How Facebook Graph Search Evolves Digital Word-of-Mouth

How Facebook Graph Search Evolves Digital Word-of-Mouth

When Facebook unveiled the concept of the Open Graph in April of 2010, it created a cottage industry of Facebook-dependent businesses and applications that rode the social media giant to viral success. The platform allowed publishers to drop a variety of plug-ins onto their sites, thus integrating them more closely with Facebook and even becoming a part of a Facebook user’s Open Graph itself. By adding features such as the like button, activity feed, recommendations, Facebook login, comments and live stream to a site, it became a way for Facebook to collect data even when you weren’t on Facebook.

The evolution of the Open Graph and your Facebook activity is Graph Search, which allows users to conduct more integrated searches based on likes, people, places, photos or other content that has been shared. Now that more details have been shared directly from Facebook, we can see that the functionality will give Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor…and yes, even Google…a run for their money.

Open Graph Closes the Gates

Facebook’s Open Graph did more than just allow users to integrate their sites more closely with Facebook; it gave app developers outside of Facebook access to a treasure trove of data, which created successful games and sharing apps, such as Voxer, Viddy, and the empire built by casual gaming giant Zynga.

Success drove casual gaming revenues as well as new Facebook registrations. The power of your “bored at work network” and Words with Friends requests was noted in entrepreneurial circles and has been repurposed by startups and app creators heavily since as a method for user adoption.

Then the information tap closed. Under the guise of preserving the quality of the Facebook user experience, new protocols implemented in 2012 severely curtailed how these apps and games could interact with the news feed and usage plummeted.

This chapter of Open Graph lead to heightened media scrutiny of Facebook’s privacy settings and data practices. The takeaway: your Facebook activity and shared content belongs to Facebook.

Facebook Slowly Rolls Out Graph Search

In 2013, Facebook introduced Graph Search, which integrates a user’s likes and other connections to return results it considers most relevant for each individual user. Unlike web search, which uses keywords, Graph Search uses phrases, such as “friends in Atlanta who like sushi” and provides a unique set of results for each user depending on their friend network.

It took seven months to completely roll out Graph Search to all Facebook users in the U.S., and it was several months after that before users could search status updates. The mobile version was just released last week. Zuckerberg did insist during an earnings call that this was a planned “five-year process.”

How Graph Search Evolves Digital Word-of-Mouth

Knowing which social media platforms to embrace and how to use them is essential for small business owners today. Think of Facebook’s Graph Search as a different kind of search engine. Unlike Google or Bing, it is…as Facebook has described, a “social search engine.” Although it’s not the first of its kind, Graph Search is likely to be a huge success, considering Facebook’s 1.35 billion users and the vast amounts of data. Since promoting posts in Facebook’s news feed now comes at a cost out of reach for every day business, Graph Search also presents a new non pay-to-play opportunity.

Along with the rollout of the mobile version of Graph Search, Facebook recently added a more traditional keyword search feature. Designed primarily to search old news feed posts from your friend network, the feature directly competes with Yelp reviews and traditional Google searches for local services. For example, a user entering the terms “restaurant” or “lawyer” will see posts from their network likely to be positive or negative sentiment about recent experiences.

Fueled by an incredible amount of information and demographic data, Facebook is now able to tailor and personalize local discovery to each individual user. Smartphone adoption rates and Facebook mobile usage are continuing to grow. There are multiple viewpoints on whether Facebook new registrations has peaked or continues to expand, but regardless, the 1.35B signed up do love to express their personal opinion on the goods and services around them…which includes Main Street shops.

The point for a small business owner in 2015 is that it’s more important than ever to manage existing customer relationships so that the digital word-of-mouth generated by their endorsements brings business back and aligns you for discovery in secondary friend networks.

Rather than spending money on promoted campaigns that chase vanity metrics such as “likes” and followers, small business owners should use basic customer relationship management software like Signpost with targeted offers that provide top customers the best experience possible. When your existing customer base feels valued, they will generate all the advertising you need in today’s connected world.

