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July 28, 2015

Why Businesses Should Care About Facebook Beacons

By Julie Piatek

Facebook is currently allowing retailers to test Facebook beacons in store locations of their choice. With the use of beacons, businesses can send content such as promotions to Facebook users (via their smartphone) if they are in range of the beacon. The development makes it more important for enterprises to more thoughtfully incorporate Facebook into their local marketing strategies.

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Why would Facebook launch beacons? Because Facebook wants to encourage uptake of the recently unveiled Place Tips feature, as reported recently. People who opt into Place Tips receive information (such as advice and photos) about places they are visiting while they are in the locations themselves. Place Tips takes information about a business or landmark, such as upcoming events, friends’ recommendations and check-ins, and then displays the content on top of a News Feed to in-store visitors.

Place Tips creates a huge opportunity for brands to make their Facebook pages more useful. As Marketing Land noted, “Given that Places Tips content will be coming from official Facebook Pages, business owners will be able to post content that could influence consumers in their locations. For example, “free dessert with purchase of special entry today.”

Facebook stated that businesses using the Place Tips feature have seen a steady pickup of Page traffic, along with in-store visitors since it went live in January 2015.

Facebook posted a beacon and Place Tips review from Brianne Sperber, Director of Marketing, Strand Book Store:

We love that someone can come into our store and check Place Tips on their phone to see that a friend of theirs has checked in here and posted photos, or even that there’s an in-store event coming up soon. Place Tips gives us a new way to connect with our customers and get our Facebook Page content in front of the people who visit us. We’ve seen some promising early results to that end.”

With on-demand service becoming more popular, it’s vital for businesses to come up with enticing ways to drive more foot traffic for their specific location, and if executed right, Facebook beacons and Place Tips can play a role in doing so.

Ways to Use Facebook Beacons

Some of the ways franchises might use Facebook beacons and Place Tips include:

  • Offering coupons to in-store customers
  • Loyalty program offers
  • Getting smarter about customers by collecting information on their activity.
  • Showing reviews
  • Highlighting new items

And we are just beginning to learn about the potential value of beacons along with Place Tips.

What to Do Next

In order for businesses to apply Facebook beacons successfully at the local level,  they need to make the content that appears in Place Tips compelling enough to encourage purchase and repeat visits. Enterprises should constantly be asking, “What can we do to encourage people to come into our store, instead of purchasing online?”

Businesses can request Facebook beacons here. Have you tested a beacon yet? Connect with us. We would love to hear your feedback.

July 24, 2015

Four Steps You Need to Take with Your Local Marketing When Two Companies Merge

By Christine Wuertz

While many of us were enjoying Independence Day holidays a few weeks ago, health insurance giants Humana and Aetna announced a $37 billion merger. But they are not the only two companies merging. So far in 2015, more than 4,500 deals have been announced in the United States, with a total value of $863 billion, according to The Street.

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Image Credit: WDRB

Mergers and acquisitions typically create a flurry of follow-up activity that can last for years, ranging from consolidation of operations to rebranding. If the M&A occurs among companies that operate local storefronts — as can happen in industries such as banking, insurance, healthcare and retail — local marketing is going to be an important component of the resultant rebranding, especially if the two entities involved either adopt a new name or swap one name for another. Here are some near-term steps you should consider if you experience a merger that requires consolidating two business names under one across multiple locations:

