Back to Basics #27: Keeping Up with Seasonal Demands

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Every year, when the holiday season rolls around, businesses large and small alike scramble to keep up with the increased demand for products. Whether they have to hire new seasonal workers or they simply have to carry extra products to ensure they meet demand, small businesses are often stretched thin and the owners are stressed. It's already December, so by some standards, this article is a little late (oops!), but there are still some good tips you can utilize over the next few weeks to make sure you're adequately keeping up with seasonal demands for your small business.

Labor Costs

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Spending even more money on labor is something that most small business owners shrink away from. It's not a fun prospect—many small businesses already struggle to keep in the black. And while the holidays are a great time to spread the good word about your products and services, they're also demanding. Customers want nearly immediate responses when they have questions, and they want fast product/service delivery. If you can't greet and help all customers during the busiest shopping season of the year, you might find yourself at the receiving end of some pretty scathing reviews. Lots of companies choose to counter this by hiring more staff. For instance, in the retail industry, many businesses must hire greater numbers of workers during the Christmas season to handle the extra work that comes with holiday sales.

For last-minute tips, try:

  • Offering an incentive for workers to come in early or stay a bit late--but be sure to follow through! Coupons, bonuses, and prizes all work well as incentives.
  • Extending customer service hours--even if you take a few calls or answer a few emails on your personal time, your customers will appreciate it, and you don't have to hire the extra help.
  • Setting up a comfortable area for customers to wait in your store. Providing free coffee, water, and tea can help ease tensions. And don't forget to make sure customers understand where and how long to wait.

Putting All the Details in Place

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Many small business owners say that they prepare for the holiday rush months ahead of time. They double-check to make sure their websites are easily accessible, up-to-date, and properly linked to social media accounts; others go a step further and post coupons and holiday deals that can be redeemed online or in-store. Some focus mostly on PR campaigns and online contests to ensure their customers hear about holiday sales on the most popular social media channels; in turn, they hope that the customers will share information with friends to spread the word. Still others prepare written materials to hand out to customers for word-of-mouth marketing purposes.

While some companies choose to plan everything to a T, there are others who choose to do things more "organically". They might opt for casual online events to save on the costs of printing or advertising, or they might try to prepare the best they can without actually crunching numbers or hiring anyone new.

Which method would be best for you? Well, it really depends on your industry and the flow of your holiday traffic. Retail stores might lean more heavily toward hiring staff, while a small, one-person business might simply stock up and hope for the best. Read this thread at The Guardian for some more advice from other business owners.

Stock Up

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If you think you can handle the busy shopping season by simply stocking up on inventory and planting your feet firmly on the ground, so be it! If you're more the kind who makes sure all holiday items are in stock well before the holidays and you've already hired all your seasonal workers, that’s great, too. Either way, you should always anticipate a higher demand for products and develop a plan to address that need:

  • Run through your numbers from the year. Which products sold best? Do you have enough in stock now? What if customers would like to have the items shipped?
  • Think about returns and refunds. Will you offer returns or refunds if customers decide they don't want to keep your product? What about gift receipts?
  • Are there any special items you only carry during the holidays? How about services that will need to be provided no matter what time of year it is (e.g., plumbing, emergency electrical work)? How will you handle any extra inventory if you should have leftover products? If you provide services, how can you make sure you are available during busy or inconvenient times (say, the day before Christmas)?

Another tip you shouldn't forget: Make sure your business is fully insured for special circumstances. If you have insurance but fail to update the cover for winter weather-related issues, you would essentially leave your business under-insured. For those who work from home, this can be even more dire: If you store your stock or products in a separate building, you might not be insured if the items are stolen or damaged. That means you'll have to be extra careful in this rainy, cold, and snowy season! So be sure to take the extra steps to ensure you have adequate stock, and that it's fully insured and protected as necessary. This is, after all, one of the worst times of the year to take a financial hit.

