the local newspaper and hoping that local consumers will respond.  Since eating is something that people have to do every day, this is one industry that has a tremendous potential for repeat business.  Restaurant owners need to use every tool at their disposal to attract and keep loyal customers, which on average, comprise around 1/3 of annual revenue.  Here are some helpful marketing ideas to keep the customers coming back.

1.  Keep your menu fresh.  Hold on to your customer favorites, but don’t be afraid to try new flavors.  This will keep things interesting for your regulars and give them something new to try out every so often.  It will also give you something to promote, advertise and offer specials around.  Make sure your menu is posted (and updated) on your website and local business directories.

2.  Promote daily specials.  Post your Today’s Special on your Facebook page, tweet it on Twitter, send it via email and text messaging. Always post it everywhere in a timely manner, so your customers will see it just when they’re starting to think about what to have for lunch or dinner — or happy hour.

3.  Foster repeat business.  Implement a loyalty rewards program, with free items or discounts after so many visits.  Or try printing a discount coupon for future visits on the back of customer receipts.  Encourage customers to fill out surveys around menu item selections, so they’ll feel as though they have ownership in your success.  Host holiday parties or VIP events and invite your regulars.

4.  Use Email and SMS marketing.  Encourage your customers to sign up for emails and/or text messages, to receive notice of discounts and specials in a timely manner.  Emphasize the exclusive nature of the messaging and the “insider” specials they’ll be privy to.

5.  Leverage social media.  Use Facebook and Twitter, at a minimum, to announce new menu items, discounts, and more.  Post lots of pictures of select menu items, of the venue and of the staff, as a way of connecting with your customers on a personal level.  Solicit lots of comments and reviews.

Local Marketing Mistakes

6.  Offer live music or entertainment.  Even if you don’t have an entertainment budget, try hosting an open mike night at select intervals to give local talent a place to perform.  Just be sure to keep it organized so it doesn’t end up driving customers away instead.  Don’t forget to promote your entertainment events through social media, emails and text messages.

7.  Host a charity fundraiser.   Announce that a portion of your profits on a specified day or evening will go to a local charity, and be sure to promote it vigorously through social media, emails and text messaging, as well as with local news stations and event listings.

8.  Put on contests.  Whether it’s coming up with a name for a new menu item, guessing a secret ingredient or the ever popular, “eat it all and it’s free” contest, people love a challenge, and contests are a fun way to interact with your customers and make them feel like part of your family.  As always, promote your contests vigorously and make a big spectacle around the winner.

9.  Market take-out and delivery services.  Offering take-out and delivery services, or at least curbside pickup, can greatly increase a restaurant’s revenue.  Be sure to market these services through emails, text messaging and social media, as well as through table and countertop promotional materials.  Send a fresh take-out menu along with every order, and consider giving out refrigerator magnets with your logo and phone number.

10.  Network with other local businesses.  Leave menus with all the local businesses in your area, and encourage retailers to keep a stack of menus or business cards on their counter.  Offer to reciprocate by featuring some of their promotional materials in your establishment as well.

Follow these practices and you’ll give your restaurant a fighting chance of success in even the toughest market.  Of course, once you get customers in, you’ll still need to provide good value and stellar customer service, or all the marketing tips in the world won’t bring them back!

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Promoting Your Dental Practice: 9 Simple Marketing Ideas for Dentists

Dentist

You’re an outstanding dentist offering great services at reasonable prices, but how do you get that message out to potential patients?  In this fast-paced, information-overloaded world, it’s important to find easy, inexpensive ways to market your business so that customers can find you. Here are some dental marketing strategies to help you optimize your online presence and gain referrals from existing customers.

Get Found With These 3 Dental Marketing Strategies

1. Strengthen your online presence.  If you don’t have at least a website, a Facebook account and a Yelp page, you’re behind the 8-ball.  When people search for a dentist, they’re using a search engine rather than a phone book.  The more places your practice can be found online, the higher it will rank in a local search.  Claim your Yelp page and encourage your customers to post reviews.  These will pop up in local searches such as Yahoo Local and Bing Local.  Do a search for dentists in your area, and then make sure to add your listing to every directory you find.

2. Establish yourself as a subject matter expert.  Use a blog or your Facebook page to post articles, advice and information about your particular specialty.  You don’t have to write everything yourself; you can link to other articles on the internet, as well as informative videos on YouTube.  The more information on a particular subject that you post on your social media pages, the more likely your site will pop up when someone is searching for information.  Encourage your patients to visit your site and post comments and ask questions.

