American Express launched Small Business Saturday (SBS) in 2010 to recognize the positive impact that small businesses have on their communities. What better way to call attention to them than by reminding customers to “shop small” and “dine small” the Saturday after Thanksgiving? Black Friday and Cyber Monday already have people in a money-spending mood that weekend. SBS simply shifts the attention from the big box retailers and online giants to the local businesses that are integral to every community.
The new tradition quickly took hold and has become one of the holiday season’s most popular shopping days. In 2015, more than 95 million customers spent a combined $16.2 billion on Small Business Saturday. With SBS fast approaching on Nov. 26, it’s never too early (or too late) to plan what your business will do to encourage customers to shop small and dine small with you.
We’ve already written about how to use social coupons to your business’s advantage on SBS. But how do you make sure that customers find your business when they search in their local area? And how do you make sure that when they do find you, the reviews they see are positive ones?
Here are our tips for making online listings and reviews work for your business — on Small Business Saturday and all year long.
1. Claim your online listings.
Step one in ensuring you can be found online is to claim all the online listings for your business. Many sites automatically generate bare-bones listings for businesses, but their information is often minimal and/or inaccurate. Take possession of your online listings and fill them out completely. Read more on where to claim your online listings and what to include in them.
2. If you update one listing, update them all.
Just as crucial as maintaining online listings is ensuring they all work together — featuring the same accurate information. Listings sites can include everything from your logo and photos of your business to information on hours, specialties and events. While all of this is amazing advertising, it can backfire if you don’t keep track of it. Keep a spreadsheet of all the sites that have a listing for your business. Then, when you update one site, you can quickly go down your list and update all the others too. If your business opens at 9 a.m., but Yelp says you open at 10 a.m., and Google says you open at 9:30 a.m., a confused customer is apt to go somewhere else to find what he or she is looking for.
3. Post Small Business Saturday events and specials on listings sites.
Many of the most popular listing sites offer a way to post special events and other limited-time happenings at your business. Update these sites with details of your SBS event or promotion, so when customers find your listing, they’ll also see what your plans are for the big day. Of course, this guideline applies for any special event or happening you want to promote during the year, not just on one Saturday in November.
4. Get reviews by reminding customers you’re on review sites.
It’s a huge no-no to offer payment or services in exchange for good reviews (that will get you banned from listings sites), and it’s frowned upon to ask customers to review you if they liked your service. But it’s never a bad idea to simply remind your customers that you have online listings, hopefully spurring them to give you a review. Here’s how to remind them:
- Post Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, and other listings sites’ stickers and signs at your place of business and near your registers where customers can see them.
- Add Yelp, Google+, Facebook and other sites’ badges to your website and your emails.
- Add “Look for us on Facebook!” or similar language to your printed receipts and order confirmation emails.
- Include the URL to your top listings on business cards, pamphlets and any printed material that customers can access.
5. Reward check-ins.
Asking for reviews? Bad. Asking for check-ins? Good! Offer a special Small Business Saturday promotion, gift, or discount to people who check in on Yelp, Facebook, or other sites when they visit your business on Small Business Saturday. Their connections will see that they’ve checked in, and instantly you’ve raised awareness and visibility for your business.
6. Celebrate other small businesses.
Small Business Saturday is about all the small businesses that contribute to a community. Offer goodwill and good publicity to other small businesses in your area by retweeting and reposting their Small Business Saturday social media activity. Not only does this increase visibility for other small businesses in your area, but in many cases it results in their doing the same for you, introducing your business to their customer base.
7. Have a game plan for bad reviews.
Even the best businesses get online complaints or bad reviews once in a while. As startling and hurtful as they are, accept that they are simply a reality of being online. As such, they require a cool-headed and measured approach. Here’s what we recommend:
- Cool off first. Responding immediately often means a slapdash response, and you may say something you wouldn’t have with a cooler head. Wait a few hours or a day, and then address the reviewer in a calm, professional tone. Of course, don’t let a review fester indefinitely — try to respond within 24 hours if at all possible.
- Apologize. Resist the urge to point fingers or pass blame, even if you’re correct. “We’re sorry your experience wasn’t up to our usual standards” is a good way to start a response. Address the items you can control. Ask the reviewer to contact you privately if you can be of more assistance. In many cases, just the fact that your business took the time to read, think about, and respond to a negative review will help your business look better to other users.
- Move offline. Don’t let yourself be drawn into an escalating war of words for all to see online. If a situation can’t be addressed in one public response to a negative review, encourage the reviewer to contact you directly to reach a solution.
With these seven tips for maximizing the third-party sites that funnel customers to your business, getting ready for Small Business Saturday is a snap. Make it a great day!
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