How Google+ Puts the Local in Local Business Marketing

Google Plus Local

If you haven’t yet claimed or created your Google+ Local business page, you may be missing out on a lot of potential business.

Uniquely situated to give Yelp a serious run for the money — if not drive them into obsolescence, Google+ Local combines a local business listing directory with a customer review platform with a mapping application, for a triple threat that no other marketing enterprise can even come close to matching.

When Google Maps first came on the scene in 2005, the new mapping platform blew MapQuest out of the water with the depth and magnitude of the project.  Google Maps provides street maps, drive times and street views of places all around the world — even Mount Everest, and leverages Google’s search capabilities to help customers discover nearby local businesses.

Google Maps developers soon discovered the value of crowd sourcing, allowing businesses to create and manage their own business pages, and Google Places was developed to allow them to do just that.  Then in 2012, Google Places was integrated with Google+ Local and a star was born — actually, a star rating system was added along with customer reviews, and Google officially threw down the gauntlet, challenging Yelp’s reign as the top online review site for local businesses.

One Place for Everything

Not only can customers search for local businesses on Google maps, review their business page in Google+ Local and then get driving directions, but the Google Places dashboard also provides one-stop convenience for local business owners as well.  On the Google Plus dashboard, business owners can manage their location information, track traffic and even create and manage an ad campaign.

Customers who sign up for a Google+ account can also:

  • Publish reviews and photos of favorite locations
  • Get place recommendations based on location, past reviews and circle of friends
  • View local Google+ pages of businesses, including reviews, photos, posts, etc.
  • Read Zagat summaries of user reviews for a location
  • Find reviews from people they know and trust highlighted in search results

Get Your Custom Google+ URL

Business owners can also request a custom Google+ URL.  It only takes a minute or two, and makes it easier to share the page with clients, vendors and prospective customers.  Much as you might ask customers to “like us on Facebook,” “follow us on Twitter” or “find us on Yelp,” you can encourage clients to provide reviews on Google+ Local and provide the URL to get them there.

Keep Your Content Fresh

It’s not simply enough to claim or create a business page on Google+ Local, however.  Increasingly, Google+ Local pages are being given priority in Google local searches, ahead of websites and other listings.  And since Google’s web-bots look for fresh, relevant content, it’s recommended to treat a Google+ Local page as more of a dynamic, newsy kind of site rather than a static business directory listing.  Savvy business owners make sure to regularly post enticing images, fun content, new ideas and product and service updates that engage customers and make them want to visit the location.  Be sure to respond promptly to any reviews and encourage clients to rate the service they received. It will help your search visibility.

Track Results on the Google Dashboard

The Google Places dashboard is a powerful tool that allows business owners to track the success of a Google+ Local business page.  It can also tie into Google Analytics to provide a wealth of information, including the number of visitors who find a page through Google search.  And Google Insights provides helpful information about followers to help business owners engage with them in a meaningful manner.

In a nutshell, local business owners need local traffic, and what drives local traffic better than arguably the most powerful and popular mapping application on the market?  Combine that with strong local search results and favorable customer reviews and you have a recipe for success that wins the prize every time.  Of course, Google+ Local simply provides the platform; it’s up the business owner to come up with prize-winning substance.

New Customer Guide

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Signpost Local Marketing Software Case Study | Home Services: Pete’s Chimney & Gutter Company

Pete's Chimney & Gutter Company

Experts From Pete’s Chimney & Gutter Company Work With Online Marketing Experts To Get New Customers And Reviews

Signpost works with thousands of small and medium sized local businesses across the country that each have their own story. We will share them here on our blog. This post reviews the story of Pete’s Chimney & Gutter Company in Congers, NY.

Tell us a little bit about Pete’s Chimney & Gutter Company.

We have a long history of chimney, gutter and roofing experience. While in high school I worked with chimneys and right after in 1987 we started Pete’s Chimney & Gutter Company. I knew it was the career I wanted. It’s amazing that we’re almost around for 30 years now. We’ve had our struggles and continued learnings, but I can say we have a quality business and are experts in anything related to chimney, gutter, roofing and dryer vents. We’ve focused on continued education through seminars, accreditations and everyday learnings on the job. Today we offer various services ranging from chimney repair, roof restoration, gutter services and more.

How do you promote your services?