3. Exchange referrals with other businesses.  Develop a good working relationship with local orthodontists and other specialists in your area.  This will allow you to help your patients by being able to refer them elsewhere for services you don’t provide, and those businesses will send you patients in exchange.  Don’t limit it to dentistry, however.  If you have a favorite dry cleaner, restaurant, cleaning service or any other business that you strongly recommend, don’t be afraid to feature their business cards on your counter.  Hopefully they’ll do the same for you.

Get Customers with These 3 Dental Marketing Initiatives

1. It’s all about the smile.  Too many people associate a trip to the dentist with pain, discomfort and inconvenience.  Emphasize the positive side of the coin, how great it is to have and care for a beautiful smile.  Rather than seeing your office as a place to go to get a cavity drilled, encourage them to see your business as a place where patients of any age can improve their smile in a variety of ways that will fit just about any budget.  Get lots of before and after pictures and use them on your website, your blog and your social media pages.

2. Offer a special discount for new patients.  This is a great way to get customers into your dental office so that you can show them first hand what a patient and gentle dentist you are.  First time visits can be prohibitively expensive for new patients, with all the X-rays and record-keeping involved.  By offering free X-rays or a discounted package, you’ll get them in the door, and the long term revenue will more than make up for any costs you may incur.  People are very reluctant to change dentists once they’ve gone through all the preliminary work to set up their account and are happy where they are.

3. Reward existing patients by offering bonuses for referrals.  Not only will you get new customers, but this is an excellent opportunity to get your regular customers to try new services such as a teeth whitening treatment.  Be sure to promote referral offers on your social media pages, your website and in your office waiting room.

Get Repeat Business With These 3 Dental Marketing Methods

1. Collect contact information, and send out regular emails and newsletters.  Make sure your patients are kept abreast of special promotions, new service offerings, changes in your office hours and anything else that might be of interest to them.  Include helpful tips for maintaining a healthy smile, and new breakthrough treatments and technology on the horizon.  Don’t go overboard, however.  Keep the emails down to no more than one or two a month, or they may get irritated and unsubscribe.

2. Everyone loves a freebie.  Teeth whitening offers are a great way to keep patients coming back.  Some dental offices offer free, custom-fitted whitening trays with an initial visit, and additional tubes of whitening gel with each six-month checkup.  If a patient is considering having a lot of cosmetic work done, you can encourage them by finding ways to combine treatments and procedures, cutting down on the expense and the number of office visits.  Dentists who are considerate of their patients’ time and money will always have plenty of repeat business and referrals.

3. Treat every patient as if they were your best customer.   The patient who comes in for the discounted new patient special may not be spending a lot of money with you today, but whether or not they come back depends on the outcome of this visit.  Yelp reviews are rife with complaints about scheduling snafus, long wait times and poor customer service.  Everyone has a bad day now and then, but every member of your team needs to understand that without a strong client base, things could get a lot worse.  From the person answering the phone to the X-ray technician to the dental hygienist, everyone needs to do their share to ensure your existing patients and your new ones have an outstanding dental experience!

Local Marketing Mistakes

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What are Some Must-Do Aspects of Google Marketing?

What are Some Must-Do Aspects of Google Marketing?

As the top-ranked Internet search engine and mobile mapping app in the world, Google holds powerful sway over your online marketing success. And with a host of online marketing tools, programs and directories available, the online giant leaves its imprint in nearly every form of Internet commerce. With so many different virtual paths to follow, what are some of the most important things a local business owner should do in order to make the most of what Google has to offer?

Create Original Content

As part of its constantly changing algorithms, Google has been increasingly finding ways to reward websites who publish original content. Original content is that which is written specifically for your business website, and may include anything from product descriptions to customer reviews and blog posts. While linking to a manufacturer’s site for a comprehensive product description is fine, it’s important not to copy and paste non-original content to your site. Websites that contain original blogs and articles consistently score higher with Google’s search algorithms, which strive to favor relevant and original material. Business owners who don’t have time or inclination to write blog posts may want to hire outside writers, or even scour their own employee pool for blogging talent. Even customers may be persuaded to contribute original content.

Create an Account with Google Places

Google Places is Google’s new platform designed to enhance visibility of local establishments. Research consistently shows that U.S. consumers have traded in old fashioned print phone books for local searches on desktop and mobile devices, with 80% of purchases made within a 15-mile radius. Some 20% of Internet searches are for local businesses, and 40% of those are conducted on a mobile device. Android users utilizing Google’s voice search function are led directly to Google Places results. Be sure to claim or add your local business listing on Google Places, and encourage customer reviews to help boost your search results.

