How to Get the Most out of Local Business Direct Mail Marketing

How to Get the Most out of Local Business Direct Mail Marketing

For a local business hoping to increase foot traffic to a brick and mortar location, direct mail marketing is a great way to reach out and touch the neighborhood. While online and mobile marketing are increasingly dominating the advertising horizon, there’s just something unique about a colorful postcard that people hang on to – if it’s also a profitable investment for your business. Like a business card, it’s a tangible reminder to make contact. Here are some things to consider when launching a direct mail marketing campaign.

Choose a Service Provider

If you don’t have time to handle each step separately, you may decide to go straight to a direct mail advertising company, such as DirectMail.com, PostcardBuilder.com or CactusMailing.com. These services can handle everything from designing and printing the postcards to creating the mailing lists and dropping them off at the post office. If you’re more the hands-on type – and want to save a little money – USPS.com’s Advertising with Mail page has quite a lot of helpful instructions and recommendations.

USPS also offers an Every Door Direct Mail delivery tool that allows the user to map out a target area using demographic data – including age, household income and size – select a delivery route, choose a mailing date, and even pay online. This is perfect for local businesses who want to target specific neighborhoods. For those seeking to reach a more select demographic, you’ll need to pay for a specialized address list from a mailing service.

Determine Your Budget

If you go with a direct mail marketer, you’ll be given a quote for a set number of pieces. If you decide to do it yourself, you can find some helpful cost estimates at the USPS website. If you need a specialized address list from a mailing service, you’ll need to add that to your budget. Other costs to budget for include graphic design, printing, alterations and proofs, a quality control check, and, of course, postage. A list of estimated costs can be found at the USPS website.

Decide on a Format

For most direct mail marketing campaigns, postcards are the best bet. They’re a cost-effective way to announce new products and services, promote sales events, and extend special offers. They can be posted on a customer’s refrigerator or carried in a purse or briefcase as a reminder to attend a special event, or used as a coupon or invitation.

Flyers allow more space for your message, but require extra handling costs for folding. The next step up is letters in envelopes, which are somewhat more costly than flyers and postcards. Letters are used for more formal requests or invitations, and can include coupons, tickets, or other items in the envelope. Should you decide to send out brochures, pamphlets, or reply mail, you’ll definitely want to purchase a mailing list so that you can target more strategically, as printing and mailing costs for these items are significantly higher.

Create Your Message

Get the most out of your mailing by persuading the recipient to hang on to it. Use a call to action that says something like “present this coupon for” and include your offer, whether it’s a general discount, buy-one-get-one-free, free add-on service with purchase, or introductory special, among other things. Now your postcard will remain in the customer’s purse or briefcase, in the console of their car, or on their refrigerator, providing free advertising every time they look at it, right up until they remember to come in and present it. Don’t forget to include an expiration date.

Find a Local Printer

The USPS website has recommendations for local printers if you don’t already have one. Ideally, you should be networking with other local businesses so this shouldn’t be too difficult. Hopefully your local printer will happily keep some of your postcards on his or her counter for customers that come in.

Many printers have graphic designers they work with, or you can hire one separately. While it isn’t necessary to budget for a four-color printing process, you should add at least a pop of color to a basic black and white design to highlight key parts of the message. Be sure to proof your design carefully before it goes to print and make sure to get a quality control check along the way. Once the pieces are printed, you can take them to the post office yourself, or many printers will even drop them off for you.

Local Marketing Mistakes

Keep Track of Returns

One of the benefits of having the customer return your postcard is that it provides an immediate, physical validation of the success of your mailing, and addresses from returned postcards can be used to make up a preferred customer mailing list. Be sure to track the return rate of each mailing to see which messages, offers, and deals are the most effective.

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24 Free Online Directories to List Your Local Business

25 Free Online Directories to List Your Local Business

As part of a comprehensive local business marketing plan, creating at least basic listings in free local online directories is a must-do, even though it will eat up some of your valuable time. Free business listing sites increase your company’s online exposure and help improve your local search ranking results in major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Depending on your business, some may be more relevant than others, but you should at least work your way through the top ten, as a minimum.

1. Google - This is the site where you can add your business listing to Google+ Local. Business owners can claim or add business listings, add photos and coupons, respond to customer reviews, and see statistics and analytics. As Google receives nearly 6 billion searches daily, this should be at the top of your list.

