7 Free Marketing Tools for Local Businesses

Local businesses often ask us how they can do a better job marketing their business online. However, businesses don’t always need to invest in big advertising spend or fancy tools. Here are 7 free marketing tools any business owner can use.

 

1. Yelp’s free, real-time email notifications for new reviews

Engaging in friendly communication with negative reviewers of your business can be a powerful way to earn back business and demonstrate professionalism in a public forum. Yelp offers free, real-time alerts each time a new review is left on your business. This allows you to see when a review is left and respond in a more timely manner. If you have multiple Yelp listings, you may want to set up an email distribution list for routing the alerts to the right folks. This would also help you avoid the hassle of resetting the email address of the recipients if employees leave the company.

2. Hootsuite Free Plan

Many businesses use social media to build their web presence and engage their audience. Managing high engagement across multiple social channels can feel chaotic without organization. Hootsuite offers a free plan that allows management of 3 different social media platforms, allowing you to login with one password and instantly switch between each profile. The management tools include basic analytics, scheduled social media posts, and integration of two RSS feeds.

3. Reputology’s Review Generator

For a limited time, Reputology is offering a free tool that helps you convert your satisfied customers into promoters for your business. You can create a feedback form that is shared and offered to your customers. If the customer reports being unsatisfied, the form directs their info to you, allowing you to address any concerns before they post their complaints online. If your customers indicate they are happy, they can route them to a review site where they can share their experience with others. This allows you to build your business’s reputation while addressing any existing problems.

4. Free Google My Business Listing 

Google may not be the first thing that pops into your head when you think of review sites, but Google has surpassed all other sites by number of new reviews. You want to create a free Google My Business so that your business appears when people submit relevant Google searches in your area or using Google Maps. Customize your profile by adding quality photos along with well written descriptions that will show up close to the top on a Google search. Google Maps will also use GPS to prompt visitors to write reviews, so having a listing on Google My Business can help you gain traction on your online ratings.

 

5. Facebook Business Page

Second only to Google in terms of number of new reviews, Facebook is often overlooked as a review site, but it is a valuable platform for free marketing. Make your page look great with quality photos of your business, detailed descriptions, and regular posts that share engaging content to your audience. You can also add a call-to-action button that makes it easy for visitors to be directed to your business’ full website.

 

6. Instagram

Business profiles on Instagram can gain lots of traction by producing visually compelling content to draw in and engage consumers. And some have taken advantage of Instagram’s video feature to create short videos that are fun and humorous, like Dapper & Wise Roasters in Portland, OR. This sort of sharable content has helped this small coffee roaster with suburban roots to gain a substantial following relative to other roasters that have been in the competitive Portland coffee scene longer.

7. American Express Openforum

American Express Openforum is a valuable resource that features advice, tips, and informational articles from guest writers across various industries. This site is a great spot to turn to for any small business owner looking for some free guidance, and answers some of the tougher questions such as how to handle negative reviews, what to do if someone is boycotting your business, and more.

Example of A Good Response to a Negative Review… Almost

Welcome to the 3rd installment of “How NOT to Respond to a Negative Review” – a series of blog posts in which we analyze actual online interactions between business owners and their patrons to help you navigate what to do (and what not to do) when it comes to proper management of reviews. We typically provide examples of bad responses to negative reviews, but today we wanted to mix things up by showing you an example of a (relatively) good response to a bad review & explaining how and why it works.

You’ll find a lot of good points made in this response, though it’s certainly not without its flaws. Let’s dive in and take a look at the Pros and Cons of this Eurocar owner response.

PROS

  1. The owner conveys a general sense of politeness and respect. While they employ a succinct and firm tone, this owner has been careful not to veer into the pitfalls of labeling or emotionally reactive behavior.
  2. The owner addresses the issue head-on. The customer’s concern is straightforward: prices are higher than competition. Here, we can see that the owner jumps right into the reply without tip-toeing around the matter at hand.
  3. The owner asserts product quality and offers conflict resolution. They are able to tout premium quality of their parts while simultaneously offering to price match competitors—notice the catch here is that the owner is confident that comparable businesses are in fact using inferior parts, hence why their prices are lower.

CONS

  1. The response is untimely (getting back a year later simply doesn’t cut it). Reaching out in a thoughtful and productive manner is only half the battle—make sure to do so quickly, or your response may fall on deaf ears.
  2. The owner fails to show gratitude for the review. While doing so may require you to swallow a bit of pride, demonstrating your gratefulness for any feedback on your company will show others openness and class.

The big takeaway from all this that you don’t have to be so eager to make pesky reviews disappear. Getting creative with your approach to review management can be an invaluable asset. At the very least, poor reviews can provide a good learning experience for you and your employees. And oftentimes, in cases such as this, they can be a way to showcase some of your company’s greatest strengths.

Drunk, shoeless reviewers (How NOT to respond to negative reviews)

Handling negative reviews with tact and professionalism is an effective way to show that you care about customer feedback and have great customer service. But sometimes owner responses can lack… um… “thoughtfulness” and make matters worse. In this series – “How NOT to respond to negative reviews” – we look at some choice replies and walk you through how to deal with difficult reviews.

The Case of the Drunk, Shoeless Reviewer

Let’s breakdown this review and point out what the business could have done better so that you don’t make the same mistake.

What Not to Do

  • Don’t use poor grammar and misspell. “Unrealised”? Using poor grammar and misspelling words can make your company look mismanaged and careless. Taking the time to make sure your statement is free of errors is a simple thing you can do to appear professional.
  • Don’t name call or insult the reviewer. No matter how bad the situation, you should never insult a customer, i.e. call him or her a “drunk liar”. Not only could it further aggravate the reviewer and prompt him to take further action, but it makes you look bad to others reading the review.
  • Don’t accuse. Along the lines of name-calling, once you accuse you have entered a dangerous territory. You can state the facts: “You lost your shoes but then you found them”. But attacking someone’s character or intentions may provoke a reaction or raise concerns about your professionalism.

What to Do

  • Respond quickly but not haphazardly. Responding to negative feedback quickly is essential, but only if your response is well thought out and appropriate. Sometimes “haste makes waste”, so taking a few minutes to calm down will give you the time you need to craft a polite and concise response.
  • Be polite, even when you’re right. If you are not at fault, simply state the facts. You have the right to let the truth be known, but you need to be diplomatic and not give the reviewer a reason to keep the fight going, which leads to the next point…
  • Go offline. As you know, some people love to take their frustrations out online. As a business, you don’t want to fuel that fire. Taking the conversation offline by giving the reviewer a way to contact you directly allows you to end the online discussion organically.

Unfortunately, some people may not want a solution; they just want to complain and maybe get a reaction. When you have a negative review such as this, you still need to remain calm and not get into a blame game. Showing patience, insight, and sincerity is good business practice, if not to appeal to the reviewer but to demonstrate to prospective customers that you are a professional organization.

If you’d like more information, check out the comprehensive, step-by-step guide for responding negative reviews.