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JOHN BONNEY: Why small businesses really must get online

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 13, 2014

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SMALL businesses are incredibly important to any economy.

However, in times of recession and incredibly tough trading times, it is the small business owner who saves the day.

It is not big corporates which drive a country out of recession, it is small business owners, who innovate, adapt and continue to employ people within their local communities.

Small and local businesses are the lifeblood of any country and they pride themselves on building a solid reputation through great service, quality products and word-of-mouth marketing.

For decades small business owners have known the importance of recommendations, referrals and positive reviews.

However, when it comes to online marketing they seem to think the rules are different.

Online marketing is no different to offline marketing; there are just different delivery mechanisms.

Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are just the same as Yellow Pages and directories, referral marketing and word of mouth have been replaced with social media and blogs and content marketing is similar to local newspapers.

However, as an online marketing specialist, I all too often find small business owners either seem frightened of the online arena or bewildered by the techno-babble spoken by many web-based companies.

We recently visited a brilliant local business.

It was clear as soon as you entered the business the owners were passionate about what they did, were experts in their field and were incredibly proud of their customer service.

To support this they had a wall almost covered with notes, postcards, cards and letters from clients thanking them for their service, help, and support and recommending them to other clients.

This immediately built trust in them and what they had to offer.

It was hard to imagine anyone who was serious about buying a fire or appliance would leave their shop without making a purchase.

However, when you looked at their website and online presence (social media etc) there was hardly a mention of these happy customers, testimonials and well wishers.

We have said time and again the currency in this new economy is trust and no where more so than online.

It is essential that small business owners build up positive reviews and recommendations online.

Latest statistics show:

73 per cent of customers say that positive reviews make them trust a business more, up from 58 per cent last year

The number of customers influenced by positive reviews has grown significantly year on year for the past three years

79 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as word-of-mouth recommendations

it is vital any business builds up positive reviews; it is, however, even more vital for the small, local business owner

top sites to add positive reviews include Google Plus / local pages, Yelp, yellow pages, and local newspaper online directories.

REGISTER HERE to attend the Herald Express Free Online Marketing Seminar at the Palace Hotel in Paignton on Wednesday March 26.

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