60 Free Local Business Online Directories

A great profitable step to take on your way to total local market domination is to take advantage of all of the FREE and EASY ways to help customers find you.

Forget the old days of advertising in the Yellow Pages with a ‘big ad is better’ mentality. If you’re still a believer in that strategy, you’re just going to lose your hard earned money – maybe even your business – a little bit faster.

As a local business – small or large – attracting new customers will always be a challenge so you need to work hard to keep your name profitably visible.

For the majority of people today, opening up a local Yellow Pages book to find a business is an outdated, antiquated – if not non-existent – method for of search!

Today, we simply Google to find your business – and you better be there at the top of the page!

Today, there’s a great, free and easy way for local businesses to get found on the Web and that is, by completing their profiles in online directories  and claiming their turf. And, it seems these directories continue to pop up online.

It’s pretty simple to add a listing, but if you’re only listing with Google – as powerful as it is – you’re missing out on lots of opportunities to get found by people who are interested NOW in what you’re selling.

Did you know that 82% of local internet searches follow-up offline with an in-store visit, phone call or purchase? Well, it’s true.  In fact, check out this Local Web Infographic for more insights.

Every online directory you submit your Business to gives you one more chance to step up to the plate and hit a home run with your customers.

Over the past few year or so, we’ve come across over 60 free online directories to date (see below), and wish you much success in using the list to help you get found.  If you come across any others, please let us know so we can add to our list.

60 A to Z and Free Local Business Online Directories

AOL Patch SitesAmerican TownsAxciomBest Deals onBest of the Web
BingBizJournals.comBiznikBrownbookChoiceVendor.com (TBD – bought by LinkedIn)
CitySearchCitySlickCitySquaresCityVoterDex
Discover our TownFoursquareGenieknowsGoogle PlacesHopStop
HotfrogInfignosInfoUSAJudysbookJustclicklocal
 Kudzu LinkedInLocal.comLocalCompanySearchLocalEze
Localndex.comLocal Pages Local Site SubmitMagic YellowMapquest
 Manta MatchPoint Merchant CircleMetrobotMojoPages
 MyhuckleberryNavteq GPSOutside.inRelyLocalShowMeLocal
Supermedia
(Yellow Pages)
TeleAtlasThinkLocalTopixTwibs
UsCity.netUSYellowPagesWhitepagesYahoo!Yellowassistance
 YellowbookYellowbotYellowPages.comYelpZiplocal
ZipwebTravelocity*UrbanSpoon**Note:HospitalityAngies List – Service Providers

Here are three final key points.

First, to see where you rank now, go to this GetListed.Org link.

Second, you might get tired filling in all of these online directory forms, so check out Firefox’s Auto-Fill add-on link to help save you some time.

Third, if you still don’t have the time to complete online directories for your business/es and keep them up-to-date,  check out companies like BrandMill or others such as Yext.Com who will charge you a small fee to keep you updated in online directories.

Good luck in getting found more often!

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No Luck of the Irish Needed for Great Websites

Just in time for the annual ‘Season of St. Patrick’ that starts March 1 – and for the Great Guinness Toast that starts tonight at 11:00 p.m. at Irish Pubs throughout the world – we’re proud to report that our launch of a new Website for our good friends at Riley’s Pour House in Carnegie, PA is doing great!

In it’s first 2 ½ days of existence, the page views for Riley’s new Website outperformed the former proprietor’s Website performance for the entire year! Yes, you read that right!

What’s our secret? A little luck of the Irish maybe?

Maybe a little luck – we were lucky to land a great client that’s for sure.

However, far more credit goes to having a good solid brand to promote with good old fashioned hard work, Public Relations, Social Media Marketing integrations and excellent SEO writing inspired by a few pints of Guinness!

Yes my friends, Guinness is good for you!

Slainte!

P.S.: To help you along in March, here’s an old post about the 15 Marketing Lessons of St. Patrick’s Day – enjoy!

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How to Build a Great Website for Less

That’s less time, money and aggravation.

Over 10 years ago, when I started to really delve into Website design it was nothing for even simple sites to easily cost five figures.  Not today.

WordPress is the Best For Us

I’m a huge WordPress fan and it’s hard to argue against its robust open source platform, ease of use and cost (free) for Website design. We “eat our own dog food” at BrandMill (so to speak) as our Website actually is a WordPress site.

