There are so many creative ways for local businesses to get creative about marketing for dirt cheap, even free. Google Maps is one resource forgotten to many local businesses. Here are 5 ways local businesses can use Google’s user generated mapping functions, and social mapping tools to gain an edge in your area.
1. Incentivize by Sharing Coupons: You can use google maps to post updates and coupons for your business in real time so people looking at Google maps can be notified of your deal. Sharing this coupon with the world on Google Maps allows you to bring in business that might not otherwise consider you.
Here’s a thought: Lets say there is a big marathon supporting a cause happening on Sunday morning that is close to your venue. Use Google Places to post a coupon for those people participating in the event. Of course you will need to promote this coupon and most likely, event sponsors will be more than happy to help you out by spreading the word. If you are a service provider, adding yourself as a place still adds value with the exposure it can provide. Event traffic or even just people passing by can be brought in with a well crafted coupon found while browsing Google maps. People will naturally want to share this information as everyone loves to save money and know about a hot deal- just look at Groupon. While they leverage the power of collective buying, you can leverage the power of local community events, good causes, and everyone’s shared love of saving money!
2. Share a Compelling Route for People to Try: Use Google MyMaps to create and share your own “route” for people to try. Get the other businesses around involved by providing deals to people trying the route. By sharing your route with the world you are giving you, your community, and even travelers a reason to check out your business. The more interesting and compelling the story behind the route, the more willing people will be to try it. (remember the new rules of word of mouth marketing online?) Obviously, try and test the route yourself first before promoting it.
Here’s a thought: Let’s say you own a bar or restaurant. You can create a route on the greatest 5 course meal your town has to offer. You can create a “Wine Walk” or Bar Crawl for the college kids by creating a route with MyMaps. Share your route with patrons, friends or with the whole world. This can build community with you and the other businesses around. Promote the new route on your other social networks and encouraged others on the route to create incentives for people trying it out. Who knows? Your route could get the attention of travel bloggers, publications, and enthusiasts for free press that can do wonders for your business. Rachael Ray’s tasty travels is a huge hit with female foodies so why don’t you make yours the talk of your local town and go from there. I can guarantee you right now that there are millions of towns untagging this resource for local marketing.
3. Share Your Place with Other Routes: In line with creating your own route, you can tag on other people’s routes by suggesting your stop on their map. Remember that these tools are all about sharing something that other people would like and want to know about. Social media is about adding value to other things and in turn adding value to your things.
Here’s a thought: Don’t be creepy or annoying. Again, this is all about sharing places that are RELEVANT to others. If you are a bar owner and you find a public route that passes by your venue but the route is for antique collecting- don’t recommend yourself- that’s creepy, annoying, and it makes your business look bad because you have bad judgement. Further, use judgement when connecting with strangers online. Most people not used to social media and sharing might find your suggestion annoying and sales pitchy so leverage your existing networks first. Perhaps some of your followers on Twitter might also have Routes on Google. Find out. Use former connections to get in here and when in doubt of being viewed as “creepy” just don’t do it. If you are already questioning yourself on that note, chances are you’re on the edge of creep and you need to get back down to earth.
4. Solicit Patron Feedback: Use the review function to hear what people are saying about your place. If no one is saying anything, ask your friends and patrons to share what they think on Google. Use bad reviews as opportunities to gain a new biggest fan. Leverage these reviews for more business. Talk about them on your other networks and reward your patrons for their advice.
Here’s a thought: Reach out to bad reviewers and suggest free stuff or a way to change their mind and give you a second chance. Reward good reviewers by remembering them next time and perhaps showing a little extra love next time you do business with them- coupons, discounts, etc. The more feedback the better so encourage people to leave reviews and create incentives for them if you can. While you cannot remove or sort of hide the review (like you sort of can on Yelp, but it’l cost ya!) you can turn this type of problem into an opportunity for a great solution. The bad experiences that become good experiences for consumers are the ones most talked about and they are often the most compelling. Think about it: what is more compelling than changing someone’s former beliefs? Recall the section on the “Opportunity Everyone Misses” in the 1st Key To SMO Success Post- your best social audience to spread your message isn’t always who you think it is.
5. Share Insights with Your Neighbors and Marketers: The free insight function in Google Places lets you find out where your customers are coming from and what they search for to find you. Knowing where people are coming from before you and the keywords that take them there can provide tremendous opportunity for you to optimize this information in various ways. This information is priceless for planning, promotions, and so much more.
Here’s a thought: Lets say you find out a lot of people are directed to your coffee shop from the nearby Italian restaurant. Become friends with that restaurant. The next time their patrons ask for a reference, they will recommend you and vice versa. Also, use what you find out from keyword information to tweak your SEO strategy (if you have one). If you don’t, consider starting small with a hosted wordpress business blog and strategize ways to get the most out of your best keywords by incorporating them into your blog content. Get one of the SEO wordpress plugins to help guide you as well. I could go on. . .
Note to the local guy: As with everything else, it depends on your business and your target customer or social audience. If the people that would like your business are not even aware that there is a thing called the world wide web, I wouldn’t bother with these tools. However, there is not much lost when trying. You are only risking time and the opportunity for people to talk about you more. So stick it to the Major Discount Retailers, Marts and Chain Restaurants of the world by optimizing locally with Google Maps!
How have you used Google Maps?