SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The Santa Maria Valley Chamber has launched a new program to help local businesses build a strong online presence.
The "Get Your Business Online" program is free to all Chamber members.
"It helps local businesses get online and make the transition, especially during the pandemic," said Alex Castillo, Santa Maria Valley Chamber Events & Special Projects Manager. "We found out a lot of local smaller businesses were not active prior to the pandemic on social media or their websites or needed to update certain information online and that's why we have this program. We created it out of that need."
The Chamber will provide an intake assessment of the online presence for each business, and then give owners valuable information they can use to grow their operations through their website and social media.
"It provides them tools and resources in order to be able to make the transition," said Castillo. "There was a lot of information when Covid first happened and the pandemic started about how to make the changes and it was very overwhelming for our local businesses. What we did was to narrow it down and provide opportunities do one one-on-one assessments and provide them the tools that they actually need in order to make those changes to their businesses versus going through all the sources of information that was out there."
Some of the key elements and areas of emphasis that business owners will learn includes the topics of: Create & Manage Your Google My Business Listing, Build & Manage Your Social Media Presence, Build a Customer Database and Sell Online.
"It is very important, especially during the pandemic we saw businesses that had a really hard time," said Castillo. "It meant that they might shut their doors. They weren't able to connect with their customers. A lot of the businesses that we spoke actually realized that they didn't even have a customer database, where they can connect with their customers via online, social media or email marketing or those types of platforms to use, so it can really be the reason they make it or break it after this pandemic is over and how they continue to move on and start the recovery process."
The new program is intended for all businesses, including those in the retail, restaurant and service sectors.
"The pandemic kind of highlighted many issues businesses should have been paying attention to all along, and one of those is having an online presence and a way for their customers to engage with them that doesn't require them to show up at their place of business," said Chamber President/CEO Glenn Morris. "Those that did it well early I think have had less of a negative experience over the last year."
Morris added having a strong online presence will only become more important in the years ahead.
"We think it's absolutely critical," said Morris. "We think that it's almost going to be almost a requirement for businesses that want to succeed in the future to have some way for people to connect with them virtually through an online tool."
He points out that even though local businesses may be much smaller than national retailers or online giants, they can find a niche for themselves to improve sales and grow their operations.
"For a local small retailer, they may not be able to compete directly head-on with Amazon, but they at least need to be in the neighborhood and have a footprint in that world, so when people are looking around for a solution, they can find them," said Morris.
For more information, visit the Get Your Business Online website.