  • Take Stock of Your Data. Let’s say a drugstore chain, Right Choice, with 300 locations, acquires another drugstore chain, Good Health, which operates 200 chains across a region. Both chains agree that Good Health will adopt the Right Choice name. You’re in charge of rebranding their local marketing online. The first thing you’ll want to do is take an inventory of every conceivable place where the location data for all 500 storefronts resides online. Are all locations accounted for? Is all their name, address, and phone number (NAP) data accurate? Now is the time to correct bad information. When you merge the brands’ local presence, the last thing you want to do is carry over inaccurate information.
  • Take over all the local accounts for brands that are being merged, ranging from all local pages to local Facebook pages for every storefront that has one. Here is where the rebranding visible to your customers occurs, such as changing the name of every Good Health pharmacy to Right Choice, replacing the Good Health logo with the Right Choice logo, and making a multitude of other content revisions such as incorporating Right Choice’s mobile wallet offers across the legacy Good Health location pages, or even something simple like making sure legacy pages are displaying the new hours of operation. You’ll need to set up a process for assigning management of the local properties and communicating the protocol for how pages are going to be rebranded so that your internal teams don’t trip over each other by duplicating effort or committing mistakes such as uploading the wrong logo for any given page.
  • Reach out to major publishers such as Foursquare and Google and to data aggregators such as Acxiom, Factual, Infogroup, Localeze, which distribute business data to publishing outlets. Anyone involved in distributing and publishing your data needs to understand the changes you are making to your local data, and the data aggregators need to receive your new listing data. You want for Google to simply merge all the legacy Good Health pages under the Right Choice brand. You don’t want Google to start labeling the legacy Good Health location pages as CLOSED or to continue surfacing the old information in search results. But you’ll need to reach out to Google rather than assume Google will know what to do. To help data aggregators make the association between the legacy Good Health brand and the newly branded Right Choice locations, you can include Good Health as a secondary name when sending them data. We also recommend contacting the data aggregators as a preemptive move before you send them updated information so that they are ready to act quickly. Contact publishers after you begin updating your listings to ensure the information is updated the way you want.
  • Work with your marketing and PR teams to raise awareness for the rebrand. In our hypothetical example, Right Choice will want to rely on a combination of online and offline advertising (e.g., billboards, ads on buses in cities, and ads placed in all Right Choice and Good Health locations) to reinforce the news that a change is happening and that all legacy Good Health locations remain open for business under the Right Choice banner. You’ll need to formulate a digital program that combines search, display, and social media as well (for starters). Swapping location data alone without any attendant marketing and PR will make your job harder in the long run.

These four steps are not comprehensive, but they give you a taste of what you’ll need to do at a local level. As you proceed with the massive integration that will need to happen, bear in mind a few tips:

  • Manage expectations. Over a period of weeks and months, don’t expect to update 100 percent of the content. No matter how well you manage your rebrand and how clearly you communicate, dated information is going to slip through the cracks here and there, or Google is going to list a detail that is not quite correct.
  • Be patient. This process is going to take a long time. We’re talking months of work for you to take stock of your data, update it, and then see the results begin to take hold across the digital ecosystem.
  • Be persistent. Long after your rebrand is done, plan on periodically examining all the places where your location data appears. Check up on legacy listings to make sure they have been changed.

As anyone who has been involved in a merger can attest, a rebrand involving two or more companies is messy and time consuming even under the best of circumstances. But if you are patient, manage your expectations, and proactively manage the process, you will reap the benefits of expanding your customer base by providing a clear and accurate path to purchase at the local level.

July 22, 2015

Local Directories: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

By Adam Dorfman

For quite some time, search marketing practitioners have viewed local directories such as Yelp and YellowPages.com to be an essential element of a local search strategy. Typically, marketers wishing to be visible locally have cast their nets far and wide, ensuring that their location data is listed on as many local directories as possible. But data from a recently released study suggests that marketers might want to rethink their approach to relying on local directories.

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Image Credit: Search Engine Land 

BrightLocal studied traffic data for 30 prominent U.S. directories, including MapQuest and Yelp. According to BrightLocal Founder and CEO Myles Anderson, the leading online directories (with the exception of Yelp) have experienced a 35-percent decline in traffic throughout the past 28 months. But he also provides some encouraging data: since April 2015, traffic to local directories shows a gradual increase, especially for the “Big 12″ principal directors such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB.org) and Yelp.

It is clear that the launch of the Google Doorway algorithm (which penalizes sites with threadbare content) might be contributing to the decline in traffic for local directories. Google has always preferred sending searchers to content-rich local brand pages instead of to directories, where a brand’s content is usually less plentiful and, unfortunately, not always accurate. When Google acts, the digital world reacts.

Unfortunately for local directories, Anderson foresees a tough road ahead. “It’s hard to predict anything except for more decline; certainly, that appears to be the outlook for smaller directories,” he writes. “This decline in fortunes will likely lead to closures or mergers of some sites as their business models no longer deliver enough revenue to make them worthwhile ventures for their owners.”

So what should enterprises that rely in local directories do? I have two words of advice:

  •  Don’t let the bad news scare you into abandoning local directories. Local listings still provide value in building citations for your brand even if web traffic to directories is declining. As citations continue to be an important part of Google’s local search algorithm, listings on these sites can directly improve your local and local organic rankings.
  • Be selective in your investment into local directories. Instead of casting your net far and wide and worrying about getting every citation “perfect,” keep your primary attention on local directories that are likely to appear in Google’s search results and rely on data aggregators like Neustar Localeze and Infogroup to syndicate business data to the sites Google is not favoring these days

Finally, watch the local directory space closely for signs of a shake-out. The directories you favor with your marketing budget might not exist in 2016.

