Signpost Local Marketing Blog

The Art of Local: A Conversation With Christy Seal, Owner of My Best Buddy Dog Training Studio

“We fight for small businesses.” This is the first line of our mission statement at Signpost, and it greets us on a wall in our offices every morning when we walk through the door. More than just our customers, the businesses we fight for daily are run by awesome people with awesome stories. For them, running a local business is more than a science—it’s an art. In honor of Pet Services month, we thought we’d share a conversation we had with one such local business “artist” — Signpost customer Christy Seal, who owns My Best Buddy dog training studio in St. Anne Missouri.

My Best Buddy Dog Training

Q: Tell us the story of how your business started.

A: Throughout my life, I have trained dogs at many doggie daycares, pet stores and even shelters. At the last pet store I worked for, my manager was very supportive of me andmarketing my dog training business my techniques. She encouraged me to open my own training studio, so I took the plunge and opened My Best Buddy.

Q: What’s your favorite part of being a small business owner?

A: There are a few things, but probably my favorite is the level of personal interaction I get to have with my clients. At many places I worked before I owned my own business, the management dictated how I trained, so being able to be in control of my curriculum now is huge. I also love that I get to make my own schedule.

Q: What are you most proud of about your business?

A: We work with a varying degrees of behavioral issues, and it’s always the best when a dog does something that an owner never thought was possible, whether that be a dog walking calmly with other dogs, learning to sit and stay, or anything in between. When an owner is elated about their dog’s progress, that’s always the best feeling!

11988692_845567142222803_3928267073267087508_nQ: What have been your biggest challenges?

A: Getting started. I have been open only a year and getting the word out there, growing business and getting new clients, was the biggest challenge. I’m so thankful to have invested in Signpost — I remember I was terrified to take the leap and sign up, but I believe it’s been a truly great investment. Being able to have access to clients not only through email but also through text messaging is so convenient. I love being able to send out promotions or coupons with one swift click or the have them scheduled so they get sent even if I am not thinking about it. All of these things keep my business and me in the forefront of people’s minds and have helped keep my doors open. Really, I just love all Signpost provides.

Q: What tips would you give to a small business owner just starting out?

A: Never underestimate the power of good marketing!

Q: What would you do with an extra hour in the day? (Besides more work!)

A: Read or sleep.

Q: What’s the craziest customer/order you’ve ever had?dscf0699

A: I had a woman once want me to talk to her dog, and I mean legitimately talk to him. She thought that he needed a doggie psychologist, and if he could just come in and talk with me he would be a better dog.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Helping owners gain success with their dogs. I can make all the money in the world, but if I am not doing that one thing (helping owners connect with their dogs), then I am not successful.

Q: If your business was an animal, what animal would it be?

A: Well a dog, duh!

Promoting my Dog Training Business

art of local

Want to hear more stories like Christy’s? Check out Signpost’s Art of Local channels on Facebook and Instagram!

Dog Trainers: Utilize SMS Strategy To Convert More Leads

October is Pet Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing insights and strategies specifically for marketing your veterinary practice, grooming, training and boarding businesses while driving more new and repeat customers. 

Not a pet care professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help you to promote  your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!

Promoting Your Pet Business

Did you know that 87% of dog trainers quit within the first two years, mostly due to the challenge of getting new clients? Chances are your decision to embark on this venture didn’t include a love of marketing yourself. Most likely, your passion for animals drew you to this vocation and you imagined days spent in the company of dogs, helping them to reach their full potential. The good news is that by wielding one of the most effective tactics in any marketer’s toolkit, SMS communications, you’re sure to maximize your effectiveness, which can save your valuable time for what you do best.

And, if you’re new to SMS marketing, you can check out our getting-started series for a good foundation.

Getting Started With SMS Marketing: Part One

Provide multiple opportunities to subscribe to your SMS list

Great SMS marketing relies on a solid list to send to. If you’re new to SMS marketing, check out this post to learn more about how you can grow your SMS lists. You can start by incorporating your opt-in info into every marketing or promotional material you create for your business. Plaster it on your website, across multiple pages, including your homepage and contact page (if you have one). If you have a physical location, include it on any signs you display around the check-in or waiting area, or in your windows. Add it to any printed materials as well, including flyers, coupons, and business cards. This should also extend to your other digital assets, on every email you send, as well as in your personal email signature, so that anyone you communicate with will be reminded to subscribe. Similarly, you can include on any vehicles that bear your branding.

