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Wellington, Florida based LED Source is considered one of the top innovators in franchising. (See Entrepreneur Magazine October 2015 issue) Not only is the company a franchisor itself, but many of its customers are also franchise chains looking for awesome lighting designs and for a vendor that will outfit all new stores with the lighting of the future; LED lighting. In less than a decade it will be a "must have".

Many systems and large box store chains are already hiring LED Source to retrofit all of their old locations and to install all the lighting in their new locations.

ledsource-logo-211.pngFASTSIGNS and Massage Envy are just a couple of examples.

But CEO Marcel Fairbairn realized he needed to streamline the process between his franchisees and his vendors.

He generously shares his knowledge with you here in a Q&A.

  • Describe how your franchisees originally got all their materials when you first began the franchise program.

Our system was one where our zees were "forced" to buy ALL products through the "head office". In fact, we had a two-stage royalty where it would cost them twice as much if they were buying product from an approved vendor other than our office.

Our internal team would help the zee determine what to buy, process the order, place an order with our vendor, bring the shipment into our office, re-package the shipment to complete for the zee, send to the zee, carry the A/R, then process any returns that might happen as well. It was a crazy amount of administration and we eventually realized we were losing money on our franchise business due to this.

  • When did it occur to you that this was not the way to go?

Very early on we could see it was problematic but we felt there was no other way to do it. Our vendors are very big old lighting brands who are also finding themselves in this new, disruptive business called LED. They had enough on their plates with that to then delve into a whole other world.

The world of franchisees or small business owners as it was. It took my team more than a year to convince all of our suppliers to do business directly with our franchisees and to help design an expedient method for doing so.

  • What was your first real issue that opened your eyes?

The short answer is the impact it had on our financial performance. Since we were not making a margin sufficient to cover all of the support needs of our franchises, we were mounting losses each month.

Additionally, we were carrying inventory for our suppliers who never seemed to have what we needed when we needed it.

So we'd cover their deficiencies as best we could which never really seemed to be enough.

In the end, we were hurting our zees, ourselves AND our suppliers and I really took a hard look within to come up with a very obvious answer.

  • What was the very obvious answer?

If it's broke, fix it. First we pushed very hard on our vendors to create a model they had never used before. Again, we are talking multi-billion dollar businesses with 50 or 100 years history.

Change does not come easily and there is a tremendous amount of time and work involved so this was an enormous task. The fact is we never really had to admit anything because it was going to be such a positive change for our vendors and our zees. There was very little, if any pushback.

  • What exactly IS Vendor Direct and does it have steps that you put in your manual now so franchisees can follow easily leaving you all out of the fray?

Vendor Direct is quite simple. When a franchisee signs on, we provide them with a list of vendors, contacts, links to training videos and materials, etc. We basically introduce the franchisee to their suppliers.

The franchisee goes through the process of signing up as a dealer, applying for credit, etc. It has been a huge update in our manuals and processes, but well worth it in the end!

  • What was the reaction from the franchisees as you transitioned to this plan?

Initially there was some hesitation. Having us supply them gave them a certain comfort factor. They didn't have to deal with many other individuals.

The real issue was one we helped with to make sure that the franchisees receive credit from these large suppliers who often had very strict standards.

The truth is we were acting like a bank even to some who were not very solid credit risks.

But we worked through that and the affected few did very well in the end and now have solid credit and a solid business to go with it. Since then we've received nothing but praise.

We've got a stack of testimonials from happy zees who are discussing everything from the choices now available to the speed of shipping, wider availability, etc. Some of our zees have created very good relationships with their new suppliers and many of these relationships have already been quite productive.

  • How's it working for you and them now?

Even on my side, my finance team was at first skeptical towards the idea. Because we were, in reality, lowering our revenue, how could this possibly be a good thing?

The facts are the facts.

While yes, our gross sales have been impacted; our bottom line has already increased and will continue to. In addition, we've been able to re-purpose people who had been glorified order placers or trackers to now support franchisees in other, more productive ways.

We've allowed the manufacturers to discuss process and support THEIR products, and we support our zees on application, training, marketing and general business management.

As our business continues to scale, we do not have to borrow money or tie up resources toward massive inventories or administrative costs. Plus, our franchises have proven very quickly that the program works by rewarding themselves and us with growing revenues!!

  • You are clearly happy with the decision. In one sentence sum up what you learned from it.

