Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Get Found Online: Four Reasons to Claim Your Google Place Page

Claiming your Google Place Page is one of the most important things you can do if you are trying to reach local or regional customers.  Google Places allows business owners to update their physical business location information so it can be shown in Google Maps.  It's free, it's easy but will literally 'put you on the map'.  Google™ map, that is, which typically are those search results that show up first. 

Online maps are becoming extremely personal.  If you want to get directions online, you can not only get directions, you can look at Google Earth and see exactly where you are going. Searches are becoming more and more mobile so having your Place page will also help when people are searching on the fly and want instant results. 

Search for 'Spokane Restaurants'.
Notice what stands out?
Here are four important reasons for businesses to claim their Place:
1.  Mobile, Mobile, Mobile.
2.  It is FREE!
3.  Enhance your web presence.
4.  Your competitors are.

1.  Mobile, Mobile, Mobile.

How often do you use your cell phone to find a location?  If I had to guess the number of times in the past month I have used my cell phone to find a business, I'd say at least ten.  Actually more like 20 since I was in San Diego over the holidays and relied on it for directions and sightseeing activities.  

According to a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 85 percent of adults in the U.S. own a mobile phone and 56 percent of them use it to surf online (I've seen other statistics that show an even higher percentage).

Also, mobile is immediate (and imminent?).  If you are in the hospitality industry, there is a high probability that some of your customers could be posting reviews before they have even left the door.  Think Yelp, Zagat, TripAdvisor and Facebook Check-Ins.   

2.  It is FREE!

Need I say more?  It takes a little time and effort, but can reap big rewards.  We have a special opportunity for  5-10 area businesses to get expert training (free, too!) on how to set up their Place page - see more below.

3.  Enhances your Web Presence.  

It is all connected
Anymore, it is not just enough to have a company website; businesses need a web presence to attract new customers and retain existing customers.  It is a holistic approach - an app or social media site drives visitors to your website, which the ultimate goal is more sales!  They are all connected, a business cannot rely on one piece of the puzzle.  

Getting on the map also increases your accessibility to your customers.  Searches are becoming more and more driven by location and Google Maps.  Google uses a complicated algorithm in its search function.  There are numerous indicators that can propel search results including key words, quality score indicators and...a Google place page.  

Have you noticed when you search online, your city shows up in 'suggested' searches?  For example if you are searching for Real Estate, Google suggests 'Real Estate Spokane', since they seem to know exactly where you (or your computer) are based.

And if those three things do not convince you, this might:

4.  Your competitors are already there.

Courtesy of
If your competitor has a Google Place page and a website (and even better, a mobile app), it is likely that they are coming in ahead of your website on Google searches.  This means that if potential customers cannot find you but can locate your competition, there is a good chance that you are missing out!  Here's a great article from Inc. Magazine on how you can gain more mobile market share.

Help local mobile and web users find your business easier.

We have a SUPER EXCITING opportunity for 5-10 businesses to work with a Google Trainer and set up a Google Place Page.  Business should have a physical location and a website.  This will be an interactive class; participants should bring a laptop.  Location date and time is not set yet, at this point we are trying to gauge demand.  The class will likely be offered mid-to-late February and held around the lunch hour or around 4 p.m.

This process can take up to a month - you actually have to submit an application to Google to claim your place, it is not automatic.  Plan accordingly if you are launching a new website or expecting to see instant increases in customers or web interest. 

If you are interested in the Google Place training, please send me an email or give me a call, and include your time/day of the week preference.  We have limited spots available.  

New Registration Site for over 300 Small Works Rosters

Important Press Release for contractors, vendors interested in gaining access to Small Works Rosters:  319 WA Government Agencies Use MRSC Rosters to Contact Business

Cities, Counties and Districts across the State Notify Business of Public Works Opportunities

Seattle, WA – January 7, 2013.

Businesses can now register with local governments in one location to become eligible for small to medium-sized public works project notifications. Traditionally, a business needed to complete separate, yet identical, applications for each public agency they would like to work with, but now businesses simply complete one, free application in the MRSC Rosters database to register with multiple agencies in Benton County or throughout Washington State.

