By Teri A. Coutu

As we wind down from the summer festivities and enter the colorful fall, many local businesses can catch their breath and spend the next few months focusing on the business-building tasks they have been putting off. One of the tasks that should be at the top of your To Do list is a review of your online presence.

Since moving here full-time in March, I have met with many business owners who tell me they are too small to worry about being on the web, but that is simply not true. In fact, businesses in small communities, and especially those looking to attract tourists, need to be easy to find, and in today’s world, that means being online.

When I first came to Lake Lure, I received many referrals to a local shop for some special items I was looking for. Not knowing the area, I never really heard exactly where the shop was, but I was sure I could find it. The morning I decided to go shopping, I looked up the business on Google and came up empty. There was nothing online about this shop – no website, no Facebook page, no phone number, no address – there was absolutely no way for me to find or contact them. Unfortunately, since Google couldn’t find the business, neither could I, so I went somewhere else.

With our high-tech society, every business needs to have at least a basic online presence so people can find them. These days, a web page is often the first introduction people have to your business. So, I want to encourage EVERY business in the area to start taking the steps needed so they can be found by locals and tourists.

Here are my Top 5 Tips for Small Businesses:

  1. Have a website, or at least a landing page, that answers the Who, What, Where, When, and Why of your products or services.
  2. Use branded email that matches your business name or website. Don’t use a Yahoo! Google, Comcast, or other “general” email for your business. For a small monthly fee you can get custom-branded email accounts.
  3. Once you have a website or landing page, get your business verified through “Google My Business” so that when customers search for your business or services, you show up in Google Search and Maps.
  4. Engage in social media that is appropriate. Not every business needs to be on Facebook or Twitter, but there are benefits of being on the right social media sites.
  5. Make sure you can be found locally by having your business listed on online directories. While you can register with many of them individually for free, for a small annual fee you can get your info shared with numerous online listings through one account.

Whether you are a small gift shop or a local repair shop, there are many cost-effective steps you can take that will build your online presence and help bring in new customers. Take some time to get ready for next season and beyond.

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