There’s a lot of conversation about how technology is changing the way we live our lives. Well, by 2020 there will be 8 billion people in the world, with 50 billion ‘connected things’ accessing hundreds of connected services.
It turns out that technology doesn’t make the world and people more distant, but it makes the world smaller and people more local. And in that, there’s an opportunity for marketers to get their geodata and content into the cloud to add local context to their ads. Local context helps people live their local lives and helps customers get to your front door.
Head to AdAge today to check out Yext CEO Howard Lerman’s post with tips for marketers in a connected local world.
Places are where people go. And today with the rise of mobile, it’s never been more true. As we were putting together this issue of the Yext Quarterly, we wanted to explore how local connects to social.
The innovation in recent years shows how important people and social are to local, like Facebook’s Graph Search, or Foursquare’s explore. In fact, a recent study found that 13% of local search happens on Facebook today – before the full Graph Search rollout. So now, your business information is linked to (and affected by) your customers’ social engagement.
We again worked with Greg Sterling and Andrew Shotland to look at how local is going social. There’s been a lot written about social, so we wanted to take a different look – and today we’re excited to bring you exclusive articles, op-eds, research and graphics, including:
Search’s social past and future
Tips for multi-location businesses and Graph Search
Challenges and opportunities for small businesses and social media
How local fuels authentic social interactions infographic
We created the Yext Quarterly as a resource for you. So after you read through this issue, or the previous one, let us know what you think. We want to hear from you, really. Send us an email at YQ@yext.com so we can make the next issue even more useful.
Hope you enjoy the Social & Local issue, which you can download here.
With the rise of mobile, digital location information is an increasingly powerful driver in why and how people purchase offline today, and it significantly impacts how businesses stay in the flow of consumer decision-making. For locations with missing and incorrect digital information there is significant missed opportunity – to the tune of $10.3B for US businesses.
In today’s Financial Times, Emily Steel notes:
“While the internet has emerged as the go-to source for finding location information and details about businesses ranging from hair salons and veterinary clinics to gyms and restaurants, it is rife with errors. As a result, companies are missing out on customers at their bricks-and-mortar stores, and driving them to competitors, say analysts.”
The full article appears in the Yext Quarterly with original research by Greg Sterling, Andrew Shotland, and Yext that illustrates impact of missing listings:
- The internet is the most popular source for finding location information, but it’s full or errors and outdated information. These errors are often duplicated across other networks and sites, creating a multiplier effect. Even worse, essential data is missing online, preventing customers from even visiting a business
- Looking at 40,000+ business listings on 50+ local directory sites, the study showed 43% of listings—almost half – had at least one incorrect or missing address
- When customers find incorrect information, 15.1% of people would “look for another merchant”
- When listings are missing, customers choose another merchant, which costs retailers and local merchants $10.3 billion annually
For businesses, digital has actually fueled the problem of fragmentation, and in 2013, this is an issue that technology can and should fix very easily. As customers, we should be demanding correct location information, and as businesses, we should be taking advantage of the traffic and the sales correct data enables.
For more background and to download the Yext Quarterly article on the $10.3B in missing listings here.
When it comes to local marketing there are no set rules. Each community is different and each individual business has to adjust to its target customer base within that community. Still, there are some basics to marketing successfully to a local audience that cannot be overlooked. If you feel like the return on your local promotional initiatives is hit or miss, you may be neglecting some basics that can bolster your business and reputation in your community.
Here is a look at three common mistakes businesses make when it comes to reaching local customers:
No Web Presence. Even owners of longtime mom and pop establishments can benefit from a simple website or inclusion in an online directory. It is not often that a local business owner says he or she has “too many” customers. In addition to regulars, a web presence brings in new clientele that happen upon sites when looking for a product or service. Many websites cost very little to create and maintain, and results-driven online directories are affordable too. If you are truly at a loss on where to begin in building an online following, hire someone to help you. The money you invest will pay off over time and many companies offer a flat fee to maintain the site for you.
Remember that it is not enough to rely on word-of-mouth or traditional marketing techniques to bring in new local customers. Hanging your digital shingle in cyberspace is also vital and easier than ever to accomplish. Give potential customers the answers to their questions in an immediate way in order to win their business and not lose them to more visible competitors.