I’m always looking at new marketing opportunities; something that catches my eye as this would also engage the consumers we’re looking to work with. I’ve always done print including coupon books and direct mailers. Generally we’ve seen good success with print media as well. At least we try it out and see if it has good return on investment. Of course offline marketing is harder to track.

With the introduction of the internet we’ve used services like Angies List and HomeAdvisor. We want to command a superb online presence, stand out against our competition, as that’s where we’re heading as a culture and I don’t want to fall behind.

How does Signpost fit your marketing strategy?

When talking to the sales rep at Signpost he quickly convinced me that Signpost was the right partner for our business. I like the overall vision and mission of the company, and in terms of the offering Signpost is able to help us with most of our online marketing needs.

We’ve expanded and enhanced our online presence. I’ve started working with people who have gone online and found us in places where I wouldn’t have been a few months ago. We’ve also gotten great online reviews, which has convinced potential customers that saw our offline advertising. And we’ve been able to engage existing customers to come back or be advocates for us. Lastly, Signpost is even able to save me on credit processing fees.

Overall, it has gotten us valuable customers and it has increased our bottom line already.

At Signpost, one of our core values is “Signpost fights for small businesses”. How have you experienced this so far?

Fantastic, from the first experience with my sales rep to the account managers. The sales rep was patient with me and my busy schedule, and called me when I asked him to call. I definitely appreciated his first appearance and his ability to follow through with what he said he was going to do. The account managers are there when we need them to be. I reach out and things are immediately taken care of whatever it is.

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3 Critical Roles Public Relations Support Plays in Franchisee Satisfaction [Guest Post]

Bakery small business franchisee pr

In the age of online reviews, your franchise brand may only be a few clicks away from unprecedented disaster or an outstanding upward trajectory. To this point, it’s not only customer experiences that can make or break your franchise brand – it’s how franchisees develop trust and confidence in the business. Franchisees are often investing their livelihoods to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams and they’re not afraid to share tales of their journey with others. Thus, earning high satisfaction scores from your current set of franchisees is a key to pushing your brand forward.

So what can you do creatively to earn franchisee satisfaction beyond supplying them with a proven business model? Providing franchisees PR support to garner publicity for them is one way to gain positive franchisee sentiment. Here are three ways that PR support can ensure that your franchisees are brand advocates who are proud to be part of your system.

1) Drive sales and build foot traffic

When a franchisee has launched in a new, unfamiliar market where a concrete brand footprint has not yet been established, consider using a PR team to boost foot traffic and to get your message out. Whether you want to promote your services or a popular menu item, PR can help get people in the door to check you out.

For example, our company strategized and implemented a recent campaign on behalf of la Madeleine Country French Café called “Rompre le Pain,” or “breaking bread.” Playing into the authentic French roots of the brand and the smart, savvy, family-oriented clientele, we created “Rompre le Pain” as an in-store contest where, during the grand opening of a new café, the first 50 guests in line on opening day receive free fresh-baked bread for a year.

Using a combination of social media outreach, newspaper and magazine press placements and creative graphics to drum up interest in the community in the weeks prior to the opening. Garnering organic (unpaid) articles and mentions in local magazines, regional newspapers and influential blogs, we ensured that the area’s heavy hitters were well informed as the opening approached.

Incredibly popular and well received by new and longtime loyal la Madeleine fans, the first “Rompre le Pain” saw nearly 80 people standing outside before the doors opened at 6:30 a.m. waiting for their free bread. Thrilled by the outcome, la Madeleine provided everyone in line with coupons for free bread for a year as well as hot coffee, fresh-baked bread and homemade jam for their efforts.

Each participating café has since seen the long-lasting effects of the promotion – guests know firsthand that the food is delicious, the staff is welcoming and the ambiance is comfortable.

2) Increase brand awareness

PR results come in many shapes and sizes, from a front-page feature to a local TV segment and everything in between. Determining how to best increase brand awareness is critical to the success of your media outreach efforts. Sure, it’s great to have a picture of your best menu item in the newspaper, but consider going on a local morning show and demonstrating how to make it live. Not only will the audience get a tangible sense of what it is and what it looks like, they’re able to attach a face to the brand.