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4 Tips to Supercharge Your Online Presence through Visuals

4 Tips to Supercharge Your Online Presence through Visuals

65% of all people are visual learners. What does this mean? According to the Social Science Research Network, that means most people are best at retaining information through visual means. A study by Psychologist Jerome Bruner suggests that while people can remember about 20% of what they read, they can remember a whopping 80% of what they see or do.

Knowing this, we’ve come up with a few hints to help you be noticed and remembered online. Harness the sticking power of visual appeal in local search and discovery to strengthen your overall online presence and stand out from your competition.

1) First Impressions Are Everything

Customers browsing your website will first notice the quality of the site’s design and ease of navigation. Hiring a professional is the easiest solution, though not always the most affordable. Below are some tips that you can use to make the customer’s first impression the best impression.

  • Design: Customers should be able to tell at a glance what you’re selling and how they can get it. Uncluttered, informative, and intuitive web design is the best approach to getting your customers what they need.
  • Navigation: On the same note, visitors to your site need to be able to get to where they want in as few clicks as possible. Getting in touch for customer support also needs to be fast, seamless, and accessible from the main page.
  • Hosting: There are various affordable and simple online services that have very user friendly interfaces that can help you get started designing your website.

2) Engage Your Social Networks

Social media can be a very powerful tool to promote your business. These tips will help you optimize your social media campaigns and engage your customers.

  • Show, don’t tell: Pair your post about promotions and special offers with relevant images. Google Plus users are three times more likely to share posts that include images.
  • Create original content: Canva is an easy-to-use image creation tool that includes pre-made templates and custom image sizes with a variety of cool fonts to create your own content.
  • Customize your message: On several social media platforms, you can customize the thumbnail associated with most of the links that you post.

3) Harness the Power of Your Listings

Another important avenue for customers to find your business are local listings. In fact, while social media can be used for a variety of purposes, people viewing your local listings are there with the express intent of searching for a business to visit!

  • Put your best foot forward: Aside from your website, local listings may be the first impression that consumers have of your business, feature images of your business and product offerings. Like your website, consumers should be able to tell at a glance what you’re selling.
  • Monkey see, monkey do: Include pictures of people enjoying your services or products. It’ll serve as visual reviews for other consumers as well as building trust with your existing customers.
  • Crowdsource: Certain listing websites allow users to upload their own images – take advantage and request that your customers upload an image. Run a contest to increase engagement and build rapport with your consumers.

4) Quality Drives Trust

The quality of your images can have a large impact on user experience and their perception of your business. Again, when hiring a professional is not an option, check out these high quality stock image libraries to supplement your own photographs.

  • Free: RGBStockFlickrmorgueFile. With hundreds of thousands of high-resolution images available for use, these sources can be invaluable in enhancing your visual appeal. For Flickr, ensure that you’re searching for “Creative Common” images available for commercial use.
  • Subscriptions: GratisographyLittle VisualsUnsplash. Simply subscribe to these websites using your email address and receive high-quality, high-resolution images weekly and monthly – did we mention, it’s completely free?
  • Paid: BigstockiStockShutterstock. These well-established stock image libraries host millions upon millions of all types of content, including images, audio and video files. If you can’t find what you are looking for with the other two – free – options, you are sure to find what you are looking for in these libraries.

It’s not easy standing out amongst the hundreds of other businesses online, but with these tips, you’ll be one step closer to a stronger online presence.

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What to Consider When Planning Your 2015 Local Marketing Budget

What to Consider When Planning Your 2015 Local Marketing Budget

As the year winds down to a close and 2014′s marketing plan becomes an historical document to be analyzed and evaluated, savvy local business owners are already contemplating changes and additions to their 2015 local marketing budget. And with so many different and constantly evolving marketing channels available, it’s difficult to decide where to spend one’s limited marketing dollars.

Analyzing the previous year’s wins and losses plays a crucial part in determining next year’s allocations. With a limited marketing budget, it’s key to select marketing channels that provide the highest return on investment (ROI) at the lowest cost per acquisition (CPA). It may be time to weed out some of the older, more traditional marketing channels in favor of a more modern marketing mix. As technological advancements trigger complex societal shifts, marketing methods that once worked well for your company may no longer be as effective.

