Category Archives: Business

Improving Search: Microsoft, Yahoo look to reviews, location

Yahoo is reportedly partnering with location review service Yelp to improve local search, according to @WSJD.

Earlier in the week, Microsoft made a $15 million investment in location and review app Foursquare, combined with a partnership to utilize its location data.

It’s a wonder why this didn’t happen sooner, connecting location, reviews and search.  After all, Google has its own location and reviews in Google Places, which is now a part of Google+. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer played a key role in Google Search and Google Maps while at Google.

Connecting the dots might tell us that Yahoo and Bing are parting ways.  According to CNN Money, a clause in the partnership states that either side can opt out in 2015.

Photo by flickr/stickergiant

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Facebook is Trending

Facebook Trending

Facebook announced a new feature on Jan. 16 via blog post, Trending. A news section that features popular topics and hashtags that are being shared across the network.

Trending sits on the right column of the Newsfeed, though the feature is still rolling out to users, and just appeared on my feed today. Facebook said in a blog post, “Trending is currently rolling out on web in select countries and we are going to continue to test on mobile. As with other features, expect continuous improvements from us over time.”

Selecting a Trending topic from the list displays a feed of conversation, including activity from your Facebook friends.

Facebook Trending

Trending appears to be a move by Facebook to be more relevant in news, much like Twitter’s Trends, leaving an option open for Facebook to promote trends (also just like Twitter). Facebook also recently adopted Hashtags, though that feature seems slow to catch on.

Twitter Trends
Twitter Trends, including a promoted #ProBowl topic, from @nfl.

Foursquare and Location-Based Services for your Business

In marketing school it’s taught that the purpose of a business is to create a customer. One new way has emerged in recent years to specifically identify new customers, or at least those who opt to check-in.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on StateCollege.com in Tech Talk, a biweekly column by Eric Zimmett. Click here to view the original column.

Location-based services (LBS) allow users to check-in at businesses via smartphone and share their location with other users, in addition to posting photos, comments or reviews.

According to the annual Mobile Life study, published this week by research group TNS, there are six billion mobile users in the world. Among them, one fifth (19 percent) are already using LBS. They’re already “checking in.” And three times that number (62 percent) is planning to do so in the future, according to the same report, available at www.tnsglobal.com/mobilelife.

The most publicized of these LBS is Foursquare. Foursquare was founded in 2009 by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadura.

Prior to Foursquare, Crowley co-founded a similar service called Dodgeball, which was acquired by Google in 2005. Four years later, Google shut it down and replaced it with Google Latitude.

There are a reported 20 million Foursquare users – up from eight million just one year ago – according to a Foursquare report released on April 16, 2012, a social media holiday also known as Foursquare Day. Foursquare’s growth is a reflection of not only the company’s success but the adoption of smartphones and our increasingly mobile-tech lifestyles.

Foursquare, which is free for both users and merchants, is now one of many LBS including Facebook’s own check-in feature – a 2011 revamp of Facebook Places – which allows users to tag a location in any update or post.

Four steps to Foursquare for the user

  1. Check in
  2. Get Points and Badges
  3. Become Mayor
  4. Get Rewarded

Check-in here

After signing up for Foursquare, and downloading the free application for smartphones, users are ready to check in. This is done by simply launching the Foursquare application and viewing the Places around you. Foursquare determines a user’s location based on the smartphone’s built-in GPS.

For those thinking Foursquare is a bit too personal, keep in mind that the check-in is a manual process. Users decide when and where to check in.

When checking in, users can add comments, tips or photos for a given location. If a business isn’t in the Foursquare system, users can add it themselves.

As I noted in my April 1 column – 5 Things Small Business Owners Should Be Doing –Foursquare is mostly user-generated. Users check-in on their own; unlock specials that merchants have created and compete with friends on their Leaderboards.

By checking in, users receive points and badges based on where, when and how often they check in. The Mayor often receives the largest reward. All rewards are set by the merchant.

