The Local Business Marketing Funnel: Getting and Keeping Customers

The Local Business Marketing Funnel:  Getting and Keeping CustomersAs a local business owner, you undoubtedly recognize that getting and keeping customers are equally important to the growth and success of your business.  Loyal, repeat customers are the meat and potatoes that sustain your business organism, while new customers help it to grow and expand.  Your marketing efforts, therefore, need to cover all bases from getting found to converting interested consumers to keeping loyal customers and leveraging them for positive customer reviews and referrals.  Those are the key components that go into the five stages of the local business marketing funnel.

Stage One:  Awareness

Awareness is important in order for your local business to be included in the wide mouth of the funnel, before local consumers have to make a decision about a purchase.  Ideally they’ve seen you or heard about you, and your business is the first they come up with as a solution once they have a need.  Local awareness is achieved through general marketing efforts involving local advertising, community activities, following up with past customers and giving your customers a reason to talk about you.

Stage Two:  Consideration

Once a consumer has decided they have a need to make a purchase, they’ll gather all of the information about products and services that he or she is aware of.  Today’s buying journey is a much more consumer driven process than in the past.  In making a decision, today’s consumer does an online search, sifts through online reviews, asks for recommendations from their network, and recollects past in-store experiences.  In this stage, your online presence is critical as consumers search online to find new relevant businesses and look at directory listings and reviews to research businesses they already know about.

Stage Three:  Conversion

Now that the customer has narrowed the selection, it’s time to make the sale.  The first step is adding a call to action wherever consumers can find you.  Ask them for their business or to call or email you for more information.  After that, targeted marketing software allows a business owner to key in on customer inquiries with prompt, informative responses and strong purchase incentives.  This responsiveness fosters a feeling of connection between the customer and the local business, setting the stage for trust and loyalty.  When a consumer feels their needs and concerns are being addressed, it’s easy for them to make the decision to buy from you.

Stage Four:  Loyalty

This is the stage where keeping customers comes into the equation, and this can be increasingly challenging in today’s market.  Your competitors are probably using advanced marketing techniques to try and poach your loyal customers at every turn.  On top of offering quality products and services at competitive prices (i.e. value), fostering customer loyalty involves staying connected through email and SMS marketing, and an active and effective loyalty rewards program.

Stage Five:  Advocacy

The advocacy stage takes the funnel full cycle, from getting and keeping customers to getting new customers through word-of-mouth, referrals and customer reviews.  Even customers who rave about your products and services may need to be prodded or incentivized to help you expand your customer base.  Referral programs are only effective if your customers know about them, and business owners should never miss an opportunity to encourage customers to check out their Yelp page or like them on Facebook.  Remarketing plays an important role here, in connecting with customers and encouraging them to get the word out.

Local Marketing Mistakes

It’s a Brave New World

When it comes to local business marketing, conventional one-size-fits-all advertising is no longer sufficient to help your company thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.  In order to get found, get considered, make conversions, foster customer loyalty and nurture advocates that generate reviews and referrals, local business owners need to leverage a wide variety of means and methods in order to reach consumers in the right place at the right time with the right message.

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Automotive Marketing Ideas: 10 Surefire Ways to Boost Your Business

Automotive Marketing Ideas: 10 Surefire Ways to Boost Your Business

When it comes to marketing ideas to grow your auto repair, dealership, bodywork, auto parts and accessories, or car wash business, advertising advice that works for other enterprises may fall short. The problem with the automotive industry is that people don’t generally tend to think about your services until they suddenly need them. So how do you make sure that yours is the first business they find when they start looking? Here are ten marketing ideas tailored specifically to the automotive sales and service industry that will help drive customers right to your door.

1. Establish and Optimize Your Web Presence

This seems obvious, so why do so many auto repair shops and the like still refuse to join the party? Studies show that up to 97% of those looking to buy, fix, or customize a car start their journey online. Whether they get referrals from Facebook friends, check out directories of auto dealers, or simply Google “auto repairs near me,” the Internet is where they’re looking. The bottom line? If you don’t have a strong web presence, you’re not likely to be found. As a minimum, you should have a website, a blog, social media business pages, and an email marketing list, all optimized with keywords and phrases that customers might use to search for you.

2. Network, Network, Network

Establish relationships with others in your industry. If you do auto repair, let local dealerships know you’re available to take overflow repairs and services. Word of mouth referrals from salespeople at a dealership can really boost your repair or customization business, and a strategic partnership with a dealership or rental company can keep your car wash running when times are slow. Build as many connections as you can with others in your industry – even the competition!