Difficulty to Find. This point is similar to having a lack of web presence but applies beyond the digital realm. If people do not know where you are located, they cannot give you their business. This means promoting your web location in addition to your physical address. Unfortunately, people are so programmed to find the answers to all questions immediately that they will not take the time to track you down if a competitor offers ease of information. Do whatever it takes to let people know where you exist, from web presence optimization to the signage outside your location to inclusion in web listings for your industry.
There is really no financial advantage to being an industry “best kept secret.” Ask customers how they found you and how you can improve your physical visibility. Those that are most loyal to your business will want to help and will be honest with you. Do not lose customers to frustration or impatience at having to track you down, instead make it easy to find you and even easier to buy your products or enlist your services.
Lack of Community Outreach. There is a reason that people say “the more you give, the more you get.” Find simple ways to give back to the community of your loyal clients and build your reputation for future local clients. Simple ways to get involved include sponsoring a local event, donating a product or service to a fundraising auction or volunteering at a local non-profit organization. Align your name with a cause that you believe benefits your client base and one that represents your business ideals.
Not only does outreach earn you the respect of the community, but it also creates a culture of social consciousness in your business, encouraging employees to reach out when they are off the clock too. You can feel satisfied knowing that you went beyond the call of duty to help the community and build a strong image of beneficence in the process.
Focus on local marketing does not have to be overwhelming. Find simple ways to reach out to your local audience through an online presence, easy-to-find location and outreach programs. By participating in just a few initiatives, you’re taking down some of the barriers that may be holding your business back. This then allows you to increase your business and root yourself in your community.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com, one of the largest business directories on the web.
Some business are big, some are small. Some have strong national brands, others are local favorites. But every business needs to have its own personality and stake within its community to succeed. What we’re seeing is a shift in marketing: the localization of the enterprise.
Localization will mean local content matched to local media and searches; localized marketing strategies will have to be able to leverage local experts to be as fast and flexible as the market.
Let’s say, for example, Walmart has fresh locally grown strawberries in stock. Since strawberries have a very short shelf life, that store needs to make sure people know that those strawberries are there right now.
There simply isn’t time to create rich local content, route it through a centralized marketing team, and then send it back to local sources for print, display and more.
What if, instead, the local store manager or regional director could make marketing decisions?
Our CEO, Howard Lerman, recently discussed this very issue in a column on Street Fight. Check out the full article and join the conversation.
Customers can experience a physical store in a much more connected way than any online shopping experience. On Black Friday 2012, the busiest of all in-store shopping days, experience and utility won.
If you own a small business, you have likely felt at a disadvantage because of the tighter lending regulations from banks. Your advertising budget is already small or non-existent, making advertising even harder now. Luckily digital advertising is low-cost, allowing small businesses to be able to expand their limited budgets.
Many small businesses have Facebook and Twitter pages, and maybe a few listings in local directories, but that is the extent of their advertising. This is not for lack of interest, however. In a recent study released by market research firm BIA/Kelsey, 40 percent of small and midsized businesses plan to increase digital spending in the next year.
So how can businesses get the best return on digital channel advertising investments?
It is understandable that companies do not want to put up the cash for traditional outbound marketing techniques, but there are actually a lot of inexpensive (and free) ways to market a business online that are underutilized. If you want to maximize your online presence, look beyond the typical social networks and directories and make use of these options as well:
Register your company with Google’s Places for Business. Did you know that 97 percent of consumers decide what local businesses to frequent based on an online search? This free service from Google, Places for Business, literally puts you “on the map” so people can find the products or services you offer on a local level. If you do not have an office that is open to the public, you can choose a service area option during signup and hide your physical address. If you have multiple locations, you will want to sign up separately for each spot.
Join your local Chamber of Commerce. For a small annual fee, you can take advantage of the many networking opportunities your local Chamber of Commerce provides. This is an excellent way to learn about the ways area laws will affect your business operations and also to rub elbows with potential clients. Usually new members get the chance to promote their business on the Chamber’s website or in its newsletter which could lead to a boost in business.
Seek out business swaps with other local companies. This can take many different forms depending on the resources that you have available to trade. Consider comparable online banner ads or just simply leaving business cards at each other’s physical locations. You may also want to look into exchanging guest blog posts with other area businesses. By linking to each other, you will build up search engine credibility for people searching businesses in your area. There are really no limits here and business swap ideas are free. Try to find companies that make sense with which to trade – for example, a home inspector may find value in a swap relationship with a local Realtor or property management office.
