Easy Steps to Use the Power of Online Business Directories

Online business directories are fast becoming the information hub of local customers searching for local businesses. Local customers are resigning their old, brittle print directories to the storage bin and turning to their computer and Smartphone to locate the best local business in town that caters to their needs.

A survey in the United Kingdom shows that approximately 20 million local customers each month is turning to online business directories to search for local products, services, or businesses. The behavior of local consumers is changing. Clearly print directories are no longer working for local consumers; they’re switching to an online business directory for faster, better, and detailed search result. The limited information on a yellow page is fast becoming obsolete against the more detailed local search engine marketing tools like local business directories. These directories can list not just the description of your business but also your business’ opening hours, price listings, location map, and even your photo or your office or store photo.

Online business directories, including the hundreds of free business directories, permit for these extra details to be added to your business directory listing. It’s the local businesses who make the most of this chance that are inviting new customers.

There are literally hundreds of paid-for and free online business directories out there. But how do you know which ones are the best and what’s the key to perfecting your listing so you stand out from your rival businesses without having to dish some amount of money?

5 Quick Steps to perfecting your online business directory listing

1. Pick the most popular and relevant directories for your business

The best online directories are those that have the most number of online visitors or those that are industry-specific. But a word of caution-not all niche or free directory listing fit the bill; some have few to nonexistent user base. A quick search on Google will tell you which ones are worth your time and ones to ditch entirely. Search on Google your “business type” plus “your location”: e.g., “accountant in Leeds”. Those local business directories that appear on the first 3 search results pages are the ones to focus. (Check the online business directory comparison chart to see which directories have the most number of audiences: comparison of top UK online business directories.)

2. Add your business to all directories

From the list you got on step one, add or claim your business to all of them. Many local business directories buy their listing data from a provider, so don’t be surprised if you find your business already listed on some of them. For future success, it’s very important to list the correct name of your business, address, and phone number-review your business’ existing list if the information is accurate.

Note: check for a confirmation email from each directory in your inbox; follow the steps on the confirmation email to complete your registration.

3. List as much information on your local business directory listing as allowed

The beauty of online business directory listings is that you can list not just the name, address, and phone number of your business, you can enrich your listing with more details like business description, clickable website URL, facilities, list of services, logos, opening hours, pictures, etc. Use this opportunity fully to personalize your listing to make it more relatable to your customers. Review the information you entered to make sure it’s 100% correct and true to each local directories.

4. Make or use a local Special Offer Voucher

Nothing can be faster to convert browsers into actual buyers than offering vouchers or coupons on your local business directory listing. Local consumers are paying attention to the word “free” or “special offer”; your business listing will stand out against your rivals if you have these words added. You don’t have to offer heaven and earth to your customers; any form of offer is good enough to get customers to walk into the door than nothing at all.

Tip: use different voucher codes on each directory so that you can monitor which directories are giving you the most number of walk in visits.

5. Interact with the communities on these directories

Online directories are dynamic websites with vibrant, active community of users. These users or local customers are actively rating and reviewing the listed local businesses they use, and these ratings and reviews are visible to other directory users. In fact, 70% of consumers trust online business reviews-business directories know this so that they’re pushing up local businesses with positive reviews higher on search results. This is yet another small business marketing strategy you can use. Do either of these to rank your business listing:

Ask your existing, loyal customers to go online and leave a positive review about your business;
Participate with communities on directories and encourage them to visit and test your business or organize an ‘event’ at your office, shop, or store just for them.

Never try to ‘bribe’ people to review your business, though, as this can backfire on you and can generate lots of negative comments which you don’t want (obviously!).

Business Succession and Protecting Your Business Partners

Business Succession

Would you have the funds to purchase your business partners shares in the evnt of death?

Or would the business have to be sold?

If the business is sold by the deceased’s beneficiaries, how would this impact on their estate as their assets increase? How would it also affect the surviving business partner’s assets as these too increase? Both parties’ estates could be impacted by Inheritance Tax in the future, having now lost any Business Property Relief previously available whilst the company was still trading. With the sale of the business you risk losing 40% of the cash proceeds to the tax man.

Perhaps you have made some provision for this eventually

You may feel that you have prepared for the worst and taken out sufficient life cover to protect all parties’ shares of the business. You may even have had the presence of mind to set up a Company Will and a Cross Option Agreement.

This would ensure that the surviving business partner/s has the right to buy out the deceased’s share of the business and the proceeds of the life assurance policy could be paid to the surviving spouse or beneficiaries in exchange for their inherited share of the business. Equally, the surviving spouse or beneficiaries would be able to exercise their right to sell this share of the business to the remaining business partner/s in exchange for either the market value or an agreed amount covered by a life assurance policy.

What about the impact a standard cross option agreement has on someone’s estate?