Stay top-of-mind by sending out a text blast following a networking event

Attend networking events in your area, and meet other entrepreneurs and local professionals. Chances are that your business will be the most fun to discuss in what can be an otherwise dry atmosphere. There are bound to be dog owners in the crowd, and as you already know, for entrepreneurs time is one of their most valuable resources, and one they already have too little of. Explaining the value of a training program implemented by a profession is bound to raise some interest. Not every type of business is able to find direct customers at such an event, so be sure to take advantage and start planting the seeds. When you swap business cards or contact info, ask for a mobile number, if one isn’t clearly listed, and if they wouldn’t mind if you followed up via text message the following day. Don’t be afraid to clearly talk through your target audience. Do you specialize in small or large dogs? Dogs that have anxiety, or are aggressive? Or, are you more focused on puppies and the training that goes with that (housebreaking, minimizing barking, basic commands to “sit”, “stay”, etc.)? Speak to that that expectations are aligned and also consistent your website and other marketing efforts.

Try sending out a blast to all the contacts you spoke with the previous day. Include a link to your site so that they can find out more about the types of services you offer, and read case studies or testimonials from your happy clients. Your site should have a contact form, or even allow them to book directly there. You can also try including a special offer or a code on your business cards for a discount or free consultation or session. One of the advantages of SMS marketing is that 90% of them are read within 3 minutes of being received, so you can be sure that you’re reaching these new contacts while your meeting and discussion are still fresh in their mind. This approach makes it really easy to pass along to other friends whose precious pooches might also benefit from a bit of discipline.

Use SMS training tips to add supplemental value to your target audience

If you don’t already, you should try creating resources either on your business’s blog and through email newsletters to provide training tips that will help your audience of dog owners. This is a great way to add value for those you hope will one day become customers, while also showing off your areas of expertise. You should target the same behavioral issues that you’re looking to focus on in training to ensure consistency and strength of brand message.

Once your audience grows accustomed to turning to your business as a source of authority on the subject, you can start sending out quick tips via text message. These should be condensed, bite-sized lessons or exercises for owners to practice at home with their pups. You can also send these daily or weekly to current customers to keep them on track and ensure that they’re continuing the regimen after they leave you. This will help improve the overall experience for your customers, and amplify the results and progress their pets make under your guidance.

You can also use SMS marketing to link to longer pieces on your blog, or to short “how-to” videos that can help illustrate the techniques and tactics you employ in your sessions and how they can be modified at home.

Send out text blasts to follow up with leads

If you have a contact form on your site, advertise online, or host any in-person events, you can wield the power of SMS marketing to nurture these leads and aid your efforts to convert them into paying customers. How do you usually acquire new customers? If you  hold free workshops at local dog parks, at shelters in your community, or even in your own space, you can send a text message blast out the next day to keep the conversation going.

Following any event or other lead magnet, you want to continue to connect with this audience, while the great experience they had with you is still fresh in their minds and they feel like they’ve already taken the first steps towards their training goals. Consider sending them a follow-up SMS with a special introductory offer or discount can help motivate them to take action.

Finally, you can send out text blasts to both current and prospective customers with links to your business’s profile on popular third-party review sites like Yelp. For prospective customers, it can provide reassurance that others have found success with you, and for current customers it can be a good reminder to leave you a five-star review if they’re satisfied with their pooch’s progress. These sites increasingly influence purchasing decisions, and their impact is tangible on your revenue. So be mindful of these, and include SMS as part of your greater reputation management strategy.

Are Your Leads And Customers Forgetting About You?

In our guest post series, we’ll be bringing you advice and tips from industry experts on the other, sometimes non-marketing-related issues affecting local business owners. Today’s post comes from Laura Stroup, Inbound Marketing Strategist at Blue Frog

If you have a website or do any kind of online marketing, you know how valuable online lead generation is. After all, the main goal of most business websites is to generate leads! Your online marketing efforts can (and should) go beyond simple lead generation, however. What you really want is more business, so why not use your business website to nurture your leads into becoming customers?

What is lead nurturing? It’s the process of developing relationships with prospects Keep your business top of mindthroughout the buyer’s journey. It means serving your potential buyers’ needs by giving them resources that will aid their research as they consider their purchase decision. By becoming an ally in your leads’ search for the information they need to make a confident decision, you build trust while keeping your brand top of mind with them.

If you stop at lead collection and don’t bother to nurture those new relationships, you can easily be forgotten as their search for information continues. Here are three tips for keeping your leads interested and building your relationships with them until they’re ready to buy.

  1. Keep Communication Open
    When you collect a lead on your website—or complete business with an existing customer—continue to communicate with them. Not everyone who contacts you for a quote, for example, will be ready to buy right then and there. Many will get quotes from other companies to compare before purchasing, so staying in touch and providing helpful information will help your chances of winning out in the end—perhaps even if you don’t quote the lowest price.Even after you do business with someone, staying in touch by providing helpful information, resources, and tips, can help to encourage repeat and referral business. Automated emails allow you to easily stay in touch with your leads and customers, which brings us to #2.
  2. Create Automated Emails
    We just discussed how it’s vital to keep communication open with your leads and customers, but how do you do that without a huge time investment? Automated emails.Automated emails can be set up one time and then once they’re activated, you don’t have to worry about them! Simply create a series of emails that each offer additional pieces of valuable information, coupons, or discounts, and space them out so your contacts consistently hear from you.
  3. Multiple touches
    Once you’ve created your series of emails, how frequently should they go out? You don’t want to email leads too frequently, or you could annoy them and cause them to unsubscribe, nor do you want to continually send emails to leads who have never engaged with them in any way.To get the timing right, consider the length of your sales cycle. If you have a quick sales cycle where a lead contacts you for emergency service and your team meets with them immediately, you don’t need to space out a series of emails over the course of a few months. Perhaps you send a few weekly follow-up emails with preventive information, and then that’s it. But say you have a lengthy sales cycle, where a lead contacts you for information, and then they have to discuss your product or service with other people in their company as well as consider other vendors before purchasing. In this case, you may want to space out your emails by a few weeks—or even months.