Make a business video. People love to watch videos online, so why not ride that wave? Make a brief video explaining your services or products and post it several places, including your official website and YouTube. Show your expertise in your field with a video that explains what you do and why you are the best at it. People like to put a face with a business name, especially when it comes to local companies, so give them a reason to pick you over the other options.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com which is the largest business directory on the web. ChamberofCommerce.com connects local businesses to their local Chamber of Commerce. Megan also writes business news.
As a small business owner you most likely had a Google Places page to help customers find your business. Recently Google has decided to replace Google Places with the new Google+ Local pages. In order to simplify the switch from Google Places to Google+ Local we’ve come up with this step by step guide to setting up your business page.
The first thing you need to do is log into your Google+ account, or if you don’t have one, create one by going to plus.google.com. Once you’ve logged in, hover over “more” in the lower left and click pages.
Then click “create new page” select the local business or place category and enter your primary business phone number.
Then click locate. Google will automatically search for your business based on the phone number. If it finds a business listing you can select it and edit your information, agree to the terms, then click create. If your business is not found click “add your business to Google.”
Then include your basic business information like your business name, number and address, scroll down, accept the terms, then click create.
By Ashley Furness, guest blogger and market analyst for research firm Software Advice.
Localized marketing is one of the most effective methods for making your brand relevant to the customer. Unfortunately, it’s also among the most difficult, expensive and time consuming.
But leaving it up to franchise owners and resellers jeopardizes brand consistency and is nearly impossible to track. Thankfully, technology developers in recent years have released new tools that make the practice easier, less expensive and more automated. Below are four strategies every national brand marketer should know.
Manage Local Search Listings
Yext PowerListings lets companies control their local search listings across 35 search platforms including Yahoo!, Yelp and Foursquare. The technology makes sure the correct address, website and phone numbers are listed. Marketers can also add images and timely promotions to those listings. These portals track how many times a listing showed up, where, and whether it was clicked.
“Every business wants to make sure they are everywhere consumers are searching,” says Yext Sales and Services Vice President Wendi Sturgis. Her company has run diagnostics on more than 200 companies’ local search results. At least 50 percent of those listings were wrong or missing. “That’s a huge missed opportunity,” she says.
With Yext, marketers can add custom promotions, descriptions and photos to search listings based on the location. These appear adjacent to the name of the company and address on the local search results page and are specific to that location. This saves marketers from needing to individually contact and negotiate with each search platform. Users can also instantly make changes to listings using a account dashboard.
Provide Customizable Marketing Assets to Local Affiliates
Digital asset management systems have long been used to make branded materials available to local marketers. But they aren’t specific to a location, nor do they track the promotion’s execution. New localized marketing automation platforms overcome this challenge by streamlining fulfillment and providing materials that are customizable. The technology delivers national-quality marketing assets to local marketers who can add in their own addresses, logos, social media buttons and other localized content. These assets include microsites, email templates, direct mail ads, in-store materials, online displays, social media messages, radio spots, outdoor displays and more. Users also receive timely, aggregated results from local marketing efforts. These can identify in-market trends and improve overall national campaign efforts.
Encourage and Use Customer-Created Content
Personal stories and recommendations are extremely powerful in today’s review-obsessed world. Thankfully, companies such as Compendium allow brands to creatively encourage, curate and promote customer-created stories. Patrons are invited to contribute their story in-person, through email marketing or “tell us about your experience” forms, among other avenues. Customers write about their experiences and submit photos specific to that location. They are then served tools to instantly share those posts with their own social networks. The prevents marketers from having to write unique content for every location. Additionally that content is atomically more likely to be shared and trusted by the writers social network.
Leverage On-Location Displays and Shopping Apps
Companies such as Adcentricity operate a network of in-store television screens, location-based shopping apps, in-window displays, digital projectors, radio partners and interactive gaming stations. Marketers can target segments by choosing geographically relevant settings. For example, if a company wanted to target young people, it might choose screens in trendy downtown bars. The technology can also auto-personalizes the message for the store, day or time.
There are undoubtedly other technologies that make localized marketing easier–and still more that address challenges not mentioned here (Google Adwords, Yelp! and Facebook). What solutions have you come across? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.