3. Incentivize Referrals

Everyone loves a freebie, even if it’s something small. No one’s going to recommend you if you provide poor service anyway, but sometimes even the best service doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Your customers might just need a little prompting to promote you to their friends. Let them know how much you value their business (and that of their friends and family) with a little thank you gift or service. Invite them to like your Facebook page and sign up for newsletters and special offers by email. Remember, most people are skeptical when dealing with automotive businesses, so a recommendation from a friend is a powerful thing.

4. Be Accessible

When it comes to automotive sales, repair work, and customization, not only do people look for you online, but they do most of the research and decision making before they even come in to your business. Provide plenty of information on your website, blog, and social media pages about your products and services. Make sure your phone number and contact information are prominently featured, along with a way for customers to ask questions via web form or email. Respond promptly and courteously to any inquiries you get, without being pushy. As a bonus tip you should keep track of and collect every call and email so you can follow up the with customers in the future.

5. Work with Insurance Companies

Although it may seem tedious, go ahead and jump through the hoops necessary to become sanctioned by auto insurance companies. Customers seeking repairs after an accident nearly always stick with a sanctioned facility. And a customer who is happy with post-accident auto repairs is likely to come back for other, non-accident related repairs!

6. Become a Subject Matter Expert

Publish a blog or newsletter (or both!) about automotive related subjects your customers may be interested in, from best practices for prolonging the life of your car to upcoming changes in emission standards in your state. Find information that is interesting, helpful, and exciting to a car owner and make a habit of sharing it with your customers. You could even offer a workshop on basic car upkeep, covering frequency of oil changes, recommended tire pressure settings, tire rotation frequency, and ways to get better gas mileage. All of this helps to build trust, which is critical in the auto industry, and generate new leads from customers looking for a trusted guide for their auto servicing needs.

7. Be a Community Leader

Especially for auto dealers, building your brand in the community is crucial – when it’s time to buy a new car, you want your business to be the first to come to mind. You can do this by participating in civic groups and networks, sponsoring sports teams and youth programs, supporting local charities, and anything else you can find to connect with future customers in a positive way. And don’t be afraid to toot your own horn about your activities, in social media, blogs, and even press releases.

8. Accessorize and Customize

Whether it’s a company license plate holder, logo tee shirt, key chains, seat covers, floor mats, air fresheners, or dashboard bobble heads, U.S. consumers love to accessorize. Distinguish your business from the rest with unique, innovative custom accessories that your customers will want to flaunt.

9. Bundle It

Some new car manufacturers have taken to offering free services for a fixed amount of time or mileage as an incentive to purchase a new car, with quite a bit of success. Who wouldn’t love not having to budget for auto servicing for the next year or two or five? Consider bundling repair services tailored to maintaining an aging car at recommended intervals. Alternatively, monthly car wash packages or detailing combinations are quite popular.

10. Offer Free Inspections

Offer free safety inspections with a comprehensive report of discrepancies. Let the customer know not only what must be fixed now, but what should be fixed now and what may need to be repaired or replaced in the next few months or few thousand miles. The customer will respect you for not trying to sell them unnecessary repairs, and be forewarned of expenses he or she will have to budget for in the future. If you live in a state with emissions regulations, consider offering a free pre-check before the vehicle goes to the state facility.

Hopefully some or all of these suggestions have addressed your unique needs as an automotive sales, service, customization, or repair facility to bring in new customers, get referrals, and build your business. Good luck!

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Signpost Nominates Our Top Dog!

Signpost is Top Dog! In celebration of Pet Week, Fast Company is on the lookout for America’s Top Office Dog. Here at Signpost, we nominate Wolf – not only are his social networking skills on point, but he’s a total ham. Wolf has demonstrated fearless leadership and remarkable sales skills since he was a pup.  He comes into the Austin, TX office each Friday with tons of energy to get the sales floor pumped up and ready to cold call. There’s nothing more motivational than a wagging tail and an excited lick after closing a deal to get you to close another one! Here are a few of Wolf’s Top Dog moments:

  • He’s first to rally the troops and show them what hard work and a pawsitive attitude can achieve!
  • Even when he’s in long leadership meetings, he makes sure to periodically keep an eye on the sales floor and make sure no one needs assistance.
  • He always makes sure to carefully choose what he’ll wear to the office each day. Professionalism is key for Wolf, and he always wants to set a good example.
  • Wolf is a strong advocate of carpooling. He is a positive influence for both our office and the environment.
  • He always shows up to work on time and ready to go at 8am.
  • And finally, he understands that having a work-life balance is key. You have to have your outside hobbies in order to bring your A-game into the office.

