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Online directories becoming customer engagement tools

Online business directories are evolving to become customer engagement tools for small businesses.

Buoyed by a surge in search advertising, online search and directory advertising spending grew by 23 percent annually to reach a total of $1.4 billion, according to recent research by Frost and Sullivan.

Premium online business directory and consumer review website, TrueLocal.com.au has seen growth of up to 50 percent in traffic year on year. The fact that TrueLocal has been able to out-grow the local market demonstrates the value of content to consumers, both uploaded by the businesses themselves and reviews provided by peer consumers.

According to a study by Nielsen in 2009, online reviews are the second greatest influence of trust in a brand, just behind word of mouth communication.

As consumers continue to look for ways in which to connect and share with each other, local businesses have the opportunity to increase their customer engagement. Through online directories, consumers are just a few clicks away from finding your business however, what many businesses don’t understand is that those clicks are going to businesses that have the most recently added descriptions, fresh images and consumer reviews.

In our current unpredictable economic climate and with such small budgets to spend on advertising, it makes sense for small businesses to capitalise on the benefits of listing their companies online, which is often free.

Some of these online directories have complementary mobile applications, enabling users to find businesses and current deals nearby as well as the opportunity to share their experiences of these local businesses via ratings and reviews.

So how can a business take advantage of the benefits of communicating to customers online through a business directory, like TrueLocal?

The important things to remember are that’s it’s easy and more often than not, free. The first step is to claim your listing via the online directory. By doing so, you have control over your content allowing you to showcase your business through information such as images, contact details, business descriptions and maps to your business.

Figures from TrueLocal indicate that by adding more content to your page you can receive an average of up to 60 percent more traffic to your listing.

Once your listing has been updated with content, as a business owner you can now regularly monitor reviews on your listing. This is simply done by interacting with your customers, for example thanking them if they complimented you for great service and apologise if they thought you needed improvement. Taking an interest in the customers concerns show that that you care and thus also increases your credibility with consumers.

With the search and online directories business booming, I highly encourage local businesses in Australia to take advantage of this growth, by establishing and managing a quality online presence.

– Simon Carson is general manager of TrueLocal.com.au

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