2. Yelp – Yelp is arguably the Internet’s most popular review site, offering consumers a chance to post longer, more in-depth reviews than many other sites. Business owners can claim or add their listings, and upload photos, coupons, and more. Yelp also powers certain content on other directories in this list. Because it’s so popular as a review site, it’s important that business owners respond to reviews, both positive and negative. A five-star rating on Yelp is a golden ticket.

3. Facebook – America’s favorite social media site, Facebook is used by over a billion people to connect with friends and family. It’s important to have a business listing on Facebook so that users can refer others directly to your site. More than half of Facebook users visit every day, and the mobile app is on three out of every four smartphones.

4. Bing – The Bing Business Portal allows business owners to manage local listings on Bing. Upload your logo, photos, deals, menus, and any other important information. As the second most visited search engine on the internet, it’s important for your business to be present correctly.

5. Yahoo Local – Yahoo! Local provides listings and reviews of local businesses. Business owners can claim or add their professional listing to ensure they get found on the Internet’s third most popular search engine, with millions of searches conducted daily.

6. Yellow Pages – Now found at YP.com, Yellow Pages is the online answer to what used to be America’s standard for looking up businesses. Business owners can claim or add listings and add any important information. While not as relevant with the younger generations, Baby Boomers and older still have strong ties to yellow pages.

7. MapQuest – A popular web mapping service, MapQuest helps bring local customers right to your doorstep. Claim or list your business listing at the MapQuest local business center, add photos, parking directions, and even relocate your map marker if it’s inaccurate.

8. Superpages – Powered by Dex Media, Superpages is an online business directory offering local business listings, reviews, and advertising solutions. Business owners can claim or add listings and include important information, offer deals, and respond to customer reviews.

9. Foursquare – Another popular social media site, Foursquare helps users keep track of where friends “check-in” and find nearby businesses. Business owners can claim or create listings and receive real-time data around customer activity, and even offer coupons to customers who check in. Foursquare also feeds their information into other websites and mobile apps.

10. MerchantCircle – Designed exclusively around small businesses, MerchantCircle is an online local business directory offering free marketing tools along with free listings. Business owners can claim or add their listings, add coupons and/or newsletters, respond to reviews, and more.

Local Marketing Mistakes

11. LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a great site to create a public company page for your business, linking your employees’ LinkedIn profiles to your business whenever they list you as their employer. Primarily used as a professional networking site, it’s a great place to display information about your business enterprise.

12. Citysearch – An excellent network for restaurants, bars, hotels, and spas, among others, Citysearch is a city-based online guide to business and entertainment. Business owners can claim or add listings, include important information, and add special offers. Citysearch offers city guides for the most popular cities in the United States, so you’ll want to be sure you’re included.

13. White Pages – The online equivalent of the white pages found in a traditional phone book, White Pages is a quick and easy listing service, and makes your business contact information available to over 200 million people.

14. Yellowbook – A subsidiary of Hibu Business, Yellowbook.com allows business owners to create an easily searchable listing, including business information, a link to the business website, product descriptions, and more.

15. Manta – With over 30 million visitors per month, Manta offers business listings for companies worldwide. Local business owners can claim or add listings, upload company logo, photos, and important information. Inc. rates Manta as one of the fastest growing business sites on the Internet.

16. The Business Journal – Originally created to offer business news and advice, The Business Journal has recently created a local business directory for most major U.S. cities. With four levels of listing options – free, bronze, silver, and gold – local business owners can claim their free listing, or choose to pay to receive even more targeted traffic to their website.

17. Angie’s List – With two million paying members who read and post reviews, Angie’s List is one of the most well respected online directories for services. Business owners can claim or add a listing for free as long as it falls within a specified category, centered around home improvement, auto, health, pets, or various miscellaneous services. Business owners seeking to establish a strong online reputation through positive reviews should use Angie’s List.

18. DexKnows – Another popular online directory, DexKnows provides business owners an opportunity to engage with customers and track their online reputation through their business listing.

19. Yellowbot – Similar to Yellow Pages, YellowBot provides basic contact and location information about local businesses, and permits customers to post reviews.

20. Kudzu – Geared towards homeowners interested in renovating, Kudzu offers reviews, advice, and deals for local businesses. For businesses providing home improvement services, Kudzu is a must.

21. Hotfrog – With around 1.5 million visitors per month, Hotfrog is a business search engine designed to help businesses improve their Google search results. Business owners can claim or add a listing, upload photos, and create deals, as well as use reporting tools to see which keywords are driving traffic.