 

In the coming weeks, we hope you see a lot of success at your small business. The holidays are a great time of year—for family and friends, and for those of us who choose to serve the public through retail and skilled services. Let us know if you have any other tips that you think others should know about! It's the season for sharing, after all :)

Back to Basics #13: Why Am I Not Showing Up on Google?

woman-thinking-about-seo It’s a question a lot of small business owners have: Why am I not showing up on Google? You’ve made sure you’re listed on all the major business listings, you’ve optimized your posts and images, and you’re still not seeing your name pop up at the beginning of the results. What gives?

Unfortunately, Google is slow at crawling, indexing, and shifting listings around. And it can be really pokey for newer websites. To make matters worse, once you finally get the hang of things and begin ranking, you can easily be derailed by a change in the algorithm, which means you'll have to find a way to crawl back up to the top of the listings once again. It’s not easy, and it’s definitely not fun.

To illustrate our point, we’ve put together an article that should help explain how everything works. To help you understand our process, we’ll use a “garden” metaphor. Your business is like a garden—you have individual plants, or products, that you want to “grow”. But a garden doesn’t produce the best fruits and blooms overnight. It takes time. So let's take a look at our gardening strategy...

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Step 1: Plan and Prepare. After you’ve signed up with us, you’ll talk to one of our account specialists to make sure we get the correct information for your listing. Generally speaking, this is a smooth process. However, mistakes are sometimes made, and we encourage our customers look over their account information to ensure accuracy. If something’s off, let us know! We’ll get it changed as soon as possible. This sets the groundwork for your internet marketing campaign, so it’s important that we provide as detailed and accurate information as we can.

Step 2: Select Your Seeds. Once we have all customer-approved information, we can begin discussing keyword choices. Choose some of your own, and our experts will come up with a few as well. Think of your keywords as the seeds for your garden: once selected, we’ll come up with content that will help people find you using the keywords you've selected. For example, if you’re a roofing contractor, you might want to rank for “roofing”. However, this is a highly competitive keyword, and often it’s just too vague. To get more accurate results, most people will search for something more specific. Our experts will help you find more descriptive terms that are much more likely to get you ranking on the first page.

planting-seeds

Step 3: Plant Your Seeds. Now that you have your keywords selected, our experts will write custom content that helps Google and other search engines associate your chosen terms with your business name. We’ll add detailed content descriptions to localize and promote your business. Your site will be submitted across a wide range of directories, so that no matter how or where people search, they can find your business. It’s like nurturing any plant seed—with regular attention and the proper nutrients, it will grow into a healthy plant. The more time spent on optimizing listings and creating custom content for your listings, the better the results will be! Which brings us to…

Step 4: Give it Time. This brings us back to the problem at the beginning of the article. You’ve done everything you can—now why aren’t you ranking? Well, that’s because you need to give your listing time to “grow”. There are a lot of factors that go into ranking, such as how many competitors you have, how well they’re ranking, and the type of service you provide. If you’re a seasonal supplier, you might have more obstacles to overcome during certain times of the year. However, this doesn’t mean that your listing won’t take root—it will probably just take a little longer to begin ranking due to the decreased demand for services. Consistency and accuracy of listings also plays a major role, as do regular updates. Furthermore, it is impossible to begin ranking overnight. Many people are all too anxious to see their business showing up on Google—and rightfully so!—but unfortunately, it takes time no matter how successful your business already is. You can purchase Google ads to increase likelihood of click-throughs and you can definitely place ads on Facebook or other social media sites, but if you want to rank organically (that is, pop up when someone searches for your products or services), you have to give your garden time to grow.

Grandmother with her granddaughter working in the garden

Step 5: Water with Care. At Internet Local Listings, we keep up-to-date with the latest listings and search engine algorithm changes. What does this mean for your company? It means that when we find a new place to submit your listing, we’ll do it for you. When Google makes changes, we make sure we comply. To bring us back to the garden analogy, it’s part of caring for the plants—weed out bad practices and nurture the ones that are known to work. But keep in mind that with every new or changed listing, it can take Google a few days to approve the changes. There’s no need to worry if you notice your listings have changed—everything should be back to normal soon!