I highly recommend WordPress to most all of our clients and for them to use a competent Web designer or firm (like BrandMill  – wink)  to create a custom-branded template (StudioPress is an excellent turn-key solution) and to train them to update the site themselves.

20 Free (or Inexpensive) Website Services

However, in my travels, conversations and research, I’ve come across a growing list of inexpensive and/or free Web services available these days that may make some sense for start-ups and SMBs such as:

  1. Big Cartel (eCommerce)
  2. Big Commerce (eCommerce)
  3. Drupal Gardens
  4. Empowerkit
  5. iMatrix
  6. Jigsy
  7. Posterous
  8. Powweb
  9. Shopify (eCommerce)
  10. SiteKreator
  11. SnapPages
  12. Squarespace
  13. Vendder (eCommerce)
  14. Vendio (eCommerce)
  15. Volusion (eCommerce)
  16. Webpop
  17. Weebly
  18. Wix
  19. Yola
  20. YP Website Solutions

I dig Posterous, Vendio and Shopify and I’m sure sme of the other Shop sites are worth exploring) however our initial research into most of the other vendors still look like vendor sites from 10 years ago.

We consult with a lot of SMBs and nearly all of them need a new web presence if they’ve dabbled with one of the above vendors because of the lack of SEO, customer support and much, much more. You get what you pay for in life and with Websites. And, no Website in the world will achieve its true sales potential without constant care driven by keyword rich content marketing, SEO and more.

For the past few years, we’ve been providing marketing consulting for SMB borrowers of our financial client that manages a redevelopment loan fund. Most of the businesses they lend to are ‘mom and pop’ firms and their marketing funds are tight to non-existent.

Certainly if these brands could not afford a Website, we’d recommend against doing so, however in our opinion they can’t afford not to have one.  In the most extreme cases, a social media presence (e.g., Facebook) could be the marketing beginning for them, but we’ve found WordPress to be a perfect solution – it has decent Shop plugins too.  Facebook is great, but it is a ‘closed garden’ meaning that you need to participate/join to benefit whereas, with a Website you’re open to the world. Again, you can’t afford NOT to have a Website.

5 SMB Website Building Steps

In short, here are the 5 steps we’ve repeatedly used to help build a cost effective Website presence for our SMBs:

  1. Start a Facebook page, create a content strategy, contribute, respond, listen and deliver value (apply strategy to Website too)
  2. Buy your own domain (register.com, godaddy.com, name.com etc. – and, just get a .com extension)
  3. Host your domain with a reputable, cost-effective hosting firm.  We like godaddy.com (search for a coupon code and use it) because it’s inexpensive, can scale with you, plays well with WordPress and has super customer care.  You can actually talk to LIVE people. What a concept.
  4. Hire someone to help you launch a WordPress Website (e.g., a smart college intern could help too). You want to own your site and control your own brand destiny. You’ll want to add themes, analytics (WordPress comes complete with back-end analytics, but add (for free) Google analytics code to your site). Consider Flickr to host photos/albums and back into your site social media plugins.
  5. Read/study/master/execute content strategy. OK, well you don’t necessarily have to master Web design and code, but you should strive to gain a healthy working knowledge of it. Start with the WordPress for Dummies book.  Learning this stuff is no different than learning about any investment you make.  You need to have expert help to some degree, but to maximize that help, you need to understand what you’re getting into and what to expect. Keep adding rich valuable content to your site on at least a weekly basis.  A Blog will help.

For my money these are the 5  steps to get a great Website up and running for little time and money.

I hope this essay helps you experience much good fortune. Good luck!

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Social Media Marketing Presentation

Yesterday, I was honored to give a Social Media Marketing presentation at the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association’s Western Chapter’s Harvest Your Profits Fall Summit (click here to download presentation). The presentation certainly had a restaurant, hospitality focus, but it’s applicable to most any retail industry.

Having worked in hospitality and restaurant marketing for over 20 years, it’s close to my heart because it’s one of the toughest, yet most gratifying industries. If you’re looking for leading edge marketing, look no further than the folks in the hospitality industry because the great ones know that they need to “bring it” every day – the successful ones know that they’re only as good as their last meal!

You got to love people with that kind of attitude and passion – it’s contagious – and a BIG reason I love working in the industry.

