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Technology Helping Small Businesses

Today’s rapidly evolving pace of technology has obviously changed the way we send and receive information. As small business owners, trying to keep up can be overwhelming, but we must adjust the way we market to and connect with our customers if we’re going to stay competitive. As a new business owner, I quickly realized that I could no longer market my business like the previous owners had and I would like to share with you some of what I’ve learned.

Although I’m very comfortable with technology and tend to gravitate toward online services whenever possible, I was still reluctant to abandon the old, tried and true methods of advertising until I saw firsthand where our clients were coming from. Once I realized that the Internet, specifically Google, was driving much of my new business, I knew we had to shift our marketing focus to online resources.

The first thing we did was update our website. Having a modern site that is easy to navigate is paramount because it acts as an online brochure giving your potential client that all-important “first impression” of your company. A well-designed site can attract new clients, increase existing client satisfaction by offering additional services, and can help with recruiting new employees. Our website currently offers a tour of our facility, as well as the ability to refill prescriptions and to make appointments, just to name a few of the services we provide online.

In addition to having a strong, professional web presence, I strongly suggest embedding Google Analytics into your website. This free and invaluable tool allows you analyze everything from how many people visit your site, where they are coming from based on their zip code, which pages they visit, and how long they stay. The amount of data available can be overwhelming, but knowing how people are perceiving and relating to your site (actually, your business) makes the effort worthwhile and will give you data that is relevant to making good business decisions. Your web developer should be able to easily embed the analytics into the coding on your site. For more information on how to get started, go to www.google.com/analytics. There are also videos on YouTube that will walk you through how Google Analytics works and ways to interpret the data.

After you’ve developed a strong website, work to ensure that your website is ranked first when your field is searched. For example, when someone searches for “vet, Flagstaff” or “emergency vet, Flagstaff,” Canyon Pet Hospital is the first site that appears. Data varies on what percentage of people click on the first website shown on the search page, but the consensus is that a large majority of people will only look at the first few results before deciding who to choose, so “top of page” is crucial. An article on how to improve your ranking can be found at  HYPERLINK “http://google.about.com/od/searchengineoptimization/qt/improverank.htm” http://google.about.com/od/searchengineoptimization/qt/improverank.htm.

AdWords Express is another option. You can customize your message to read whatever you want and only pay when someone clicks on your ad. The amount paid per click varies depending on a number of factors and will be different for each field. Capping the total amount you want to pay in a given month will ensure you don’t go over your budget. We’ve used this method in the kennels category. Our ranking tended to be about third when googling “kennels in Flagstaff.” By using Adwords, we are now first and have increased our boarding business.

Finally, to better utilize Google, create a place page and encourage clients to write reviews about your business. The process is relatively straightforward. Go to www.google.com/places and you can create a place page that, according to Google, helps your business stand out from the others by allowing you to post pictures, videos, promotions, mission statements, hours of operation and types of payments that are accepted. Encouraging satisfied clients to write reviews for you can be a bit tricky because you don’t want to come across as pushy, but having clients write positive things about your business is a great way to get the word out. FBN

Chris Miller and his wife Julianne Miller, DVM, purchased Canyon Pet Hospital in 2011. Chris Miller is head of business and marketing for the practice.

 

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