Blog

September 18, 2017

How Local Businesses Can Respond to the Unexpected

By Jay Hawkinson

Disaster Relief Volunteer

The best brick-and-mortar stores are members of their communities. They act as good neighbors, as Gallery Furniture of Houston demonstrates. When Hurricane Harvey disrupted life in Houston, Gallery Furniture opened its doors to residents who became temporarily homeless, and owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale led a volunteer effort to rescue people and their pets from the floodwaters. As reported in USA Today, he is known for constantly giving to his community, contributing to charities and donating furniture to needy families.   

There are many other stories like his that surface during unexpected events such as natural disasters. They are heart-warming and worthy of the news coverage they attract. In addition, local business can play a crucial role by simply being open and available when an unexpected event occurs. When a community faces disruption, residents often need to stock up on essential products – quickly – and ordering online is not always practical, especially for perishable products. Businesses can be responsive by extending their store hours and letting residents know they are open.

As Graham Weihmiller, CEO of the BNI local business network blogged,

Local businesses also provide much-needed products and services that are in dire need when natural disasters strike.  Many forms of natural disasters, especially hurricanes and floods, destroy personal and business inventories and disrupt normal activities.  This is exactly when the local population needs what local businesses can provide.

Disasters are not the only times when local businesses can demonstrate their value as helpful community members, as “Mattress Mack” McIngvale demonstrates with his commitment to giving back to the community all-year round. In addition, being available during any surge in demand – such as when a major event occurs nearby – are times when local businesses can really create a memorable impression by being there.

If you operate a local business, and a major event occurs – whether positive or negative – you can make a difference by being available. In addition, if you offer extended hours and additional inventory to help your community during an unexpected event, remember to update your location data accordingly. Update your location listings with temporary store hours, and rely on your social media listings to quickly inform your community about your extended availability, especially as people often use social media to rapidly communicate during a time of need.

How have you responded during unexpected events? Let us know!

 

September 6, 2017

Don’t Make These 3 Major Location Data Mistakes

By Jay Hawkinson

A recent Forrester Research study points to a persistent stumbling block to location marketing: managing location data. Forrester recently surveyed North American digital marketers to understand their challenges creating and delivering relevant mobile ads. As reported in eMarketer, managing location data emerged as a major stumbling block, with inaccurate location data looming especially large as a problem. eMarketer also notes that managing location data has been a major challenge for local marketers for quite some time, beyond mobile advertising.

These findings are not surprising. Managing location data isn’t easy, especially for companies that operate hundreds and thousands of locations. A business’s location data encompasses far more than your name, address, and phone number (NAP). That’s because for any brick-and-mortar business, a consumer’s concept of location also encompasses a vast set of complicated, often-changing data and attributes, including variable hours, information about accessibility, whether parking is available, customer reviews, availability of WiFi, and a host of other details that must be kept up to date. Failing to update any of these details can and often does result in missing opportunities to draw foot traffic to your stores and disappointing customers who receive inaccurate search results.

I believe the key for managing location data well comes down to fixing these persistent mistakes:

  1. Having a “Set-It-and-Forget-It” Mentality

One of the reasons location data too often becomes stale is that marketers publish their essential information and don’t think about it again. But marketplace conditions change too frequently for businesses to act that way. For example, consider all the retailers who will offer Black Friday sales. They’ll all need to ensure that their location pages and local listings note any special hours of operation so that shoppers searching for “Black Friday sales” can find what they want. Conversely, a business closed for a holiday needs to ensure that it does not disappoint its customers.

Consider also businesses that open new locations or move addresses for long-standing locations, as with a company such as Starbucks. They need to complement their advertising (offline and online) with a concerted effort to update their store locators on their web pages and their location pages, among other updates. We recommend businesses examine the accuracy and timeliness of their location data at least once a month. If you don’t have someone assigned the job of managing data on an ongoing basis, do so now.

  1. Ignoring Data Amplifiers

Data amplifiers consist of publishers such as Foursquare and aggregators such as Neustar that distribute your data throughout the digital world where people conduct searches for things to do and visit. It is crucial that businesses share their data with these businesses to be found in searches. As the name implies, data amplifiers make sure that your location information gets more reach than you ever could achieve on your own. As my colleague Adam Dorfman discussed recently in Search Engine Land, the principal data publishers are Apple, Bing, Facebook, Foursquare, Google and Yelp. They ensure that your data appears on discovery platforms such as Google Maps and Apple Maps – and the publishers in and of themselves are discovery platforms. On the other hand, data aggregators – namely Acxiom, Factual, Infogroup and Neustar – share your data with the publishers.

Make sure your location data game plan includes building relationships with the amplifiers. Take time to understand how they want your data formatted for their own requirements. When you update your data on your location pages, make sure you update your data with the amplifiers, too. You need to play ball with them if you want to be found.