A user becomes “Mayor” if he or she checks in more frequently at a location than other Foursquare users in a 60-day period. And can be ousted as mayor if someone checks in more frequently.

When a special has been unlocked, a clear message will display on the user’s smartphone screen notifying him or her of the accomplishment. To get rewarded, the user must then show the screen to the merchant to receive the unlocked special.

Four steps to Foursquare for the merchant

  1. Claim your venue
  2. Get your stickers
  3. Create a special
  4. Track its success

Merchants can create a venue or, if it’s already been created, search for it then claim it. Once you’ve found your venue on Foursquare’s website, click the link to let Foursquare know that you manage the venue. (Foursquare also makes it easy for merchants with multiple locations.)

After a few quick confirmation steps, you’ll be ready to use Foursquare for business.

Foursquare will verify that you’re the business owner by providing you with a verification code by phone or mail.

If the information for your business listing is incorrect, you’ll be able to edit it and continue claiming the venue. In many cases, Foursquare users create venues with incorrect or missing information.

Once a venue has been claimed, Foursquare will send you a Foursquare sticker. A window-cling that reads: “Foursquare Check-In Here. Check in to unlock specials, meet up with friends and explore what’s nearby.”

Creating a special: Foursquare allows merchants to create specials for Foursquare users to unlock and redeem. Specials like a discount with a minimum purchase (spend $25, get $5 off); a free offer (check in and get a free gift); specials for return visits (free coffee on your fifth visit); or specials for achieving Mayor status. Foursquare has a group of specials at your disposal and a step-by-step guide for creating them.

Once you’ve completed the above steps to claim your venue, and created a special, it would be a good idea to notify all of your staff of Foursquare and the special you’ve offered. Foursquare makes this easy, too, with informational Employee Flyers for your staff.

Track the success: You’ll have access to real-time Foursquare analytics showing the total number of check-ins; most recent visitors; most frequent visitors; a demographic breakdown; activity across other social networks; as well as the success of any specials being offered.

And it’s all free. Get started at http://foursquare.com/businesses.

Thanks for checking in

With Facebook and photo-applications like Path and Instagram all incorporating location features, other services are following Foursquare’s lead.  

This results in customer activity that’s happening as close to the register as it gets.

Location-based services are attracting users at an unprecedented rate. Businesses would be smart to jump on the location-bandwagon now before their next would-be customer checks in across the street.

5 Things Small Business Owners Should Be Doing

Editor’s Note: Eric Zimmett is a tech writer and small business consultant who works at StateCollege.com assisting businesses with how to navigate today’s difficult marketing and advertising landscape.

In his inaugural tech column for StateCollege.com, Eric Zimmett gives you five things small business owners should be doing. His “Tech Talk” column appears biweekly on StateCollege.com.

5. Social Media

Social Media is a great space to interact with customers on a variety of fun, engaging platforms.

Use social media as a conversation with your customers – to strengthen existing relationships, build new ones and give a little taste of your personality as a business owner.

Today, your customers will expect you to be using social media. Participate: launch a Facebook Page; use Twitter, Foursquare or Pinterest. Engage and interact with your audience.

Facebook

Facebook is an excellent hub for conversations, news, comments, contests and photos. Facebook also offers a small-business advertising program. A good Facebook Page requires quality content and regular frequency. Update your Facebook Page every day and respond to comments and questions promptly.

Facebook rolled out its new Timeline layout to all brand pages Friday. Read more about the new brand pages at facebook.com/about/pages. Not on Facebook Pages? Get started at facebook.com/pages/create.php

Twitter

Twitter announced last week, on its sixth birthday, that it has reached 140 million users (in tune with its 140-character limit). The micro-blogging platform serves as a way to alert followers of news, specials, changes or insight into the company.

This week, Twitter introduced Twitter for Small Business, self-serve ads including promoted accounts and promoted tweets. Learn more at business.twitter.com. Join Twitter at twitter.com/account/new.

Foursquare

Foursquare is a mobile application that rewards customers for visiting your business. Reward check-ins with a special discount or offer. Or award your most frequent customer – which Foursquare dubs Mayor – with the highest prize.

