No matter the size of your business, be online now …
I have hundreds of small businesses as clients. These small businesses are struggling to meet payroll. While there are many exceptions, most of my clients are focused on two things, and two things only: Serving the needs of their existing customers and trying to chase down new ones.
Avoid the Trap of Neglecting Important Functions of Your Small Business
Unfortunately, this means many of my clients are often neglecting other important aspects of running a business: accounts payable, legal, financial planning, taxes and even — if you can believe it — accounts receivable and marketing.
As a New Mexico small business attorney, I do my best to help instruct my clients on how and when to engage the services of an attorney, and I really work at being sensitive to the financial plight of my clients. For instance, paying me to review a vendor contract for $200 worth of services doesn’t make sense. However, signing a 5-year lease or a key partnership contract really does require a business attorney to make sure you’re not getting the short-end of the stick or just missing important clauses, terms and conditions.
This is why I have a flat-rate contract review service, that only costs $25/page (minimum 4 pages). For a very small, predictable fee, you can have an experienced small business attorney, with years of experience in business contracts, review your contract and help make sure you aren’t getting your small business into trouble with hidden problems or worse.
In my mind, this is a no-brainer, although I can completely understand why small business owners are scared of engaging an attorney. I can respect and understand the concern with managing legal expenses, and avoiding paying high legal bills.
Ignoring the Internet can Put You Out of Business
Small business owners must not ignore the Internet.
What I cannot understand, however, is how small business owners and entrepreneurs overlook the Internet and marketing when running their business. I don’t care how busy you are, or how intimated the Internet makes you feel. There is simply no excuse not to hire an intern, college student or affordable “Internet marketing representative” to help make sure that (1) that your “online presence” is well represented, and (2) you are getting traffic to your website.
Last week, I had a restaurant owner call me — looking for an attorney to sue UrbanSpoon — because that restauranteur recently found out that UrbanSpoon had listed their restaurant as closed for years. Because of this, this restaurant owner felt their business has declined to such an extent, that they were going to close their doors — and she wanted blood. She wanted to sue UrbanSpoon. Unfortunately for her, as much as I would like to take her money, she just doesn’t have a case for a number of reasons. I told her, instead of spending a dollar on business legal services, I said to place a small ad in the local college newspaper (the Daily Lobo here in Albuquerque, NM) and look for a college intern that can help with their Internet presence. Aside from UrbanSpoon, they should be looking at Google Local, Yelp, CitySearch, Yahoo and others. They should be soliciting reviews and ratings. They should make sure their website reflects their business, and that their “online presence” properly represents their restaurant.
Unfortunately for this restauranteur, it was advice received too late. She was closing her doors. It is a tragedy, although I made it clear that suing UrbanSpoon was a fruitless exercise.
As a small business owner, you either need to spend the time making sure your “online presence” is what you want and need it to be, or you need to hire someone to do it. There is simply no excuse not to do this, and if you’re not, you have no idea what is being said about your small business, or what the online directories and ratings use to reference your business. I see everything from wrong phone numbers, to wrong addresses, and in more severe cases, closed notices or negative ratings and reviews that cause seriously negative marketing issues for my clients.
Manage your “Online” Presence
Whether you like it or not, the Internet represents two significant factors to you and your business (and I don’t care what business you are in). First, almost all of your potential customers and clients use the Internet to perform research on your small business, whether to simply find out your phone number or hours of operation, or to compare and contrast your small company to your competitors. Second, many very popular websites are devoted to having some amount of information about your business.
Therefore, you want to make sure that potential customers and clients see and obtain information that is (1) accurate, and (2) flattering (or at least promotes your company in a positive way).
This means either you, and if you don’t have the time, someone you have hired to do the following (at an absolute minimum):
- Make sure your website has accurate information (i.e. phone number, address, products or services)
- Your business is properly listed and referenced in the general listings (i.e. Google, Bing, Yahoo, CitySearch, Yelp, etc)
- Your business is properly listed and referenced in industry-specific listings or references (i.e. As an attorney, I need to make sure I’m listed in Avvo, RocketLawyer, MartinDale Hubble, and others)
- If customers are rating or reviewing your business, make sure you directly address any negative reviews. Take control of the narrative for your business
Get Traffic to Your Website
Once you have taken control of your “online presence,” so at least your website does a somewhat decent job of representing who you are, what your business does, and how to buy your products or services, then please spend just a bit of effort trying to get traffic to your website.
Interestingly enough, the efforts you did above in managing your online presence, will have a positive impact in getting new customers and clients to your website. However, you need to do more.
When I first started Law 4 Small Business, I created a new website from scratch. I thought of a clever loss-leader (i.e. the flat-rate contract review) to pull in new clients. I made sure L4SB was properly listed in all the relevant search engines, directory services and other places. If L4SB wasn’t listed (and it wasn’t listed in most, because it was brand new), I made sure it became listed.
Once all that work was completed, one of the best, quickest and cost-effective ways of quickly obtaining new clients and seeing more visitors to my website was sending out a press release. I used eReleases.com, who boast that they are the most effective press release service. The results of my press release were simply outstanding! My website traffic shot up. I had new clients from across North America call me. And, I actually had a reporter from the New Mexico Business Weekly call me for an interview. All because of my one press release.
Law 4 Small Business (L4SB). A little law now can save a lot later.