A decade ago, a pioneering franchise company was one of the first to harness the power of the internet to promote small businesses within a local community. Ten years after the launch of thebestof, what’s changed about the way we find new customers and what hasn’t? You might be surprised…
In 2005 when the thebestof launched, it was mainly known as an online business directory with a mission to highlight only the best tradespeople and service providers in a particular area. (There are sub-sites for each town or area, such as thebestof.co.uk/Farnham.) It was the fastest growing UK franchise ever — over 100 areas up and running within the first year. But that early success did not mean they rested on their laurels. At the time thebestof launched, You Tube was only three months old and TheFacebook (as it was known back then) wasn’t even open to the public to join. Those are just two of the many things that have changed how we use the internet and revolutionised how we do business in the last ten years.
As a result, Michelle Downey, head of thebestof, says they’ve had to stay ahead of the game: “We are constantly innovating and introducing new technologies to put our members firmly on the map. Founder and serial marketing entrepreneur Nigel Botterill constantly seeks to find out what works in terms of driving new sales and how it can be implemented by local businesses. And all thebestof franchisees and their members then benefit from this.
“We pioneered the local online directory but we’ve moved way beyond that now. It’s not enough to just list yourself on a business directory and think ‘that’ll do’. We can do so much more to raise the reputation and good name of our members. People find services from word-of-mouth recommendations, on google and social media and we have shifted our approach towards helping small businesses to harness that more effectively.”
Research conducted last year by the online business publication, Small Business Trends, found 85% of small businesses get at least some new customers through word-of-mouth. Interestingly, this stat has hardly changed in the last ten years but the way people share information has, due to the use of social media.
According to Martin Davidge-Stringer who runs thebestof Farnham, business owners have more control over this than they may think: “Doing a good job and giving good service is of course a prerequisite for getting your customers to recommend you, whether on or offline. Thebestof encourages its members to become aware of the importance of reviews and to ask customers for them, this helps focus on one of the most effective ways to get new business. People are very British and don’t like asking for reviews. But the more you do it, the more you know it’s going be fine.”
But are online reviews trusted by the public? Again research shows strongly that they are: 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (Source: Bright Local Survey, 2014).
Thebestof had an effective online review system up and running early on. Michelle Downey explains: “We were the first to launch a fully trusted 3rd party independent reviews facility for local businesses back in 2007. We currently have over a 550,000 reviews live across our website with our goal to be reaching a million, real, local and validated reviews within the next 18 months. We are just about to launch an integrated reviews widget for the websites and Facebook business pages of our 21,000 members.”
thebestof in Farnham
Martin Davidge-Stringer has been running thebestof Farnham for the past 9 years. Martin is passionate about his role as a champion for local businesses: “I love the local aspect and being part of the community - I meet some fantastic people and champion great businesses throughout the area. Of course, we are also able to help local Farnham people and visitors to find the best goods and services that the businesses featured offer.
“We provide so many different ways of getting a member’s name or reputation out there including social media, blogs, networking events, reviews, advertising special offers and writing about all of them in our newsletter
“Being able to show a return on investment is important. I find it really rewarding that I can see how and when my members are getting a response. I see the traffic going through to their profile and when people email inquiries to them through the website.”
If you think your business is one of the best in Farnham and should be featured on thebestof then call 01252 763048.
Member since: 10th July 2012
Hi, if we have yet to meet, my name is Martin and I have been running the Best of Farnham for 11 years.
My aim is to promote and champion only the best of businesses throughout the area, helping with...