This week’s “Ask the Mompreneur” features an interview with Cary Heise, creator of the Stay at Home Rock Star line of apparel and products and the founder of Vend Raleigh, a 1,000 member strong directory of local, woman-owned businesses in North Carolina.
Ask the Mompreneur
Directories are an under-utilized and somewhat confusing tool for marketing a small business. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are considering directories for promoting their companies?
Business directories can be a great addition to your marketing plan. They can also be a valuable source for networking and creating community with other business owners. Here’s how to navigate these waters.
Picking the right directory
Do you use the directory you are considering? That’s a great first indicator that the directory is credible and one worthy of your listing and investment.
Consider the audience, and whether the site is locally promoted or promoted both locally and nationally. Don’t count yourself out if you are a local business. An introduction to a national audience may open doors for you if you can figure out the logistics of shipping or whatever factors are keeping you local.
If the directory lists other businesses like yours, that may work in your favor, but a directory saturated with competitors isn’t a wise choice unless you can truly set yourself apart.
How is the directory promoted? Is the directory part of a website or blog that has a loyal following? When was the last time the site or blog was updated? Receiving occasional emails from the directory owner is a good sign. You want a directory that is actively updated and promoted often.
Cost for a directory listing could be as little as $25 a year to $150 a year. Ask what is included in the cost: event fees, annual featured placement, unique listing tools? Determine what benefits you’ll actually take advantage of. Advertising is about name recognition by your potential customers and can be hard to gauge. But it’s still worth calculating how much business you’d have to sell to get a return on your investment.
Managing your listing
You can maximize your directory listing by taking full advantage of the tools that are offered. For instance, the new Vend Raleigh directory has a public URL, a Google Map tool, images within a listing, space for personal bios, business description, customer testimonials, a barter option, an events calendar, and submission of links to all the top social media sites including Google+.
And above all, keep your listing current! Make it easy for people to find you and follow you by keeping all social media links and other business information updated. Keep your listing fresh by changing images seasonally and updating with new product images and descriptions.
Think about setting a recurring reminder in your calendar to check your listings once a quarter.
Making the most of that community
Online relationships are great, especially for those long distance connections you wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to make, but face to face networking has some special value as well. If you are committed to a directory, attend meetings and events to build your reputation. If the directory is nationwide, take part in Google Hangouts, Twitter events, and online forums to build familiarity and trust. Building relationships with other business owners will create opportunities such a cross-promotions on social media.
And if there is an opportunity to guest blog, lead a forum, or buy additional ad space, go for it!
Finally, remember to use your listing in your other marketing efforts. Consider yourself a sponsor of the directory and share the fact that you are active participant in a leading business organization.
Following these business directory tips will maximize your exposure and make the most of your financial investment. With a little bit of effort, listing in the right directory can create a strong presence for your company and help you build your brand.