If that face didn’t already convince you, all of these reasons combined should make it clear that Wolf is the perfect candidate for Fast Company’s Top Dog. Signpost wins, and so do our pups! Don’t forget to vote!

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How to Use Visual Marketing to Grow Your Local Business

How to Use Visual Marketing to Grow Your Local Business

Exactly why is it that “a picture paints a thousand words?” Could it be that since 90% of human communication is nonverbal, we respond more to visual stimuli than words on a piece of paper? Bingo! So why rely solely on the clever musings of a talented copywriter when a few carefully selected graphics or photographs can boost your marketing ROI to the moon?

Visual Marketing on Social Media

Savvy marketers are using Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, among others, to connect with customers on a visual – and visceral – level. Social media is for more than just making people drool with pics of scrumptious meals and desserts, however. Social media sites are an excellent forum for pictorial communication. Use photographs of your product or service to tell a story, to show people enjoying it, and to build brand recognition.

Product Branding

Graphics and artwork have long been used for product branding, from logos and packaging to simply creating an overall mood or atmosphere around a product. This is where you might envision the type of person who would buy your product: how they might dress and where they might use it. For instance, if you’re trying to create an air of mystique and exclusivity around your product, you wouldn’t show it being used by a typical discount store customer while they’re dining at a fast food restaurant. Use photographs to associate your product with people, places, and activities you think your target customer would enjoy or aspire to.

Create Artistic Content

Purchasing advertising space gets your message out there, but you can multiply your ROI to infinity if people start sharing your images on Facebook and other social media sites. Create pictures and artwork that are so amazing, funny, quirky, or unique that viewers will feel compelled to share them with their friends. Even better if you start off the trend by posting them to your own social media business pages.

The Nostalgia Effect

Share an historical perspective of your company, with sepia-toned images of your opening day, even if it wasn’t that long ago. People love to look backwards to “simpler” times, and often have fond memories of things like rotary phones, black-and-white televisions, and old fashioned mimeograph machines that gave off a distinct and not unpleasant odor. If that’s your demographic, play to it with photographs that will tug on your customers’ heartstrings and trigger warm feelings of nostalgia.

Create Motivational #Hashtags

Come up with inspirational slogans and pair them with photographs to create an interactive customer experience. Encourage customers to submit their own photographs on social media sites using the hashtag to make them feel part of a movement or personal crusade of some kind.

Make it Personal

Share company milestones, team victories, and more with celebratory photographs of your team in action. Customers like to see the faces behind the name, and this helps to emphasize the fact that you’re a local business and not some giant faceless corporation. Don’t be afraid to have some fun with it, by wearing funny hats or tee-shirts, or other unusual clothing.

Remember, even more than a catchy headline, images are attention grabbers. Reading requires effort, and viewers are much more likely to make the effort if only to find out the story behind the photograph. Get the picture?

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What’s the Impact of Google’s New My Maps on Local Businesses?

What's the Impact of Google's New My Maps on Local Businesses?

If your local business isn’t already prominently featured on Google Maps, Google just upped the ante with a new set of upgraded features called My Maps. Allowing the user to create and share their own personal maps with their favorite locations, My Maps opens the door for a lot of new functionality.

How Does Google My Maps Work?

Starting from the My Maps homepage, you are prompted to either open an existing saved map or create a new one. You can then draw locations directly on the map, or find them in the search box and add them to your map layers. Individual map layers can be turned on and off as desired, in order to declutter your map. For instance, you could create a layer called Pizza, on which you annotate all of your favorite local pizza restaurants. Then when you were thinking about ordering a pizza, you might turn on that layer and see all of your nearby faves.

You can also create routes – for driving, walking, and bicycling – and mark them on your map to share with friends. You can add in descriptions and images of locations that you place on your map, such as landmarks or a favorite picnic spot. Although you cannot currently upload an image, you can do an image search to find an existing one.

Maps can be saved and shared with select users, or made available to the general public, which is great if you want to highlight local attractions around your hotel or other venue.

How Will This Affect Local Search?

Anything that enhances the Google Map experience is likely to increase the number of people using the app, and thereby make it that much more important for local businesses to make sure they’re showing up in local Google searches. Additionally, the new functionality is a boon for hospitality businesses who want to lure customers in by publishing interesting routes and tours that include their venues, such as a Key West “pub crawl” or a “best of Miami” shopping district tour.

How Can I Make Sure My Business Shows Up on Google Maps?

Google Maps relies heavily on Google+ page information, so the best way to make sure that your information is accurately featured is to claim and update your Google+ page, as well as individually listing your business in Google Maps. As an added benefit, the Google account you create will be the same one that you use to create your shareable maps, which you can then link to your Google+ page along with your website, Facebook page, and anywhere else you want to share your maps.