It's hard to put such a laundry list of lessons and bumps on the head into one sentence, but for sure the one thing that comes to mind is that you should always play to your strengths. In this case, we were a challenged, even deficient supplier to our zees, and it showed in their numbers and our own.

So I looked at what we were doing and said to myself, "we are very good at what we do but this is not it. So let's get out of this role!" And that's precisely what we did.

About LED Source

Founded in 2005, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions. In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit. For more information and/or about franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com/franchising.

For 22 years Matthew Byrne worked in the building automation controls industry, where he last managed a $20 million branch contracting business. There he worked with energy efficiency products, gaining a keen insight into an industry that has a demonstrated impact on energy use and utilities. That, he said, is what drew him to LED Source. According to LEDinside retrofitting and other LED lighting projects will be a $25 billion industry by the end of this year.

"When I learned about the energy-efficiency capabilities of LED lighting, the excellent quality of the light produced and the longevity of the products, I became truly enthused," said Byrne. "Because LED lighting is an emerging technical industry, it reminds me of the early days of the direct digital controls revolution that occurred back when I first started. It was very exciting; with LED Source, I found I could recapture that magic."

The magic that Byrne seeks was further inspired by work with current partner Nate Byelick, Byrne's brother-in-law. Together the two worked with an LED startup company where they installed LED fixtures. Inspired by this experience, they decided to reach out and find an LED business they could own and and control.

"After 22 years in my previous industry I realized it was time for a change," said Byrne. "I became determined to never again let my financial stability be determined by someone else and I wanted to be involved in an industry that was rapidly growing before my eyes. I also felt that because of this new technology we could actually have a real affect on the environment while enjoying making a living. At a certain point in your career, you say to yourself, "'what can I do to give back' "? For Byrne and Byelick, the answer was LED Source.

Founded in 2005 by Marcel Fairbairn and Gavin Cooper, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions. In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit.

With decades of experience in building automation, Byrne is keenly aware of the difference smart technology can have on a company's bottom line. "Businesses stand to save a lot of money when they employ LED lighting and quicker than they may think," said Byrne. "That's one of my favorite parts of being with LED Source: dispelling preconceived notions and helping businesses save money, while doing it in such a way that they're helping the environment, too."

Now operating LED Source of Raleigh Matt Byrne says every day is Earth Day. That's because as the area franchisee of LED Source Byrne provides the kind of state-of-the-art lighting solutions that are becoming the standard for environmentally conscious businesses to the Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham areas.

Currently, Byrne and LED Source of Raleigh are working with GRACE Christian School in the Raleigh area transitioning all of their standard lighting into LED lighting. "We are outfitting three main components of the school's campus, the elementary school, high school and sports field. The high school campus used to be an auto dealership so excessive lighting throughout the parking lots had to be changed. We started the initial reach out via a cold call. The rebates the school received from switching from standard lighting to LED more than covered the switch over for the parking lot so they decided to refit the entire campus as a whole which is a big and exciting project for both the school and us," said Byrne.

"Businesses stand to save a lot of money when they employ LED lighting and quicker than they may think," shared Byrne. "That's one of my favorite parts of being with LED Source: dispelling preconceived notions and helping businesses save money, while doing it in such a way that they're helping the environment, too. It's also great to go to work and know you are not only decreasing your carbon footprint but are helping others do the same."

For more information about retrofitting your business or franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com

I know what you're thinking. Good local store marking, the kind that drives traffic and adds profit to your bottom line, goes hand and hand with countless unpaid hours of man-power. It does.

A sign alone will not a profit make. Local marketing is highly important and here's why, besides the fact that McDonald's is doing it...

1) Competition: First and foremost, in this day and age competition is intense! This is especially true of the fast casual segment where there's a new concept (or 5) opening daily. And there's something for everyone with concepts ranging from Just Salads to Mongolian BBQ as done by Ghengis Grill.

In addition, many already successful brands are exploring growth via daypart expansion or new services. Chipotle just announced they will add catering for 20 - 200 to all units in the coming months as a way to grow sales.

How will you stand out, be memorable to your target?

Offering what consumers want in your immediate area is a start, but now you need to reach your target with the message. If your intention is to reach moms and families, a Little League Team sponsorship or a school fundraiser night will be noticed.

Hey, a little you scratch my back I'll scratch yours never hurt anyone if everyone is happy.

(As shown in the blog post, "If I were a roller derby girl" by gobecky.blogspot.com)

2) Targeting: While a national presence is great, I think we can all agree that marketing is not a one-size-fits all proposition.