Our client Potbelly Sandwich Shop is a great example of the power of local TV. By getting a storeowner on air, we’re able to show the audience how mouthwatering the sandwiches look fresh out of the oven instead of simply reading that Potbelly sells toasted sandwiches. This creates brand identity.

By understanding your audience, you can decide if your PR team should pursue print, digital, radio or TV placements in order to earn greater brand awareness.

3) Build community connections and elevate prominence in local economy

Philanthropy is an important component of many businesses. Maybe your company volunteers together for a local organization, or part of your proceeds go to charity. Whatever your giveback, PR can help tell that story. By humanizing a business and showing the lives impacted, informing the media about your philanthropic efforts can be very positive.

Some businesses have philanthropy built into the model. Each of client Kona Ice’s shaved ice trucks gives back around 20 percent of its proceeds to the community, partnering with schools, sports teams and other organizations. To share this admirable and impressive effort, we designed a campaign called “National Chill Out Day,” which takes place the day after Tax Day. Designed to reward the hard-working adults in the community who sacrifice their time and energy to teach, coach and advise other members of the community, Kona Ice gave away free Kona Kups of shaved ice outside of schools, post offices and other businesses.

Working with Kona trucks in cities and neighborhoods across the country, we shared this effort in a targeted PR blitz locally, regionally and nationally. These markets now associate Kona Ice with giving back, a distinction that certainly sets it apart. Plus, giving back makes franchisees feel better about themselves and their work that, in turn, creates more opportunities for positive PR.

When considering ramping up franchisee satisfaction efforts with a proactive PR plan, remember that satisfied franchisees not only want to promote their own location, but also support the franchisor’s growth and development as well. This is truly a win-win for everyone.

Jamie IzaksThis post was written by  Jamie Izaks, president and founder of All Points Public Relations, a Chicago-area integrated public relations agency specializing in the franchise industry. The sole mission of All Points Public Relations is to support entrepreneurs and entrepreneurially spirited organizations through the persistent execution of effective integrated public relations, including media relations, social media, graphic design and content marketing programs. For more information visit www.allpointspr.com or e-mail Jamie at jizaks@allpointspr.com.

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Need More Yelp Reviews? Post a Check-in Offer

Need More Yelp Reviews?  Post a Check-in Offer

Founded in 2004, Yelp has grown steadily over the past decade into a formidable marketing powerhouse whose customer reviews can literally make or break a business.  With over 139 million unique monthly visitors and 86,000 active business accounts in the U.S. alone, it’s no wonder local business owners are anxious to cultivate positive reviews on the site.  One Harvard Business School study concluded that a ratings increase of one star translated to a sales increase of 5 to 9 percent.  And Yelp reviews aren’t limited to a business’ Yelp page.  The company now feeds reviews and content to other platforms, including Apple Maps, Yahoo and Bing.

In an effort to preserve the integrity of its review process, however, Yelp discourages businesses from soliciting favorable reviews, and even filters out those deemed suspicious through the use of a somewhat controversial filter algorithm.  So how can a local business encourage customers to provide reviews without incurring the wrath of Yelp?

Yelp’s Mobile Check-in App

In 2010, Yelp introduced their mobile check-in app, in an effort to expand their footprint and compete with platforms like Facebook and Foursquare.  Customers can “check in” to their favorite locations, and even send notifications out on Facebook and Twitter.

In order to encourage these check-ins, Yelp offered businesses the opportunity to provide a “check-in offer,” such as a special discount or freebie the customer can claim when they check in to the location.  They can then choose to either use the offer on that visit or save it for another time (within a reasonable expiration date).

Yelp Solicits Reviews For You

What few seemed to catch on to, at the time, was that after a customer has checked in to a location, the next time they sign in to the app, they’re prompted to provide a review of the last location where they checked in.  This is a win-win, because it helps Yelp ensure that reviews are provided by legitimate Yelp members who have physically visited the location, and the business doesn’t have to solicit a review because Yelp is doing it for them.  And what better time to ask for a review than after you have just provided a discount or freebie?

How to Create a Check-In Offer

Check-in Offers is available through Yelp’s free suite of tools, Yelp for Business Owners and can be used by most business categories — excluding, obviously, those which don’t have a physical check-in location, such as locksmiths, limo services, plumbers and other services provided on a mobile basis.