In a nutshell, the new Google My Maps functionality will have users posting everything from favorite bike routes to professional sightseeing tours, meaning a lot more users checking out the local businesses along the way, for everything from a place to get a cup of coffee to a specialty massage. Now more than ever, it’s important to keep up with the increasingly connected and mobile world and make sure your local business is prominently featured!

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Signpost is Coming to SF for LAUNCH Scale!

LAUNCH Scale is officially SOLD OUT and we are happy to report that Signpost’s own VP of Revenue Chris DePatria is one of the select executives presenting at this invite-only event in San Francisco Oct. 23-24.

Scale SF

 

We look forward to joining technology leaders from Pinterest, Yelp, Square and more who are currently building some of the fastest growing companies in the world!

Check back for highlights from Chris’ talk on scaling for sales and revenue!

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Key Takeaways from the 2014 Local SEO Ranking Factors Survey

Key Takeaways from the 2014 Local SEO Ranking Factors Survey

What does it take to rank highly in local search results on Google? SEO experts have been struggling with this question since Google first introduced their highly complex search engine back in 1997. Today more than three billion Google searches are conducted daily, and every year CEO Mastermind David Mihm and a crew of some 40 CEO professionals reverse-engineer Google’s local search algorithms to try to figure out what matters and what doesn’t. 2014 is no exception, and the recently released Local Search Ranking Factors Results survey has SEO experts buzzing.

What’s Hot and What’s Not

Dubbed the “Local SEO Bible,” Mihm’s survey breaks out the top 50 variables driving placement in local search results. Among them are the inclusion of the city and state in the title of the landing page, the quality of links and citations, and the page authority of the landing page URL. Increasingly, in both local and regular search results, Google seems to be placing strong focus on the importance of branding.

Reviews and Quality Citations

Google now puts customer reviews front-and-center in the carousel with their new “City Experts” program, and seems to be quite heavily focused on them as a means of weighting search results. Additionally, consistent citations from quality sources continues to be a major factor in local searches as well as national ones.

The User is the New Centroid

While local searches used to focus on proximity to a hub or centroid location, local searches now focus on the user’s exact location. This is one of the biggest changes this year, and is likely to be a major game-changer. Instead of focusing SEO around a larger metropolitan area, local business owners should highlight their actual city, small town, or even neighborhood to fare well in local search results. This is true both for mobile as well as desktop searches.

Social Media Ranking

Facebook likes and other social media factors still have little to no effect on Google ranking factors, since Google has no ability to control those platforms and ensure that users are not manipulating them. What does seem to be controlling page ranking is click-through rates from search results and the availability of driving directions to find your location.

Pogo Sticking More Down than Up

On the adverse side of ratings, the practice of “pogo-sticking” is liable to land your site in a search engine penalty box. Pogo sticking is what happens when searchers consistently land on your page and then leave unsatisfied, either because your search terms are irrelevant, your page is poorly designed, takes too long to load, or is simply too confusing to navigate.

Go Mobile or Go Home

Websites that are not optimized for mobile, or that direct users to the mobile home page instead of the corresponding searched for page, are at a distinct disadvantage. Google is increasingly taking a hard look at mobile site usage metrics and finding ways to reward sites that offer a strong mobile user experience.

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Empower Small Business: Networking with Signpost, OnDeck and Wix.com

Empower Small Business

Join OnDeck, Wix.com and Signpost for a Special Networking Evening and Announcement.

OnDeck, Wix.com and Signpost are three innovative companies that share a common vision: empowering small business.

We are excited to share details on a special networking evening and announcement next Tuesday, Oct 21 ahead of NY’s 9th Annual Small Business Summit. The event will be held at Signpost’s new Chelsea office space, and feature a mix of small business owners, media and representatives from each company.

Details:
What: OnDeck, Wix.com and Signpost Networking Event and Special Announcement
When: Tuesday, Oct 21, 6:30-8:00pm
Where: Signpost, 127 West 26th Street, 2nd Floor

RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/signpost-ondeck-and-wix-host-small-business-networking-evening-tickets-13529845131

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Facebook Launches New Local Awareness Ad Product for Local Businesses

Facebook Launches New Local Awareness Ad Product for Local Businesses

What if you could advertise on Facebook, but only target potential customers who live or work within, say, 10 miles of your local business? Well, now you can. Facebook’s new ad category, called “local awareness,” is designed to help local businesses reach their target audiences at the lowest possible cost.