New Marketing Trends to Consider

According to Forbes Magazine, 2015 will bring to bear a greater focus on thought leadership and inbound marketing. These two concepts form the core of a powerful marketing strategy, elevating brand awareness and business credibility while attracting a higher quality of customer to your content.

What is Thought Leadership?

More than just a marketing buzzword, thought leadership means serving as a helpful resource for your customers. Companies establish themselves as thought leaders through blogs, white papers, directed forums, newsletters, e-books, webinars, videos and more. The format is less important than the content, which must be highly relevant and provide value to the customer.

Thought leadership has two important benefits for a company. The most obvious one is building brand awareness; attracting new customers and establishing a reputation as a knowledgeable and trustworthy entity. The second, less obvious benefit is the enormous boost in SEO that results from regularly posting thoughtful, relevant content linked back to your company website. Google is increasingly rewarding relevant content with higher search rankings, especially in the local search arena.

What is Inbound Marketing?

As opposed to traditional, or outbound marketing, which uses poorly targeted techniques that irritate people such as sales calls, television ads, print advertising, junk mail, email spam and the like, inbound marketing uses interesting content to draw customers in. Often referred to as content marketing, inbound marketing seeks to cultivate a higher value of customer, one that is interested in your product and your brand.

Inbound Marketing Channels

There are a wide variety of inbound marketing channels, from blogs, newsletters and social media posts to videos, webinars and white papers or e-books that are offered in exchange for providing an email address. The Internet offers many different forums in which to post useful, relevant content, including pre-established blogs and social media group sites and forums. It’s not enough simply to start your own blog, you need to generate interest by posting guest blogs and commentary on other popular sites and linking back to yours.

Contrary to popular belief, inbound marketing is not synonymous with “free” marketing, as pay-per-click advertising is another way to get customers to come to your site. The difference is that instead of coming to your site to see an advertisement, they’re coming to read the blog that you’ve posted there.

The channels you select, like the budget allocations that you make, should depend largely on the habits and preferences of your target audience. It might be useful to do a survey of your current customers to find out which social media sites they use and where they most commonly search online for information. (Consider offering registration for an end-of-year giveaway in exchange for their participation.)

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Respond to Reviews in Real-Time from the Comfort of the “Google My Business” App

Respond to Reviews in Real-Time from the Comfort of the "Google My Business" App

Whether it’s Yelp, Google+ or any other review site, savvy business owners know that responding to customer reviews — especially the inadvertent bad one, is crucial.  Even one bad review can mean thousands of dollars of lost business, and the longer it’s left hanging, the greater the loss.  Unfortunately, at the end of a long, busy day, taking time to sit down and check reviews can be burdensome.  That burden just got lighter, with Google’s recent upgrade to the “Google My Business” app, which makes checking and responding to Google+ reviews as easy as replying to a text.

Read and Respond Instantly

Previously useful only for posting to Google+ and updating business information, the Google My Business App has added a whole lot of functionality with this new update.  Download the app and you can read and respond to reviews instantly; anytime, anywhere.  Set your preferences to get mobile push notifications when a customer reviews your business on Google+, and you’ll be notified in real time as soon as a review posts.  You can then launch the app directly from the push notification and type in a response.  No need to mess with logging into accounts and dashboards and clicking around websites.  Keep up with reviews on the fly, at lunch, during a coffee break, waiting in line at the grocery store or wherever.  Your customers will know that you care about their satisfaction — and a bad review can be quickly mitigated.

View Call Analytics

Another feature of the new upgrade is the ability to view Call Analytics inside Google My Business, both the mobile app and the desktop version.  So after you’re done reading and responding to reviews, you can check out what time of day people are searching for you on Google, what keywords they’re using, how much time they’re spending at your various websites and from where they’re getting driving directions to your business.