And, you got to love the people who volunteer their time and expertise to associations like the PRA and staffers such as Heidi Howard. They selflessly work hard to help move the hospitality industry forward  to make it better for themselves and their customers and at the same time defend it against government controls – many of which are unconscionable efforts to blatantly rob them (e.g., crazy drink taxes) of their hard earned money.

My thanks to PRA Western Chapter president Steve Musciano of ARAMARK and his board for inviting me, Susan Sansale, owner/operator of the beautiful venue The Chadwick (and incoming PRA Western Chapter president) for hosting the event and super organizer and board member extraordinaire Murrie Emamzadeh for orchestrating a super event!

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New iPad Wine List Rocks

I got my new iPad back in May – a moment in time I’ll always refer to as my “Christmas in May” and am having a love affair with it.

Sure there are things about the iPad that I wished it had, but the positives outweigh the negatives.

When I started to play with the iPad, I started to think thought long and hard about how we can apply it to improve our client’s business.

We do a ton of hospitality marketing work and this past summer, one of our great clients, Kevin Joyce owner of The Carlton Restaurant in Pittsburgh had closed his restaurant for two months for a much needed remodel after 25 years in business.

Kevin called me to go over some new ideas to kick off the new restaurant with a bang –  especially since his reopening was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, August 18 – opening night of Pittsburgh’s new Consol Energy Center with a concert by Sir Paul McCartney.

One of my first thoughts, was what could we do to:

  1. Reaffirm the fact that The Carlton has the biggest and best wine lists (15+ year Wine Spectator Award winner) – Great Wine is a big USP for the restaurant
  2. Complement The Carlton’s new 450 bottle wine library – the restaurant’s soul
  3. Showcase the fact that The Carlton offers the best wine dinners in Pittsburgh

In a snap, we thought, “Create an iPad Wine List to replace The Carlton’s 45 page paper wine list.” Using an iPad wine list would create a “halo” effect of flawless contemporary execution of the Carlton’s 45 page paper wine list and separate them even more so from the pack of restaurants they compete against.

As an aside – I know I may be biased, but I think The Carlton i the best restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh and I thought that fact to be true long before I started working for them…anyway…

Instinctively back in May, we Googled “iPad wine list” and could not find any U.S. restaurant using iPads for menus, but we found a great story about an Australian restaurant that swapped out its menus for iPads.

Kevin and I must have been doing a “Vulcan Mind Meld” at the time, because when we called him, he said he saw the Aussie story  and was ready to rock.

Our iPad wine list is not as aggressive as the Aussie menu – we prefer to walk before we run with the wine list first then potentially move to the food menu – but I can tell you that the iPad has significantly improved The Carlton’s brand image of Pittsburgh’s premier dining and wine establishment and improved wine sales too – customers love it!

We’ll soon cut a brief video explaining how the wine list works, but know these things:

  1. The iPad can be used to help lift your business
  2. Look for products and/or service executions that create brand “halo” USPs
  3. It’s better to phase in technology improvements to your business to flawlessly execute and gain an immediate WOW from your customers before someone else comes along and steals your marketing thunder and you look like a market follower and/or a “me too” brand**
  4. Great clients make great marketing firms

**Note: In the time we started to work on and launch The Carlton’s iPad wine list, there have been major news articles about iPad wine lists in use at Central Park South Gate restaurant (7.2.10),  Bones in Atlanta (9.13.10), III Forks in Jacksonville (8.11.10), but hey The Carlton had the first iPad wine list in Pennsylvania! More news to come as we continue to improve our iPad wine list effort.

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$6 Google AdWords Campaign Lands Dream Job

For anyone looking for a new job (pay attention college grads) or trying to get that next big sale and running into a roadblock because you can’t get the attention of a key decision maker, check out this brilliant job search strategy by copywriter Alec Brownstein.

  1. Brownstein used Google AdWords to target Ad Agency Creative Directors on Madison Avenue in New York
  2. He bet 15 cents per click that these Creatives were no different than the rest of  us self absorbed people who Google ourselves
  3. What the CD’s saw when they Googled themselves was a personal ad from Brownstein – BRILLIANT!
  4. Young & Rubicam offered him a job!

Note: Brownstein’s Google Job Experiment YouTube video has been viewed over 500,000 times!  Rock on Alec!

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NHL Scores Clutch Marketing Goal

Growing up in the city of Pittsburgh in the 60’s and 70’s, hockey wasn’t the hot sport it has become, and even today I’m what the NHL calls a “casual fan.”