Every state has it's own nuances and for that matter every city and even every community! A college town will require a different local marketing approach than a sleepy seaside town that only booms for a few months out of the year during tourist season.

3) Scandalous Situations: For better or for worse, social media is here to stay and everyone but everyone wants to have their say. A disgruntled employee or a simple customer miscommunication can quickly turn to bad press with the click of a button.

Businesses with a strong basis in community maintain at least some protection from potentially business busting bad press.

I recall a situation in which a rumor was started by an angry high school student at a locally owned popular Mexican franchise restaurant in small town Pennsylvania. Sales were immediately impacted and the City Mayor actually spoke to the community on the importance of disregarding silly rumors and to support our local business operators that are supporting the community through fundraisers, school donations, and providing jobs. False accusations were quickly squelched and we can roll with that kind of community reinforcement!

4) Buy Local: It would appear the more things become available on a global level, the more people push to buy local. Don't believe me? Just type "Buy Local" into your search engine and you'll find a host of Buy Local websites committed to what has truly become a movement. Be a part of that movement by ensuring you're recognized as a part of your local community.

5) Local Media: Should it be in your mix? I'm voting Yes! A recent study by Millward Brown suggested that local media definitely matters when it comes to connecting with your community, i.e. your customer base. In fact, 71% of those surveyed felt proud of the area in which they lived and 67% felt connected because they knew a lot of people within their neighborhood. This would suggest an opportunity to market on a local level utilizing that strong connection that is not felt from a National level.

DJ Endorsements can be a perfect solution to capitalize on the community tie-in. With word-of-mouth appeal, listeners feel a connection with local radio personalities that can relate to them on a personal level through radio programming.

The Radio Advertising Bureau noted that endorsements typically drive a 400% increase in response over non-endorsed spots. (Source: Robinson Radio Networks).

Of course the right message on the right station with the right DJ is critical to the success of a campaign.

Additionally, a 2011 study conducted by The Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and commissioned by the National Newspaper Association (NNA) found this interesting data in regards to local newspaper readership:

Three-fourth of residents (74%) in small cities and towns in the United States read a local newspaper ranging from 1 day to 7 days a week; majority of the readers (81%) relied on the newspapers for local news and information.

One more great reason to spend some more time on local marketing: your customers aren't flying in, they are right around the corner.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

Will You Use iBeacon?

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Less than two years have passed since Apple first launched iBeacons in 254 stores across the country.

In the past two years, retailers have used iBeacons to find out who is shopping at their stores and to reach out to those customers with real-time information on purchases.

Available for Apple devices iOS 7 and above, iBeacon uses a Bluetooth connection.

Here are a few ways that iBeacons are revolutionizing retail.

1. Bringing Local Storefronts Online

In an age where online purchases often overtake in-store sales, iBeacons allow brick-and-mortar stores to come online and take their place in the clouds. That means greater online presence and greater sales.

2. Instant Market Research

By making careful use of data collected through iBeacon, it is possible for businesses to know here and now how many people, and what kinds of people, are frequenting their shop. Of course, like any other kind of market research, this data requires careful analysis.

3. Connect With Customers Now

On a fun note, did you know the Italian Zoo has recently developed an iBeacon enabled app which allows users to receive moment-by-moment information on the animals closest to them? While iBeacon does not support push notifications directly, retailers are using data collected from to fuel mobile apps and connect with customers, or prospective customers, now, in real time.

4. Attendee Tracking

As part of running your business, you doubtless attend the occasional business conference. iBeacon gives conference organizers an interesting way to get minute-by-minute data on large groups of people, so they know what topics draw the most attendees, and where attendees are going. This data, in turn, will continue to shape the face of retail.

5. A New, Competitive Market

iBeacons and other location services are a reality in today's world, and as with any other new development, competition is stiff. Companies benefit from this data and other companies benefit from being the ones to provide it. It will be interesting to see how this market develops in the next few years.

Are you utilizing iBeacons in your business? Do you have any fun stories to share? Let us know in the comments.

The post Five Ways iBeacons Are Revolutionizing Retail appeared first on Predict and Prevent Business Failure.

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Franchises have the best of both worlds: they can combine local and national marketing strategies to spur growth.

The franchisor will create the overall marketing plan and blanket customers at a national level, while each individual franchisee will take that plan and execute at the local level so it has a measurable impact in the community.

However, not every franchise is not capitalizing on this strategic advantage.

