A current focus for major search engines is local search, in direct competition with the old standby, your phone directory. Google and Yahoo! both offer local search options that help you find businesses in the area.
Of course, what’s most important is making sure everyone can find your business. You may be listed already—they pull data from a wide variety of sources. If you don’t like the description, or you aren’t yet listed, sign up your business and edit details at http://www.google.com/local/add and http://listings.local.yahoo.com. You can even ask customers to post online reviews.
Does your email reinforce your brand with every message? Do people instantly recognize you and your company when they hear from you? If not, it’s a breeze to create a branded email signature with your logo and contact information.
But why stop at a phone number or two? Nearly anything can go in that email signature, so ask yourself what else might be helpful. For some, a photo is appropriate, to remind people who you are or help new contacts put a face to your name. How about a link that maps your office location? If you have a retail operation, that’s a must. Don’t forget to list store hours too.
A newer option is “click to call.” This is a service that asks for your number so it can ring you up and connect you to whatever number is pre-programmed into the link. Why dial 7 or 10 digits when all it takes is a single click? (OK, you still have to type in your number…but it sure seems easier!)
If you have a larger company, online services or software programs installed on your server can provide a consistent signature file for everyone in the company. This is a necessity if you want a legal disclaimer at the bottom of each message. Many can also insert advertising messages, allowing you to rotate promotions for new products and services on a regular basis, quickly and easily.
Have you tried LinkedIn yet? This is the business equivalent of Facebook combined with the Kevin Bacon game, Six Degrees of Separation, which theorizes that anyone on the planet can connect to anyone else by a chain of no more than six people. LinkedIn only takes it to four degrees, but nonetheless it is amazing how quickly your network can grow.
On LinkedIn, you can post your resume, link to business associates and search for long-lost college classmates. You can recommend others; many will reciprocate and provide recommendations for you. Expand your network with tools to automatically scan your address book for other LinkedIn contacts. Browse their networks to find even more connections. Naturally you’ll include details on your business and a link to your website. If you’re feeling ambitious, show off your knowledge by posting answers in the Q&A section of the website. And if you need a resource or have someone you want to meet, search your network to find out who knows who. Chances are that someone you know can help make that connection, whether online or real world.
The more connections I make, the more I find myself using this site. If I meet someone new, it’s easy to learn more about them with a quick search. And since I can see that others are searching for me, I’ve updated my profile to present my company in its very best light, with glowing recommendations from my clients to entice prospects to call.