To create a check-in offer, simply log into your Business for Yelp account and look for “Check-In Offers” on the left sidebar of your dashboard.  Click on that, and then click on the red “Create a Check-in Offer” button.  Then select from one of four options:

  • Percentage Off — offer a set % off a product, service or total bill
  • Price Off — offer a certain dollar amount off a product, service or total bill
  • Free Offer — offer something free, with or without a required purchase
  • Fixed Price — offer a product or service for a set  discounted price

Continue to follow the prompts and you’re done.  It’s as simple as that.

Yelp Mobile Stats

How popular is Yelp’s mobile app?  In the fourth quarter alone of 2014, Yelp had 73 million unique mobile visitors to the platform, up from 53 million for the same period just one year prior.  Currently around 35 percent of new reviews are from mobile, with the largest age group being 35 to 54 years comprising 36.4 percent of all reviews.

So if you’re anxious to boost your Yelp rating or just get some reviews for your business, consider incentivizing your mobile customers with a check-in offer.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with posting a sign encouraging customers to check in to receive the offer.

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The Franchise King Creates the Ultimate Gathering Place for Potential Franchise Owners

Franchise King Franchise Opportunities

Potential franchisees looking for trustworthy information on the ins and outs of buying and running a franchise now have a place to gather and pick each other’s brains.  Self-proclaimed Franchise King Joel Libava has created a new group on LinkedIn specifically designed for would-be franchisees.

Titled the How To Buy A Franchise Group, membership is open to anyone interested in buying a franchise, whether actively engaged in the process or even just considering the possibilities.  As the host and moderator, Libava hopes to foster much lively discussion and proffer a wealth of sage advice on the many intricate aspects of franchise ownership.

Who is Joel Libava?

On his website (one of many, many) JoelLibava.com, Libava proclaims himself to be a “franchise book author, marketer, advisor and an advocate for prospective franchise owners.”  Based in Cleveland, Ohio, he’s the President of Franchise Selection Specialists, a franchise advisory service company started by his later father in 1991.  Prior to joining the company in 2001, Libava’s career spanned a variety of management positions in the restaurant industry followed by over a decade in automobile franchising.

Dubbed The Franchise King by colleagues at a trade show one year, Libava decided to trademark the moniker, and now publishes a regular blog at TheFranchiseKing.com.  He’s also started the Franchise Biz Directory, a web directory dedicated to showcasing top franchising and business opportunities.

Passionate about the franchise business, you can find The Franchise King on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, watch his videos on YouTube, read his articles on Entrepreneur.com, and order his book, Become a Franchise Owner! from Amazon.com.  You can even call him on the phone.

By Invitation Only

Like other LinkedIn Groups, How To Buy A Franchise Group is by invitation only.  Libava promises to personally vet potential members, to weed out “franchisors, franchise brokers, franchise consultants etc.,” insisting “I don’t want group members to be influenced by individuals or companies that sell franchises.”  The only exceptions will be a few current franchise owners Libava likes and trusts, whom he plans to invite to share some of their real-life lessons learned.

“I decided to create this LinkedIn Group because I wanted to have a central place for people interested in franchise ownership to meet, ask questions, and share their experiences,” he proclaims on his blog.  This ties in with his many efforts on various media platforms to educate potential franchisees on the rigors involved in operating a franchise.

“It is so important for people to figure out before they even start looking around if they are really right for franchising,” says Libava.  “There’s this myth created by franchise marketing that franchises are businesses-in-a-box or turnkey businesses.  It creates a false sense of security, and people think all they have to do is write a $35,000 check for the franchise fee and get $100,000 from the bank, and then they’ll be rockin’ and rollin’. That’s the part I fight every day. You have to make sure you have the right traits and characteristics needed for franchising, or you’re going to fail.”

So if you’re considering buying a franchise, or just thinking about considering maybe looking into buying a franchise and want to find fellow professionals in the same boat, head to LinkedIn and join the How To Buy A Franchise Group for some helpful advice from The Franchise King.

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Signpost Local Marketing Software Case Study | Home Services: Mr. Steam Carpet and Home Cleaning

Signpost Case Study: Mr. Steam Carpet and Home CleaningMr. Steam Carpet and Home Cleaning, Neuroscience Undergrad turned Local Business Owner Gets on the Map with Signpost

Signpost works with thousands of small and medium sized local businesses across the country that each have their own story. We will share them here on our blog. This post reviews the story of Mr. Steam Carpet and Home Cleaning in Corona, CA.

