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When your business needs to expand its client base, you need to spread your name across a broader range of people. It has always been easy to reach people in your immediate reach, such as friends and family, and then friends of friends. However, when you need to attract more people, you have to cast a wider net and get your name in front of people who have never heard of you. As the world population increasingly relies on internet searches to find what they need, listing your business on marketplaces and directories could be the answer to growing your client list.
Directories vs Marketplaces - What's the difference?
Directories have traditionally been used as a simple listing resource on the internet. With simple filtering by location, keywords, and industry, a typical listing would show the company name, sector, products or services, and contact details.
The example with which you will be most familiar is Yell.com (or the Yellow Pages). A business submits their details, and the directory controls the listing. The directory might also charge a premium to display further promotional material on there, such as ratings, images and "top listing" status.
Marketplaces are different in various ways; one of the main ways is that marketplaces have long been almost entirely populated by retailers providing products, not services. Listing your business on a marketplace not only gives you visibility, but you also have to option to sell from that platform. You get to keep your products and services current and relevant. You keep the responsibility for maintaining the market place listing. Two examples of well-known product marketplaces are Amazon and Etsy. You might not have heard that services have entered the marketplace space, but two examples are Treatwell and Booking.page
Reap the benefits of listing your business
While there are clear benefits to listing your business on a directory or marketplace, there are some additional bonuses that are a bit more subtle.
You already knew that adding your business to a directory would improve your online profile. That listing makes it easier for your potential clients to find what you're offering. You have an extra slice of internet space that is all about your business. Additionally, you increase the accessibility of your business by adding different channels through which new clients can find you.
It follows naturally from increased online visibility to improved SEO. SEO (search engine optimisation) is the search engine algorithm aspect of having more than one point of contact for your business. The more areas of web space that your business appears on, the more likely it is to show up on search engine results pages. By listing a business on a directory, the link to your website becomes a worthwhile backlink for SEO. With your business name listed on an external directory, your results on local search pages will improve, even if clients don't find your listing ON the directory pages.
Inbound Marketing, Direct and Indirect
When people use directories, they don't usually know the exact business they want. They could be looking for your company on a recommendation, or they could be looking for any business in your industry. It's possible they don't even know your business exists. If a customer searches for <Dental clinic in Manchester> in a directory, your business will show up with every other dental clinic in the Greater Manchester area. If your business is located closer, either to home or work, has a better review rating, is easier to locate or has better images, the client seeking a dentist is more likely to find (and choose) you rather than a competitor. Meanwhile, people looking for your company will also find you.
Partners & Partnerships
If a company or individual seeks a partnership or investment opportunity with a compatible business, where do you think they look? It's a rough split between the local chamber of commerce and the local or industry-specific directories. If a company or investor wants to partner with your business, whether it is to sell appropriate products to you or to share clients in complementary industries (okay, GDPR compliance is essential here), they will search the proper directories and marketplaces.
Many directories and marketplaces allow for clients to leave ratings and reviews. It's a provision that benefits the directory because they get to offer the best results to clients who are searching. When a new client searches for a business in your sector, they will take notice of ratings, and both good and bad reviews. Your reputation is there for all new clients to see. If new clients can see your status, they are more inclined to choose your company. Showing your standing in multiple places spreads the word more effectively than a single review point on your website ever can.
Also, a marketplace or directory that can sort businesses by reputation may place your listing near the top of the list — that's assuming that your reputation is good.
Directory or Marketplace? Choose which one or use both
With the differences listed before, it's usually a good plan to decide which format of online listing will work best for your business.
Directories provide lists of businesses. It makes no difference whether they are product-based or service-based; you can list a business on a general directory. This might be different if you want to list your business on a directory specific to a particular industry or sector. You get a company title, a description of your business, your contact details, and possibly an image and customer rating.
That's it. Input your business details to the directory, and that is your job done. If a client locates your business on the directory, they will leave the directory website to go a website, visit a store, make an appointment, whichever way they want to use what you have to offer.
You can quickly spread your brand awareness on a directory with minimal effort or time. It's not a bad thing to have a passive method of advertising your business and increasing your online visibility.
Marketplaces give you sales power. Whether you're selling products or services through the website, it might mean that you can list highlighted services or products, allowing clients to make appointments or letting them schedule a consultation. While marketplaces give you the extra power to sell, you also have to take responsibility for making sure your listings stay current. Marketplace selling isn't a passive access channel, not usually.
A marketplace listing gives greater scope for client interaction and active selling. What you might not realise is that every time the marketplace advertises itself, it's also leading potential clients to your business too. The more visitors the marketplace receives, the more potential clients can find your business, products or services.
If you want to spread your name about without much effort or input, directories are a good option. Marketplaces are excellent for increased interaction and selling. For the best results, mixing up your exposure on both registry types is the best call.
The digital age has changed the way we do business. With increased accessibility to information, services and products from all over the globe, the impact on everyone has been incredible. Technological advances mean we can do almost anything with a touch or swipe of our smartphones. Online booking platforms have changed the way that businesses receive bookings, reach new clients, and manage their concerns.
Breaking the Status Quo
While some people of the 'old-school' mentality have maintained that "our customers prefer the personal touch," their business stagnates. Yet the new customers find someone else who can facilitate their need for fast, controlled, and accessible online booking.
Over the past ten years, people have become significantly more reliant on their computers and mobile devices - practically since the invention of the smartphone. It makes sense that businesses need to develop their approach along the same lines.
Point of Contact
Businesses that don't employ an online booking platform are missing out on the "impulse" section of web-searchers. When people search for services (whatever they are) if they want to treat themselves or have a desperate need, they will most likely choose the provider that gives them "instant access".
It's all very nice having an optimised website, a google business profile so that you show up on page one, and social media presence. However, if potential clients can only negotiate an appointment or a consultation by waiting for people to be available, they will put a business in the "Maybe" pile and keep looking.
The business that offers the best service AND the ability to book at the point of contact will win the race for new clients.
Saving Time & Money
If you handle all incoming appointment queries via phone, email or text, you are using valuable time, that you could be getting paid for, responding. You can't ignore your incoming contacts because that's who will fill your appointment book, but you could be filling the time spent responding with paying clients or having a home life.
If your business is well-established, and you have the turnover to afford it, you could hire a receptionist, but you can only cover regular working hours. You're unlikely to hire someone to cover your calls and messages 24/7. For Small businesses that are just starting or medium-sized companies that are expanding, the extra expenditure is unrealistic.
The Convenience has Become the Expectation
As more businesses and companies use online booking, the more people expect it. A recent example was here on this forum, on a website review;
"Why can't I book online?"
It's a fair question.
It's no longer a pleasant bonus to be able to make your appointment whenever you want; it's a requirement for many people. It's not enough anymore for a company to have a contact form or list an email address or phone number.
Any service provider that requires booking time with a person, physical space or time with equipment can benefit from using online appointment booking. However, it's necessary to consider that rather than being an "optional extra" in the competition stakes, it's become a necessity.