Install Google Analytics for Free

While many SEO specialists will try to sell you an expensive analytics program, Google Analytics is a free service that allows you to monitor the number of people that visit your website, what pages they visit and how they get to your site. For those wishing to delve deeper into the platform, it also allows you to create advertising campaigns, set up goals, and view reports and data sets that provide key insight into your data. Each time you make changes to your website, Google Analytics will guide you in making sure those changes are beneficial and not detrimental to your site’s web profile.

Find Keywords Using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool

Google’s Adwords Keyword tool is designed to help you zero in on effective keywords to use with an Adwords campaign, and provides the popularity of each keyword and the cost per click amount for targeting that keyword in Adwords. Whether or not you choose to use a pay per click campaign, however, keywords are important in all aspects of your online marketing. Google’s tool allows you to enter a general search term, and then returns groupings of keyword ideas that you can explore further in the tool to find the best keywords for your business.

When it comes to marketing your local business, there are so many choices out there – and so many opportunities to spend massive sums of money. By taking a little time and exploring the many tools and products available at little or no cost, you can make your marketing dollar go much further than you ever thought possible!

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Secret Small Business Keyword Strategies for 2015

Secret Small Business Keyword Strategies for 2015

Does it seem like there’s some top-secret special formula for using keywords to drive traffic to your site? All the SEO jargon, tricks and tools out there can make the whole process feel awfully intimidating, especially when you’re a small business owner with very little time to devote to research and very little in your budget to pay someone to figure it out for you.

You want to keep your blog updated. You have lots of great ideas for posts. But sometimes, worrying about using the “right” keywords in the “right” places is paralyzing. You don’t want to do it “wrong,” so you just give up and don’t post anything at all on your blog, or you write only sporadically.

Well, I’m here to let you in on the secret formula, and it’s a lot simpler than you think. Yes, there are some complicated and savvy things you can do to boost traffic to your site. But my secret formula is one that any small business can use, and it won’t take a bunch of time or money:

Common sense + a few simple tools + lots and lots and lots of quality content = Your Keyword Strategy

The thing that’s changed in 2014 is that Google has gotten more sophisticated than ever. Have you made a search on Google and noticed that the search engine changed your search query, but it actually helped? Search for “pizza” and you won’t get the history of pizza, you’ll get some links that help you order a pizza from someplace close to where you are.

Google is showing you what it thinks you want, and it’s also making decisions on what to show based on what it thinks sites are about. That is, if you write lots of blog posts about ovens, flour, sugar, eggs, and bundt pans, Google will decide all on its own that the site is related to baking. You can say “baking” on your homepage, but a lot of blog posts with all those other words will help you in some ways even more than what’s on your home page once or twice.

So, armed with that knowledge, here’s the breakdown of your keyword strategy for 2015:

Common sense

Of course you want to use the right keywords to help people find you. But the truth of the matter is, if you’re writing about a topic related to your business, you’re automatically using the right keywords. If your company does landscaping in Milwaukee, then you’re not going to blog about cat grooming in San Diego. When you write relevant things that would be useful to your customers and potential customers, keywords will magically appear in your content.

That “relevant” part is critical, but again, it comes down to common sense. Just consider what your readers want to know about. What questions might they have? What would they put into a search engine that would lead them to your site? You might be able to draw some serious traffic with promises of the latest celebrity gossip, but if you’re a roofing company, those readers will just leave in disappointment. More traffic isn’t really the goal, is it? The goal is more of the right traffic — the kind that you can convert to leads and sales.

The key is to write original content that your potential customers would want to read. Always write for real live human readers, not for search engines. The great part is that nowadays these are pretty much the same thing. Google is most interested in what your human readers want to see: original, engaging content that provides value. And thanks to some complicated algorithms, they’re getting better and better at recognizing it.

Another common-sense tip: location matters. People search by location, and especially if they’re using a mobile device, there’s a good chance they’re looking for something in a specific area. If you have a brick-and-mortar storefront that you want people to visit, include your location as one of your keywords. And don’t stop with your city and state. If you’re in a specific area or neighborhood, include that as well. It can sometimes be difficult for smaller, local businesses to be found online, but you can improve your odds by mentioning your location throughout your site.

