Raja Saggi, head of SMB Marketing at Google UK and IE, explains how the Google My Business app is providing local business owners with access to potential customers via an effective online platform.
Whether juggling multiple deliveries, trying out a new payments system or managing your customer list, small business owners don’t have a lot of downtime. Trying to work out your online marketing strategy while you’re busy trying to keep ahead of the day-to-day running of your operation can seem like a lot to ask. But, there’s no denying that success as an SME depends on having an online presence as well as a physical one.
Quite simply, search is part of almost every customer journey. Forrester found that 74% of people said they use a search engine for consideration and purchasing new products or services. When it comes to your business being discovered by most customers, a digital presence is a must.
Take the example of a florist’s shop which enjoys a prime position on a busy town’s high street. By making the store attractive the owner certainly has the chance to attract passing trade and even compete favourably with other florists in the area. But without a digital presence it misses out on a number of opportunities.
Many potential customers will be searching online for a supplier before venturing out. Using either Search or Maps, customers will look up florists and are likely to visit the one with the most attractive, detailed online presence. One survey found that 60% of customers felt local results with images grab their attention more. In a business as visual as floristry, it’s clear that product photos are going to be an important deciding factor.
The recently updated Google My Business app is one way businesses can provide a detailed, attractive online listing immediately, with only a few clicks on a smartphone. Uploading a listing also locates your business on Google Maps, creating an information pane when potential customers click on your location. It includes facilities for browsers to message, call, follow or leave you a review.
Critically for pressurised business owners, a Google My Business listing is completely free to create and, unlike search advertising, there is no charge when the link is clicked on.
On top of being able to collect user reviews and comments, the importance of communication going both ways in a business environment is critical. One way for businesses to ensure they’re able to engage with their customers is through using the newly added ‘Post’ button. With a single click, you can upload photos, create offers or events directly to your listing.
You can also edit business information in the Profile tab such as opening hours or a new service and any changes you make will appear in both the Search listing as well as on Google Maps.
Larger companies can afford to hold vast datasets on their customers, keeping track of every interaction to make sure they aren’t asking the same question twice.
This is typically harder for smaller businesses, which is why we developed a function to keep all the information about how users have interacted with you in the Customers tab. There you can respond to reviews or even post an offer to followers to keep them coming back. Soon, you’ll be able to reply directly to messages in the app, too.
But Google My Business is also much more than your online shop window and contact button. Through your Business Profile on Google, businesses can see how many people have seen their listing and connected or interacted. SMEs can use this information to improve their listing and even make changes to their business, such as changing or increasing opening hours, or experimenting with offers to see if this increases the number of people who click through. Data as a business growth tool isn’t just for the multinationals with access to vast and expensive analytics software.
It may seem strange in our intensely digital age to think that there might be businesses that have no online presence, even today. But with pressure on time and resources, a business focused on its physical outlet can sometimes come to search or online presence as something of an afterthought, a tricky task that keeps getting pushed down the to-do list.
With Google My Business it’s possible to create that online listing with a handful of clicks on the app, which opens up a world of customer connections and insight that you’ll wonder how you ever managed without.
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