July 16, 2015

Get Contextual with Coupons

By Tari Haro

A newly published Forrester Research report asserts that coupons are alive and well, and consumers are using them in different ways that marketers need to appreciate. The report, “Count on Contextual Coupons,” substantiates our own belief that mobile wallets represent an essential means for marketers to offer coupons and similar content as part of a contextual local marketing strategy.

“Count on Contextual Coupons,” by Researcher Collin Colburn and Vice President and Principal Analyst Shar VanBoskirk, reports that consumer adoption of coupons has shifted to digital: 66 million digital coupons were redeemed in 2013, a 141-percent increase over 2012. And those digital coupons and mobile wallet apps provide opportunities to reach consumers with context-aware offers, such as a retailer on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue sharing an offer based on a consumer’s proximity to the store. But, according to the report, most marketers still rely on free-standing inserts to distribute coupons.

 

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Image credit: Mobile Commerce Daily

We see a strong opportunity to rely on digital to be more contextual, based on factors such as location and preferences of different customer segments. In a recently published Marketing Land column, my colleague Adam Dorfman, SIM Partners senior vice president of product and technology, provides a few compelling examples of contextual offers based largely on location:

  • A drug store on South Beach on a hot, sunny day might offer pedestrians nearby a reminder to protect their skin from the sun, along with a 10-percent off coupon for a tube of sunscreen.
  • Recently, Pep Boys realized seven-figure sales results within a few months after launching a mobile marketing campaign that offered consumers deals through their mobile wallets based on their proximity to a Pep Boys store.

Forrester also suggests that marketers provide coupons based on demographic context. For instance, 65 percent of baby boomers use coupons for food and beverage purchases, and 73 percent value loyalty programs. “Your opportunity? Load digital coupons onto loyalty cards,” the authors write. “Minnesota supermarket chain Lunds & Byerlys did this and increased its average basket size by 50%.” On the other hand, Gen Y consumers use coupons on event tickets, hotel reservations, and airline tickets more frequently than other consumers, creating opportunities for marketers to use coupons to fill empty hotel rooms or event seats.

Given the dramatic increase in mobile usage, it’s easy to see how businesses can create more targeted mobile wallet offers for different consumer segments based on their proximity and background. For instance, a grocery store could customize mobile wallet offers to baby boomer customers in proximity to the location (“stop by our grocery store today and get 20 percent off when you stock up on Coke products”) instead of making the same offer to all its customers.

Capitalizing on the opportunity to create contextual coupons means capturing and segmenting better data about your customers and making the technology investment required to capitalize on proximity marketing. Recently SIM Partners and mobile provider Vibes formed a relationship to help brands tackle the technology challenge. By integrating Vibes mobile wallet campaigns with the SIM Partners Velocity local marketing platform, SIM Partners and Vibes are making it possible for national brands to create location-based and in-store offers to convert shoppers into buyers based on a customer’s search intent and proximity.

How are you employing coupons to build your brand at the local level? I’d love to learn from your examples.

 

 

July 15, 2015

How Children’s Hospitals Can Improve Their Local Digital Marketing

By Amanda Bury

When window washers dressed up as superheroes and surprised patients at a New York children’s hospital in 2014, the resulting viral story reminded us of the special role that children’s hospitals play. They do more than treat children’s illnesses; they nurture entire families who are rallying around their daughters and sons, and the communities surrounding them.

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Image Credit: Huffington Post

Like other healthcare organizations, children’s hospitals need to be visible in their local communities in order for families to make educated decisions and to research what care is best for their child. Here are some tips for how children’s hospitals can become more effective with local marketing:

  • Optimize local pages for discovery search. Children’s hospitals typically have specialties, ranging from cardiology to oncology. And yet, too often, it’s difficult to find specific physicians and their specialties when you Google keywords such as “children’s hospitals oncology” or even more generic terms such as “pediatrician care.” Children’s hospitals should strive to appear in the Google local pack, or the group of businesses that appears on the first page of the organic search results when a query is done for a category in a specific geographic area. To do so, they should get the basics right: listing their name, address, and phone (NAP) data accurately on their location pages, claiming their locations on Google+ Local Business, and optimizing their content for the keywords that families are likely using to find them.
  • Go where families are. Many children’s hospitals complement their online marketing with thoughtful environmental marketing campaigns, as Robert M. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago has done. In addition, I believe children’s hospitals have an opportunity to try more creative and targeted uses of location marketing in places where families gather, such as playgrounds. For instance, consider using beacons placed near playgrounds, museums, and soccer fields to advertise offers for seasonal well-care services, such as flu shots and immunization services.
  • Strike the right tone. Hospitals can be especially scary places to be for kids, as well as parents making critical decisions that affect the health of their children. On your local pages, make sure you strike the right balance between describing your specialty and creating a warm, engaging vibe through your use of language and images. Employ approachable language, warm colors, inviting images, video, and rich media to keep the engagement fluid and informative, as Advocate Children’s Hospital in Chicago does.
  • Be social. Parents with children receiving treatment at a hospital are typically very social. They engage in parent support groups and social media sites as they seek to connect with other parents experiencing the same situation. Monitor and update your social sites with video testimonials, photos of your hospital, and information about special events.

Children’s hospitals can be like superheroes and make an enormous difference in the lives of entire families and their surrounding communities. The first step in doing so is to make themselves findable and approachable locally. Please let me know some of your favorite examples of children’s hospitals that understand local marketing.

 

July 9, 2015

Mastering the “Who” of Local Search

By Gib Olander

On this blog I recently discussed the importance of enterprises mastering the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of local search. Mastering the “who” of local search means possessing a thorough understanding of your customer and incorporating that insight into your local search presence.

Many marketers start their planning with a fictional persona in mind, such as Susie Shopper or Bennie the Buyer. The persona is crafted with details such as buying power, age, race, education, family size, attitudinal data, and purchase history. These details, which comprise the perfect customer for one’s product or service, are frequently applied nationally. Marketers then make media buys based on the demographic makeup of the ideal audience.

 

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With the ubiquity of smartphones (nearly two thirds of Americans own smartphones) and Google’s ability to prioritize the serving of geo-specific content, smart enterprises are starting to create and leverage local personas, extending the idea of Suzie Shopper into local markets. Scottsdale Suzie Shopper has different purchasing behavior than Fargo Suzie Shopper. Bennie the Buyer in Boston is different than Bennie the Buyer in Paducah.

The key to applying local personas is to use a strong local search and mobile program that allows for the brand to speak authentically to customers during “near me” search moments. Brands should speak with a context-rich voice. They should offer products or services most relevant to a specific persona at the exact moment customers are making buying decisions. After all, half of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphones visit a store within 24 hours, and 18 percent of those searches result in purchases within a day.

Today there is a greater opportunity than ever before to access context-rich data about who your customers are, where they live, what and when they buy, how they interact with your brand on mobile versus desktop, and how they interact when they are at work or at home. A strong local and mobile program can start to unlock that context-rich data. With more people making local searches, building customer relationships is less about broadcasting general content to a broadly defined audience at a national level. It is more important to speak authentically to people locally in the most relevant way possible.

A strong mobile program can help you more effectively track customer behavior in the moment. Mobile search queries have overtaken desktop search queries. When consumers share information about their location on their mobile devices (e.g., Facebook or Swarm check-ins), they are meeting you halfway in creating customer insight because they’re offering up valuable information about their behavior.

In addition, you can enrich your customer insight by applying search-related techniques to uncover a deeper understanding of the nuances of customer behavior. For instance, linguistic profiles help you understand your customers based on the language they use when they search, which can help you vary your content to account for, say, regional idioms. An insurance company has a vested interest in knowing whether customers are more likely to use the term “car insurance” or “auto insurance” from one regional market to the next.

What are you doing to improve your customer insight?

This post is adapted from a recently published SIM Partners report, “Local Search Marketing for Enterprise Brands.” The entire report is available here.

July 1, 2015

How to Win with Mobile Wallets and Local Search

By Adam Dorfman

Mobile wallets have many functions, from storing digital information to offering special deals and enriching loyalty programs. It may seem like they haven’t fully taken off yet, but research shows that they will.

As my new Marketing Land byline asserts, mobile wallets also promise to make local marketing more effective. I encourage you to check out the article, “Three Ways to Win with Mobile Wallets,” and let me know what you think of it.

Has your company used any mobile wallet offers? Connect with me, as I would love to discuss this further and learn what you think about the future of mobile wallets.

