Posts Tagged ‘Search Starts Here’

Experts Predict Success When Taking Verticalized Approach to ‘Local’

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New, useful ways of locating local business information are popping up on a regular basis, making the local search and advertising space a much more competitive environment.  Specialized tools like OpenTable for making restaurant reservations and ZocDoc for scheduling doctor appointments are examples of some of these new ways consumers are finding and connecting with local businesses. Some experts predict that the publishers and advertisers who take a more verticalized approach to local markets will find more success than those who take a broad based approach.

During the 2013 Search Starts Here Conference, industry analysts, leaders and influencers discussed the importance of catering to verticals as opposed to trying to take on everything “local.”  Here is what they had to say:

Local Marketing Experts Discuss Importance of Helping Small Businesses Win

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Google estimates that 97 percent of consumers seek information about local businesses via online search.  Yet, many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are still difficult to find online. During the 2013 Search Starts Here Conference, industry analysts, experts and influencers discussed the tremendous opportunity to help these businesses with their digital marketing efforts.  Here is a two-minute video of numerous thought leaders talking about the value in helping SMBs win:


7 Takeaways from ‘Search Starts Here’

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Last month at our annual conference, “Search Starts Here,” we were fortunate to hear from local search marketing leaders from the U.S., Canada and 12 other countries about the numerous opportunities and challenges facing our industry, ranging from the growing importance of original digital content to the rise of mobile and social media.

In our Local Search column on Search Engine Land this month, I discussed my top 7 key takeaways from the conference, which included:

    1. Content is powerful
    2. Mobile is a significant disrupter
    3. Mobile ROI is more than just clicks
    4. As lines between devices blur, context is gaining prominence
    5. Vertical specialties are on the rise
    6. Social media is meeting local search
    7. Investment in sales team is becoming even more crucial

Check out my full column on Search Engine Land, and be sure to share your feedback!

‘Search Starts Here’: The Evolving Local Business Model

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bill Dinan, president of Telmetrics and LSA chairman, hosted an insightful workshop on the evolving local business model. The group discussed the relationship and future of various marketing strategies that increasingly rely on impressions, clicks and calls.

In his opening remarks, Dylan Swift, director of National Marketing at Yelp, overviewed Yelp’s leadership in the local/regional category with 86 million monthly visitors and 36 million reviews. Dylan said Yelp has a good position at the bottom of the purchase/decision funnel, serving as a platform for consumers ready to make a purchase. He said that despite Yelp’s reputation as a website for restaurant reviews, restaurants only account for 21% of the site’s reviews. The largest category on the site is actually shopping (23%).

Dylan discussed Yelp’s ad products, which range from fixed-fee to performance-based. He showcased Yelp’s enhanced profile option, which allows local businesses to showcase photos, videos, update business information, and remove competitor ads from their profile.. He said Yelp is leveraging pay-per-call and pay-per-reservation models to demonstrate return on investment to advertisers.

Hynek Stehno, vice president of Digital Services at Local Spectrum, said he believes local engagement and holistic planning drive performance. He described how local targeting allows for better performance: geo-fencing, local offers, and place-based models enable advertisers to determine who the customer is, what they are looking for and how to address whether it’s the right place/time for a purchase.

Hynek said the proximity of a consumer to a sale is critical – that it’s more about neighborhoods than broader markets – and that addressing behavior needs is key to driving a purchase. He noted a Google/Nielsen study that found that 55% of purchase-related conversations occur within an hour of search.

Debi Hensley, group manager – National Marketing at SuperMedia, described SuperMedia’s directional strategy that includes print, direct mail, online, mobile and even presence and social solutions: anything related to finding customers ready to buy. She discussed SuperMedia’s trial approach to advertising models including cost-per-sale, cost-per-call, cost-per-impression and revenue share.

Debi focused on the importance of driving quality leads for advertisers. She noted that local advertisers may not be as  sophisticated and need help with basic tasks like how to answer the phone.  SuperMedia now offers clients “Call U”, a training program to learn how to answer calls in ways that increase leads.

