Claiming your Google Places page has many benefits - not least of which is that it's free. A sort of mini-website that, in many cases, has been started for you by Google itself through your mentions in other local directories.
On the local maps for Google Places, you will notice a plethora of red dots. These are the 'also rans' who didn't claim their page or didn't optimise it well enough to rank on the front page.
If you can become one of the seven red lettered balloons that now appear within the body of the search engine results, you will gain more visibility and, therefore, more traffic.
But it is also an opportunity to level the playing field because, if completed correctly by optimising for keywords and collecting reviews (especially if they are good quality feedback), your Places Page is a chance to rank higher than competitors who may have been around for a lot longer and have better placed websites.
Google have also introduced the blue balloons of Google Boost - sometimes called Google Adwords Express. These sit above the free Google Places results in the usual place where the paid listings have always gone but are highlighted with a blue lettered balloon. However, you should be very careful about buying these listings for keywords where you already have a top ranking in the seven pack because advice from America seems to suggest that you cannot have both a blue balloon and the top red balloon. This could mean that such activity would constitute shooting yourself in the foot. If you want to pay for such a listing, work keywords and areas where you do not naturally merit a Google Places red pin.
The experts say that, although 75% of the available clicks will go to the organic listings, if customers are unable to find that they're looking for within a few clicks, they often resort to clicking on the paid links - and that's why some of the more wealthy businesses still use this type of advertising. Having said that, recent heat maps have shown that a lot of customer attention goes to the free Google Places listings so, as per the caveat above, you need to consider carefully before entering the world of paid listings.
You should also make sure that your business is submitted to as many local directories as possible because, whilst some are more specific to your niche, they are all important, especially if they allow you to have a back link - this is an inbound link to your site. Inbound links are the currency of the internet.
However, the currency of the Citations (the technical term for local directories) is reviews and getting your customer to give you positive feedback in the form of a good testimonial is the best way to get your Google Places page indexed highly.
Many experts encourage you to get these positive citations from the best local directories before claiming or creating your Google Places page as this allows Google to pick you up as an authority site immediately and often encourages it to create a page for you to claim.