The process of setting up automated emails and getting the frequency just right to avoid annoying or being forgotten by your leads can seem daunting. There’s help out there to make it easier, however. Signpost provides email templates that allow you to simply plug in your content, and once the email is activated, it sends it at the right time based on valuable customer data that its CRM collects.

Give Signpost a try to streamline your lead nurturing process and start generating more repeat and referral business!


Laura Stroup is an inbound marketing strategist at Blue Frog, a Des Moines, Iowa-based digital marketing company that specializes in designing customized inbound marketing strategies for companies of various industries and sizes. Laura is passionate about developing strategies that help her clients generate more leads and get a great return on their online marketing investment.

Grow Your Grooming Business By Focusing on These Top Retention Tactics

October is Pet Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing insights and strategies specifically for marketing your veterinary practice, grooming, training and boarding businesses while driving more new and repeat customers. 

Not a pet care professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help you to promote  your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!

Promoting Your Pet Business

When it comes to pet care, owners can be as sensitive and worrisome as any doting parent. Once you accept this, it then makes sense that they’re especially picky and maintain high standards when it comes to selecting a grooming specialist for their beloved pets. Therefore, it’s essential to create a strong first impression and use all your soft skills to cultivate the care and affection for your animal customers, so that it becomes a tangible element central to your business that exudes trust. We’re laying out tips to establish this crucial first step, as well as others that will ensure you maintain a healthy pipeline of repeat customers.

Continue Reading: Making a strong, first (digital) impression…

Making a strong, first (digital) impression

You might be surprised to find out that when a new customer walks through the door, they’ve most likely already made up their mind about your business. Or, they’ve at least drawn conclusions that have informed a memorable first impression before they even got out of the car. Few consumers decide to do business with anyone without conducting at least a cursory amount of online research. And not only are 88% of them trusting the reviews and comments that strangers post online, but an increasing majority is vetting even those recommendations that they are receiving from trusted family and friends with an online spot check.

Even with such solid referrals, chances are potential customers will take a look at your site and be typing your business’s name into their favorite search engine. They’re on the lookout for any issues or problems that may have evaded their friend. The decision often comes down to three factors: Your website, Third-party review sites, and any press or local articles that may have been published about your business. While it’s always great to have positive press, and difficult to outrun any perceived scandals or unfavorable press, that’s a subject that would require its own very long and dedicated post (for another time!). The other two, however, are prerequisites to the success of all businesses, as well as the key to sustainable growth.

Your business website

If you’re reading this and thinking, “But this doesn’t apply to me. Our business doesn’t even HAVE a site!” then it’s even more necessary for you to read on. Not having a site can hurt your just as much (or even more). When potential customers are performing this digital due diligence, oftentimes what they’re looking for is to build a sense of credibility and trust with your business. They want to make sure there are no surprises and that the services will be performed, as expected. They’re looking to avoid risk and uncertainty. Your site creates a strong, first impression for them; it reassures and defines these expectations. When you have no website, your business remains one giant question mark, and they’ll be unlikely to take such a risk, especially when it comes to their precious pets.

Now, for those of you who already have sites or are building one out soon, it’s important to put your best foot forward. It can be difficult to tackle this on your own, so it may mean making an investment in people and services who are experts (website platforms, like Weebly, offer free tools to help you here). A really great website should be a balance of information and a less tangible reflection of who you are as a business, why you exist, and what your mission or promise is.

As far as information, you should include your business hours, address, contact info including email and phone number, directions, services offered and even pricing (as long as it’s up to date. There’s nothing worse than having old pricing details when a customer comes in and feels as though they’ve been tricked). Take care to convey this in a way that makes sense, without simply dumping it all on your home page. Think about sites that you frequent and the way they’re architected. Learn from their best practices and try to organize your site in a similar manner. Avoid busy sites, or too many strong, assaulting colors, which will prompt visitors to bounce from your site sooner rather than later and potentially before getting the info they were looking for. Check out this Forbes article on the psychology of color for brands for some further explanation and tips.