Track Google AdWords Campaigns

The new upgrade also lets business owners track and manage Google AdWords campaigns inside Google My Business.  More detailed statistics can still be found inside AdWords Express, but overall business stats will be available in Google My Business, allowing you to track the success of your various campaigns.

These might seem like small changes, but in the grand scheme of things they’re monumental.  Anyone who’s ever visited a Yelp page and seen a bad review that has been posted and left hanging knows the bad impression it creates of the business.  But with so many review sites, business owners are often too busy to stay on top of their reviews.  With the Google My Business app, Google+ reviews just became a cinch to manage.

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How to Get Positive Online Reviews for Your Business

How to Get Positive Online Reviews for Your Business

Why is it important to generate positive online reviews?  For one thing, in survey after survey, more than half of people asked said they are more likely to use a local business after reading positive customer reviews.  For another, having lots of really good reviews, especially on sites like Google+ Local, can actually increase search ranking by as much as 10 percent or even more, according to Search Engine Land.

Unfortunately, it’s easier to get negative reviews than positive ones.  Disgruntled customers are more likely to go online and broadcast their dissatisfaction while happy customers usually keep their opinions to themselves.  So what’s a business owner to do?  Although paying for good reviews is a strict no-no, it’s not against the rules to remind customers to post reviews and even make it easier for them to do so.

Establish Review Site Profiles

Review sites are like free web pages, and all you have to do is claim them.  If you’ve been in business for a while you probably already have a listing on Yelp, Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and many other local listing sites.  If not, it’s easy enough to create one.  Google+ is the biggie because it influences Google local searches, so be sure to optimize it with as much information about your company as possible.  Create or claim listings on any other sites which may be relevant, such as Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, CitySearch and LinkedIn.  Also create a Local Business page on Facebook and check the box in the business address section to enable star ratings.

Get the Ball Rolling

Customers are often shy about being the first one to post, so get the ball rolling by getting someone to post a review on each of your sites.  Resist the temptation to create a fake account and post your own reviews; there are too many ways to get caught and the penalties are severe.  It’s much better to find a customer or customers who are avid reviewers (and therefore have established accounts) and ask them to start you off.  You can also use a friend or neighbor, but make sure it’s someone that lives in the same area.

Post Notices in your Store

Post a sign by the checkout telling your customers that you greatly value their opinion and would appreciate feedback about their experience on any of your review sites, especially Google+ Local, Yelp and Facebook.  If you offer computer access, say for catalog look-up, consider making your Google+ page the home page so that customers can log in and leave a review right from the store.

Add Links to Your Emails

Make it easy for customers to leave reviews by adding links to your emails, especially follow-up emails after a sale or service.  This is especially effective because the customer is already online and can use the link to go right from your email to the review site.  Be sure to emphasize how much you value their opinion and would appreciate a review on your Google+ page.

Respond to Reviews

If you get a negative review, respond immediately and try to salvage the situation.  Resist the temptation to get into an argument.  Remember, the customer is always right.  If you believe the review is fraudulent, however, it’s okay to post a note saying that this person has never been a customer and leave it at that.

Don’t just respond to negative reviews, however.  Be sure to thank your customers who leave positive reviews.  It shows that you appreciate people leaving reviews and will encourage others to do so.  It just takes a little time, and if they can take the time to write the review you should certainly take the time to leave a friendly reply.

However you go about getting them, positive reviews are basically online referrals, and can only help your business.  Remember, it’s a slow, continuous process.  It’s much better to have positive reviews trickle in over time than getting whole bunch overnight — which will likely trigger a review filter, followed by a long period of inactivity which will cause the site to lose relevance and therefore, ranking.

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Why You Should Care About Facebook’s New Local Directory

Why You Should Care About Facebook’s New Local DirectoryIt looks like Facebook has done it again. Not settling for being the most popular social networking site, Facebook’s updated – and more attractive – Places Directory may overtake the likes of Yelp and Foursquare as the favored local directory search. If your business page is still not listed on Facebook, this improvement should persuade you to make establishing and maintaining your local business’ presence on Facebook a priority.