Foursquare requires minimal effort to keep going. Unlike Facebook Pages and Twitter profiles, Foursquare is user-generated. Users check-in on their own. Users unlock specials that you’ve created and compete with friends on their Leaderboard.

Is your business already on there? Claim your venue at foursquare.com/business.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a pin-board for interests. Launched just two years ago the site has already eclipsed 11 million users, according to a January report by comScore, becoming the fastest site in history to reach the 10-million mark. Businesses have found recent success on Pinterest by interacting with users and sharing company photos and/or products. The best part of Pinterest is the ease of sending visitors from a Pin to your website or product page, especially when it comes to e-commerce.

4. Blogging

A blog is a great way to share your expertise in your field, to brand yourself as an expert.

It’s also a great way to stay on top of trends, new information and be connected with your industry. Start a blog and stick to a regular schedule to keep your posts fresh and relevant.

Three leading blog services are WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr.

Keep your content focused. Don’t sell your business on your blog; that will happen organically after you’ve branded yourself as an expert in your industry.

3. YouTube

The best part about YouTube – other than those funny cat videos – is that you can build your own online TV network free of charge.

Build a YouTube Channel and either link to videos in your industry (Informational Videos or How-To videos) or record them yourself. Creating the videos on your own allows the viewer to get to know your business.

A new feature introduced last week by YouTube allows for simplified video editing, making it even easier to get started with your own channel.

2. Get on the Street

Slow business day? Well don’t just sit there, hit the streets! Talk with your customers one-on-one. Offer samples, coupons, or ask questions. What better a way to get customer feedback than talking directly to them? Thinking of implementing a new menu item? Or changing your store layout? Ask people on the street. Some won’t want to talk to you. Focus on the ones who do.

Put your face in front of the business. Then your customers aren’t just shopping at the store on the corner, they’re shopping at your store on the corner: Bill’s office suppliesJohn’s book storeWendy’s coffee shop. They’ll connect with your business on a more personal level.

1. Advertising

Advertising isn’t just for national brands. Local businesses need it more than anyone. It isn’t enough to just open your doors and hope people come in. Advertising builds companies. It informs, sometimes entertains, and reminds customers that you’re there, and that you have the products they want and the expertise to service them.

Believe it or not, it’s possible to generate word-of-mouth. It’s called advertising. When you advertise your business, and advertise the same message often enough, you’re using word-of-mouth to build buzz about your business.

Search-engine marketing is an online super-highway where you can connect with customers who are searching for your products and/or services. Make sure your website is well optimized and contains information – skip on the fluff – that best portrays your business.

If you don’t know how to build an effective website or make it search-engine friendly, find someone who does. Being visible when customers are searching for you is an important step in acquiring new customers.

What are you waiting for?!

So get out there and talk with your customers; whether it’s in person, in the ads or on your blog. Be friendly. Be yourself. Have fun. Interaction is key. Show people how much you love your business. Because if you do it well enough, they will too.

See this original column on StateCollege.com.
Photo by Flickr user anniemole

The re-branding facelift, when logos go under the knife

Pepsi, tell me what you don’t like about yourself.

For companies, re-branding with a new logo or fresh look provides a sort of facelift. (Really takes years off their life.)

Some get over-the-top PR, other re-brands slide in under the radar.

Zimedia has compiled a list of popular re-brands in the last four years, roughly 2008 to present. For many, it’s the first re-design in years.

Is there a downside to all this brand surgery?