1. Tell us a little bit about Mr. Steam Carpet and Home Cleaning.

Mr. Steam Carpet and Home Cleaning came into life in 2000. At the time, I was a neuroscience undergrad at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and living in LA was incredibly pricey. My parents couldn’t really support me as much as they wished they could and I had a couple of friends in my fraternity that were in the same boat. One thing lead to another and we decided to invest in a carpet cleaning service.

Ultimately, we settled on carpet cleaning because I had some previous experience working with my cousin in Arizona who runs his own carpet cleaning business. I enjoyed the work and to me, it seemed like a born element in a home or commercial building to have clean floors.

At the beginning, it was very tough. I had no time between school and work, but fortunately, as the company grew, things got a lot easier and we wound up attracting an investor (Gary) who wanted to work out a partnership – in hindsight, our continued success wouldn’t have been possible without him. Thanks Gary!

We specialize carpet, floor, and upholstery cleaning and since then we’ve expanded our services to water and fire damage restoration.

2. How do you promote your services?

When we first started out, all of our marketing efforts were chosen in an attempt to get our brand more recognition online, something that would bring us closer to the first page on Google. To accomplish that, we tried traditional marketing where everything was on paper, including newspaper articles, brochures, and other tangible items. When that didn’t work, we refocused our efforts online.

  • Google Adwords
  • Thumbtack
  • LivingSocial
  • GroupOn
  • Amazon Merchant
  • Yelp

We tried it all. For us, Google Adwords was the least successful. It didn’t really bring any kind of business, and when we first signed up, we had the impression that it was much more automated because you would get charged cost per click, but it turned out to be much more involved and overall it wasn’t very effective.

3. How does Signpost fit your marketing strategy?

Signpost has been an incredible asset for us. From the get-go, dealing with the sales rep, the future that Signpost offered was enticing and it didn’t disappoint. The updated online directories and how you could access every single online directory from the merchant dashboard was a huge bonus. It is very convenient having everything in a single platform.

Signpost has definitely made our brand more recognizable. Since signing up, we became more popular on YelpFacebook and our listings moved from the 7th page on Google to the 3rd (maybe even the 2nd page, I’d have to check). That’s not even the end of it, we’ve started getting a lot of inquiries regarding the automated re-marketing emails that Signpost sends out on our behalf.

4. At Signpost, one of our core values is “Signpost fights for small businesses.” How have you experienced this so far?

Honestly, it’s been really amazing. The customer service has consistently been excellent every time I’ve had to interact with someone. Everyone I talk to is extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and if I have a question or need something changed, within 24 hours I’ll get an email saying everything has been fixed. It’s so simple and so easy.

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If Your Website Isn’t Mobile-Friendly, Google’s Advice? Better Get Started

shutterstock_151849757

Online marketers and SEO specialists have long emphasized the importance of creating a dynamic, up-to-date, mobile-friendly website for large brands and small local businesses alike.  And in past articles we’ve warned that Google was considering updating its algorithm to favor mobile-friendly sites in its mobile search results.  Now it’s official.  If your website is not mobile-friendly, it will be ranked lower in Google’s mobile search results.

In recent weeks, Google fired a warning shot across the bow of webmasters whose sites were found to be not mobile-friendly, by way of email and Google Webmaster Tools notifications.  These warning notices listed the pages of each site containing mobile usability errors, and proclaimed that said pages would be displayed and ranked lower for searches on mobile devices.

Mobile Friendly Labeling

This next step in Google’s campaign to induce webmasters to create more mobile-friendly and mobile-optimized websites comes on top of the implementation of “mobile-friendly” labels on the search engine last November.  The labels were displayed in search results in order to assist users in choosing sites more easily viewed on their mobile devices.

At that time Google execs warned of future plans to implement a new algorithm that would favor mobile-optimized sites in mobile search results.  The future is now, and the algorithm update is set to take effect on April 21st, affecting mobile searches in all languages all around the globe.

To prepare for the change, Google recommends that webmasters utilize the Mobile Usability Report available in Google’s Webmaster Tools to examine mobile usability issues.  Google also offers a quick and easy test page where anyone can plug in their page URLs for a quick analysis.