The streamlined application process in MRSC Rosters, at www.mrscrosters.org, saves businesses time, allows them to directly learn about job opportunities, and supports public agencies in more efficiently completing quality projects.

Not all Spokane Area Agencies Participate
319 Washington cities, counties, and special purpose districts use MRSC Rosters, including 143 Cities, 11 County Governments, 46 Fire Districts, 25 School Districts, 14 Ports, and 30 water/sewer districts. A full list of participating public agencies can be found athttp://mrscrosters.org/PartAgencies.aspx.

MRSC Rosters is a program of Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington (MRSC), a non-profit organization that has been serving Washington local governments for more than 75 years. As recognized local government experts, MRSC has developed a statute-based roster service that maintains public agency individual small public works rosters (RCW 39.04.155) and consultant rosters (Chapter 39.80) within a shared database and assists businesses with the roster application process.

Businesses apply at anytime by completing the application within www.mrscrosters.org. It is free to register on one or many of the participating public agency rosters within the database using the default Basic Membership. The listing gives businesses the opportunity to be notified about public works construction, repair, or maintenance projects under $300,000.00 or small to medium sized architecture, engineering, surveying, or other consulting professional services projects.

Public agencies contract with MRSC for a nominal annual membership fee from $120/yr for public agencies with total capital expenditures under $5 million. More information can be found at http://www.mrscrosters.org/agency.aspx. Agencies follow the same contracting procedures they would if they maintained their own rosters and MRSC has no involvement in business selection.

For more information, please contact MRSC Rosters Manager Ellen Hutchinson atejh@mrsc.org.

Contact:  Ellen Hutchinson, MRSC Rosters Manager                    
Telephone: 206.625.1300
Email:  ejh@mrsc.org
Website:  www.mrscrosters.org
Address: 2601 Fourth Avenue, Suite 800, Seattle, WA 98121-1280
Organization: Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington

Friday, January 11, 2013

Retail Growth in Grant County aided by SBDC Advisor

The Spokane Small Business Development Center is part of a state network with 30 advisors in 24 centers throughout Washington State.  We are also part of a national network, there are SBDC centers across the country.

Recently, my colleague in Moses Lake was mentioned in an article on how he has assisted retail growth in Grant County.  Here's an excerpt.  If you are in retail, you know many of the industry challenges.Keep up the good work Allan!

Allan Peterson of the Grant County EDC heads up the Retail Taskforce. The taskforce was started by the EDC with the goal of bringing more retail business to the county. It is a large effort with up to 15 members from different walks of life in Grant County including community members, business and property owners, and government officials.
In 2012, the task force split into four committees, each tasked with gathering information about Grant County for potential retailers. The goal was to get information not available on the Internet that would be useful for retailers. Peterson says the group wants to bring new retail to Grant County, not retailers that will compete with existing businesses.
The group is preparing to attend the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) convention in May 2013. The county will have a booth set up among the retailers and those attending from Grant County will have specific tasks such as retailers to talk to and present information. They have targeted 20 companies and are developing information packages specifically for them. "This may be the tipping point" in bringing them here, Jonathan Smith says.
Smith says that retail is growing in Grant County and he credits Peterson who works with small business through the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Smith says there are three areas of growth: local retail expanding, regional retailers growing, and national retailers locating in Grant County. Through the SBDC, Peterson is helping local retailers expand. The retail task force is targeting regional and national retailers.
The retail taskforce needs input and help from the community, according to Petersen. "We know what fits and what doesn't and we're looking for the closest match." But the more information they have the better the result of their efforts will be.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

IMPORTANT: 2013 Minimum Wage Increase

Washington State's minimum wage has increased to $9.19 per hour. 

Visit the Labor & Industries website if you need the official announcement or any other required posters.  There is no need to pay for these, you can get them free online.   

Employers are required to post the “Your Rights as a Worker” poster, which provides information about the minimum wage and other topics. This poster is available at no cost from L&I. (A separate minimum wage poster is no longer required.)

More information regarding Washington’s wage and hour laws is available at Wages.Lni.wa.gov. Employers and workers also may call 360-902-5316 or 1-866-219-7321.