So much of our impression of a particular brand or business is driven by visual imagery. So again, a site that feels clunky, outdated, or disorganized can lead to similar (albeit unfair) impressions about how your business is run or operates as well. Try using this visual aspect to your advantage by showcasing some of your best looking and adorable clients! Think about adding a gallery, or linking visual, social pages (Instagram or Pinterest is usually best here!), to display some of your latest posts, automatically, so you won’t need to worry about maintaining this element.

Online Review Sites

This has become increasingly more important for businesses, especially as it pertains to digital relationship management. If you’ve ever consulted Yelp, Facebook, or even Google before selecting a restaurant, then you’re already familiar with how much influence they have over the customer journey and purchasing decisions. Being an impartial source, people tend to place an overwhelming amount of stock in these reviews, requiring constant diligence for every local business.

There is no shortage of data to convey the impact these reviews have on your bottom line. Our favorite of which, is that Harvard Business School found that a change in rating of just one star can boost your revenue anywhere from 5-9%.

 Free Seminar: Tips to get started with creating and implementing a comprehensive Online Relationship Management strategy!

When you do receive 5-star reviews, be sure to share them in newsletters, on your site, or across your social pages. This prompts others to also leave reviews after they see how much you read and care about them. It may also serve as a good reminder for those who intended to leave you a review and forgot or got distracted. Provide links to your business profile across these sites, on your website, social pages and even in your email signature. Try to make it as easy as possible for clients who wish to sing your praises!

Similarly, be sure to reach out to those who have had negative experiences to see how you can improve in the future and how you might be able to find a resolution. Signpost’s Mia does this for you automatically, and “intercepts” negative reviews before they’re even posted! Find out how she can help you safeguard your digital reputation, today!

Ensuring success during first meeting

Again in this line of work, it’s important to make sure you’re broadcasting the right sensory signals. When customers walk through the door, they shouldn’t be accosted by the stench of wet dog, or lay eyes on an unsightly scene that appears disorganized, messy, dirty, or dangerous. Customers will be hasty to interpret first impressions and jump immediately to unfavorable conclusions that will often prove impossible to mend. You might think that surely, customers understand that a place that shampoos dozens of dogs a day might have an eau de canine in the air, but sadly that is often not the case. People will still hold it to high standards, and expect some pleasing odor which evokes cleanliness, or tranquility.

Again, these “intangibles” are important factors in creating a winning experience for customers. Staff friendliness and “warmth” needs to be conveyed, to position them as people who will love and treat their pets carefully and with TLC. Be as congenial as possible and let them know that their pup is in good hands! If you have time, offer to give a tour to new customers, allow them to voice any concerns, and be sure to ask them about anything you should know about their pet or their pet’s personality. Being thorough here will speak volumes of your attention to detail and commitment to delivering a high quality service.

Loyalty is about the entire experience

The days of punchcards and cookie-cutter loyalty programs have passed for most businesses outside of retail. It’s important to think about the entire experience for both the pets and their people. Think of ways to make this experience more enjoyable or convenient for both and you’ll find great success. You can do this with a combination of exclusive events, rewards, and communication.

Events: Maybe an introductory event for new customers where you offer owners free manicures while you’re busy beautifying their pets. Equal parts pampering might be just the thing they need to become an advocate. Plus, it helps the more nervous, “helicopter parents” by easing their anxiety over leaving their furry companion in a strange place for the first time. You can also offer this every so often as a reward for loyalty. Consider monthly contests, such as “best Halloween costume” throughout the month of October where owners tag your business in their social posts with the contest hashtag. This allows you to show off the entrants, and showcase your customers pets, which they’ll love!

Rewards: Think about what makes sense for your business, based on your pricing structure and customer data. It’s important to do the math here, and calculate the value of your customers, so that you don’t end up paying more in rewards than you receive in customer value. You can create a program that is governed by tiers or points, or completely create your own. If you’re looking to get started, we’ve put together an entire series dedicated to loyalty programs, you can check out here!

Communication: Try naming a “Pet of the Week” or month and award them a free service.  Additionally, try encouraging owners to post pics of their pooches in their post-groom glow with specific hashtags and tags so that others will want to become customers or sign up for your loyalty program. Give some sort of “upgrade” or reward for pet, owner, or both anytime they share on social. (Maybe consider getting a pup-sized step-and-repeat that they can use to make their furry friend feel like a celebrity, while including your business’s branding. It’s a win-win!)

Social: Again, we’d recommend sticking with a visual platform that already has a large network of pet lovers, like Instagram. You’re more likely to be discovered by users and potential customers if you use applicable hashtags. You can test this frequently, and see what works best, but don’t be afraid to have fun with it! This will be conveyed to your audience and make them want to follow your business.


Veterinary Marketing 101: Gaining Exposure To More Pet Owners and Keeping Them Engaged

October is Pet Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing insights and strategies specifically for marketing your veterinary practice, grooming, training and boarding businesses while driving more new and repeat customers. 

Not a pet care professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help you to promote  your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!