If you or a business partner dies their share will pass to their spouse or beneficiaries through their will. This is now deemed to be part of their estate. Whilst this share is held and the business continues trading then the assets could be exempt from Inheritance Tax if they qualify for Business Property Relief (BPR). Once the Cross Option has been affected then BPR is no longer available on the proceeds i.e. from any life assurance. The spouse’s assets assessable for Inheritance Tax (IHT) have now increased by the funds received from the life assurance policy risking 40% of the proceeds to IHT, which dependent on the size of the business could be a significant loss.

These assets are also now at risk from attack from any future remarriage claims, creditors or bankruptcy and Long Term Care costs

What about the consequences a standard Cross Option agreement has for the surviving business partner?

With a standard Cross Option Agreement the surviving partner now owns 100% of the company. This is fine whilst the business is still trading and whilst BPR is still applicable.

However, what would happen when they decide to sell the business?

Now their personal estate will be increased to include the proceeds from the sale, as for the spouse this leaves them wide open to attack from Inheritance tax, creditors / bankruptcy, divorce settlements and long Term care costs.

Many companies like ourselves offer business estate planning tailor made to suit you and your business. It takes the Standard planning options available on the High Street a significant step further. Wills planning provides the potential significant protection to the business and reduces the possible impact of Inheritance Tax dramatically. Furthermore the business and proceeds from a future sale of the business is protected for the bloodline from IHT, remarriage, creditor claims, Nursing Care Fees.

Our Planning leaves each partner or director’s share of their business to individual Family Trusts through appropriate Clauses written in to their Wills.

Furthermore the appropriate Life Cover will also be assigned to ‘Shareholder Trusts’ so that these proceeds do not impact on the surviving individual estates.

Once the Cross Option has been executed, the proceeds from any Life Assurance policy replace the share held in the deceased’s Family Trust(s) and so do not form part of the beneficiary’s estate. These funds are now protected against any of the risks named above and the surviving spouse and beneficiaries still have full access to the Trust assets.

So how does this benefit the remaining business partner?

The surviving business partner still retains their original share of the business but the deceased’s partner’s share is passed directly into a Shareholder Trust(s) from where the Life assurance proceeds were originally paid. The surviving Director still has the fullest of control on the business as he is a Trustee of the Shareholder Trust(s).

The Shareholder Trust(s) can also be utilised as a further efficient income tax planning tool. Now that a proportion of the business is in the Shareholder trust(s) any dividends paid into the Trust(s) could be distributed to beneficiaries of the trusts who may well have nil or low rate income tax.

Do You Really Need a Separate Checking Account for Your Business

OK, I know there’s a debate about whether you really need a separate checking account for your business. Especially if you’re just starting out. The CPA in me will ALWAYS say “Definitely!” That’s because I know how to easily track income and expenses separately for my business and my client’s businesses. And, I like there to be a completely CLEAN line between personal and business.

But, what if you’re just starting out? What if you don’t have a business structure setup? What if you’re basically working from your home offering a service for clients that you previously offered as an employee? In this case, do you REALLY need a separate checking account? (In other words, you are a SOLE PROPRIETOR)

When you ABSOLUTELY need a separate business checking account and credit card for your business:

You do business as a “DBA”. In other words, the name of your business is something like “Kendra’s Pet Sitting Service” instead of your own name. In order to get the DBA, you’ve gone to the county courthouse and registered your new business name there. You will use this name to invoice your clients and your clients will make their checks payable to this business name. You do business as an LLC, S Corporation, C Corporation, or any other legal entity. In order to keep your business structure legally intact and follow the recordkeeping rules, you will need a separate business checking account in the legal name of the business entity.If you don’t meet any of the above, you MIGHT want to get a separate business checking account if:

You have steady business income coming in, and don’t have to continually transfer money from your personal account to keep your business account going. You understand the difference between personal and business income and expenses. You want to make your business life easier. You’re willing to do regular recordkeeping to keep your business separate.Pros of having ONE combined checking account:

All money received from all sources (gifts, personal, employee income, business income) gets deposited in ONE place. At the beginning of your business, you won’t have to continually transfer funds from your personal account to cover business expenses. You won’t have to try and keep transfer records straight between your personal and business account. The IRS accepts one checking account AS LONG as you keep ACCURATE records. In fact, having a separate business account doesn’t AT ALL mean the IRS would ignore the personal account during an audit. You don’t have to make an immediate decision when purchasing something at a store whether to use your business or personal account….you may find out later that the purchase can be deducted as a business expense.So, what’s right for you? I don’t know…it depends on your situation and how much recordkeeping you want to do from the start. This totally goes against what I’m “supposed to” tell my clients.

But, I believe strongly in entrepreneurship, and want everyone to be able to start right away without getting stuck on these kinds of questions.

If you have a great business idea, go for it! And, if you are a sole proprietorship and only have one checking account for now, that’s OK.

BUT, please keep ALL receipts for ALL purchases; and make sure you have a record of how each deposit breaks down. At the end of the year, you’ll still need to break down your personal vs your business income and expenses for your tax return.