Pepsi

Left: 1987 to 2008 / New Logo: 2008 to Present

Walmart

Left: 1992 to 2008 / New Logo: 2008 to Present

Best Buy

Left: 1987 to 2008 / New Logo: 2008 to present

NFL

Left: 1980 to 2008 / New Logo: 2008 to Present

Holiday Inn

Left: 1952 to 2007 / New Logo: 2007 to Present

Google

Left: 1999 to 2010 / New Logo: 2010 to Present

iTunes

Left: 2008 to 2010 / New Logo: 2010 to Present

Gap

Left: 1986 to 2010 / New Logo: 2010 to 2010. One week after introducing the logo, Gap returned to the previous logo

Starbucks

Left: 1987 to 2010 / New Logo: 2010 to Present

YMCA

Left: 1967 to 2010 / New Logo: 2010 to Present, with different color variations for different programs

Comedy Central

Left: 2000 to 2010 / New Logo: 2010 to Present

Wikipedia

Left: 2003 to 2010 / New Logo 2010 to Present

msn

Left: 1999 to 2010 / New Logo: 2010 to Present, though the old logo is still used as a “secondary” logo

DELL

Left: 1984 to 2010 / New Logo: 2010 to Present

Playstation 3

Left: 2006 to 2009 / New Logo: 2009 to Present

Discovery

Left: 2000 to 2009 / New Logo: 2009 to Present

Animal Planet

Left: 1996 to 2008 / New Logo: 2008 to Present

Red Lobster

Founded in 1968, Red Lobster introduced its new logo in 2011

Google Chrome

Left: 2008 to 2011 / New Logo: 2011 to Present

Petco

Founded in 1965, Petco introduced its new logo in 2011

Cinemax

Left: 2008 to 2011 / New Logo: 2011 to Present

StumbleUpon

Left: 2001 to 2011 / New Logo: 2011 to Present

Subtle re-brands are my favorite. Maybe freshen up the colors or soften the edges. Minor stuff. In and out in less than an hour.

We all need to reinvent ourselves from time to time. Re-evaluate our image and our focus. Brands are no exception. But there’s value, too, in brand recognition. Years of building a brand through products, advertising and generations of customers. Only to change things up in the fear of becoming stale.

There’s something to be said about an old brand. It’s got character, and it’s often packed with emotion and memories. Well-built brands are more than just a logo. And a botched re-branding can really look bad.

It’s not as easy as it looks on TV.

Just ask GAP.

Sources: The Logo Factory (thelogofacory.com), Brand New (underconsideration.com), IMDB

Tech companies battling for customers

This is a great time to be a consumer. Companies are battling to release the next greatest advancement in technology — whether it’s NFC, Cloud Storage, Streaming Video or even Social Networking — and the consumers are ready and waiting. The instant a company releases a new product or service, the competition follows suit.

And that makes today’s consumer more connected than ever.

Brand extensions are to blame for much of the competition in technology today. Foursquare brings about Facebook Places. Skype leads to Google Hangouts. Square brings mobile payment to the forefront, with PayPal and Google following closely behind. Facebook (and MySpace before that) brought the rise of the social network; Google is now employing a brand extension with Google+.

A Brand Extension is when a company known for a particular good/service attempts to extend its services to another business category beyond its initial range.

Now, the current landscape:

Social Networking

Facebook vs. Google+

Facebook has been king of the social networking world since it overtook MySpace in 2008. MySpace was recently sold to Specific Media and entertainment artist Justin Timberlake. It’s future is still uncertain.

In the limited beta release of Google+, Google goes head to head with Facebook. A similar scenario to its battle with MySpace, only Google+ seems better equipped.

Google+ invites are on the streets as the company seems to be opening up its social network to more users. It’s limited beta at first offered only short windows for invites from current users. The service already is reported to have users in the millions, after a little more than one week on the market. Facebook, meanwhile, recently confirmed it has acquired 750 million users.

Mobile Payment

Square vs. Google vs. Paypal

Mobile payments are a hot topic, and the most popular service is likely Square, which hit $1 million in processed payments after less than a year in business. Square was launched by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey in May of 2010.

Square allows users — whether it’s for personal or businesses use — to accept credit card payments using a smartphone and Square’s free mobile payment device, through which users swipe their actual plastic cards. (Square does not use NFC technology.)

Google unveiled its Google Wallet offering, a partnership with Citi, MasterCard, First Data, and Sprint. Google Wallet is an Android app that makes your phone your wallet. It accomplishes this by storing virtual versions of your plastic cards on your smartphone.