A few simple tools

Even though most of your keywords should come naturally in writing about your business, knowing how to research good keywords is also a crucial skill.

Here’s why: keyword research is actually a great way to brainstorm lots of good ideas for blog posts. By exploring all the possible keywords for your business, you can make sure you’re covering all the products or services you offer in a balanced way across your blog and your entire website. It can help you consider questions that your customers might have, as well as related topics you could write about that would draw in interested readers.

Some of the most popular keyword research tools are the Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, Wordtracker Keyword Tool, Moz Keyword Difficulty and SERP Analysis Tool and SEMRush. “The Definitive Guide to Using Google’s Keyword Planner for Keyword Research” has some great advice for using that very popular free tool. Besides the typical keyword tools, this post from Moz describes some other creative strategies for adding to your keyword list.

Now that you’ve got some new keywords (and some new ideas for blog posts!) where should you include them in the posts? Simply by writing great posts you’re already ahead of the game, but a little strategic placement of keywords is fairly simple and can improve your search results even more. Put keywords in your title, URL, page title tag, meta description, heading tags, and any alt image tags. Then try to include them in your first paragraph and occasionally throughout the article.

A good keyword density to shoot for is around 2 to 4 percent. The main thing here is to avoid “keyword stuffing” — Google hates it, and so do readers. However, if you’re simply writing naturally about a topic, keyword stuffing won’t be a problem. If you’re concerned that you may be using your keywords too much or not enough, go ahead and write the thing first, and then go back and check how many times you used the same keyword. If it comes out to more than 2 to 4 percent of your content, edit accordingly.

But really, if you read the post out loud and it sounds natural, then you don’t need to worry. (That’s also a great tip about how to improve your writing, reading out loud helps you find the clunky sentences that seem OK when you are only typing.)

Lots and lots and lots of quality content

If that was starting to feel a little too technical and complicated, take heart. The fact is that even if you never calculate your keyword density, your blogging efforts will not go to waste.

The absolute most important thing is to produce great blog posts on a regular schedule. The more competition you have, the more you’ll want to blog.

The only way your hard work will go to waste is if you don’t keep your blog updated. As this article points out, having an inactive blog can be worse than not having one at all.

Of course, as I said earlier, your content should always be useful or at least a little bit interesting to your readers in some way. Everything you write should provide some kind of value and be relevant to your business. But quantity also matters. If you only blog occasionally, it won’t matter how helpful and fantastic those blog posts are, because no one will ever find them.

So here’s your secret formula for blogging in 2015: update your blog regularly, write about things that matter to your audience, and do a little research to come up with some creative keywords. That’s it. Really!

Scott Yates CEO at BlogmuttThis post was written by Scott Yates, CEO of a service where you can buy blog posts, BlogMutt. He had help from one of the thousands of BlogMutt writers, and you can, too. Where Signpost is the engine to drive your marketing efforts, BlogMutt provides the fuel to keep the engine running with all-original blog posts delivered every week.

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Update Your Local Business Listing with Apple Maps Connect

Update Your Local Business Listing with Apple Maps Connect

In an effort to compete with uber map-app Google Maps, Apple Maps has unveiled a new self-service portal called Apple Maps Connect, which allows business owners to add or update their business listings. While before it was possible to report inaccurate or missing data to the mapping service, this is the first time that business owners are able to actually go in to their listings and make changes, add websites, Yelp pages, Facebook pages, Twitter handles, and more.

Having a listing on Apple Maps means that Apple’s Siri feature will be able to locate your business. This is quite significant for small businesses that don’t yet have a presence on Apple Maps, which is the pre-installed mapping application on all Apple iPhones.

Using the portal is as simple as signing up for an Apple account (if you don’t already have one), signing in to the portal, and searching for your business. All changes are verified by telephone for security purposes, and updates and changes will appear in about a week, more or less. While the feature is currently only available in the U.S., Apple plans to expand it to the global market in the near future.

No Agencies, Please

While the new self-service portal is user-friendly for local businesses, it does not lend itself to use by outside agencies for updating client information, or large businesses with multiple locations. It’s being promoted as a tool for local businesses and it’s unclear whether Apple plans to expand it for use by marketing agencies anytime soon.

Apple Rolls Out Indoor Positioning Technology

Along with the new self-service portal, Apple announced a new feature that’s being beta tested, which will allow large, high-volume businesses to map interior views of their venues in order to help users find their way around. Called “Indoor,” this new tool is only available to locations that have WiFi throughout their business and at least one million visitors annually.