Debi also shared an interesting example of a SuperMedia mobile app that allows service businesses like contractors to set advertising budgets and generate leads based on their availability, eliminating the need for backend support.


‘Search Starts Here’: Backstage Interview with CityGrid CEO Jason Finger

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

CityGrid CEO Jason Finger spoke with us backstage about his views on the future of local, the importance of verticals, how to successfully compete against Google and Facebook, and more.

Click here to read our post on Jason’s fireside chat with Neg and Greg.

‘Search Starts Here’: Facebook Talks Small Business Social Marketing

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In our closing session for this year’s conference, Dan Levy, director of small business at Facebook, sat down with Greg Sterling.

Dan talked about the importance of local search at Facebook, saying there are 15 million small businesses who have pages on Facebook.  Users are responding.  There are 645 million page views in U.S. of local pages in the average week, and 70 percent of users in North America are connected to at least one local business.

Dan counseled small businesses to use the free product, Facebook Pages, to create a presence and begin interacting with customers.

For those businesses that want to go beyond Pages, Dan said there are two main options.  “We’ve built a number of ad products that work from the biggest brands in the world to the local small businesses.”

The first is a way of targeting and reaching customers that you aren’t connected with, with targeting based on the geography, age, demographics, male/female, kids, interests.  The second is a sponsored story by taking the things your customers are already saying or already doing and promoting it.

Dan said tools like Facebook Offers, Facebook Nearby, Graph Search, and Facebook Home on Android will continue to help small businesses engage with customers.  And he said that Facebook isn’t really a new approach to marketing – it’s rooted simply in how businesses and customers have interacted for years.

“We hear small businesses say ‘We are trying to grow our business … we are trying to find new customers.’  We know that businesses, since the beginning of time, have relied on word of mouth to drive sales.  That’s what we’re trying to do – provide them with a word of mouth megaphone.”

“The first thing I’d be doing is talking to your small businesses about what actually has always worked in their business.  A lot of people think about social media as a new property.  We don’t think about it that way at all.  Ask them what’s worked in the past.  If it’s coupons, maybe you should do Offers.  At a minimum, set up a Page.”

In terms of measurement, Dan said that businesses need to think beyond clicks and that measurement doesn’t have to be complicated.

“We sometimes forget the simple things you can do.  Just ask customers when they come in ‘how did you hear about us?’  That can be more useful sometimes than doing a big study.”

Greg asked Dan about Facebook’s interest in potential partnerships, and Dan indicated the field was open to find an approach.

“We have not worked very well historically with partners.  Almost all the Pages have been dome by small businesses themselves or perhaps a small agency.  We think that’s a big opportunity … So to the extent that there’s partners that have reach, relevance, and have relationships with the small businesses, we’d love to work with them.”

‘Search Starts Here’: Building the “Local Commerce Operating System”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

This afternoon LSA’s Brad Carson spoke with four outstanding experts in the small business technology space: Founder of MyTime – Ethan Anderson, VP and General Manager of SaveLocal (Constant Contact) – Dave Gilbertson, CEO of hibu – Bob Gregerson, and Director of Product Management at Groupon – Sean Harper.

One theme rang true throughout the conversation: local commerce operating systems must be kept simple and be performance driven. Small businesses are starved for time, often with a very small staff juggling multiple roles. It’s critical that systems are as simple as possible, and focused on results not tactics.

Interestingly, the panelists agreed that focus on platforms like these should soon incorporate not only customer acquisition but customer retention and loyalty. MyTime’s Ethan Anderson talked about what’s to come from his platform – MyTime technology could scan a customer’s calendar to see where they have time and suggest appointment times with their dentist or doctor.

Across the board in local search the bar is being raised on how we communicate ROI. Bob from hibu said the chief asks he hears from small business owners are “help me grow,” “help me transact” and  “help me be more efficient.” With local commerce operating systems like these we must get small business owners as close to the dollars and cents as possible.