Here are the aspects that make Facebook’s new Places Directory better.

Improved Search Functionality

The search experience is not only pleasing to the eye, but easy. The main directory is divided into three no-nonsense ways to search – whether you are looking up a particular business you already know the name of or simply searching for “bars” in the LA metro area, no query is too specific or too broad. The first segment allows you to type in a city name, leading you to a “Things to do in X” page. The second search option utilizes geolocation, featuring a selection of the top rated places in your current area. Finally, Places allows you to explore from a directory of cities all around the world, located at the bottom of the page.

Information From Your Network

Originally offering a lazy list of places by city, Places Directory upped its game and further integrated the social media aspect of Facebook to aid in your local search. Knowledge about your likes, your friends’ likes, and trending events all conglomerate to highlight the best places to go near you. Social factors even help filter your search results, such as only bringing up places that were liked by your friends.

Pretty And Intuitive Design

The popularity of apps like Instagram and Pinterest make it clear that beauty does in fact matter when it comes to social media – the more aesthetically pleasing, shareable content, the better. Facebook took note of this with its introduction of glossy cover images and tabbed interfaces arranged into six hashtag-friendly categories (Restaurants, Hotels, Bars, Cafes, Public Attractions, and Arts & Entertainment), a design leagues better than the original.

This all results in making the question, “Where should I go?” a lot easier to answer. If your local business does not have an established presence on this social media powerhouse, you are missing the opportunity to be the answer to that question.

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Signpost Nabs #27 on Crain’s Best Places to Work in NYC

Signpost Nabs #27 Spot on Crain's Best Places to Work in NYC List

In October – we mentioned that Signpost had been named among Crain’s Best Places to Work in NYC. We’re happy to announce that the report has officially been released with Signpost claiming the 27th spot, beating out companies like AOL Inc., Shazam Entertainment and Buzzfeed!

What does being a Top Workplace truly mean? Here’s the description straight from Crain’s:

The city’s robust job growth and shrinking unemployment rate have upped the ante for finding and keeping great employees. Just ask the 100 organizations that earned a coveted ranking on Crain’s annual Best Places to Work in New York City. They hail from diverse fields, yet share a commitment to making their workplaces welcoming, stimulating and even fun. They go out of their way to support, inspire and empower their workers by doing everything from providing dream benefits and perks to assigning mentors to newbies. The 100 Best Companies don’t scrimp on letting employees know how much they are needed, respected and treasured.

At Signpost, it isn’t enough to simply meet the quota – we want everyone to excelgrow, and feel like an owner. We offer a generous employee equity plan and a world class executive team that works closely with its members.

Of course, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. That’s why we offer a wide open office (with unlimited snacks of course!) perfectly geared to promoting interactions and having fun with those around you alongside areas where you can focus in relative quiet. Spontaneous Ping-Pong matches, hanging by the kitchen and playing your favorite songs are a part of every day at Signpost.

From being featured in Forbes’ America’s Most Promising Companies to being named a Top Workplace of Greater Austin by The Austin American-Statesman, Signpost has been making waves with no signs of slowing down!

None of this would’ve been possible without support from our customers, and of course – our fantastic team! Honors like these prove to us that we, as a company, are living our core values:

We fight for small businesses

We focus on impact

We act like owners

We make our own luck

Our team wins

Interested in joining the Team? Check out our available positions to see current openings!

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Is Your Point of Sale Ready for the New Chip-Based EMV Credit Card?

Is Your Point of Sale Ready for the New Chip-Based EMV Credit Card?

Small businesses using free credit card readers from companies like PayPal, Square, Amazon.com and Intuit may have to pony up some hard-earned cash for a new card reader in the coming year.  And merchants with Point of Sale (POS) systems incorporating magnetic-strip readers will need to update them to accommodate a new type of credit card.

In order to combat what President Obama termed “America’s fastest growing crime” of identity theft, Europay, MasterCard and Visa have teamed up to create a new chip-based credit card called EMV, coming soon to a register near you.

