Last week, my wife, Amy, announced the opening of her new business, Tiny Tykes Playcare. The business is half parent’s-day-out, half preschool, and opened today.
Amy has taught at several preschools in the area such as the Head Start, Brookcreek Learning Center (now part of the Ballard Center), both in Lawrence, and three in Topeka: Community Action Head Start, Let’s Help, Inc. Preschool and Topeka Public Schools. Since the birth of our first daughter, Ember, in 2006, Amy stepped away from teaching for a bit to take advantage of some stay-at-home-mom time. But the opening of Tiny Tykes Playcare means she’s got to “get back out there” and get a little exposure. So, as her website developer and de facto marketing department, that meant I needed to find some places to help get her noticed. Here’s what I found.
Since we’re catering to people who live in Lawrence (unless they’re up for a drive), I looked at Lawrence-centered websites that we could post for free. I’m not opposed to spending a little on advertising, but when you’re first getting started it can be tight. Here’s the top (and perhaps only) three local websites where we could post the business for free. If you’ve got a small business, I hope these help you as well.
Facebook, the social networking juggernaut, is a far cry from being a local website – or is it? Facebook fan pages are free, and if you’re on Facebook, you’re likely already friends with many people where your business is located physically, too.
Pros: Facebook fan pages offer insights into the demographics of your fans: age, sex, location, language, etc. Most importantly, it creates an excellent opportunity to open a dialogue with fans and potential customers of your businesses. Can easily integrate into Facebooks advertising program when you’re ready to spead a little dough. Many online referrals come from Facebook to the website.
Cons: For the most part, you’ll only benefit from Facebook fan pages’ features if visitors to the page are already users of Facebook. Interface for Insights can be a little clunky.
If Facebook is the new order, Craigslist is the old school king. With a design that has barely changed since its incorporation in 1999, Craigslist is one of the largest threats to newspaper advertising. Because it offers mostly free advertising, it’s popularity and reach is unparalleled.
Pros: Depending on what your business is, you might be able to post on several different categories for the Lawrence area. You will get some web traffic just by being on Craigslist.
Cons: Prepare for spam. Because Craigslist is free, it’s also can be a spammer/scammer playground.
From 2003 to about 2007, Larryville.com was my No. 1 place to find information about products and services in Lawrence, particuarly in their forums section. In this section is the Larryville Local Business Websites forum and the Larryville SOHO Listings, both great for listing your Lawrence businesses for a little extra exposure.
Pros: Like Craigslist, Larryville is a good source of traffic. Although not as heavy of a referrer as facebook, it’s still good for a few website visits now and then.
Cons: Sadly, Larryville is a shadow of what it used to be. Visitors to the larryville.com home page are greeted with news articles that haven’t been updated since April, and much of the website has turned from a useful resource to a political soapbox without much direction. It’s easy to tell by looking at the Last Post section on each forum that interaction on the site has slowed.
Marketplace is a product of the Lawrence-Journal World, the big newspaper in Lawrence. Marketplace serves as a virtual directory of many local businesses and upgrade options can lead to greater exposure in LJW’s other publications. I’ve had experience with Marketplace before, with the inclusion of my web development side biz, Rumblestrut.
Pros: Very clean design, well organized, search features are great, excellent integration with other media products.
Cons: From my experience, very (and I mean very) few onlne referrals come from Marketplace.
Ultimately, you should go with whatever works for you.
If Marketplace gets you tons of referrals but everyone who likes your business hates Facebook, then the choice is already made for you. It takes time to get the word out about your business and you should use whatever methods are available, then prune out unnecessary ones if you need.
Why not try posting to all of them today and see what happens?