Mobile-Friendly as a Minimum

Why the big push towards mobile?  As more and more users shift their search habits from desktop to cellphones, tablets and other mobile devices, Google’s efforts to provide the most relevant, quality results must also shift towards surfacing more mobile-optimized content.

Mobile-friendly, however, is only the basic price of admission to the mobile search arena.  In addition to having a site that’s legible on smaller screens, loads fast and doesn’t use any Flash applications, website owners should consider methods of optimizing their sites for mobile, to make them more interactive and intuitive on the different screen sizes.  This can be accomplished using website templates for different types of mobile devices, or by using a responsive website design which adapts itself to the size of the user’s screen rather than the type of device used.

Mobile-optimized sites feature quick, intuitive navigation, large touchpads and formatting that filters out irrelevant text and graphics, prioritizing desired page features so that users can quickly get to where they want to go.  While Google hasn’t yet announced any plans to differentiate between mobile-friendly and mobile-optimized, it’s a logical next step, as more and more users access the Internet by way of phones, tablets, watches and other wearable devices.  Website owners who are considering an upgrade may want to invest in technology that will optimize their site for a wide variety of possible screen sizes.  In the meantime, Google’s message to website owners couldn’t be more clear:  Go mobile or go home.

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5 Reasons Why Email Newsletters Are So Popular Right Now

5 Reasons Why Email Newsletters Are So Popular Right NowAnd the hottest new marketing tool is — the email newsletter? That’s right, despite the unfortunate rush for some Internet pundits to label email a dying medium, it’s not only alive and well, it’s trending. And the latest popular trend right now is email newsletters.

Email newsletters are exclusive — some of the most popular ones have people literally begging to sign up for them. They’re effective because they’re going to a captive audience. They’re cross-platform because pretty much everyone has email. They’re convenient to read and now thanks to MailChimp’s new Snap tool, they can be quickly put together and sent out from a mobile phone.

1. They’re Exclusive

When you sign up for an email newsletter you’re basically joining a group of people with similar interests. You’re getting to read something that’s being published only for you and the others in your group, not posted on some mass media platform. If you don’t sign up for the newsletter, if you don’t join this exclusive group of like-minded people you won’t be privy to the information that’s being shared and you might miss out on something.

2. They’re Effective

Email marketing is basically targeted at people that have indicated that they’re interested in your products and services by signing up for your newsletter. That means they’re much more likely to open it than just any unsolicited email. With Facebook’s feed filters, you can’t be sure of anyone seeing your posts anymore but email is a sure thing. Of course, the size of the audience is limited to the size of your mailing list, but it’s a much more targeted audience.

3. Everyone has Email

There are so many different platforms, and so many different apps these days. Are your customers on Facebook, are they on Twitter? What about Instagram, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Pinterest? It gets confusing — and expensive — to try to keep up with all the different possibilities for marketing your local business. The one common link is email; so while convincing someone to give you their email address might be a little more difficult than getting them to like you on Facebook, it’s a sure way to make a connection.

4. They’re Convenient

Not everyone has time to check their various social media platforms to catch up on the latest and greatest but pretty much everyone checks their email at least once a day. That’s why Facebook and Twitter have started sending email summaries of activity on users’ accounts to try to lure them to those sites. It’s much more convenient to get information from your inbox than visiting various social media sites or blogs.

So when you’re considering a social media marketing campaign, don’t forget about the original social media — email. Email is alive and well and becoming more important than ever, as consumers tire of the proliferation of social media sites on the web. Got a message? Put it in a letter, an email newsletter.

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IFA Announces Industry-Wide Fight for Franchise Model – Coalition to Save Local Businesses

IFA Announces Industry-Wide Fight for Franchise Model – Coalition to Save Local BusinessesDuring its recent 2015 annual convention, the International Franchise Association (IFA) announced the formation of a new coalition to lead the fight against labor-driven attacks on the franchise model. Dubbed the Coalition to Save Local Businesses, the CSLB is a group of local business owners and industry leaders dedicated to protecting and strengthening all sectors of small business, in particular the franchise business model.