Promoting Your Pet Business

Like anything in the medical field, it can often seem unpalatable to consider the important work that a veterinary practice does to be reduced to a “business”. Unfortunately, every practice needs patients in order to be sustainable and fuel the vital work you and your team does every day. So although marketing your services, technical expertise and care may seem distasteful, it’s imperative to the future of your efforts.

As you already know, trust is unparalleled when it comes time to decide who we feel comfortable treating our beloved pets to in their time of need. Many clients treat their pets as their furbabies, and as such, do not take this due diligence lightly. It’s important that your marketing messaging and efforts speak to your qualifications, technical expertise and experience, and embody trust and credibility. Beyond that, empathy and bedside manner are the other driving force behind putting them at ease and feeling secure in your abilities.

Continue Reading: Position yourself as an expert by providing educational resources

Continue reading

Car Wash and Auto Detailers: Increase Repeat Business With These Loyalty Programs

September is Automotive Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing insights and strategies specifically for marketing your auto service and driving more new and repeat business. 

Not an auto professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help you to promote  your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!

more customers for auto service

Loyalty programs have existed for decades, without much change or evolution. However, in recent years consumers’ expectations have shifted as an influx of different businesses compete for their attention and repeat business. It takes more than the lure of a discount to win over your customers and keep them engaged in your loyalty program. It’s now all about creating an exclusive experience that goes beyond traditional punchcards. Luckily, there are lots of opportunities available to car wash and auto detailing businesses who are looking to stand out from the crowd.

The steps below will show you how your auto detailing business can create a comprehensive loyalty strategy. Make sure to devote time and resources to its implementation and maintenance, as there is always room to refine and improve. Remember that your customers are your best source of direct feedback, so keep a dialogue going and keep an open mind to suggestions to ensure they keep coming back!

Structure and Rewards

First, it’s essential to carve out the framework for your new program (or newly improved!). There are a few different options of loyalty programs you can choose from, including points, tiers or “clubs” systems. Each have their merits, and you can always combine a few aspects to create a hybrid program that will provide the most value to customers. There’s also plenty of room to customize within each of these approaches, and tailor it to your audience.

Continue reading

Healthy Studios Are Built With Memberships and Loyalty, Not Deals

In our guest post series, we’ll be bringing you advice and tips from industry experts on the other, sometimes non-marketing-related issues affecting local business owners. Today’s post comes from Andrew Wicklander, the Founder of Tula Software.

I regularly look at the reports in my wife Maile’s studio, and these enable me to visualize something we talk about a lot: That the path to a healthy studio not through deals, but that it is by building a solid member base and loyal customers.

Of course, it’s not just the revenue from the members that matters. Certainly that’s important, but it’s not just about the money. It’s that when you’re able to build a successful membership base, this is also a signal that what you’ve built is important and valuable and worth paying for.

What’s fascinating though is the degree to which the idea of memberships matters. In this chart below, I’m zooming in on a handful of the most popular passes at Tula Yoga Studio in December of 2015.

Fitness Marketing

You can see most of the revenue was generated from the sales of ten packs, followed by a number of singles and introductory 3 pack offers. Lower down we see the sale of ten memberships, generating about $1,000 in revenue.

So if you’re looking solely at December, you might reasonably think that these 3 pack intro offers could potentially be even more important than memberships.

But that’s not the whole story.

When we look out at the whole year, we can see that the memberships generated almost the same amount of revenue as the ten packs and far more revenue than the singles and the introductory 3 pack.

yoga studio more revenue

Are the introductory offers important? Absolutely. Are they anywhere nearly as important as monthly memberships? Not even close.

What’s so striking though is not just the revenue difference. It’s the number of times a purchase decision was made in order to generate that revenue. Because of the nature of the memberships, there’s a compounding effect. The first month, you sell 10 memberships. But then when you sell 10 more the next month, you have 20 memberships going. Of course some people will cancel, others will join up, etc. So you might sell 170 membership passes all year and have 120 active members at any given time for example.

But if you’re always only looking at your monthly numbers, you’ll never get the whole story of how important memberships are.

Another way of thinking about this is that one membership purchase, has many payments, but there’s still only one purchase decision being made here. So the reality is that 183 purchase decisions generated far more revenue than over 1,500 purchase decisions of single classes.

The other benefit is that memberships are the exact way people can usually get the best deal on yoga. So the way you talk about memberships matters too. When people ask if you have any discounts, say “yes!, we have an unlimited pass for $99/$108/$125—whatever your case may be, so if you come 3-4 times per week you get your yoga for $6 or $7 dollars per class.”

The flip side of this is, of course, to wonder how much value discounted classes are really brining you? What matters is the degree to which people who buy your introductory passes end up becoming regulars at your studio, not the number of deals you sell.

Something to think about as you gear up and set your sails for the year ahead, and hopefully these charts remind you to zoom out now and then to see what’s helping your studio the most.