These upgrades to Apple’s mapping service indicate that Apple is still actively investing in the technology, and hoping to compete with Google by crowd sourcing more of its map data, rather than simply relying on standard sources such as DigitalGlobe, TomTom, and the U.S. Government.

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How to Get the Most out of Local Business Direct Mail Marketing

How to Get the Most out of Local Business Direct Mail Marketing

For a local business hoping to increase foot traffic to a brick and mortar location, direct mail marketing is a great way to reach out and touch the neighborhood. While online and mobile marketing are increasingly dominating the advertising horizon, there’s just something unique about a colorful postcard that people hang on to – if it’s also a profitable investment for your business. Like a business card, it’s a tangible reminder to make contact. Here are some things to consider when launching a direct mail marketing campaign.

Choose a Service Provider

If you don’t have time to handle each step separately, you may decide to go straight to a direct mail advertising company, such as DirectMail.com, PostcardBuilder.com or CactusMailing.com. These services can handle everything from designing and printing the postcards to creating the mailing lists and dropping them off at the post office. If you’re more the hands-on type – and want to save a little money – USPS.com’s Advertising with Mail page has quite a lot of helpful instructions and recommendations.

USPS also offers an Every Door Direct Mail delivery tool that allows the user to map out a target area using demographic data – including age, household income and size – select a delivery route, choose a mailing date, and even pay online. This is perfect for local businesses who want to target specific neighborhoods. For those seeking to reach a more select demographic, you’ll need to pay for a specialized address list from a mailing service.

Determine Your Budget

If you go with a direct mail marketer, you’ll be given a quote for a set number of pieces. If you decide to do it yourself, you can find some helpful cost estimates at the USPS website. If you need a specialized address list from a mailing service, you’ll need to add that to your budget. Other costs to budget for include graphic design, printing, alterations and proofs, a quality control check, and, of course, postage. A list of estimated costs can be found at the USPS website.

Decide on a Format

For most direct mail marketing campaigns, postcards are the best bet. They’re a cost-effective way to announce new products and services, promote sales events, and extend special offers. They can be posted on a customer’s refrigerator or carried in a purse or briefcase as a reminder to attend a special event, or used as a coupon or invitation.

Flyers allow more space for your message, but require extra handling costs for folding. The next step up is letters in envelopes, which are somewhat more costly than flyers and postcards. Letters are used for more formal requests or invitations, and can include coupons, tickets, or other items in the envelope. Should you decide to send out brochures, pamphlets, or reply mail, you’ll definitely want to purchase a mailing list so that you can target more strategically, as printing and mailing costs for these items are significantly higher.

Create Your Message

Get the most out of your mailing by persuading the recipient to hang on to it. Use a call to action that says something like “present this coupon for” and include your offer, whether it’s a general discount, buy-one-get-one-free, free add-on service with purchase, or introductory special, among other things. Now your postcard will remain in the customer’s purse or briefcase, in the console of their car, or on their refrigerator, providing free advertising every time they look at it, right up until they remember to come in and present it. Don’t forget to include an expiration date.

Find a Local Printer

The USPS website has recommendations for local printers if you don’t already have one. Ideally, you should be networking with other local businesses so this shouldn’t be too difficult. Hopefully your local printer will happily keep some of your postcards on his or her counter for customers that come in.

Many printers have graphic designers they work with, or you can hire one separately. While it isn’t necessary to budget for a four-color printing process, you should add at least a pop of color to a basic black and white design to highlight key parts of the message. Be sure to proof your design carefully before it goes to print and make sure to get a quality control check along the way. Once the pieces are printed, you can take them to the post office yourself, or many printers will even drop them off for you.

Local Marketing Mistakes

Keep Track of Returns

One of the benefits of having the customer return your postcard is that it provides an immediate, physical validation of the success of your mailing, and addresses from returned postcards can be used to make up a preferred customer mailing list. Be sure to track the return rate of each mailing to see which messages, offers, and deals are the most effective.

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24 Free Online Directories to List Your Local Business

25 Free Online Directories to List Your Local Business

As part of a comprehensive local business marketing plan, creating at least basic listings in free local online directories is a must-do, even though it will eat up some of your valuable time. Free business listing sites increase your company’s online exposure and help improve your local search ranking results in major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Depending on your business, some may be more relevant than others, but you should at least work your way through the top ten, as a minimum.