The new EMV card contains a secure microchip rather than the traditional magnetic strip, which is more difficult for thieves to hack and also requires the user to enter a PIN similar to a debit card.  Already in place in Europe for several years now, the new technology has reduced credit card fraud at stores in Great Britain by 70 percent.

October 2015 Deadline

While no one is forcing consumers and merchants to switch to the new technology, the President is urging Americans to do so as part of his recently enacted BuySecure Initiative.  MasterCard and Visa have announced that after October of 2015, merchants still accepting magnetic strip cards will be liable for any losses due to data breaches.

The new EMV readers are expected to cost around $300, but at least two companies, so far, are stepping up to help soften the blow.  Square has announced that it will soon be offering an update to its phone and tablet-based card readers to accept the new technology for as little as $29.  And merchants using the Square Stand POS system will be able to plug in an updated reader to read the new cards, while still accepting the magnetic strip versions.

American Express has rolled out its Small Merchant EMV Assistance Program to encourage small businesses to make the switch sooner rather than later, offering a $100 reimbursement to merchants who purchase EMV terminals. To qualify for the funds, the business must accept American Express cards and have less than $3 million in annual charges with AmEx.  Qualifying merchants who obtain an EMV-ready terminal from their provider of choice can then apply for reimbursement on the AmEx website between February and the end of April of 2015.

PayPal has a reader for chip cards already being used in Europe, but has not released any details about when it will offer an EMV reader here, or how much it will cost.

What About Apple Pay?

Apple Pay only works with point of sale registers that are equipped with Near-Field Communications chips.  The registers connect directly to the customer’s cell phone to take a payment and make checkout faster, but the readers are expensive and not likely to be embraced by small merchants.  And there is, as of yet, no Apple Pay device that merchants can use on their smartphone or tablet, like the popular credit card scanners being used today.

What’s the Bottom Line?

The bottom line is that business owners everywhere may have to shell out as much as $300 per POS for updated credit card readers.  Small mom-and-pop type businesses who take credit cards with their smartphone may, however, be able to get a subsidized or reduced cost version once the credit card providers decide to get competitive.  Will the resulting billions of dollars in savings from reduced credit card fraud lead to lower user fees for merchants?  Well — don’t count on it.

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How Facebook’s Latest News Feed Changes Affect Page Owners

How Facebook's Latest News Feed Changes Affect Page Owners

The days of free advertising on Facebook may be rapidly dwindling to a close.  Starting in January of 2015, Facebook has announced plans to change its news feed algorithm in order to filter out what it considers “overly promotional posts.”

Citing the results of a recent user survey, Facebook execs say they will penalize posts that singularly promote a product, app or contest and posts that re-use or mirror advertising content.  Survey respondents, they claim, wanted to see less blatantly promotional posts and more relevant, personal content.

The upcoming changes will not, however, affect the number of ads that users see in their news feeds.  Facebook is reportedly attempting to increase the overall user experience, while still providing a marketing platform for businesses to maintain an online presence and connect with their customers.

As Facebook has gained in popularity over recent years, the news feed has already become a very competitive place.  Many business owners are already taking advantage of Facebook’s “promoted posts,” paying anywhere from $5 to $5,000 to have their posts viewed by a larger group of users.

The Value of Facebook for Local Business

Of small businesses using social media as part of their marketing campaigns, over 80 percent list Facebook as their number one site, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter.  While it’s fairly standardized and limited in control, Facebook pages offer an easily managed online presence that is already optimized for mobile phones and tablets, and tools to upload photos and videos and create promotional events.  Many businesses supplement their business pages with promoted posts and Facebook ads to boost exposure, but a lot of those have reported that it’s complicated and expensive to manage this advertising effort.

How to Avoid the Facebook Axe

In order to avoid having posts penalized by Facebook due to overly promotional or duplicative content, business owners should work to create posts that are relevant and provide some kind of value.  For instance, instead of simply encouraging users to purchase a product, show them what it looks like, how to use it and what kind of benefits it can provide.