CRMs for Yoga Studios

Andrew Wicklander is the creator of Tula Software, a hosted web application that yoga studios around the world use to run their businesses.  Andrew regularly gives talks around the country about how lessons from yoga can be directly applied to business, and how yogis already possess all the wisdom required to succeed in their entrepreneurial ventures.

Auto Glass Businesses: Ensure Customers Find You When They Need You With A Fortified Online Presence

September is Automotive Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing insights and strategies specifically for marketing your auto service and driving more new and repeat business. 

Not an auto professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help you to promote  your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!

more customers for auto service

The automobile glass industry has come a long way since  the first laminated windshields were assembled in the 1920’s. The problem is that most of your customers aren’t looking for your solution until they have an accident, or an unfortunate meeting with a rogue rock on the highway. It’s a reactionary business, and (sadly) usually seen as an inconvenience. Something that’s necessary to get them back on the road, and on with their lives. So, how are your marketing efforts best spent in such a specific scenario? You don’t want to waste them on customers who aren’t receptive (those with a healthy, in-tact windshields or sidelites, for example). Where should you start?

To stay competitive and ensure that these customers find you when the need arises, you need to invest in your business’s online presence. In 2016, this is the first stop on any buyer’s journey. They might have a vague, subconscious remembrance of the catch SafeLight jingle, but chances are they’re turning to Google, or other search engines, to find out what their local options are. This search is followed by a reputation check on various online reviews sites, such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Facebook, among others. Read on, we’ll be reviewing the key components to setting up your auto glass business for success.

Get started off on the right foot: Invest in a professional website

For most of your future customers, your website will be the first impression they get of your business, so it’s important that it sets the right tone. There are a variety of website creation tools and platforms, such as Weebly, which even has a free offering that you can use to make a current and sleek site. Many auto glass professionals didn’t get into this line of work because their love of building websites though, and that’s ok. If you fall into that category, then there are plenty of professionals who you can enlist to help you in this task. Either way, be sure that you are involved in this process and that the new site being built is:

  • Accurate
  • Up-to-date
  • Easy to navigate and understand
  • Conveys all the information they might need: Hours, Services, Pricing, Phone Number, Address, Email
  • Fast load times on desktop and mobile
  • Responsive (layout looks good and is easy to access from both desktop computers and various mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets)
  • Reassure customers’ doubts and reinforce your professionalism (through testimonials)

And that the look and feel is:

  • Professional
  • Modern
  • Intuitive
  • Representative of your business and expertise

Think of your new site as a home base for all your customer acquisition and engagement efforts. Everything you do, should be either driving potential customers back to your site, or at least leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to help them quickly be able to access the information when they need it, or are ready to transact. It’s especially important to make sure that your site is optimized for mobile devices, with fast load times and responsive rendering and doesn’t look weird when viewing on a smartphone or tablet (for example, ensure isn’t super zoomed-in on just your header, or require lots of scrolling and links that are hard to find). With 53% of all mobile searches having local intent, it’s important that you provide a good user experience, if you expect them to convert.

Set yourself up for success by collecting contact information

If you don’t already do this, you should make it a priority, moving forward. Contact information, whether email address or cell phone number, or even address is an opportunity to keep the conversation going, keep your business on their mind and ultimately increase the odds that they’ll eventually become a customer. Email marketing has been proven to yield 4300% return on investment, so the sooner you can start collecting addresses, the more impact it will have on your bottom line.

windshieldIt’s much easier to manage this process, digitally. Hand-written signup lists, while better than none at all, leave a lot of room for error, and rely on time-consuming, manual data entry. It might make sense to invest in CRM (customer relationship management) software that helps you keep all this data organized and easily accessible. As a reminder, Signpost’s Mia does this automatically for you, by keeping a perfect customer record for anyone who calls, emails or transacts at your business

The easiest way to do this on your website, is to add forms wherever possible. Whether asking them to subscribe to your email list for promotions and special offers, a blog for industry insights, or a free estimate, be sure to add a few different opportunities and “hooks” to prompt more of your audience to fork over their contact info. You can test different approaches, and see which performs the best in terms of completed form submissions. Being diligent in your customer data collection, moving forward, will amplify your marketing efforts, and drive more conversions.


Content and Directories

Now that you have set up a professional website, it’s time to start directing more traffic back to it. For organic (read: unpaid) traffic, this is done primarily through inclusion in directories, SEO strategy, social media, and review sites. All of this is done in order to give your business exposure to new audiences that have the potential to become paying customers at some point.

The more links back to your page, the more likely your site will appear in one of the coveted top spots, or ranks on search engine results pages. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If  you were looking for a good chiropractor in your area, you might ask around and see if any family members or friends had a good recommendation. But, at the same time you’d probably start researching your own by searching on Google, Yahoo or Bing. Your potential customers are following a similar process to find the best auto glass experts.

Sharing your expertise through content, such as a company blog or FAQ, can be a great way to establish  your reputation as a knowledgable industry vet, as well as help with discoverability. Sharing tips for maintenance, preventing windshield cracks and damage, or safety precautions people should take following a crack, and more can help provide value to consumers who might need your services.