1. Google - This is the site where you can add your business listing to Google+ Local. Business owners can claim or add business listings, add photos and coupons, respond to customer reviews, and see statistics and analytics. As Google receives nearly 6 billion searches daily, this should be at the top of your list.

2. Yelp – Yelp is arguably the Internet’s most popular review site, offering consumers a chance to post longer, more in-depth reviews than many other sites. Business owners can claim or add their listings, and upload photos, coupons, and more. Yelp also powers certain content on other directories in this list. Because it’s so popular as a review site, it’s important that business owners respond to reviews, both positive and negative. A five-star rating on Yelp is a golden ticket.

3. Facebook – America’s favorite social media site, Facebook is used by over a billion people to connect with friends and family. It’s important to have a business listing on Facebook so that users can refer others directly to your site. More than half of Facebook users visit every day, and the mobile app is on three out of every four smartphones.

4. Bing – The Bing Business Portal allows business owners to manage local listings on Bing. Upload your logo, photos, deals, menus, and any other important information. As the second most visited search engine on the internet, it’s important for your business to be present correctly.

5. Yahoo Local – Yahoo! Local provides listings and reviews of local businesses. Business owners can claim or add their professional listing to ensure they get found on the Internet’s third most popular search engine, with millions of searches conducted daily.

6. Yellow Pages – Now found at YP.com, Yellow Pages is the online answer to what used to be America’s standard for looking up businesses. Business owners can claim or add listings and add any important information. While not as relevant with the younger generations, Baby Boomers and older still have strong ties to yellow pages.

7. MapQuest – A popular web mapping service, MapQuest helps bring local customers right to your doorstep. Claim or list your business listing at the MapQuest local business center, add photos, parking directions, and even relocate your map marker if it’s inaccurate.

8. Superpages – Powered by Dex Media, Superpages is an online business directory offering local business listings, reviews, and advertising solutions. Business owners can claim or add listings and include important information, offer deals, and respond to customer reviews.

9. Foursquare – Another popular social media site, Foursquare helps users keep track of where friends “check-in” and find nearby businesses. Business owners can claim or create listings and receive real-time data around customer activity, and even offer coupons to customers who check in. Foursquare also feeds their information into other websites and mobile apps.

10. MerchantCircle – Designed exclusively around small businesses, MerchantCircle is an online local business directory offering free marketing tools along with free listings. Business owners can claim or add their listings, add coupons and/or newsletters, respond to reviews, and more.

Local Marketing Mistakes

11. LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a great site to create a public company page for your business, linking your employees’ LinkedIn profiles to your business whenever they list you as their employer. Primarily used as a professional networking site, it’s a great place to display information about your business enterprise.

12. Citysearch – An excellent network for restaurants, bars, hotels, and spas, among others, Citysearch is a city-based online guide to business and entertainment. Business owners can claim or add listings, include important information, and add special offers. Citysearch offers city guides for the most popular cities in the United States, so you’ll want to be sure you’re included.

13. White Pages – The online equivalent of the white pages found in a traditional phone book, White Pages is a quick and easy listing service, and makes your business contact information available to over 200 million people.

14. Yellowbook – A subsidiary of Hibu Business, Yellowbook.com allows business owners to create an easily searchable listing, including business information, a link to the business website, product descriptions, and more.

15. Manta – With over 30 million visitors per month, Manta offers business listings for companies worldwide. Local business owners can claim or add listings, upload company logo, photos, and important information. Inc. rates Manta as one of the fastest growing business sites on the Internet.

16. The Business Journal – Originally created to offer business news and advice, The Business Journal has recently created a local business directory for most major U.S. cities. With four levels of listing options – free, bronze, silver, and gold – local business owners can claim their free listing, or choose to pay to receive even more targeted traffic to their website.

17. Angie’s List – With two million paying members who read and post reviews, Angie’s List is one of the most well respected online directories for services. Business owners can claim or add a listing for free as long as it falls within a specified category, centered around home improvement, auto, health, pets, or various miscellaneous services. Business owners seeking to establish a strong online reputation through positive reviews should use Angie’s List.

18. DexKnows – Another popular online directory, DexKnows provides business owners an opportunity to engage with customers and track their online reputation through their business listing.

19. Yellowbot – Similar to Yellow Pages, YellowBot provides basic contact and location information about local businesses, and permits customers to post reviews.

20. Kudzu – Geared towards homeowners interested in renovating, Kudzu offers reviews, advice, and deals for local businesses. For businesses providing home improvement services, Kudzu is a must.

