Archive for the ‘Small Business’ Category

Digital Marketing Tactics that Drive Customer Retention for SMBs

Monday, July 28, 2014

In my recent article on Street Fight, I talk about the importance of customer retention for SMBs and highlight some of the best digital marketing tactics that help build loyalty and repeat customers.

According to a recent study by Gigaom, email marketing is considered the most effective digital marketing tactic for driving customer retention, followed by social media and content marketing (websites, blogs, etc.).  These tactics should be fundamental pieces of any SMB’s marketing strategy and the best part about these tools is that they are understood methods that require minimal time to manage and are cost-effective.

Check out the full post on Street Fight.

Top 5 Local Ad Stats of the Week: In-Store Purchases

Friday, July 25, 2014

Despite the growth of e-commerce and online shopping, in-store purchases still reign supreme. For that reason, according to a BIA/Kelsey study, SMBs voted in-person interactions as “excellent” lead sources more than any other lead source, except for calls, which received a comparable amount of votes.

The Internet and other digital technologies have transformed the way consumers make purchases – and that’s not because they can make these purchases online. Instead, these technologies are giving consumers the ability to conduct extensive research that allows them to be more informed about the products or services, price and availability.

Here are some stats that show how in-store purchases are still driving local commerce and the digital technologies that are helping facilitate these transactions:

  • Two-thirds of total local purchases (65.9%) are still being purchased in-person. (BIA/Kelsey)
  • Digital currently influences 36% of in-store sales, a figure forecasted to rise to 50% by the end of 2014. (Deloitte)
  • Nearly 80% of local searches on mobile devices turned into purchases, with nearly 90% of those purchases made in a physical store. (comScore/Neustar Localeze/15 Miles)
  • Four out of five Yelp users visit Yelp.com before spending money, and 93% say that visiting Yelp leads to a local purchase. (Nielsen)
  • 21% of Pinterest users, 30% of Facebook users and 17% of Twitter users said that they have bought an item in-store after sharing or “favoriting” an item. (Vision Critical)

Be sure to check back next Friday for our next edition of Top 5 Local Ad Stats of the Week. Have a great weekend!

Automated Tools To Help Local Businesses Tackle Online Marketing

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In my Local Search column on Search Engine Land this month, I talk about the growing promise of automated local marketing solutions in providing local businesses and marketers with faster, more reliable and more cost-effective service.

Marketers are increasingly turning to automation to help them better achieve a variety of advertising objectives. According to a new survey, 45% of marketers believe that automation is most important to improving marketing productivity, while 44% believe it is key to increasing sales revenue, and 42% think it is vital to increasing lead generation.

To demonstrate the opportunities ahead in local, I discuss three of our Ad to Action Awards winners and the ways that their offerings are lowering barriers for local businesses and marketers to compete online.

  • Rio SEO’s Local Listing Manager solution is automating online business listing management so that local businesses can update their listings throughout the web from a single dashboard
  • The Search Agency’s AdMax Local product is enabling marketers to offer SMBs automated local SEM campaigns at a price point they can afford
  • Sightly’s TargetView offering is enabling local businesses to create, target and distribute video ads so they can compete with big brands.

Read my full column on Search Engine Land.

SoMoConf Speaker Spotlight: Shannon Kinney, Founder, Dream Local Digital

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Today’s Social + Mobile: Show Me the Money! speaker spotlight features Shannon Kinney, founder and client success officer at Dream Local Digital, a digital marketing agency that has worked with thousands of small businesses across North America. She and her team specialize in offering online marketing assistance such as websites, email marketing, social media marketing, SEO, SEM and more.

Shannon Kinney, Founder & Client Success Officer at Dream Local Digital

Shannon has over 15 years of experience in the development of successful Internet products, sales and marketing strategies and has worked on the teams developing successful Internet brands such as cars.com, careerbuilder.com, and over 60 online media properties for newspapers all over the U.S. and Canada. Prior to that, she spent over 10 years in media sales and sales management in Maine.

We asked Shannon a few questions about her upcoming SoMoConf session, and here is what she had to say:

What are the key topics you’ll discuss during your session?
We will review top takeaways from the LMIA report and expand to cover some of the latest case studies on companies leveraging social media to build brand awareness, reach and serve customers, develop relationships and audience.

What about your session are you most excited about?
Sharing some of the great tips and best practices that we leverage every day in our work with online marketing, and making sure that every attendee leaves with ideas they can implement themselves!