Using Near-Field Technology (NFC), users will be able to pay via their Google-Wallet equipped smartphones simply by tapping the phone on a checkout reader, available at many merchant locations.

And most recently, PayPal bolstered its mobile offering on July 7 with the $240 million acquisition of mobile-payment service Zong.

Zong partners with hundreds of mobile phone carriers around the world and allows users to enter their mobile phone number to make purchases. The charges are then applied to the user’s monthly mobile-phone bill.

Zong was eBay’s second mobile acquisition. The first was Fig Card, a Square-like device that allows users to accept payments with credit cards by swiping them through Fig’s USB-powered reader.

Check-ins

Foursquare vs. Facebook

Location-based applications allow users to ‘check-in’ via smartphone and share their location with other users of the service or other social networks. Users are able to see who else is checked in at a given location (from all users) or friends in nearby locations. By checking in, users receive points and/or badges and can unlock certain specials determined by the retailer.

The most publicized of these location-based apps is Foursquare. Today, there are a reported 8 million Foursquare users, up from just one million a year ago.

With the introduction of Facebook Places and other location-based services like Whrrl, which was acquired by daily deals service Groupon in mid-April, companies are copying Foursquare’s model. And vice versa, as evidenced by Foursquare’s recent inclusion and emphasis on its Yelp-like service directory Explore. Brand extensions are on display everywhere we look.

In June, Fast Company took a closer look at Foursquare vs. Facebook Places.

Video Inside Social Networking

Google vs. Facebook

With Google+, the company introduced Hangouts, a video-calling service. One week later, Facebook announced a partnership with Skype, allowing users to make video calls over the social network.

Facebook Video Calling will feature one-on-one video calls to your friends, a stripped-down version of Skype from what I understand. (Note: that’s not me in the screenshot; it’s a Facebook promo screen.)

The biggest advantage with Facebook Video Calling has when compared to Skype is that users don’t have to sign-up and login to Skype to chat; they simply do so through Facebook.

Google+ Hangouts allows group video chats with up to 10 participants, a sort of live chat room among your friends.

When Google+ Hangouts feature is launched, you can choose whom to invite in the video chat or simply alert all friends (or any other Circle) that you’re hanging out. And then wait for someone, among the Circle you’ve selected, to respond. (Note: that is me in the screenshot below, chatting with no one.)

As you can see at the bottom of the chat window (above), YouTube is also accessible via Hangouts.

I haven’t really discovered how YouTube can be used inside Hangouts. But I did watch Cake’s The Distance. I guess if my friends were on there we could have all watched it together…and then checked all of our reactions?

Google+ Hangouts and YouTube might be useful for work-related presentations. This service encroaches on GoToMeeting‘s territory. Now I’ve just got to find some people who want to have a meeting about Cake.

Cloud Storage

Amazon vs. Apple

On the Cloud, users can store music, videos, photos, and documents, which are then accessible from any computer or device with an internet connection and access to the cloud.

Amazon starts users off with a free 5GB of storage space. The 5GB of free space is about enough space, Amazon says, to store 1,000 songs. This first tier is free and you’ll never be charged for it. If a user purchases a digital album from Amazon’s mp3 store (amazon.com), it’ll upgrade your 5GB of free storage to 20GB. Other pricing/storage options for the Amazon Cloud range from 20GB to 1,000GB of space.

Apple iCloud operates in the same way as the Amazon Cloud Player, with iTunes integrated into iCloud. Everything purchased on iTunes is automatically accessible on the iCloud, in addition to other apps, photos, books and documents.

Streaming Music

Some companies like Amazon and Apple have tied their digital music services directly to Cloud Storage. Others like Slacker and Pandora are offering a more entertainment-centered approach.

Pandora makes things easy for listeners: subscription free and on nearly every device you own.

Pandora got its start on the computer. But the company is making even bigger leaps away from its traditional home on the PC; Pandora is now available on smartphones, tablets, televisions and a select number of automobiles.

According to a published report from Advertising Age, more than 50 percent of Pandora listening accomplished on devices other than the PC.