Step 6: Keep Up the Maintenance. As long as you’re in business and want to remain on Google’s front page, you’ll have to keep maintaining your listings. As part of our agreement, Internet Local Listings will take care of this for you. If you need to make any changes to your listings, be sure to let us know and we’ll get your information updated ASAP. If you want to change keywords, we’ll be happy to help you with that, too. It’s our job to make sure that you’re 100% satisfied with your listings across the internet, so we encourage you to reach out and contact us with any questions or concerns.

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Want more information on our internet marketing services? Just visit us at InternetLocalListingsInc.com and we'll be happy to assist you in any way we can!

Back to Basics #11: 5 Small Business Marketing Ideas Anyone Can Do

small business marketing ideas Small business marketing is a tricky thing to get the hang of: Small business owners often struggle knowing when or how often to post updates on social media; what to post about or how to gather content ideas; or even when to start blogging or how to connect with potential readers. It can be overwhelming, to be sure, especially when you are strapped for time and have a limited budget. So in this article, we’re going to talk a bit about a few small business marketing ideas that anyone can do easily and cheaply—whether you’re completely new to online advertising or you’ve been trying your hand at it for a while and just aren’t seeing the results that you want.

  1. Develop a PR Strategy. As this article from Entrepreneur suggests, it’s important for all companies, particularly small businesses, to make sure that they have a PR strategy in place. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to have a large budget or spend a ton of time on it—in fact, small businesses can implement great PR campaigns into their social media strategies. Take the Kleenex example cited in the article: In 2011, Kleenex searched Facebook to find fifty people who posted about being sick. After getting into contact with friends and family members, they sent care packages to the ailing cold-sufferers. The recipients were so pleased that they posted happy pictures of their care packages. Great PR and usage of social media in one shot—and a very cheap maneuver.
  2. Start a podcast. Have you ever subscribed to a podcast? They’re great to listen to on the commute to work or in the morning while getting ready to head out for the day. And they’re also easy to make! As Inc.com suggests, you might want to try interviewing other business owners for their point of view on marketing or advertising. Or maybe you’d like to put together a podcast series of how-to’s—for example, plumbers or electrical contractors do very well with these types of podcasts. You can teach people how to do things they want to learn more about, while still drawing attention to your company. It’s a win-win situation!
  3. Forget advertising like the big brand names. While it’s perfectly fine to draw inspiration from popular advertising campaigns, you have to remember who the big companies are marketing to. They can reach far more people than you are able to, and they have the budget to pull it off. Don’t waste your time trying to dissect everything a large company does---instead, focus on how you can connect with your local customers in the best way possible. You could try hosting a photo captioning contest on Facebook where the winner gets a coupon. You could try running a “special offer” for a day if one of your tweets gets 50 retweets. Maybe sending out a postcard to your loyal customers is a good idea. Think about these types of marketing techniques and choose one that works for you.
  4. Networking with other small business owners. Nowadays, you can easily network online through sites such as LinkedIn. But nothing will ever replace the face-to-face value of networking in person. To meet other people in your industry, attend local seminars. Offer to speak at colleges or other events. If there are conventions in your area, look into speaking on a panel—or if not speaking, attend and ask questions. You could even try going to a book club or submit a press release to your local newspaper. By connecting with other small business owners, you’ll be able to better navigate the local scene and make yourself a go-to brand name in the town.
  5. Claim your online listings. Believe it or not, your business could already be listed on places like Google and Bing. The problem is that you haven’t claimed the listings yet. By claiming your own listings, you let your customers know that you exist, and you provide consistent information so that no matter which search engine they use to find you, your information will always be correct. Furthermore, claiming listings helps with online rankings, and once you are listed consistently across the internet, you’ll see more traffic being driven to your site!

Want more information on small business marketing ideas? Subscribe to our posts via email, or you can also like us on Facebook, follow Follow @InternetListing on Twitter and Pinterest, and circle us on Google Plus! Let us know how Internet Local Listings can best assist you with your small business marketing needs!

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsWi7OXDW1Y]