Why is it important that attendees not miss your session?
Social media is one of the most powerful tools to engage your community, promote your content and your advertising products and this session will provide several tips on how to make the most out of your time invested!

What is your favorite social media platform to use?
I personally favor Twitter and Instagram as communication platforms, LinkedIn for business communication, and love Facebook for its broad reach and application. I also spend a lot of time with Pinterest and Snapchat!

Click here to learn more about the SoMoConf event or register now!

Google Turns Local Product Searches into Delivery Business

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

To date, Google product searches have delivered fairly relevant local results, but have failed to translate those results into actual purchases.  Now, Google is introducing a new platform to that helps consumers move from product searches to real-life transactions.

The offering, called Google Shopping Express, allows consumers to buy products from several major participating retailers through Google’s interface. In turn, Google will take a single-digit percentage cut of each transaction and then deliver the purchased product from the physical retail store to the consumer on the same or next day. Instead of operating massive warehouses and store inventory – along the lines of Amazon – Google simply acts as a facilitator of local product transactions.

Currently, the service offers products from the likes of Target, Costco, Toys “R” Us and Whole Foods, and is operational in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles. A source told Re/code that Google execs have set aside around $500 million to expand the service nationwide. According to Tom Fallows, head of Google Shopping Express, the company is “willing to sustain that investment over time as this gets going.”

While there is the obvious benefit of using Google to help sell local products, it will be interesting to see how they incorporate small retailers in the mix.  At this point, the service looks well suited for retailers that offer specialty, one-of-a-kind goods that aren’t available anywhere else. On the other hand, the local drug store with common brand name products might struggle to compete with the pricing flexibility of national chains like Walgreens.

Once again, it looks like small local retailers face an uphill battle when it comes to competing with the influence of national retailers.  If Google plans to continue this partnership model for Google Shopping Express, we can only assume that the national brands will have priority over small local retailers that offer the same products with less reach.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on how this new Google offering resonates in the market and what impact it has on local product sales.

Think Tank Chicago: Exploring Local Advertising on a Dark and Stormy Night

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ryan Vaspra, SVP of product and operations at Sightly, shares his thoughts on our recent Think Tank Chicago event which brought together local advertising leaders from companies including Facebook, YP, R/GA, Twitter, MediaVest, Ifbyphone, Marquette Group, Cars.com, Where 2 Get It, CityGrid Media and SMG Local Spectrum. The group discussed exciting new ideas and trends in local that have the potential to take our industry to the next level.

As lightning flashed and thunder crashed outside the 80th floor windows of the Aon Building in downtown Chicago, a group of local marketing thought leaders convened for dinner and spirited discussion – an industry “Think Tank,” graciously hosted by the Local Search Association.

The group was comprised of a diverse set of executives from agencies, publishers, media, and technology companies like Sightly, the online video ad tech company I represent.

The theme of the evening was an exploration of “how local advertisers are using various media outlets to drive clicks, calls and store visits,” what the LSA introduced this year as “Last Mile Advertising.”

From the offset, the discussion focused on what local advertisers want from marketing and advertising solutions and what providers’ pricing should be.

Many participants didn’t feel our industry necessarily needs to provide “free or nearly free” solutions for SMBs as incentives for them to try our products, especially if the value is evident. Simple? Yes.  Effective? Yes.  But simple and effective solutions are rarely free or inexpensive.

Some agency executives felt it’s our job to provide fairly priced, effective solutions but not worry about saving all SMBs from their competitors. In local business, those who are smart, savvy and willing to learn are usually the ones that survive. Conversely, to paraphrase one exec, “Those who don’t get it, usually don’t get that they don’t get it.”

Finally, our best takeaway was that the group felt agencies and service providers provide value by bundling and integrating marketing solutions. Otherwise, SMBs tend to “hopscotch” from tactic to tactic, treating each marketing solution as a stand-alone solution. In reality, bundled solutions create a much more valuable multi-touch, integrated marketing presence for the SMB in its local market than any individual tactic does at any given time.

It was a one-of-a-kind event and LSA brought together a very impressive and influential group of professionals from a diverse set of locally focused companies. The intimate setting made it easy for us to dive deep into the issues impacting the local space.  With such varied experiences and perspectives in one room, we came away from the meeting with insights that are extremely valuable for the future of local.

Automation is Transforming Local Advertising for the Better

Monday, June 23, 2014

These days, many SMB owners struggle with building an effective presence for their business across the growing number of local media platforms. There’s no question that local advertising providers are working hard to help SMB owners overcome the challenges of creating and implementing an integrated approach. However, the costs associated with maintaining labor-intensive management platforms, managing campaigns and fulfilling sales commissions often hinder the ability of providers to offer SMB owners with adequate solutions that fit within their limited budgets.