Similarly, potential customers who are conducting research might come across directories for businesses in the area, so you want to make sure that yours is one of them, and that it has as much info as possible, to convince them to call or come in. Here is a list of free directories to get you started.

Online Review Sites

The final step is to claim and create robust profiles on popular review sites, such as Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business, and Angie’s List. These not only help with SEO efforts (especially when it comes to Google My Business), but more and more consumers are beginning their research on these sites. It’s important that you have reviews that are positive, plentiful and recent. This shows that the great experiences customers are reporting are not just flukes, but your usual dedication to delivering quality results.

Today, a majority of consumers trust online reviews as much as friends and family when looking for a recommendation. It’s unsurprising then, that online reviews have a tangible effect on your bottom line. Additionally, Yelp claims that just by claiming a free business profile on their site, owners can expect to see an additionally $7,000 in annual revenue.

Make it as easy as possible for current customers to leave a positive review by using buttons or links from your website to your specific profile on a few of the sites that matter most (remember, Yelp and Google My Business should most likely be top two!). You can also include in your email signature, to subtly remind whomever you’re corresponding with to leave you a review. You can also put signage in your garage or office.

Once you have profiles on these sites, you’ll have to be diligent with your online reputation management strategy. You should respond to any critical reviews and attempt to find a resolution. This can not only help to win back a customer that you might have lost otherwise, but will also prove to potential clients that you value customer satisfaction, and are committed to finding a solution.

Whether you’re just getting started with online reputation management, or already have a plan in place, we’ve distilled some of our best practices in this short video presentation

Online Reputation Management

So there you have it! If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating a powerful online presence that will help you get the attention of customers when the time is right. Be sure to allot time for maintenance and upkeep, as with anything else, this is an ongoing endeavor, and some extra time and resources can help sustain and continue to grow your customer base. Now that you’ve have a quality presence, you can start focusing on a communications plan. Check out some of our other resources to discover how you can start building better email marketing campaigns!


Getting More Referrals For Your Auto Repair Shop

September is Automotive Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing insights and strategies specifically for marketing your auto service and driving more new and repeat business. 

Not an auto professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help you to promote  your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!

more customers for auto service

Like an engine that requires clean oil to keep the entire car running smoothly, your auto shop needs to be actively working to generate more customers in order to keep your business healthy. One of the most effective ways to secure more new customers is to leverage your existing base. Depending on how long your shop has been a part of the community, you might have some customers who have been coming to you for years and with whom you have a good rapport. Each of these individuals —and others — can help ensure you enjoy a steady stream of new clients that will keep coming back. Referrals comprise 60% of all new business, on average, so try out some of these steps and keep growing your business!

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Promotion Guide For Your Automotive Service Business

September is Automotive Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing insights and strategies specifically for marketing your auto service and driving more new and repeat business. 

Not an auto professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help you to promote  your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!

more customers for auto service

September is here, and as we say goodbye to summer, we start celebrating the businesses that may have helped fuel our summer roadtrips: automotive services! These businesses help consumers get wherever we’re going and keep us mobile! However, even though so many of these services are often viewed as additional, purely maintenance, or reactionary, it’s vital you stay on top of your marketing and promotion efforts so that you can continue to attract a steady stream of new and repeat business. Auto services are not often on the top of consumers’ minds, so it’s important you keep them engaged, so we put together this easy list that combines some of our favorite tried-and-true promotional tactics with current marketing best practices for an unstoppable, and comprehensive plan of attack!

Your promotion efforts start with your website

Your website should be the hub for all your marketing efforts, both on and offline.

Your site should:

  • Be professional and up-to-date
  • Make a good first impression: Provide a initial introduction to your business
  • Include complete contact information: Including address, phone number, email address, directions, business hours, pricing
  • Offer functionality to make an appointment online. This leads to:
    • 40% more appointments
    • As much as 75% time save on managing appointments
    • An 80% reduction in no-shows, and the elimination of double-bookings.
  • Have forms to optimize the collection of contact information
  • Proudly display testimonials from happy customers
  • Provide links to your business profile across social channels and review sites

Show off your areas of expertise

Once you’ve invested in a professional website, you should develop a strategy to drive more potential customers to it.

One of the best ways to do this is through content creation. Share your expertise on both themes specific to your business’s specializations, as well as universal topics that all consumers are familiar with, such as traffic, commuting, safety and traveling. For example, you could post a blog about the best ways to beat traffic on holiday weekends, which can recommend the best time to depart, come home, routes to popular weekend getaways, or alternatives, and more.

Similarly, you could write a byline or routinely contribute to local magazines and periodicals with practical auto advice, which can help you position yourself as a community leader and authority on the subject. Creating short how-to videos are also a great way to boost exposure to new audiences in search of a solution to a pain point or issue your business can solve.