21. Hotfrog – With around 1.5 million visitors per month, Hotfrog is a business search engine designed to help businesses improve their Google search results. Business owners can claim or add a listing, upload photos, and create deals, as well as use reporting tools to see which keywords are driving traffic.

22. Magic Yellow – Similar to Yellow Pages and YellowBot, Magic Yellow is a business directory offering local business listings and reviews. Business owners can claim or add a business listing and include any important information.

23. Express Update – Express Update allows business owners to add a public profile page to help their business get found. They also provide a variety of resources to help businesses ensure that their listing gets distributed throughout the web.

24. City Slick – A local business network designed to help local businesses get more customers, CitySlick.net offers both paid and free local advertising opportunities along with business listings. Business listings are search engine friendly and provide a unique way to advertise locally.

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Helpful Tips for Starting a Local Business

Helpful Tips for Starting a Local Business Starting a new business can be exhilarating – and terrifying – all at the same time. Startup failure rates vary according to the source, but the most conservative estimates are that roughly 50 percent of businesses fail within the first four years. To help you avoid becoming an unfortunate statistic, we’ve compiled some helpful tips for starting a local business.

Have Plenty of Start-up Capital

On top of all of your anticipated start-up expenses, such as equipment purchases, inventory, and lease agreements, among other things you need to be prepared for extra expenses you probably haven’t accounted for in your business plan. Additionally, marketing expenses are likely to be much higher in the beginning, as it will take time for your customers to find you. Take a careful look at your business plan, and make sure you have enough funds to get you through a rocky and unprofitable start; at least six months’ worth of savings.

Understand your Licensing Requirements

Nothing shuts a business down faster than not having the right license or permit. Check into your county’s requirements for a dba license, vendor’s license, and any other licenses or registrations you may need, for sale of food or alcoholic beverages, child care, pet care, or whatever type of business you seek to start. Some activities are licensed by the federal government, such as sales of alcohol or firearms, while other licenses may be required by your state or county. The Small Business Association is an excellent source of licensing information for all types of businesses.

Location, Location, Location

As with real estate, location is everything for a local business. Do your homework. Unfortunately, unless you’re really lucky, you’ll no doubt have to compromise. Certainly, you would prefer a high traffic area in a safe, low-crime neighborhood with plenty of parking and complementary businesses nearby. If you can’t afford the rent or mortgage and/or the taxes, however, you may have to decide which factors are more important, and whether they will improve your profitability sufficiently to cover the extra expenses.

Create a Comprehensive Business Plan

Of course, everything starts with a plan. A well-written, well thought out plan will not only help you get financing, it will help you get through your first few years. You’ll need to outline exactly how you plan to run your business, your operating and management procedures, hiring plans, expenses and revenue forecasts. You’ll want at least a three-year forecast of your sales, and a projection of what point in time you expect to start earning a profit. Once again, the Small Business Association provides in-depth guidance on all the different components of a comprehensive business plan.

Scope Out the Competition

Chances are you’ve already done this – perhaps it’s what convinced you to start your business. “This hair salon is raking in money hand over fist,” you thought. “There’s room for one more in this neighborhood.” Or perhaps the dearth of a particular type of business in an otherwise thriving retail setting got your attention. In any event, you’ll want to examine your market, see who’s already in it, and determine whether there is room for you. If your competition is barely scraping by, you may want to reconsider. If business is booming, determine what they’re doing well, and what you could do better. Don’t be a copycat, but do learn from their mistakes!

Determine your Target Demographic

When it comes to a local business, your location often determines your demographic, which is why location is so critical. An upscale, trendy retail shop would probably not do well in a strip mall surrounded by retired people on fixed incomes, for example, any more than a butcher shop would fare in a neighborhood of organic vegans and PETA activists. Carefully research your surrounding area and decide who your customer is, so that you can target your goods and services as well as your marketing strategy to someone who’s likely to be interested.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

In addition the Small Business Association, there are other helpful nonprofit associations dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, including SCORE, with 340 offices across the country. A helpful guidebook titled “How to Really Start Your Own Business” can be downloaded on their website, where you can also find your nearest SCORE chapter. The guidebook covers a wide range of helpful topics, including how to:

  • Define your business and your market niche
  • Test your idea (conduct market research)
  • Find the right location
  • Negotiate leases and business purchases
  • Protect a copyright/logo
  • Create a business plan
  • Choose a corporate structure
  • Secure funding and comply with financial regulations
  • Build a team
  • Understand a financial statement and project cash flow

Even if you already have an experienced business partner (or you are one), it never hurts to reach out to other knowledgeable individuals for guidance and mentorship, and these are two very good sources!