However, when it comes to NHL hockey marketing, I’m a rabid fan. After the lockout season of 2004-05, the NHL has put forth an amazing marketing power play. The NHL has become more relevant, is skating with a cool, new swagger and is scoring huge marketing goals!

This New York Sports Journalism feature outlines several of the key marketing initiatives the NHL has embraced such as getting back to the roots of their game with the Winter Classic, embracing and communicating player’s unique stories, creating special events aligned with sponsor brand needs, taking full advantage of the 2010 Olympics in Canada, becoming an online category killer and more. Their social media strategy is a killer one too.

The NHL offers great marketing lessons to all brands in search of a comeback.

As an added bonus, here are a few mobile marketing insights from the Chicago Blackhawks featuring an SMS case study and the New York Rangers $1 million dollar mobile sweepstakes.

P.S.: More good news.  Brand NHL has got it’s groove back and introduces its cool new NHL iPhone App announced via NHL.Com

Go Pens!

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Guilty on All Three Counts

NERD ALERT!

This chart shows that nearly 30% of U.S. consumers use their cell phones and/or computers at the same time they watch TV.

And, I have to say that I’m guilty on all three counts and possibly four, because I can hold a conversation at the same time – at least I think so – but, don’t ask my wife!

The integration of marketing messages across platforms is becoming more critical by the minute – as well as the ability for Brand’s to create clear, easy to understand and remarkably meaningful communications.

Keep this chart in mind the next time you try to pack 60 seconds of vanilla milkshake copy into a 30 second television commercial!

Source: Experian Simmons DataStream 4.13.10

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Lt. Col. Allen West – A Marketer’s Dream

I don’t have many favorite politicians – check that – I don’t have a one! And, I’d bet most of you don’t have one.

Until maybe now.

Republican candidate for Congress and former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel Allen West is someone I’ve been following throughout his race in the Sunshine State!

And you should too.

Allen West, is a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and is running this November as a Republican candidate for the United States Congress in Florida’s District 22.

Watch this video of West in action. No notes – pure passion and conviction – clear message coming from experience – a complete mastery of the power of video and the mastery of the public speech!

When the Republicans and McCain and Co., got outgunned and derailed by the Obama campaign in the last presidential election, there’s no question that one of big contributing factors was that they were far behind in mastering the New World Order of interactive and social media marketing tools.

In the next election/s, you’ll see that everyone will be on the SMM bus. And, it will be somewhat of a level playing field in terms of marketing execution since most everyone will be wearing a pretty nice SMM tool belt and carrying a well equipped toolbox.

Check out West’s Web site and you’ll see its complete with all the appropriate SMM tools however, his talent, integrity, character and clear brand message and performance rules.

Certainly money helps, but in this online, always on world we live in, citizen journalists can help West even out the playing field for his underfunded brand.

Watch out for the Allen West’s of the world (performance based brands with character, integrity and trustworthiness) and remember that tools are cool, but tools don’t rule because anybody can buy them and learn how to use them.

To excel these days, recognize that for today’s informed consumer, what truly matters is a clearly communicated and meaningful brand promise delivered from a trustworthy, proven brand. Guaranteed.

P.S.: I call Lt. Col. Allen West a Marketer’s dream because it’s so easy to promote a brand you believe in. I’ll bet West wins in November – this American Patriot prays and hopes that he does – we need more good people like him in government.

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Making Your Internet Search Experience Easier

Making common repeatable things easy for people to do is great way to stand out from the crowd and make money too.

Internet search engine fatigue is a biggie for me – and for over 70% of you too – and AllMyFaves has been a godsend to me. It’s a simple virtual and visual directory that includes a list of top and most visited sites in major daily-used subject categories such as Blogs, Entertainment, Games, Kids Shopping, Travel and Weekly Favs, but the Home Page alone is awesome.

AllMyFaves is an interesting customer service model for a self help tool.  And, it’s a great model for those of us looking to drive revenue because making things easier for time starved people is a killer strategy and will always be a welcome one.

Are you easy to do business with? Are there ways to improve your processes to improve your “easiness?” Can you improve your messages (e.g., Web site) with more visuals and/ore better design? Is it easy to search your own Web site and find things?

Study AllMyFaves and I’m sure you’ll find a few ideas to apply to your business and improve your quality of internet search life at the very same time.

Check out the AllMyFaves story here.

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