Slacker, however, is beginning to outshine Pandora in both integration and subscription options. Slacker offers three ways to listen. The first tier, like Pandora, is free of charge (but with ads) and allows users to create a custom station based on a particular band or song. The second is a paid subscription plan that provides unlimited song skips and is ad-free; Slacker Radio Plus is $3.99 per month.

Slacker also has a partnership with ABC News, with news breaks at the top of each hour for subscribers of either Slacker Plus or Slacker Premium Radio.

Slacker’s newest subscription is called Slacker Premium Radio. At $9.99 per month, this service includes everything available in Slacker Radio Plus as well as on-demand music, allowing listeners to search for and play songs on-demand, or songs from a particular artist. Slacker Premium Radio encroaches on MOG’s and Rdio’s territory — a brand-extension of sorts — by offering on-demand music.

It’s an exciting time for both consumers and businesses. Each service is experiencing tremendous competition — which only fuels innovation — as companies vie for the consumers’ time, interest and money.

The customers ultimately decide which products succeed and which ones flop. Therefore the success of these businesses relies much on us, the consumers, and in our experiences with these products and brands and how seamlessly we can integrate them into our lives.

The best technology becomes second-nature, like a brand extension of ourselves.

Source: PC Magazine, cbsradio.com, siriusxm.com, pandora.com, slacker.com, usatoday.com, cnet.com, radioink.com, Ando Media, Mashable.com, Mediapost.com, TechCrunch, Tech Crunch TVFast Company, Mashable, Techmeme, CNet, ReadWriteWeb, GigaOm, Engadget, CNN Money, MacWorld, AdAge, All Things Digital, The Next Web, Foursquare, Google, Facebook, Pandora, Slacker, Square, Paypal, Amazon.

5 Small Business Musts

The Top 5 Small-Business Musts

5. Social Media

Social Media provides another way to connect with customers. But recent research has shown that it has little impact on purchase decisions.

Don’t expect it to increase sales. As I’ve said before, social media is a conversation with your customers. It should be used to strengthen existing customer relationships and give a little taste of your personality as a business owner. Don’t let it replace other areas of advertising and customer service.

But it’s an important place to be. Anymore, your customers will expect you to be using social media. Participate, be on Facebook, use Twitter, use Foursquare, offer specials to customers. Engage with your audience.

The following social media platforms are the most popular today, though they are not perfect for every business. Most can find a way to incorporate a Facebook Page or a Twitter Profile, but Foursquare requires a physical location with foot traffic. Have a plan before you get started.

Facebook

A Facebook Page is an excellent addition to a company website. A great place for comments, conversations and contests. It’s all about content and frequency. Update your Facebook Page every day. Updates, News, Commentary, Jokes, Questions, Photos from recent events, the options are endless. Just try to have some focus.

For my related post on ways to connect with customers and promote your business, click here. And here for my informational post on Facebook.

Need help creating a Facebook Page for your business? Click here for Mashable’s guide to the new Facebook-Page layout.

Twitter

Twitter provides a way to alert customers of news, specials, changes or insight into the company. Or maybe a business quote of the day. Be creative. Twitter is also a great place for contests.

Business owners can also use Twitter to stay up-to-date on industry news. Follow related companies or industry experts. You’ll have access to all of their tweets on your home page.

For my post on Twitter, how it started and where it’s headed, click here.

Need help using Twitter for your business? Click here for Mashable’s How-To on Twitter.

Foursquare

For businesses with a physical location, in particular ones that have heavy traffic, Foursquare is a fun mobile application that rewards customers for visiting your store. Reward check-ins with a special discount or offer. Or Offer your most frequent customer, which Foursquare dubs Mayor, with the highest prize.

Unlike Facebook Pages and Twitter profiles, Foursquare is user-generated. In fact, most business listings on Foursquare were added by the users themselves, not the business owners. Are you already on there? Check it out at Foursquare.com.