 

Marketing Land

June 30, 2015

Rock Content in Context to Win with Local Search

By Gib Olander

Local marketing is a content play. Create the right content at the right time and place, and you generate customers. Fail with content, and lose customers (and, ultimately, market share). And the key to attracting customers with content is to share context-aware content.

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Image Credit: GMR Web Team

Before you can create effective context-aware content, you need to build the right foundation by ensuring that your location data is correct and consistent. If you have 1,000 locations, are your corporate name and logo correctly positioned on all of them? Are your store hours accurately stated and contact information up to date? This kind of information enables “recovery search,” a term originated by John Battelle to refer to the kind of search that someone undertakes after he or she knows an answer exists and wants to find that information again. Basic content comprises the critical elements that make sure customers come back to your location. And the little things matter: incorrectly listed businesses locations and mismatches among names, addresses, and phone numbers (NAP) rank high as factors that hurt local search results for brands.

With a strong foundation in place, you can create context-aware content, or content that is tailored to a customer’s specific interests, needs, and environment at a specific place and time. For instance, a national home supply retailer offers context-aware content when it promotes snow shovels on its Boston location pages in November and then lawn fertilizer on the same location pages in March. Context-aware content is important because it is especially relevant to your customers’ changing needs and therefore leads to better conversion rates. Good retailers offer context-aware content with their broader online and offline marketing all the time. For instance, a retailer such as Macy’s or Forever 21 anticipates and responds to back-to-school season with appropriate in-store/online sales promoted with strong advertising.

Context-aware content enables what John Battelle refers to as “discovery search” — or when a customer knows what he or she wants, is looking for an answer or product, but doesn’t know who will provide the needed information. Having additional content that talks about your products, services, and specialties influences your findability in discovery search — the type of search that helps you grow your business.

Your local search program needs to adapt and respond, too. But don’t reinvent the wheel: first tap into your brand’s broader marketing program. Your marketing/PR team might already have a content marketing program and calendar that you simply need to apply in order to create context-aware content locally. If no such calendars exist, you’ll need to create one, overlaid with important milestones such as planned product/service launches.

What is your approach for creating context-aware content?

This post is adapted from a recently published SIM Partners report, “Local Search Marketing for Enterprise Brands.” The entire report is available here.

The Dawn of the Digital Coupon

By Andy Caron

Coupons have leaped from the bottom of your junk drawer to the inside of your digital wallet. And digital coupons are hot: consumers redeemed 66 million digital coupons in 2013 alone, and by 2016, 124.4 million consumers in the United States will be using them.

The following SIM Partners infographic, “The Dawn of the Digital Coupon,” gives you a quick snapshot of digital coupons: who uses them, why, and how. At SIM Partners, we are bullish on the growth of digital offers, as shown by our recently announced relationship with Vibes in which we’re making it possible for enterprises to wed offers and local searches more elegantly. Here’s why we’re excited:

 

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June 26, 2015

From Bootstrapped to Funded: Finding Your Moment

By Julie Piatek

“Timing is everything.” That was a common theme in today’s Techweek Chicago presentation from Jon Schepke, the CEO and founder of SIM Partners.

In “From Bootstrapped to Funded: Finding Your Moment,” Jon started off by sharing a concept from Bill Gross, the founder of Idealab, an incubator of new ideas, inventions, and businesses. In a recent Ted Talk, Bill discussed the “single reason startups succeed,” which include: 1) the idea, 2) the team, 3) the plan, 4) funding, and 5) timing. Using these five factors, Gross conducted a study across 100 companies that his firm invested in and 100 additional start-ups. Gross found that while all five factors are important, timing is the most critical to a company’s success.

Using Gross’s five factors, Jon recounted the history of SIM Partners, which he founded in 2006. While his original idea for the business evolved in the early years, the strength of the team remained constant. He recognized that in the early years timing may not have been on his side, referencing the financial crisis of 2008.

As a founder and CEO who bootstrapped a business until 2014 when SIM Partners was funded, Jon intuitively knew when to find his moment. Today, the market recognizes the local marketing opportunity — according to BIA/Kelsey, local digital ad spending is expected to hit 23 billion dollars in the coming year, expanding to 45 billion by 2017. Google search interest is “near me” search has increased 34 times since 2011, and 80 percent of these searches are conducted on mobile devices.

Since 2006, Jon and his team have evolved on the idea, strengthened the team and plan, then finally – when the time was right – were funded. Today, SIM Partners is building a team, a platform, and business that are building the future of local marketing.