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What I’ve learned website special: Localistico

Take a look at any high street shop. The owners will have spent hours and hours and hundreds of pounds getting the sign to look just right, agonising over the window display and making sure the colour scheme says exactly what they want it to. And rightly so, because before you can sell what’s in your shop – antiques, a haircut, fresh bread – you need to sell your shop.

This idea of being more appealing than your competition is even more important online, yet, for so many small business owners, this part is ignored. There are plenty of reasons for this, such as costs or a skill and knowledge gap, but as usual, we have found some people to help. Meet Ricardo from Localistico:

What does Localistico do?

Localistico provides a tailored, automated internet profile building service for those who have physical businesses, but don’t have access to the technology or skills required to optimise the ecommerce operations of those businesses.

Take, for example, a coffee shop or beauty salon. People will regularly search for, say, ‘coffee shop’ on social media and other search platforms, i.e. Google, Bing, Yelp and Foursquare, but when they search and find two local coffee shops online, their perception of the physical shop is influenced entirely by its digital counterpart. If your business has no picture or the website looks dated, prospective customers will simply go elsewhere.

Physical high street business owners aren’t always aware of the complexities involved in creating and maintaining a strong internet business profile, so they don’t tend to appear on Google Maps or Yelp, or whatever other search platform. This is where Localistico can help. Our service simplifies the process of generating an online ‘shop front’ for your business. Localistico automatically creates networks for you, analyses the strength of your online presence and reports back to you with actions that would benefit your online profile, in the simplest way possible.

What prompted you to start Localistico?

I started out working for Microsoft and Google Maps and quickly found that many people use the internet to discover new shops and business, but never understood why owners wouldn’t put more time into their online presence. When we started to speak to local businesses however, we realised that the prohibiting factors tended to be complexity and cost, which were things we knew we could solve.

The obvious solution for most businesses is to hire an agency to do this work manually, but this can cost between £2,000-£3,000 and the time scale is entirely dependent on the person the agency is employing. We think we can do 80% of what you need at 10% of the cost and in 1% of the time, making our service affordable for even the smallest businesses.

For ideas like yours that rely heavily on technology do you need to know how the tech will work or can you have the idea and just hire someone?

It all depends on which two categories your business idea falls into; one that depends heavily on technology, or one that doesn’t. So, if your business depends heavily on technology as ours does, you need to have an idea of how that technology works. Even if you are going to hire people, as a lot of businesses do, you still need somebody in your team with the knowledge to say, ‘OK this solution is right’ or, ‘this solution won’t work’.

Instead of paying someone to do it, I would perhaps suggest encouraging that person to join your business. People are more inclined to work effectively when they have a vested interested in succeeding. If you cannot convince somebody to work with you, then you are going to struggle with convincing somebody to work for you.

Is the process of finding businesses online more or less difficult than it used to be?

Much more so. Ten years ago for example, hardly anyone would search for a local business online. They’d get a copy of the yellow pages and search the columns, but now you can be searching on the go, looking at local coffee shops for whichever one is closest and with the best rating. Not only that, but there are also an abundance of platforms to use (Google, Yelp, Foursquare and Apple products).

For a local business, it’s difficult to know what to put online to cater to all these platforms. What do I put here? Do I upload a picture of my business? What should it look like? If I own an Italian restaurant and we serve vegetarian dishes, do I write that? And if I don’t, will I discourage vegetarians? So you may or may not know what information is necessary, and on top of managing your business, you have to optimise your listing, which a lot of people forget.

Is it best to get yourself on as many listing sites as possible or to go for the most relevant ones?

From our experience, it’s almost always better to go for the right ones. In many cases, our competition will just try to get you on a lot of sites, which was effective when ‘link building’ was one of the overarching methods of generating listings.

Most platforms now go for quality over quantity however, like in the way that Google’s algorithms work. You don’t need to be in 100 places, you need to be in the right places and looking your best. Our pitch is that we help businesses to be found, but also to look good. That’s really important. Think of a beauty salon without a photo, do they have something to hide?

What challenges do you see going forward?

We just need to keep adapting. We are a young company and when you are in the early stages you have to do a product market fit, which is basically checking that what you are doing fits the market. Usually an initial idea changes over time. When you talk to real customers they tell you what needs changing e.g. ‘’we really like what you’re doing, but we’d like it if you did this”, and that kind of feedback is what you want at the beginning.

So get your customers on board and listen to what they are saying – that’s the most important bit early on. Listen and react.

In your day-to-day life, do you have any favourite tools or apps?

The tool that we use most is Slack, which is a chat engine. We operate in a team across the UK but our first big client was El Corte Inglés from Spain, so we constantly travelled to and from Madrid and London. When we operate remotely, Slack is what keeps the communication together. Also if I want to go to coffee or whatever, with Slack I can still be in the office, so that remote work is actually very useful for us.

But honestly the best tool we use is talking to people. I think interaction and communicating with other people is the most important thing when dealing with a client or a prospective client.

In summary:

To improve your business’s online profile, try these top tips, and let us know if you have any useful advice too:

  1. Get your customers on board and listen to what they are saying – that’s the most important bit early on. React to what they say.
  2. You don’t need to be in 100 places, you need to be in the right places and looking your best.
  3. You have to optimise your listing, which a lot of people forget (for example by completing your listing, choosing the correct categories, writing rich descriptions, and using rich media such as photography).

If you would like to see what Localistico could do for your business you can contact them here.

For free, impartial business tech help and advice, why not book a session with an O2 Guru? They’re available online, in store and over the phone.

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