In particular, the IFA and now the CSLB are concerned about recent moves by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to broaden the definition of “joint employer” to include franchisors and franchisees. This would cause independent franchise owners to be treated not as the small business owners they are but rather as large employers. Consequently they would be required to meet new minimum wage standards much sooner than their non-franchise counterparts, and to provide employee health insurance benefits under Obamacare.

Driven largely by unions like the Service Industry Employees Union, the push to classify franchises as joint employers could have catastrophic consequences for the franchise model as it exists today, stripping away any autonomy from franchise operators and driving many out of business. Franchisors could be held responsible for the actions of their individual franchisees, and labor costs could rise to levels not supportable by small local businesses.

Franchising Leads Economic Growth

This increasing federal intervention on the part of the NLRB would seem counterintuitive to a struggling economy still fighting its way back from recession. For over four years now franchising growth has outpaced that of the overall national economy, leading the recovery and creating jobs in record numbers.

“Franchising is an American success story. Independently-owned and operated local franchise businesses are growing faster, creating more jobs at a quicker pace and producing higher sales growth than other businesses,” said IFA President and CEO Steve Caldeira during the recent annual meeting. “Franchising is a vital engine of economic expansion in the United States and 2015 looks to be another strong year for franchise businesses.”

A Coalition to Save Local Businesses

Despite intense lobbying efforts and grassroots educational outreach on the part of the International Franchise Association, the future of franchising looks uncertain if the NLRB and the labor unions continue this attack on the franchise business model. Hence the formation of the Coalition to Save Local Businesses. With a mission to “inform Members of Congress of the potentially devastating impact that redefining this standard would have on their businesses and the overall U.S. economy,” the coalition is already working to develop and pass “legislation that would codify the decades-long and widely-accepted definition of what constitutes a joint employer.”

Franchisees and franchisors alike need to become educated about these attacks on the franchise model and the efforts of the franchise industry to defend against them. To get more information and join the growing list of members, go to www.savelocalbusinesses.com.

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New Yellow Pages Marketing: YP Search For Search Engine Marketing

Yellow Pages Marketing: YP Search For Search Engine Marketing

Local businesses wanting to test the waters of search engine marketing may be understandably overwhelmed by the many choices of programs and platforms vying for their advertising dollars.  Marketing experts recommend running campaigns on Google, Bing and Yahoo, but managing multiple campaigns at once can be mind-boggling, not to mention a drain on the budget.  YP now offers a solution.

In recent weeks, YP rolled out ypSearch, a new product designed with small local business owners in mind.  With 80 million monthly visitors, YP.com alone is a terrific platform for generating leads for small-business advertisers.  Rather than simply advertising on YP.com, however, businesses who sign on with ypSearch will also see their ads run concurrently on the other three major search engines.

One-Stop Shop for Local Advertising

Local businesses as well as large brands wanting to infiltrate local markets will find a veritable one-stop shop with ypSearch, which allows marketers to manage an online advertising campaign across multiple platforms at once.  YP’s massive sales force will not only assist in setting up and managing campaigns, but will also track them and provide reports on their effectiveness, all while keeping strictly within an established budget.  According to YP execs, there will be no further need for advertisers to run individual campaigns on different search engines.

Strategic Partnerships

How is YP able to manage this cross-platform advertising?  Though new to the search engine game, YP maintains strategic partnerships with the “big three.”  Formerly AT&T Advertising Solutions and AT&T Interactive, YP proclaims itself as the first Google reseller, and is currently one of the largest Google AdWords Premier SMB Partners.  As for the other two search engines, YP is also a Yahoo Bing Network Strategic Ambassador.

Hands-On Support

While many of the tasks required to build and maintain a campaign across multiple search sites at once will be automated by YP’s new optimization engine, advertisers will also get hands-on support from a team of consultants to help optimize their individual campaigns and get the most from their advertising budget.

Search at YP.com

According to a recent comScore study commissioned by YP, users who conducted searches at YP.com were more influenced by advertising they saw there than those searching on other platforms.  Results showed that 66 percent of searchers made a purchase afterwards, and 61 percent searched for a business they saw in an advertisement on the site.

YP Search may never give Google a run for the money, and Yahoo and Bing will no doubt fight tooth and nail to hold on to their market shares, but for small local businesses looking for a way to get into search engine marketing without spending a small fortune or hiring a team of marketing managers, this new development could prove to be most helpful.

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