22. Magic Yellow – Similar to Yellow Pages and YellowBot, Magic Yellow is a business directory offering local business listings and reviews. Business owners can claim or add a business listing and include any important information.

23. Express Update – Express Update allows business owners to add a public profile page to help their business get found. They also provide a variety of resources to help businesses ensure that their listing gets distributed throughout the web.

24. City Slick – A local business network designed to help local businesses get more customers, CitySlick.net offers both paid and free local advertising opportunities along with business listings. Business listings are search engine friendly and provide a unique way to advertise locally.

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Helpful Tips for Starting a Local Business

Helpful Tips for Starting a Local Business Starting a new business can be exhilarating – and terrifying – all at the same time. Startup failure rates vary according to the source, but the most conservative estimates are that roughly 50 percent of businesses fail within the first four years. To help you avoid becoming an unfortunate statistic, we’ve compiled some helpful tips for starting a local business.

Have Plenty of Start-up Capital

On top of all of your anticipated start-up expenses, such as equipment purchases, inventory, and lease agreements, among other things you need to be prepared for extra expenses you probably haven’t accounted for in your business plan. Additionally, marketing expenses are likely to be much higher in the beginning, as it will take time for your customers to find you. Take a careful look at your business plan, and make sure you have enough funds to get you through a rocky and unprofitable start; at least six months’ worth of savings.

Understand your Licensing Requirements

Nothing shuts a business down faster than not having the right license or permit. Check into your county’s requirements for a dba license, vendor’s license, and any other licenses or registrations you may need, for sale of food or alcoholic beverages, child care, pet care, or whatever type of business you seek to start. Some activities are licensed by the federal government, such as sales of alcohol or firearms, while other licenses may be required by your state or county. The Small Business Association is an excellent source of licensing information for all types of businesses.

Location, Location, Location

As with real estate, location is everything for a local business. Do your homework. Unfortunately, unless you’re really lucky, you’ll no doubt have to compromise. Certainly, you would prefer a high traffic area in a safe, low-crime neighborhood with plenty of parking and complementary businesses nearby. If you can’t afford the rent or mortgage and/or the taxes, however, you may have to decide which factors are more important, and whether they will improve your profitability sufficiently to cover the extra expenses.

Create a Comprehensive Business Plan

Of course, everything starts with a plan. A well-written, well thought out plan will not only help you get financing, it will help you get through your first few years. You’ll need to outline exactly how you plan to run your business, your operating and management procedures, hiring plans, expenses and revenue forecasts. You’ll want at least a three-year forecast of your sales, and a projection of what point in time you expect to start earning a profit. Once again, the Small Business Association provides in-depth guidance on all the different components of a comprehensive business plan.

Scope Out the Competition

Chances are you’ve already done this – perhaps it’s what convinced you to start your business. “This hair salon is raking in money hand over fist,” you thought. “There’s room for one more in this neighborhood.” Or perhaps the dearth of a particular type of business in an otherwise thriving retail setting got your attention. In any event, you’ll want to examine your market, see who’s already in it, and determine whether there is room for you. If your competition is barely scraping by, you may want to reconsider. If business is booming, determine what they’re doing well, and what you could do better. Don’t be a copycat, but do learn from their mistakes!

Determine your Target Demographic

When it comes to a local business, your location often determines your demographic, which is why location is so critical. An upscale, trendy retail shop would probably not do well in a strip mall surrounded by retired people on fixed incomes, for example, any more than a butcher shop would fare in a neighborhood of organic vegans and PETA activists. Carefully research your surrounding area and decide who your customer is, so that you can target your goods and services as well as your marketing strategy to someone who’s likely to be interested.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

In addition the Small Business Association, there are other helpful nonprofit associations dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, including SCORE, with 340 offices across the country. A helpful guidebook titled “How to Really Start Your Own Business” can be downloaded on their website, where you can also find your nearest SCORE chapter. The guidebook covers a wide range of helpful topics, including how to:

  • Define your business and your market niche
  • Test your idea (conduct market research)
  • Find the right location
  • Negotiate leases and business purchases
  • Protect a copyright/logo
  • Create a business plan
  • Choose a corporate structure
  • Secure funding and comply with financial regulations
  • Build a team
  • Understand a financial statement and project cash flow

Even if you already have an experienced business partner (or you are one), it never hurts to reach out to other knowledgeable individuals for guidance and mentorship, and these are two very good sources!

