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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Local consumers typically make up a large portion of a small business’s client base. Therefore, it is essential that small businesses target consumers residing near their business location. To gain local exposure, many small businesses utilize geographically driven advertising channels like radio, newspapers and business directories. Some of these businesses, however, have failed to recognize the importance of incorporating local search Web sites like, Yahoo! Local, Google Maps and ThinkLocal into their marketing mix.

What Is Local Search
Local search is a rather new and inexpensive – often free – advertising method that can effectively reach a large, well-defined audience. The local search audience is unique in that it is comprised of local consumers who request to see the business ads delivered to them and therefore, are receptive to the information they receive. Local search can strengthen any marketing mix because it gives businesses visibility among those who are most likely to purchase their products or services.

Local search Web sites shares the same model as paperbound business directories like the Yellow Pages®. In fact, they are sometimes referred to as online business directories. In addition to displaying a business’s name, location and phone number, many local search Web sites also provide additional tools such as maps, driving directions and quality ratings. Some also offer extra benefits like weather forecasts, local event calendars and forums.

Look for local search engines that consistently receive good amounts of traffic.
High trafficked sites provide more visibility for your online business listing. Google Maps® for instance receives millions of visitors a day, and each visitor is searching a specific business or business type within a defined location. If you are listed on Google Maps, your business listing will receive a tremendous amount of exposure among local consumers who desire your offering.
Check to see if you are already listed.
Many of online business directories like ThinkLocal® business listings purchased from data management companies. Because these lists are so long, the online business directories are not able to contact every business listed. As a result, many business owners are unaware that their businesses are listed.

If you find your listing, take ownership of the listing.
You may take ownership by creating an account. Once you’ve created an account, edit your listing if necessary and enter information about your business wherever possible. The more information you provide, the more likely you will be able to sway an undecided consumer.
If you cannot find your listing, it simply means that you will have to create one.
It’s not difficult to create a listing. All you need to do is set up an account and enter your business information. You may have to indicate the category and subcategory under which you would like your listing to appear. Simply choose the category that best describes your offering.

Are you donating used clothing or household items to IRS qualified organizations every year, and not claiming the full fair market value of those items? Since the IRS doesn't provide a way to determine the full fair market value, most people assign values of a few dollars to items they donate. This will cost you money each year. Using websites or software programs can increase your deductions, saving you money every year.

Check the web. Free information is available from the Salvation Army on a limited number of donated items. Go to the Salvation Army's USA website: www.salvationarmyusa.org. Then select "your help->donate->receipts->valuation guide."
Be more thorough. If you are willing to pay for your information www.charitydeductions.com is a website that has valuations for thousands of items and provides printable reports for your records and accountant for less than $15/year. It works for anyone with an internet connection and has a money back guarantee.
Use software programs. If you use tax preparation software, you should consider using their valuation related products that work together to optimize your deductions. TurboTax offers a program called It's Deductible and TaxCut offers DeductionPro software. Both programs are Windows compatible only, cost less than $20/year and offer guarantees if you don't save a certain amount. They can be downloaded from their respective websites or purchased at a variety of retail locations.
Consider cost effects. Any of the paid products should save you at least what you paid or you can get your money back, so there is really no risk is trying them out to increase your itemized charitable deductions.

There will usually be items donated that are not on their list. It is nearly impossible for a product to guess or know every type of item that people donate. What you must do in these cases is do the work yourself. You should be able to easily create a custom category, then search eBay to find items like yours to find your value. These programs aren't perfect, but do save you the time of finding all the values yourself.


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