The automation phenomenon stands out as a potential solution for struggling SMBs and local advertising providers because it helps to lower the costs of developing and fulfilling local media campaigns. It’s a trend that is quickly catching on in the industry, representing approximately 20% of all digital advertising revenue today and still on the rise, according to the IAB.

There are several exciting automated local solutions making their way to market. For instance, Connectivity recently introduced a new product that automates the list-building of customer emails and phone numbers – with the end goal of enabling complete marketing automation.  Additionally, companies like The Search Agency, Rio SEO and Sightly are using automation to make search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO) and video advertising, respectively, more affordable for SMBs and national brands alike.

In a recent white paper, The Search Agency said that automation is an attractive solution because it “offers…the ability to both lower the cost of on-boarding new customers and dramatically lower the costs of ownership, in a marketplace that will become increasingly competitive as search becomes the dominant source of directional leads for all levels of SMBs.”

In an October 2013 article, Street Fight outlined notable corporate partnerships in today’s local marketing landscape. The story illustrated the current shift from targeting specific media types towards enabling a more technology- and data-driven approach. Partnerships like Yelp and Booker are allowing more efficient local ad solutions that bring together massive amounts of consumer data. This creates an opportunity to automate and therefore, drive downs the costs of implementing ad solutions.

“…What’s shaking up the industry is the introduction of cloud-based business management systems…into the marketing mix,” said the editors here at Street Fight. “Marketers can write algorithms to connect supply and demand, automating the way businesses and consumers interact locally.”

The Search Agency is doing that already with AdMax® Local, its automated SEM solution for SMBs. According to Chris Travers of Universal Business Listing – who recently judged this solution for the Local Search Association’s Ad to Action Awards competition – AdMax Local “automates the targeting for the advertiser by using the available technologies in SEM and then interprets it for them. I expect this would be a popular tool for advertisers who are baffled by the complexity, and for the resellers who have struggled with selling SEM to small businesses.”

Separately, Rio SEO has developed an automated process that helps multi-location businesses improve their SEO.  Given the unique challenges associated with managing, optimizing and distributing local business listing information within search results, accuracy is critical for every business, and automation helps achieve that.

Rio SEO offers a local CMS platform to serve as a single point of contact for optimizing and correcting listings on all major platforms, including Google, Bing and Yahoo. According to a recent Search Engine Watch post by the company’s Bill Connard, “automating the process of populating, verifying, and updating your listings on these networks makes this a far less daunting task with a higher quality outcome.”

Finally, automation also has the ability to more effectively manage the mix of high spend/low volume and low spend/high volume advertisers. While agencies have traditionally put their eggs in big brand baskets, there is an opportunity to develop better and cheaper ways of engaging SMB populations with smarter solutions.

Sightly is making waves in this area with its new TargetView solution.  While automation in video is not necessarily a new idea, Sightly has developed an automated video ad buying system that allows SMBs and their marketing partners to reach prospective customers with video ads tailored just for them on the devices, in the locations and at the moments they are watching.

Sightly’s offering provides affordable, locally relevant video advertising to SMBs at scale. As consumers continue to increase consumption of online video and, therefore, video ads – online video ad views totaled 28.7 billion in March 2014, according to comScore – automation will enable SMBs to improve their traction in video.

As more local solutions enter the marketplace, raising visibility for solutions across all forms of local advertising will be critical in helping both local advertising providers and SMBs achieve success. With approximately 28 million SMBs nationwide, there is a huge opportunity for providers to create effective and profitable automated solutions that benefit these businesses everywhere.

Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter Set Sights on SMBs

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Google introduces Google My Business; Yahoo “wants to help people worldwide to start, build and grow their businesses”; Amazon is reportedly launching a marketplace for local service providers; Facebook is traveling the country courting SMB advertisers; and Twitter develops an online SMB curriculum for Twitter Ads. All of this news crossed the wire within the last two months and highlights just how intense the SMB marketing and advertising space is becoming.

According to Google, Google My Business looks to make it “easier than ever to update business information across Google Search, Maps and Google+.” In the past, managing local listings and content across all of Google’s properties has been difficult for SMBs, but this new tool represents a strong commitment to SMBs.

Another search giant – Yahoo –  is developing stronger tools for SMBs. According to a report from the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Yahoo is working on a tool that interprets sales, visits and conversion data to provide businesses with recommendations on what advertising and marketing solutions they should invest in. For instance, if mobile is a strong fit for a business, Yahoo would recommend its mobile ad product, Yahoo Gemini.