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Wix.com, Signpost and OnDeck Capital Announce 2014 Small Business Toolkit

Wix.com, Signpost and OnDeck Capital Announce 2014 Small Business Toolkit

Signpost had a busy third quarter and we aren’t about to slow down! We announced a new product in early September, saw our New York office voted into Crain’s New York Top Work Places, and we continue to rapidly expand our customer base nationally. Today, we are happy to announce the 2014 Small Business Toolkit, a collaboration project with Wix.com and OnDeck Capital. The document provides small business advice on website creation, marketing and financing. Click here for the press release and quotes from each company.

Most small and mid-sized business owners are just beginning a digital transformation journey. Google and Lpsos Research recently found that over half of U.S. small business owners still don’t have a website. And the Brookings Institute report on small business failure rates shows that many business owners are apprehensive to embrace technology because they still view it as too difficult to manage and too expensive.

Wix.com, Signpost and OnDeck empower small businesses to succeed in an increasingly complex and connected world. We hope that by aggregating our advice in a helpful format, more would-be entrepreneurs and current small business owners will embrace the web to start a venture or increase the health and longevity of their current business.

Download the toolkit today and tell us what you think!

Stuart Wall, CEO, Signpost

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How Local Businesses Can Build a Great Email List

How Local Businesses Can Build a Great Email List

As a local business owner, building an email list is crucial when marketing to current customers. It is much easier (and cheaper) to keep current clients interested than to acquire new ones. Not only will email marketing help retain existing customers, but it can also increase word of mouth – the best form of advertising, as it is free for you! Furthermore, email marketing helps local businesses create and maintain a good relationship with their client base. As you gain more insight into your client base, you will be able to send more effective emails.

The biggest thing to remember when collecting emails is to pinpoint the incentives that will get clients to sign up for your list. Are you going to send them coupons, share tips of the trade, or invite them to events? Consumers want to know what they will “get” from adding themselves to your list, and it is important to make that known during your collection process. If done correctly, this will help you collect more emails. Below you will find a step by step guide for building your email list to help you stay organized and grow your business through email marketing.

Have a Plan

Set goals for your business. How many contacts do you want to add to your list? Where will you store them? How will you use them? Make sure you know exactly why you are collecting emails, and, most importantly, make sure your consumers know too. After you figure out how you will be collecting emails from the list of options below, make a timeline for future marketing efforts.

Collect Emails Through Your Website

You might have invested lots of time and money creating the perfect site, so make sure you use it effectively by giving people a place to put their email.

If you have a WordPress site, there are tutorials on how to add an email address collection plug-in. If you work with a web designer, make sure to ask them to include it on your site. Other self-service website builders often have a plug-in to collect emails on your home page, so make sure to research that to take full advantage.

Get Customer Emails at Checkout/Checkin

The key is consistency and habit.

Having a tablet or laptop on your counter is an easy enough way to collect emails, but collecting them verbally and adding them to your list later works too. Having customers fill out a “new client form” or something to that extent will make the process easy and seamless. If you would like to be more discrete, ask customers if they would like a receipt emailed to them (how green of you!).

Utilize Those Likes!

Using Facebook and other social media platforms is becoming increasingly popular and important to SMBs. Make sure you leverage your social media audience by collecting emails that way as well. You can add a link to your website broadcasting across all platforms that upon signing up, a customer will get exclusive coupons, tips, promos, and/or invitations to events.

Scrape Your Own Accounts

This sounds like a no-brainer, but be sure to weed through your own inbox for contacts you already have. Often times consumers are emailing the business before making a purchase, whether it be with questions or something else. Additionally, a new client may email you after they come in. These people are interacting with your business, so they should definitely be given the opportunity to be kept in the loop on promotions, events, etc.

Building a great list is not something that you do for a month and stop. Set yourself up for success by forming good habits. Make sure you know which of your contacts are most recent, and be sure to continue to collect contacts to keep your list fresh. Building good habits now will only help your business today and in the future. Just think, if you collect 3 extra emails a day, your list will have an extra 1000 local contacts on it each year! As these people refer their friends and family, or even forward your email on, you will see your business grow. Keeping an organized, constantly refreshing email list will not only maintain your client base, but also keep them engaged with your business. This can only mean more sales and a bump to your bottom line.

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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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