For a business owner, Foursquare requires the least effort to keep going. Users check-in on their own. Unlock specials that you’ve created and compete with their friends on the Leaderboard. In addition to the new Explore feature. To read my in-depth post on Foursquare, click here.

Need help using Foursquare for your business? Click here for Mashable’s How-To on Foursquare specials.

4. Blogging

 

blog is a great way to share your expertise in your field. To brand yourself as an expert.

It’s also a great way to stay on top of trends, new information and stay connected with your industry.

There are a number of blog services that do not charge for use. Three leading blog services are WordPress, Blogspot/Blogger and Tumblr. I use WordPress to host this blog, though I pay an annual fee for the domain, ericsadblog.com. The free domain would be ericsadblog.wordpress.com. If you don’t want the wordpress extension, you can buy a domain name for small annual fee.

Keep your content focused on truth, on topics that matter to your customers. Do not sell your business on your blog. That will happen organically after you’ve branded yourself as an expert in your  industry.

3. YouTube

The best part about YouTube — other than those funny cat videos — is that you can do it all. And it’s free.

Build a YouTube Channel. And link either Informational Videos or How-To videos for your industry, making your YouTube Channel a great resource. Or better yet, record the information and How-To videos yourself. Creating the videos yourself adds a very personal touch. It allows the viewer a look inside the business. If you link videos other have created, users will remember them. If you create the videos, the users will remember you.

2. Get on the Street

Slow business day? Well don’t just sit there, hit the streets! Talk with your customers one-on-one. Offer samples, coupons, ask questions. What better way to get customer feedback than talking to them? Thinking of implementing a new menu item? Or changing your store layout? Ask people on the street. Some won’t want to talk to you, but don’t worry about it. Focus on the ones who do.

Even just talking to people –small talk —putting your face in front of the business. Then your customers aren’t just shopping at the store on the corner, they’re shopping at Your store on the corner, Tom’s Store, Mary’s place, Wendy’s coffee shop. It makes it personal. You want them to connect with the business on a more personal level than just a simple trip to the grocery store.

We remember people, not stores. Think of one of your favorite businesses. What are its employees like? Friendly? Do you know any by face or name? Had any conversations with them? If so, I’ll bet you remember the person and the conversation.

One of my favorite retail stores is Best Buy. I love the products Best Buy carries. But I also love the customer service. The way they greet me with a simple “hello” every time I walk in. Best Buy employees are also very knowledgable and accessible. They aren’t trying to sell me; they’re trying to help me. It’s something I remember, and in part it keeps me coming back.

1. Advertising

Advertising isn’t just for national brands. Local businesses need it more than anyone. It isn’t enough to just open your doors and hope people come in. Advertising informs, possibly entertains, and reminds customers that you’re there, and that you have the products they want and the expertise to service them. Advertising Builds Companies. It brands them as the place to go.

Believe it or not, it’s possible to generate word-of-mouth. It’s called advertising. When you advertise your business with audio, and advertise the same message often enough, you’re using word-of-mouth to build buzz about your business. Audio like TV and Radio. The key is frequency and getting your message to the same audience.

Online banner ads, newspaper ads, magazine ads — or any other print ads — offer a way to reach consumers in the market today, or the day you run your ad. But it works much differently than a TV or Radio ad. Know the basics before you get started.

Search marketing is another way to reach consumers who are searching for your products and/or services. Making sure your website is well optimized and contains all necessary information — skip on the fluff — that best portrays your business.

If you don’t know how to build a solid website or make it search-engine friendly, find someone who does. Because being visible when customers are searching for you is an important step in acquiring new customers via the web.

What are you waiting for?!

So get out there, talk with your customers! In person; in the ads; in your blog. Be friendly. Be yourself. Have fun. Interaction is key. Show people how much you love your business and what you do. Because if you do it well enough, they will too. But don’t focus on selling your business; that will happen organically when people see how much you care about it. Sincerity is easy to spot.

The common thread with this Top 5 Small Business Musts — in case you missed it — is Interaction. Interact with your customers. Interact through Social Media, Blogs, YouTube, In-Person and in your Advertising.