Unless you’ve been living under a very large
rock the past 18 months, the recession we’ve
been in has forced marketers to do two things
– look for new opportunities to promote their
businesses (and websites) and be more sensitive
to the needs of their consumers. This is
illustrated well in the rise of local search marketing and
coupon use. The need to make online coupons work in
the context of a local business, however, remains challenging.
That’s about to change.
Small business owners (especially those of the brick-andmortar
variety) have an advantage over larger retailers
today. Thanks to millions of consumers searching for local
businesses and the increasing convergence of search
with mobile devices, a genuinely viable opportunity is
now present. Maps, mobile devices and local search put
your business front and center when and where consumers
need you and, in some cases, on equal footing with the
big boys of commerce.
So what is the secret to building a thriving, recession-resistant
local business? For many it is in making the most
of what Google’s Local Business Center (LBC) provides
– including the use of coupons in Google Maps. Google’s
Coupon feature, despite the immense value it provides to
merchants and retailers, is not a well utilized feature of the
LBC. That can be partly attributed to the fact that many
argued that coupons in LBC were fraught with issues, including
being diffi cult for searchers to fi nd. That objection
is about to be overruled.
While adding coupons in the LBC is not new (it was
launched in 2007), in late November 2009, Google announced
they have made it easier for consumers to fi nd
those coupons made available by local merchants. Local
businesses in the US can now opt to display and distribute
their coupons on mobile devices. Rather than bringing a
printed coupon into a store, shoppers will be able to show
merchants the coupon, formatted correctly, directly on the
screen of their mobile device.
New coupons added to the LBC will be automatically formatted
and available on mobile devices, but existing coupons will need to be enabled for mobile distribution. The
big question is whether these methods of mobile promotion
will become more prominent as customers determine
which businesses to frequent based on mobile search and
recommendations. Local businesses and consumers must
both participate and be educated on mobile coupons for the
program to be effective. That said, Google LBC is free to use
and a promotional vehicle that should not be ignored.
To make the most of this opportunity, merchants are required
to set up a local business profi le in LBC. Including
a description, photos and videos, business hours, payment
options and a link to the website are known to encourage
greater numbers of potential customers to choose the service,
so taking the time to include as much relevant information
as possible should be your focus. Extra information
also helps Google match your listing to more searches,
which might increase the number of views your listing (and
your website) receive.
Millions of people search for businesses on Google Maps
and on Google.com. Setting up an LBC listing also means
your business can be found through Google Maps for Mobile,
1-800-GOOG-411 voice directory search, and Google
Earth. On any of these services, if someone searches directly
for your business name and city, your listing will most
likely appear. Providing a mobile coupon gives the searcher
yet another, powerful reason to visit your location.