‘Search Starts Here’: Mobile Offers and Loyalty in the Marketing Mix

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

This morning, we heard from three experts on emerging opportunities in local search – mobile offers and loyalty programs. Participants included Jeff Fagel, VP of Marketing & Brand Development at edo interactive; Christopher Folmar, Director of Mobile Development at SuperMedia; and Blair Sweeden, SVP of Strategy & Business Development at Placecast.

The panel identified two key requirements to building mobile offers or loyalty programs:

1)      Respecting Your Customer

It’s very easy for consumers to opt-out of mobile programs, so it’s imperative that businesses offer a value proposition with each offer. Offers should have enough value to give consumers a reason to return and they should be easy to understand and redeem. Offers should be as barrier-free as possible in order to offer value for customers.

2)      Track Your Results

To demonstrate ROI for businesses, programs must be able to tell businesses how many leads were generated. An easy way to track sales is through special QR codes, barcodes and coupon numbers for each offer: these help businesses track exactly how many target customers were converted. Another important factor is to ensure  programs can measure not only how many new customers are attracted, but if those customers continue to return and how much they spend over time.


‘Search Starts Here’: Panels Debates Automation for SMBs and National Brands

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Our morning panel had a spirited discussion about the role of automation in local marketing campaigns.  Joining us for the talk were Pete Gombert from Ballihoo; Howard Lerman from Yext; Ben Gibson from AdMax Local, The Search Agency, Inc.; and Paul Wicker from Kenshoo Local.

The panel discussed the need for automation vs. the importance of human attention to ad programs.

Ben said, “To be able to effectively run and manage campaigns for these small businesses, there has to be that level of automation.”

Paul introduced the idea that automation actually enables the human element.  “You do automate to take the mundane out of the service, but you do need a human element.  One benefit of automating is to have the time to go back and do some manual review.”

Pete commented that setting the strategy is key.  “The premise if you look at any of the automation platforms is someone has to be doing something – you have to set the strategy.”

Howard agreed, “A brand is a brand.  You don’t want to throw it into a borg of automation … There’s a balance between the art and the science.”

Pete suggested a good place to step is in to identify strong vertical experience.  “We bring in someone that deeply knows the vertical.  They have deep understanding of that vertical space, and they know how to get customers in through the door.”

The panel also debated the differing needs of SMB advertisers and major national brands.

Pete argued that SMBs’ core needs are the same as big brands: “They’re both businesses.  Both are trying attract new customers and retain customers … The industry has an opportunity to raise the game for local advertisers.  I think the goal should be for the local marketer to be as good as the national advertiser.”

But not all panel members agreed.  Howard pointed out: “One of the things I see this industry get confused about is the goals for a small business than a big business.  A plumber has a completely different objective than a brand.”

‘Search Starts Here’: Sales Differentiation in a Hyper Competitive Local Media Market

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bob Sanders, president and COO of AXIOM Sales Force Development, believes that sales teams must invest in their own people. In order to realize success, Bob thinks local marketing companies must not only invest in new products and innovation but also in developing and teaching their sales force to adapt to the evolving landscape.

A recent survey found that 53% of small business owners say that conversations with a local salesperson have more impact on their buying decisions than products, brand and price. Bob believes local sales teams need to invest in programs that help team members better engage with SMBs.

There are seven things businesses can do to drive significant improvement in sales:

  • Create a common selling model
  • Gain 100% buy-in from your team
  • Become trusted advisors to SMB clients
  • Invest in elevating the skill and knowledge of your sales team
  • Establish coaching and accountability methods
  • Integrate all customer contact
  • Integrate methodology with CRM

Now more than ever it’s imperative that sales teams become trusted advisors. With so many products and solutions available, SMBs aren’t just looking to buy, they’re also seeking an advisor to help them weed through the options and find what’s best for their business in their environment.

Sales teams must devote time to understanding the current environment every aspect of their client’s business.