Typically, a franchisor's national marketing plan includes advertising, email campaigns, television and radio commercials, online marketing, social media (around the central brand) public relations and direct mail. All of these channels are great for creating and building brand awareness at the national level, but none of these activities actually connect the brand to local communities.

When it comes to the local level, franchisors should rely on and support franchisees because they have the necessary connections needed to grow the business.

While franchisees have the upper hand in local marketing, more than 50% of franchisees feel their franchisors aren't providing them with the support they need to be successful.

While franchisees are dependent on franchisors for certain activities, there are some proactive steps that local franchisees can take to grow their business at the local level.

Local listings put your business front and center

One of the easiest ways a franchisee can contribute to local marketing is through local listings in online directories. Being listed in online directories such as Google and Yelp will give franchisees more online visibility and drive more traffic back to the franchisor's main website, thus upping SEO (search engine optimization).

Currently 51% of consumers search for local businesses on-the-go, making local listings in online directories an important part of any local marketing plan. The consistent visibility online directories provide franchisees will keep the business at the top of customers minds.

A good example of a local franchisee listing in an online directory is Subway. As you can see below, Subway's local listing brought it to the top of a mobile search page for "sandwich shop."

Responding to reviews in a timely manner

Local listings will certainly help SEO, but they aren't the only contributing factor -- reviews are also critical to the SEO mix. If you read our Google My Business blog post, you know that Google (and many other directories) will link your listings to reviews, making reviews an integral part of a local marketing strategy.

At a time when 88% of people trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends, best practices recommend that franchisees respond to both positive and negative reviews in a timely manner in order to get the most out of review sites. While a franchisee might be discouraged by seeing a bad review, they need not give up. Studies show that 30% of reviews will turn positive if the business simply responds to the unhappy customer (and it might even be removed).

For example, this AMC movie theater could have improved their Yelp rating from the start if they simply responded. While the movie theater is lucky that the reviewer updated the review independently, it would have demonstrated good customer service if AMC had responded.

Form an online community with social media

An online community might seem like something a franchisor should manage, but when it comes to specific questions and quick responses, franchisees reign supreme.

First, let's dispel a myth about franchises: that franchisors (a national brand with a large marketing budget) and franchisees (local business with limited resources) are on different capability playing fields when it comes to marketing. National brands miss 86% of the feedback on social media channels, meaning your franchise could be missing major opportunities on social.

A good way to ensure your franchise doesn't miss any feedback is to turn the management of online communities over to those who are actually part of the community -- the franchisee. Not only will the franchisee be quicker to respond and engage with community members, they have a vested interest in the success of the online community: it means more business for their location.

I found an interesting post about how a Holiday Inn in Rockland, M.A. combines social and community by showcasing a local chef's availability for weddings.

For any of these measures to be successful, there needs to be clear direction to the franchisee on how to proceed. It is the responsibility of the franchisor to create a consistent brand image across all franchises. While local marketing will help create a local identity for each franchisee, there needs to be a strong brand that seen at every location.

For a guide successful local franchise marketing strategies, check out our white paper, Who Owns Local Marketing? Examining the Franchisor/Franchisee Gap. This white paper explores how multi-unit enterprises and franchises can monetize local internet marketing and how to narrow the growing gap between corporate HQ and local retail locations.

For the 5 Most Fascinating Stories in Franchising, a weekly report, click here & sign up.

The post See Franchise Growth With Local Marketing appeared first on LocalVox.

Franchises, at their core, are simply businesses. While many franchise activities can seem confusing because they are split between franchisors and franchisees, franchise marketing should be a united effort with a goal of driving positive business growth.

Not only do franchises need to worry about overall national brand messaging, franchisors also need to be aware of how their message breaks down at the local franchisee level. Avoid these five marketing mistakes and your franchise will present a consistent and positive image to customers.

Mistake #1: Not defining your marketing message

Whether you are building a franchise or have already established your business, your marketing message should speak to your original core values. Brand consistency is a defining feature of great franchise marketing and is reliant on a strong core marketing message.

Defining your marketing message early will set your brand identity and provide customers with a baseline for expectations.

Key areas you should focus on include customer service, operations, logo usage, advertising campaigns and quality control checks. While some of these areas are not traditionally thought of as "marketing," you need to remember that marketing is everything a business does -- from the name tag design that an employee wears to the promotional posters displayed in stores -- that impact the franchise's brand image.

Mistake #2: No guidelines

After you have defined your marketing message, you need to decide who will do the actual marketing -- the franchisor or the franchisee?