  1. Not Automating

I suppose it’s not a surprise that a provider of an automated data platform would recommend that you automate your data. But I do so for a reason: There is a huge cost to failing to automate your location data, especially if you manage multiple locations. Not only will your data fall out of date, you’ll also be more prone to committing mistakes with one of your most precious business assets – the information that your customers use to find you. Think about it: would a responsible business manage its employee records or financial data with a manually updated Excel spreadsheet? I’m sure some do but I’m willing to bet most don’t – especially any business that expects to achieve any kind of scale. When you automate your data, you achieve speed, accuracy, efficiency, and a host of other benefits. You also mitigate against several problems arising – the kind of problems that will turn away customers.

Most of all, I recommend that you treat location data as a precious asset. Understand its power to draw customers when managed well and to lose customers when handled poorly. Location data is not a geeky topic for technologists to ponder. Location data is the lifeblood of your location marketing. Contact SIM Partners to understand how to win with location data.

 

 

August 22, 2017

Clean Your Physician Data To Improve Patient Experience

By Jay Hawkinson

Bad Physician Data
For healthcare providers, managing physician data should be a priority. Sure, healthcare systems and facilities are busy managing thousands of different things every day but if patients can’t easily reach the doctors at these places, then a lot of those things won’t really matter in the long term. Keeping names, addresses, office hours, phone numbers, and other details up to date is an ongoing process. Think about how often it changes when a new doctor comes on board or leaves the system or opens a new practice.

If your patients and prospective patients can’t easily find your providers, the entire experience becomes a frustrating one. This is not how you want a new patient to begin their journey with you or your providers. What’s crazy is that it’s preventable! Yet rather than focus on the basics (location data!), it’s easy to get distracted on other health tech items like revenue cycle management, telehealth, patient access solutions, and lots more. Those are important too but if patients can’t even find you when they do a simple search on their phone or computer, you can understand how critical this piece of the puzzle becomes.

This is big issue for me because I encountered plenty of bad info while searching online for a orthopedic doctor when I fractured my ankle and wrist this past April. Read my entire story here How Bad Physician Data Creates a Painful Patient Experience and learn what you can do to prevent this from happening to your patients. You will see how passionate I am about this step of the process knowing what patients go through to find you, your providers and/or your specialists. If you have any questions or would like to discuss, please contact me.

(Yes, that’s my ankle X-ray above.)

August 15, 2017

Giving Back to Misericordia Home

By Hannah Wilson

For as long as I can remember, my family has worked with Misericordia in Chicago. The way I always describe Misericordia to someone who is learning about it for the first time is that it’s almost a college-style campus for people with developmental disabilities. The 600 children and adults who live on this 31-acre campus participate in a wide range of activities that gives the residents profound purpose. They partake in art therapy and hold different jobs within the community. Whether they deliver mail or help package baked goods to be sold at farmers markets, the residents enjoy their days at Misericordia. My cousin has lived there for over fifteen years and I can personally attest to the enjoyment that the residents experience on a daily basis.

When SIM Partners was selecting their next Give Back event, Misericordia came to mind immediately. Once it was scheduled, we all met at the campus on the north side of Chicago early in the morning for orientation. We were briefed on the daily lives of the residents, what our jobs would be, and how to interact with the residents as well as the history of Misericordia. Before Misericordia took over the property in late 1960s, it was an orphanage. When Misericordia took it over, they made it a place where people of different abilities could all come together. Everyone has a gift to give; some people are just more unique than others. There are those people that take more time to learn, but once they learn the skill set they make it their own.

After orientation, we split up to go to different areas that needed attention, which is different than past give backs we’ve done. Some of us went to the bakery, some went to the gardens, and others went to the art rooms. There is even an area for the new coffee program. All of us were working while interacting with the residents in their daily lives.

My volunteer assignment was at the bakery. Misericordia has it’s own bakery where they bake a variety of breads and sweet treats that they sell on campus and at local farmers markets. I assisted with slicing and packaging of bread and their heart-shaped brownies. With the help of a few different residents we completed all of our tasks in a timely fashion. While working with them I asked every resident, ‘what do you love most about Misericordia?’ Every resident’s answer was the same: everything. This may seem like a simple way to answer the question, but they truly mean it. The residents genuinely love their lives at Misericordia.

After our volunteer time was completed, we visited the restaurant on campus, Greenhouse Inn, for a wonderful lunch. Some of the residents actually work there. Overall we had had an amazing time giving back to the community at Misericordia. I’m so happy to share such a huge part of my life with SIM Partners and look forward to future give backs at Misericordia.

 

August 8, 2017

Using Organic Tactics to Improve Performance

By Hannah Wilson

organic tactics improves performance

Your investment in paid media to drive traffic to your webpages is only part of the strategy for a well-rounded online marketing approach. To improve the performance of your pages means applying both paid and organic tactics that ultimately will increase traffic and conversions.

The organic tactics include optimizing content on your physician pages and putting your physician directory to work for you. Advice we give to clients that want to take an organic approach to first to know what you want to measure, mind your data, and optimize for mobile. It doesn’t make any sense to apply organic tactics to a shaky foundation.