Consider using your Facebook page in combination with a blog, newsletter and other online marketing channels, where your call to action won’t be censored.  Facebook isn’t threatening to curtail all commercial posts, only those that don’t contain interesting content, so get creative with your posts.

Is Having a Facebook Page Still Worth the Effort?

Facebook business pages will continue to be a valuable marketing tool that helps business owners to connect with their customers.  Almost a billion users visited Facebook pages this past October, over 750 million of them on mobile devices.  And the updated Facebook local search directory will encourage this even more.  Your Facebook business page is a great place to tell your story, provide information about your business and even host a sort of customer service forum for users to ask questions and provide feedback about products and services.  As far as sending out promotional posts about sales and discounts, however, those might be better suited for email marketing.

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Best Practices: 7 Ways to Market Your Cleaning Service

Best Practices: 7 Ways to Market Your Cleaning Service

Whether you run a dry cleaning service, carpet cleaning or professional home and office cleaning business, you need an effective marketing plan to generate leads, bring in new customers and foster a strong relationship with current clients.  How should you best target your advertising dollars to get the most favorable ROI?  Here are some best practices to get you started.

1. Identify Your Target Market

Before you can develop a marketing plan, you need to identify your customer.  Most local business is generated around a specific geographic location.  Is your dry cleaning business located on a busy thoroughfare between residential neighborhoods and office complexes? Offer a quick overnight special where busy people can drop off and pick up their dry cleaning on their way to or from work.

Which neighborhoods in the area are more likely to prefer your method of carpet cleaning?  Are they more interested in quality or price?  What office buildings may need professional cleaning services?  If you can identify the type of services your target customers are looking for, you can more effectively tailor your services — and your marketing plan, to meet their needs and desires.

2. Flyers and Door Hangers

Colorful flyers and door hangers can be easily distributed to apartment complexes, office buildings and local neighborhoods.  Send out a stack with every cleaning team (or delivery person) with instructions to spread them around job sites.  Chances are where there’s one customer, there are many others who may need your services.  Offer an introductory special for new customers and put your contact information in large, bold type.

3. Direct Mail Postcards

Direct mail postcards are an effective way to geo-target entire neighborhoods within a predetermined distance from your establishment.  If the postcard doubles as a coupon for a discounted service, the recipients will be more likely to save it, even if they don’t need your services right away.

4. Business 2 Business

If you offer a commercial cleaning business, you can make a lot of valuable contacts by joining your local chamber of commerce and other civic organizations.  Network with business owners, real estate agents, building managers and members of homeowners organizations to get large, lucrative contracts.

5. Business Review Sites

Savvy customers know to check customer reviews on sites like Yelp and Angie’s List before signing up for an offer that looks too good to be true.  Be sure to claim all of your business listings, including Yelp, Google+, Yahoo Local and Bing, and monitor your customer reviews.  You can’t change a bad review but you can mitigate it by making things right with the customer.  Encourage satisfied customers to visit your Yelp page or any of your business listings to leave a review.

6. Build Brand Recognition

It’s worth the extra expense to provide your employees with a uniform, and paint your company vehicles with your business name, logo and contact information.  It not only generates a much more professional image, but neighboring homeowners and businesses will see your vehicles and uniformed employees while they’re on the job.  The resulting effect will be just as if the customer had personally recommended your business to them.

7. Reward Customer Loyalty

When it comes to hiring a cleaning service, many people prefer a sure thing over uncertainty.  Even if the service is only so-so, knowing what they’re getting and what they’re paying is often preferable over the unpleasant surprises that sometimes come with trying a new service.  Cleaning services who offer a low price but then tack on extra charges don’t usually stay in business long.  Ensure your customers they will always get the same good value from you, and offer loyalty rewards for repeat business and/or referrals.  Any small gesture, such as an extra room or spot cleaning service will go a long way towards generating customer loyalty.

Ultimately, if you offer good value in your cleaning service, word of mouth referrals will bring you many customers.  To avoid going out of business while waiting for that to happen, though, you will need an effective marketing plan to help things along.  All of these practices should help you generate plenty of customers for your local cleaning business.

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