(Note: This is posted at BusinessPhoneNews.comand is designed as "done-for-you" marketing that authorized TA members can use on their end-user blogs and email newsletters.)
The whole point of having a business phone number and a published listing is so people can call you and do business with you.
But until customers and prospects commit your phone number to memory or your business phone number earns a spot on their speed dial list, how do you suppose they're going to find your number?
Pull out the latest 10-pound printed phone book from their desk drawer - no.
They'll Google it, if course.
But does your business phone number, your address and a little map pop up as the top listing when your business name is Googled by customers and prospects?
If not, you need to fix that. It doesn't cost anything and it's pretty simple to do
Google Business Listings 101
To see an example of what a semi-proper Google listing should look like, Google search "ATEL Communications".
Below is an example of what this search delivered the day I wrote this blog post. Click on the image to see it bigger.
If you click the image above to see the normal size presentation of this Google search, you'll see what is delivered. In addition to the address, phone number and a map, you'll see searchers are also provided with a web link to the business website as well as a list of business reviews.
Not only does a search result like this produce your phone number, it reaffirms to your customers and prospects that you really are in business. If your competitors Google business listing looks this good but yours does not, follow the simple steps that follow.
Step 1: Go to Google.com/Places
This is where you can edit your listing if someone's already created it or initiate the listing if it does not yet exist. (You can also get to this starting point at Google.com/Local/Add or Google.com/Maps.
Step 2: Follow the Listing Directions
You can put in all the details about your business address, your phone number and a description along with your web address. You can also add photos and a video.
To ensure that only you can create a listing for your business, after completing your free business listing you need to wait about two weeks to receive a postcard in the mail from Google with a confirmation PIN to finalize the listing.
Step 3: Promote Your Listing & Solicit Customer Reviews
If you run a a B2C (business to consumer) type business (dentist, tax returns, veterinary, etc.) you definitely want to solicit reviews by asking your customers to scan a QR code with their cell phone or by giving them a card with a short link to your Google Places page.
Google frowns on "paying for" customer reviews with coupons or discounts but setting up a computer "review station" in your office waiting room appears to be acceptable.
While soliciting reviews might seem a little bit scary for businesses that annoy as many customers as they make happy, once you are successful getting your phone number to pop up in a Google search of your business name you certainly do not want it to look like none of your customers care enough about your business to give it a rating.
To get some good reviews started, send out a letter or email to all your best customers and ask them to give you an honest review.
To avoid negative published reviews you might want to invest $25 per month in a service like TalkBin from Google that allows customers to immediately communicate via text or email with the people in your business in charge of making customers happy.
Other Resources to Consider
I found the following when writing this post. If you're really interested in taking your "local search marketing" to the next level you certainly want to make sure your marketing person is all over this stuff.
TalkBin by Google If you're serious about immediate customer feedback while there's still time to fix a problem (so you don't read unhappy reviews on the web about your business later) then this seems like a great program.
Using QR Codes to Get Reviews This is written by an SEO specialist who gives a step-by-step instructions for getting reviews from "off line" customers
Yelp A large review site.
Google+ For Business After getting on Google Local you should probably sign your business up for a Google+ site as Google seems to be serious about taking on Facebook and other review sites. Click here to view "9 ways Google+ can help your business". Here's another good post on the same subject
Yext This site claims to make sure all the Internet business search engines (other than Google) have the right listing for your business