Determine what specializations or approaches differentiate your business from others, and be sure to advertise that everywhere you promote your business. From your site and social pages, to flyers, posters, online directory listings, reviews sites, business cards, and more. Don’t forget to recruit your work vehicles to help with advertising. Put your business name, logo, phone number and website, along with a tagline that states your specialization on your work trucks, cars, vans, tow truck, etc.

Invest in your community, and they’ll invest in you

Get involved in your community. Join local groups and organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, as well as any local trade organizations that have a presence in your area. Consider paying to become a partner of any group that commands influence, or is part of your consumers’ usual research. The more entrenched in the community you become, the more local customers will find out about you and your services, and want to give you their business. Try sponsoring little league, or donate gift certificates to charity events and fundraisers. Always be on the look out for ways to lend a helping hand.

And don’t forget to seek out potential partners in various places. Speak at schools and universities in the area and volunteer your time to teach a workshop, whether in driver’s ed classes, universities, local libraries, and more.  Encourage them to come to you with any specific questions afterward, and hand out special “Student Discount” coupons. Direct them to your website and social pages for more tips and videos to help them troubleshoot issues, or perform routine maintenance.

But don’t stop there, try to work in some networking with the different vendors you use. If you visit them in person, ask if you can hang a flyer on their bulletin board, leave a stack of business cards, or become a trusted partner/member of their directory for customers. Do the same with complementary businesses, including dealerships, auto supplies stores, car washes, and more. Develop relationships with local realtors and real estate brokerages, and offer their clients a special rate or “welcome to the neighborhood” discount.

Finally, partner with insurance companies. It can seem like you’ll be jumping through a bunch of unnecessary hoops, but when you become a preferred partner, people treat that as good as “pre-vetted” and do less research. Your business will gain an inherent trust with more customers. Some do not stray outside of the recommendations of insurance, since they’re worried about being held accountable for the bill, so it may be worth investing the time and effort to make this happen.

Promotion: Social, Email and SMS Marketing Campaigns

The first rule when it comes to approaching your social media strategy should be: don’t bite off more than you can chew. Only invest in building out pages that you can commit to maintaining regularly. So often business owners are pressured to be on every possible network, and later struggle to keep content fresh and updated. Each channel is slightly different, and should have it’s own unique approach. It is so much better to select the platforms that make the most sense to your business and focus your full effort and attention on only those.

For auto services, it might make the most sense to start your own YouTube Channel to share tips on how to perform routine checks and tasks and repairs. Create short how-to’s on platforms like Instagram, where there is a great built-in community of car enthusiasts. Appeal to underserved demographics in the industry (like women and younger drivers!) who may regularly feel alienated by your competition.

People respond to stories, so brainstorm ways to tell them by starting a series. If you’re a dealership, a performance shop or detailer, then you can start profiling newly-licensed drivers and their first cars! Jump on the bandwagon for social trends by showing off you and your employees first cars, and using the appropriate hashtag (#tbt #fbf). And encourage other customers to share photos of first or favorite cars. Finally, while you’re tapping your creativity, try to come up with some good ideas for contests. These can be a great way to increase awareness in your business, get you a larger following that you can continue to market to after the contest has ended (try to also collect emails!), until the time is right for them to convert into a paying customer.

Make sure your site is set up to collect customer contact information. Make it as easy as possible for customers to join your email and SMS lists with forms online and instructions in-store. You can check out this post for more surefire ways to grow your email lists. Email marketing has a proven return on investment of 4300%, and SMS marketing can yield up to 8 times more engagement, so implementing a consistent communications strategy can work wonders for keeping your business on your customers’ mind and generating more revenue.

Don’t just provide quality service — Go the extra yard

Of course delivering quality is the first priority for any customer-facing business. However, going above and beyond is always a great way to set yourself apart from the crowd and turn customers into advocates. Whether you offer free pick ups and drop offs for customers having their vehicles serviced, or extra amenities in your waiting area, think of small things you can do to provide more convenience and comfort to your customers.

You can return their car with a free, branded gift, such as a license plate cover, air freshener, bobble head, dice, stickers, floor mats, or more. This not only helps you spread awareness of your business, but is also practical and ensures they’ll have your name and number with them if they should get into a fender bender or break down.  It might even fan the word-of-mouth flame with passengers in their vehicle, who might notice and ask about their experience.

Perform safety checks, and complimentary inspections even if you’re not a state-sanctioned “inspection station”, so they will know if there’s any issue that will need to be addressed in the coming weeks or months. This will help them prepare and get things on their radar long before they’re rushing to renew. When you’re looking out for them, they’ll take notice.

Lots of people offer free estimates on their sites, so try position the offer as a free consultation, where you educate them on issue and preventative measures. This may prove especially successful in underserved groups, as long as you keep your tone friendly, helpful and not condescending. Nothing wins over loyalty like transparency and proactive outreach and assistance of an expert.

Be sure to check back next week, or join our email list to continue to hone your auto marketing skills!

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