According to a recent survey done by MerchantCircle.com, over 56% of small businesses have marketing budgets under $2,500 and 22% have marketing budgets less than $1,000. With so little spent on marketing, it's clear that word-of-mouth is the most important marketing vehicle for these enterprises.
In days gone by, word-of-mouth was passed directly from person to person but the advent of review sites such as Yelp, Angie's List, City Search and Google Maps have taken word-of-mouth into the digital age. These sites now allow "Word-of-mouth" to reach more people faster and the popularity of review sites is growing. According to data from Compete.com review sites attract millions of viewers each month and are growing at rates in the high double digits. (See below)
A recent announcement by Google now adds a new twist to local search and creates an opportunity for savvy small businesses. Google Maps searches now add "descriptive terms" that optimize local search. Below are two examples -- the first shows search results for "Chinese Food," while the second adds the word "spicy" to the search.
Small businesses, particularly those with limited marketing budgets, should already be soliciting their best customers to write positive reviews. However, the advent of descriptive terms opens the way for the smartest of these SMB's to also encourage customers to inlcude specific key words in their reviews that make the business even more visible than their competition.