Can your customers find you?
The importance of full and complete contact information. Can your customers find you? When I moved to the Manitoulin Island in 2013 and went looking for the various services I needed to run my business (lawyer, accountant, stationery supplier, sign maker etc.), I went looking for a “Manitoulin Business Directory”. No single source directory for all Manitoulin Island businesses existed. I then had to do internet searches (because really who uses a paper phone book any more in the age of search engines) by individual services with things like business lawyer, Manitoulin Island. Surprisingly, it was much harder than I thought to find the businesses I wanted to use; I knew they were out there but they were and are still really difficult to find.
Many businesses have created business names that do not include what they do, so an internet search was not picking them up. Word of mouth ended up being what worked best; as a business owner, that is not what you want. Now let me be clear, word of mouth is great, but very limited.
Seeing as I had spent a ton of time looking for businesses I wanted to use (and figured there were most likely others who could use the same information), I decided I would create a network of all the women owned businesses because I wanted to utilize the women owners first. This list shows that Manitoulin Island has an ever-growing network of fabulous ladies. Please check out the section under the businesses.
Island Business Lounge – A central database of all Manitoulin Island Businesses
Having now moved on to creating the Island Business Lounge, which will be many things, but the one thing it will be, is a centralized source for all business information on Manitoulin. Believe me, this is no small feat! There are many businesses out there who:
- do not advertise at all (word of mouth only),
- only have listings in the Manitoulin Red Book
- some have no information at all, other than a sign on their property,
- some have just listed themselves on Etsy,
- others have just made a Facebook page or an Instagram account.
So, what is my definition of a business? Do you need a storefront? Do you need to have staff? No, my idea of a business is anyone who provides a product or service that they are selling. From direct sales (like Mary Kay, or Tupperware), to artists (who may or may not be part of a makers space or makers markets), farmers who sell honey, eggs, produce etc. as well as those who do have storefront or buildings. The importance of full and complete contact information is extremely important. So, if you are an entrepreneur with a business how are customers finding you?
Not all advertising comes with a cost
I started out creating the database (which is growing like crazy, we are a very busy Island). Note: listing in this database will be made available free of charge. In order to create this database I first pulled in all the information from the manitoulinwomen.ca business section I had previously created. I then moved on to using the Manitoulin Expositor, gathering business ads (and not everyone advertises all the time, so I scan every newspaper for new businesses).
Your township website
I have now started using the various township websites to see what businesses they are listing such as NEMI, Central Manitoulin, etc. (Check out your town website). I have been very surprised to see that most townships, although they do have a business listing section, are missing a lot of businesses. Some township websites do not have a business listing at all (if your township does not have a listing on their website you should ask them to create one). If you are not included in your township website business listing, get listed. These are free places for you to get your business listed, take the time to get added and always check and be sure the information they have is accurate. The importance of full and complete contact information is key, a wrong phone number or website can lose you a customer.
Google Business Page
Have you set up a google business page (you know, the ones that pop up on the side and show you a google maps picture of your location, your phone number (with an automatic call link), your website, directions etc. These are free to create so why not create one. I have been using them A LOT while creating this Manitoulin Businesses Database (Island Business Lounge) and many are lacking the basic contact information. No phone number, no website, no Facebook link. Nada – so, I then must go searching in other places to find the information.
You know the thing that is missing the most YOUR NAME! I have no idea why someone would not want to tie their name to their business. I have many businesses in the database right now, but no owner name assigned to them. So here, in my opinion are the top items you need to be sure are listed anytime someone finds your business
Your must have information
- Your name
- Your business name
- If it is not clear from your business name, what your product or service is (example Island Sisters could be many things) so be sure to add a product/service description: “we sell hand made soaps and hand lotions” so you can be found with a product or service search
- Your phone number
- Your website (or facebook page)
DO’s and DON’T’s
Do list hours of operation if you have them and follow them. However, IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU KEEP THIS INFORMATION ACCURATE! I have endless complaints from people who have driven to Gore Bay from Little Current only to find the store, that indicated “open” on the business page was in fact closed. That can lose your customer.
If you have decided to close your business be sure to go and take down the information from the various locations you have it (business page, township website, Facebook, road signs etc.). Nothing worse than having someone find the service they are looking for only to find out it is no longer in business.
In closing, if you want your business to be successful, and who doesn’t, then be sure that people can find you. If they can’t find you then they will find someone else.