Google Gives Business Owners a Free Virtual Storefront
BY Leslie Taylor
A weekly look at the latest products and services designed to help you run a better business.
Instead of turning to the paper Yellow Pages to find a pizza place, bookstore, or other neighborhood businesses, many people now turn to the Web. As a result, a growing number of businesses use online services such as Google Maps (NASDAQ:GOOG), which displays phonebook-like listings for businesses located in the user's geographic location of interest, to promote their business to potential local customers. But, it can be hard to make your business stand out in a field of text-only listings. Now, with new features in Google's Local Business Center, business owners can customize their listing to better advertise their services.
Business owners can jazz up their listings with photos, designate what category of business they operate, and specify attributes relevant to their business type, such as hours of operation. Businesses can also announce discounts or special deals in coupons next to their listings. Consumers can then print out the coupons and bring them into brick-and-mortar stores for redemption.
To help business owners evaluate the effectiveness of listing their business on Google Maps, the Local Business Center will now let users see the number of impressions and clicks their listing has received.
Google does not currently charge for local business listings or coupons. Businesses can enter their listing and coupon information by logging in at the Local Business Center at Google Maps
Skype (NASDAQ:EBAY), a Luxembourg-based VoIP provider, is broadening its portfolio with two new offerings that let users share and sell their expertise online. Skype 3.1 for Windows includes Skype Find, a tool that lets the Skype community list, rate, and review their favorite businesses, and a beta-version of Skype Prime, which helps small businesses and experts sell their consulting services in an online knowledge marketplace.
In its first three weeks, SkypeFind garnered more than 4,500 listings in 124 countries, and the company estimates there will be over 1 million listings in place by the end of the year. SkypeFind, a user-generated Zagat guide of sorts, provides consumers with recommendations and businesses with visibility. If a consumer wants to contact a business after reading a SkypeFind review, they can click a button to immediately place a SkypeOut call. SkypeFind is free and at present does not allow paid for listings.
Skype Prime helps experts such as financial advisers and tutors find clients and sell their services online. Clients pay knowledge vendors using PayPal and vendors can charge on a per minute or one-time fees basis. Skype will charge vendors 30 percent of their fee for facilitating the transaction.
Custom Printing -- Without Breaking the Bank
A professional-looking business card is an effective -- and relatively inexpensive -- way to advertise your firm. To help small businesses that cannot afford to hire a design firm to create business cards and other marketing materials, Eastman Kodak Company (NYSE:EK) has launched the Kodak Creative Network, a new online design and printing service.
The Kodak Creative Network lets users create high-quality business cards, postcards, flyers, calendars, sales sheets, and posters by customizing industry-specific templates. Users can select finishing options including binding styles, unique sizes, and coatings for their publication and have the results delivered.
There is no setup fee for the service and professional consultants are available online for live chat at no additional cost. Customers can select short run orders, from 5 to 5,000 pieces.