One of the biggest stories comes from Amazon. The company has plans to launch a new marketplace for local services, according to a report from Reuters. The new offering will compete directly with existing local market players such as Yelp and Angie’s List, as well as home improvement chains such as Home Depot and Lowe’s,  which provide resources for customers to connect with local service providers.

The social media players that are investing in SMBs are pleased to see that businesses are increasing their marketing spend and time spent on social. According to a recent study by Social Media Marketing University, the majority (54.4%) of U.S. SMB marketers said they had increased their social media marketing spend this year.

For Facebook, traveling the country to New York City, Chicago, Miami, Austin and Menlo Park, is just the beginning of efforts to capture more SMB ad dollars. These “Facebook Fit” workshops follow the launch of the Small and Medium Business Council, which aims to put more of a face behind Facebook, build a small business community and boost advocacy.

Twitter is entering the second year with its self-serve ad products and is simply trying to promote the ad solution. With an emphasis on education, the company has developed “an awful lot” of content, including an online SMB curriculum, intended to help marketers reach customers on Twitter.

The local space is clearly heating up, and this is great news for SMBs. More competition within the space should lead to better price points. On the other hand, providers of local advertising and marketing solutions will need to have products and solutions that differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack with measurable ROI and transparent practices.

Amazon to Launch Marketplace for Local Services

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Amazon.com has plans to launch a new marketplace for local services, according to a report by Reuters.  The new offering will compete directly with existing local market players including Yelp and Angie’s List – as well as home improvement chains such as Home Depot and Lowe’s – which provide resources for customers to connect with local service providers.

Third-party vendors make up about 40% of Amazon’s sales, and these existing relationships provide the critical mass needed to have a meaningful impact in local.  As the Reuters report notes, Amazon will refine the tool much like the company did with AmazonFresh, its grocery delivery service, by gauging demand and testing logistics in local markets before introducing the product nationwide.

Amazon’s move isn’t surprising to those who attended our 2014 Local Search Association Conference in late April. Industry experts Matt Booth, Neal Polachek, and Greg Sterling predicted that “Amazon will score big with SMBs beyond Amazon Web Services” in the near future.

While there are few details, I believe Amazon is getting into the local services space for a few reasons. For one, a large number of consumers are looking for local service providers. According to YP’s most recent Local Insights Report, of the top 10 most searched local categories, seven are service providers.  Plus, there are billions of local searches each month via digital and mobile, many of which are related to local services.

Second, while the local services space is massive, it has been difficult for media companies to turn a profit given the unique needs and offerings required for each locale. Industry observers estimate that the home repair and improvement market alone represents a $250 billion opportunity, and cracking the local services nut presents substantial upside for the marketplace that can do it best.

Finally, as search traffic continues to fragment across platforms, the local services offering that provides the best user experience across the board will have the greatest potential for success.  Given Amazon’s strong brand and standing as a leading e-commerce platform – in addition to its focus on reviews and security – the company is well-positioned to capture the entire purchase process for local services in one place.

While there are many other reasons that we are probably not aware of yet, this is a big move, and we will be watching it closely.

Top 5 Local Ad Stats of the Week: Automation

Friday, May 30, 2014

Selling new digital marketing solutions to SMBs has proven difficult for a variety of reasons – many of which boil down to price.  Many SMBs have limited advertising budgets, which are hard for local advertising providers to reconcile with their costs of doing business. But automation is helping to change that.

Automating workflows and ad buys are helping agencies and platforms lower the costs of onboarding new customers and executing campaigns.  While automation has driven display advertising to new levels, it is finding its way into video and even search engine marketing.

Here are stats that highlight the role automation is playing in the advertising space, and the potential it has to make various forms of advertising more affordable to SMBs:

  • Approximately 20% of all digital advertising is sold by one machine talking to another machine—and growing rapidly. (IAB)
  • In 2012, marketing automation had the largest year-over-year growth of any area: 233%. (eMarketer)
  • B2B marketers that implement marketing automation increase their sales-pipeline contribution by 10%. (Forrester)
  • Global marketing automation software revenue is expected to reach $1.9 billion by 2020. (Frost & Sullivan)
  • The percentage of B2B Fortune 500 companies using marketing automation increased 112% in 2014 to 53% of all companies. (Pardot)

Be sure to check back next Friday for our next edition of Top 5 Local Ad Stats of the Week. Have a great weekend!