We discuss this in our post on improving the performance of your pages with organic tactics; if you master these tactics, you’ll be well on your way to improving traffic and conversions. Also, you’ll need to apply these tactics ongoing to really maximize your efforts. You can read more about this in our recently published post, 7 Organic Tactics to Improving the Performance of Your Physician Pages.

What we’ve suggested is just a start. Search engine optimization is an ongoing process. Contact us to find out how we can help you be found.

August 3, 2017

SIM Goes Sailing

By Hannah Wilson

SIM Goes Sailing

Last week, SIM employees dressed up in their best nautical attire and went for an afternoon cruise on Lake Michigan courtesy of Mystic Blue Cruises. We all met at Navy Pier and boarded the ship. We were greeted by the friendly staff and were excited to boat on such a beautiful day!

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We first cruised to McCormick place and then turned around and headed to Montrose Harbor. Being able to see the whole Chicago skyline was our favorite part of the cruise–it was a glorious sight. We had a wide variety of snacks and beverages; hummus platters, guacamole and french fries were all a part of the spread.

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The staff aboard the ship was super accommodating and friendly. We had fun playing bocce ball, oversized Jenga, and four-in-a-row while enjoying the sunshine and warm summer breeze. Some of our clients even joined in on the merriment as well!

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We had such a blast aboard the Mystic Blue and highly recommend it! If you’re interested, you should check out their website.

August 2, 2017

Why aren’t you making your content more shareable?

By Jay Hawkinson

Make your content shareable

In my recent column at Becker’s Health IT, Improve patient experience by making your website content shareable, I discuss the importance of making healthcare content shareable on social sites like Facebook and Twitter. However, this is advice that can be applied to any brand sites, blogs or businesses that have relevant web content that can be shared by their targeted audience.

Often a customer’s first interaction with your business is through your website. Yet many websites fail when it comes to making their valuable content shareable; social share buttons are absent or hidden on most pages creating an obstacle for those visitors wanting to save and/or send that info to their personal network. Simplify this process for them by making all your content easily shareable. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I’m on a website, retailer or publisher, and cannot locate an easy way to share a page to my social feeds. Don’t make me scroll to the bottom of your long review or article in order to share it. Don’t make me copy the URL then open another tab, go to Facebook, then paste. Just place easy-to-find share buttons on every page of your site.

Seriously. Why make it *harder* for your visitors to share content that you’ve usually put a tremendous amount of effort to create? Take a look at your website to see how it stacks up.

For more insight on how you can make your content shareable, please read my entire column on Becker’s Hospital Review. If you have questions or would like an evaluation of your site, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

 

July 27, 2017

What are the most important ways to measure page performance?

By Hannah Wilson

What are the most important ways to measure page performance

Not all physician pages are created equally, and comparing two may be similar to apples and oranges. However, making them effective is important to any healthcare system because that is where people find providers and book appointments. No matter the type of practice though, settings baselines along the dimensions of traffic and conversion.

By tracking traffic to your pages and comparing that to the conversion rate or new clients, you can better improve how your company is being perceived as by potential customers. At SIM Partners, we specialize in perfecting physician and company pages to make sure that not only the information is correct but that it can be more easily found.

Continue reading more at Phil’s blog on traffic and conversion and if you have any questions please contact us.

 

 

July 26, 2017

How local players can stay competitive in an Amazon world

By Adam Dorfman

In recent weeks, Amazon has been entering businesses ranging from home furnishings to banana distribution to grocery stores. It has seemingly triggered the rise of an entire on-demand economy in which people can order what they want and when they want it without having to pay a premium for convenience and speed. Amazon continues to spread its influence across multiple industries: fashion, entertainment, home automation… you name it, Amazon is there.

If it seems like no company is safe from on-demand disruption, it’s because no company is safe. That said, some businesses stand a better chance than others to counter the on-demand tide. Check out my new column, Three ways local businesses can can survive the on-demand threat, on Marketing Land, where I break this down into: convenience & cost, high touch, and an experience.

If you have questions about my column and would like to to know how SIM Partners can help you, please contact us.

July 21, 2017

Boost the Effectiveness of Your Physician Pages

By Hannah Wilson

Paid Media
How are you using paid media to enhance your online marketing strategy?

Recently, the Health Management Academy published a white paper, outlining the importance of physicians cultivating their online profiles more carefully and effectively. This is particularly important now, when consumers are evaluating physicians in a more critical and well-informed manner. And patients are doing this on their mobile devices.

Measuring the effectiveness of your mobile web pages is based on traffic and conversions. By utilizing paid media and breaking it down into two principles that go hand in hand, search intent and shortening the conversion path, you’re creating more specific opportunities from your web pages and in turn your brand to succeed.

For more insight, check out Maximizing Paid Media for Physician Pages written by J.D. Blue, a Paid Media Account Manager at SIM Partners.