After selecting “local awareness” as the category, advertisers then select a target radius around their business, which can be as little as a mile. Choose how much you want to spend, and Facebook will show you how many consumers you will reach. From there, it’s as simple as uploading a headline, a photo, and some ad content. If you don’t have an awesome photograph, Facebook has millions of high-resolution stock photos free of charge. Once the ad is approved, it will start showing in the news feeds of consumers in your geographic area.

On the down side: Facebook users who turn off “location services” for Facebook on their mobile phones will never see these ads. Avid Facebook users, however, tend to be social animals, and like to connect with friends and use local search, which requires location services to be turned on.

Value of Advertising with Facebook

With over 1.2 billion active participants, Facebook has become a very powerful player when it comes to social media marketing. A user who “likes” your business page automatically receives your updates in their news feed. One estimate places the average value to a business of a Facebook “like” at $147. And out of 1,000 consumers surveyed recently by Gannett G/O Digital, a majority responded that they had visited local Facebook pages as well as product reviews before making a purchase offline.

For businesses who depend on local foot traffic, however, advertising on Facebook has not traditionally offered the best return on investment, as the cost is too high and the reach too broad. This new method of targeting only local customers at a much lower cost is a smart way of Facebook making advertising much more affordable and effective for local businesses. The big question that still resides, however, is whether these targeted ads also reach people that convert to become customers. While with Google search advertising it’s known that consumers have a purchase intent, with Facebook knowing consumers are in your area doesn’t necessarily mean they want to buy from you.

Local Marketing Mistakes

Making the Most of Facebook’s New Ad Product

Study after study consistently shows that the most effective ads are those that include some sort of a discount, freebie, or other special deal. Include your offer in an attention-grabbing headline and you have a winner. Additionally, be sure to include an attractive, high-resolution photo of your product or of your customers enjoying your services. While Facebook does offer a large selection of stock photos for free, it’s worth investing in the services of a professional photographer, if need be, to take some compelling and original photographs at your business.

Emphasize the local nature of your business, your unique products and services, and appeal to consumers’ desire to “shop local.” Take advantage of the “get directions” feature in the ads as a call to action to guide customers directly to your location with their smartphones.

Local businesses with small advertising budgets have traditionally been overlooked when it comes to effective advertising programs geared to their particular needs. This new product comes closer to change this. We’re looking forward to tracking the results and hearing stories from local businesses that decide to try it out.

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How to Get More Exposure with Hashtags

How to Get More Exposure with Hashtags

Hashtags have long been used on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to help users key in on a certain topic or catch phrase in order to connect with like-minded users outside of their own news feeds. But did you know that local business owners can use hashtags to increase their exposure on Facebook and Google+?

While hashtags on Twitter have mostly been used for organizing around a specific event or happening, they work more like keywords on sites like Facebook and Google+. Hashtags turn topics and phrases in your posts into clickable links that connect people to topics they’re interested in. When someone clicks on a hashtag, they see a feed of other posts that include the same hashtag. It parallels the way keywords used to work in search engines.

Hashtag Ground Rules

Beginning with a pound sign (#), hashtags must be written as a single word with no spaces, punctuation, or special characters. They may, however, include numbers. To search for a hashtag in Facebook, simply type it into the search bar at the top of the page. The result is a news feed of posts featuring the same hashtag. You’ll only see posts, however, that are public or specifically shared with you, i.e. your friends.

While using too many hashtags can be unattractive and annoy readers, sprinkling in the occasional hashtag can help connect you with users who may be searching for your products and services. Use hashtags the way you might use keywords on your website to help readers find you.

Google+ Hashtags Work Even Better

Google+ hashtags are also an efficient way to bring more visibility and exposure to your brand and profile on Google+, but they work in a slightly different way. While hashtag searches on Facebook and other social networks only include results with the specific hashtag for which you were searching, Google+ auto-selects related hashtags and trending topics for you and provides you those results as well.

It’s these additional results that give Google+ hashtags the edge and your business a broader reach when you use the feature. Using hashtags on Google+ provides a business owner a good deal more interaction with users outside of his or her network who are interested in similar topics.

Google+ also has an automatic hashtag feature, which, when enabled, assigns hashtags to your updates automatically. This saves you a little bit of work and suggests related subjects that are trending. Another feature is the Explore section, which allows users to check out related hashtags, similar to a keyword search. In addition, the Google+ auto-suggest feature will bring up suggested hashtags as soon as you start typing anything after #.

In a nutshell, hashtags are the keywords of the social media genre, so don’t forget to use them in the same vein when you write your social media posts. They’ll help you to expand the reach of your business pages to a much wider audience of customers who may be searching for your products or services.

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