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Wix.com, Signpost and OnDeck Capital Announce 2014 Small Business Toolkit

Wix.com, Signpost and OnDeck Capital Announce 2014 Small Business Toolkit

Signpost had a busy third quarter and we aren’t about to slow down! We announced a new product in early September, saw our New York office voted into Crain’s New York Top Work Places, and we continue to rapidly expand our customer base nationally. Today, we are happy to announce the 2014 Small Business Toolkit, a collaboration project with Wix.com and OnDeck Capital. The document provides small business advice on website creation, marketing and financing. Click here for the press release and quotes from each company.

Most small and mid-sized business owners are just beginning a digital transformation journey. Google and Lpsos Research recently found that over half of U.S. small business owners still don’t have a website. And the Brookings Institute report on small business failure rates shows that many business owners are apprehensive to embrace technology because they still view it as too difficult to manage and too expensive.

Wix.com, Signpost and OnDeck empower small businesses to succeed in an increasingly complex and connected world. We hope that by aggregating our advice in a helpful format, more would-be entrepreneurs and current small business owners will embrace the web to start a venture or increase the health and longevity of their current business.

Download the toolkit today and tell us what you think!

Stuart Wall, CEO, Signpost

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How Local Businesses Can Build a Great Email List

How Local Businesses Can Build a Great Email List

As a local business owner, building an email list is crucial when marketing to current customers. It is much easier (and cheaper) to keep current clients interested than to acquire new ones. Not only will email marketing help retain existing customers, but it can also increase word of mouth – the best form of advertising, as it is free for you! Furthermore, email marketing helps local businesses create and maintain a good relationship with their client base. As you gain more insight into your client base, you will be able to send more effective emails.

The biggest thing to remember when collecting emails is to pinpoint the incentives that will get clients to sign up for your list. Are you going to send them coupons, share tips of the trade, or invite them to events? Consumers want to know what they will “get” from adding themselves to your list, and it is important to make that known during your collection process. If done correctly, this will help you collect more emails. Below you will find a step by step guide for building your email list to help you stay organized and grow your business through email marketing.

Have a Plan

Set goals for your business. How many contacts do you want to add to your list? Where will you store them? How will you use them? Make sure you know exactly why you are collecting emails, and, most importantly, make sure your consumers know too. After you figure out how you will be collecting emails from the list of options below, make a timeline for future marketing efforts.

Collect Emails Through Your Website

You might have invested lots of time and money creating the perfect site, so make sure you use it effectively by giving people a place to put their email.

If you have a WordPress site, there are tutorials on how to add an email address collection plug-in. If you work with a web designer, make sure to ask them to include it on your site. Other self-service website builders often have a plug-in to collect emails on your home page, so make sure to research that to take full advantage.

Get Customer Emails at Checkout/Checkin

The key is consistency and habit.

Having a tablet or laptop on your counter is an easy enough way to collect emails, but collecting them verbally and adding them to your list later works too. Having customers fill out a “new client form” or something to that extent will make the process easy and seamless. If you would like to be more discrete, ask customers if they would like a receipt emailed to them (how green of you!).

Utilize Those Likes!

Using Facebook and other social media platforms is becoming increasingly popular and important to SMBs. Make sure you leverage your social media audience by collecting emails that way as well. You can add a link to your website broadcasting across all platforms that upon signing up, a customer will get exclusive coupons, tips, promos, and/or invitations to events.

Scrape Your Own Accounts

This sounds like a no-brainer, but be sure to weed through your own inbox for contacts you already have. Often times consumers are emailing the business before making a purchase, whether it be with questions or something else. Additionally, a new client may email you after they come in. These people are interacting with your business, so they should definitely be given the opportunity to be kept in the loop on promotions, events, etc.

Building a great list is not something that you do for a month and stop. Set yourself up for success by forming good habits. Make sure you know which of your contacts are most recent, and be sure to continue to collect contacts to keep your list fresh. Building good habits now will only help your business today and in the future. Just think, if you collect 3 extra emails a day, your list will have an extra 1000 local contacts on it each year! As these people refer their friends and family, or even forward your email on, you will see your business grow. Keeping an organized, constantly refreshing email list will not only maintain your client base, but also keep them engaged with your business. This can only mean more sales and a bump to your bottom line.

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