Establish guidelines of how the marketing materials and messages can and should be used, as well as what the franchisee is responsible for. For any area the franchisee is responsible, make sure you give clear directions on how to accomplish each task.

For example, if your franchisees implement their own social media marketing, you should provide them with directions on how to set-up social profiles on networks, best practices and sample posts. When giving marketing freedoms to franchisees, highlight locations that are doing an exemplary job and share their success (and how they did it) with everyone.

The next three mistakes are problems that could easily be mitigated by providing marketing guidelines to franchisees.

Mistake #3: Micro sites

Local franchisees should have an online space available to them to share local activities and news, but separate micro sites are not the answer. In addition to weakening overall franchise SEO, separate franchisee micro sites can be confusing to customers.

Franchises should have a main website that allows franchisees to have sub-domain pages. Sub-domain pages keep the SEO juice flowing to one website, while giving customers the opportunity to find the specific location they are searching for. The sub-domain page can contain local contact information for each franchisee, deals/promotions or social activity.

Sub-domain pages are an area where it is a good idea to give your franchisees some creative freedom so that they can spark some fantastic local marketing ideas.

Mistake #4: Not having local listings

Just like you want all your franchisees to be discoverable on your main website, you also want each individual location to be easily found by customers in online searches.

Being listed on Google, Yelp and other local directories will help your franchisees be more visible online and drive more SEO back to your main website.

An example of good franchisee differentiation is Panera Bread. Panera Bread calls their St. Louis locations "Saint Louis Bread Co.," in order to give these locations a local characteristic that differentiates them from other locations.

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Mistake #5: Ignoring reviews

Not responding to reviews, whether a franchise or franchisee, leaves you at risk of losing business. 79% of people trust online ratings and reviews as much as personal recommendations, so a negative review can turn quite a bit of business away. However, responding to reviews can change the reviewers mind.

A negative or moderate review is often left soon after a visit, when emotions are running high. By listening and apologizing to a customer, you mellow emotions and give your reviewer time to change their mind about your business (and in turn, their review).

Don't let review sites be one-way -- respond and have conversations with your customers.

The best place to optimize local franchise marketing is with a local marketing platform. LocalVox gives your franchise the ability to monitor ratings and reviews, share local deals, news and manage local listings (to name a few) -- all with the touch of a button.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

The post 5 Local Franchise Marketing Mistakes to Avoid appeared first on LocalVox.

Lately, everyone seems to be concerned with only content and social media marketing, but there's a basic marketing tactic that should be done before anything else when it comes to online marketing: local listings.

It may seem flippant in the digital marketing age to be listed in a directory, but online local listings bring a whole new dimension to marketing plans.

The purpose of local listings, or citations, is to make local businesses more visible on the internet. Each new listing is a new webpage where that business can be found, as well as a place their website is linked to. Meaning more places a business can be found and linked to.

A high priority for small businesses is to be easily found in searches where over 59% of consumers use Google every month to locate a local business. Google's goal, in particular, has been to provide the most relevant results to searchers. They reward local businesses who provide consistent and accurate information on directories, which aids Google in their goal, by increasing search ranking.

But making local listings the first part of any local businesses digital marketing plan isn't just for search engine visibility. It helps ROI for multiple aspects of a business, simply starting with visibility.

Local Listings Compete

Local businesses have a lot of competition, between the big companies and the other small businesses around them their audience is being pawed at from all angles. Claiming a business online lets the owner control the address, content and products and services provided. The more consistent and complete a listing, the greater the visibility and more competitive it is.

Listings aren't just for search engines, they provide information for people searching those directories or Chambers for services.

70% of Internet searches are for local business services, each directory a business has its listing on is another place it can be found.

By having a complete and up-to-date listing, prospective clients can easily reach you, while 60% of local businesses don't even have a phone number on their website, your business will be easily reachable.

Local Listings Boost SEO

You don't have to be a genius at SEO (search engine optimization) to reap the SEO benefits of local listings. If a business is listed on 100+ directories online, they will have valuable links back to their website and local listings are critical to your rankings on Google Maps. And if each listing has consistent information, that authority and credibility will help the business rank better in search engine results.

Optimize each listing to get the most value from each backlink with SearchCast which optimizes your Google My Business (Google+Local, Google Place) page. And because SearchCast is an add-on to LocalCast, you can also see where you business ranks on both Google and Google Maps for each of the keywords that matter to you, how they are changing over time and your overall local SEO improvement.

 

Local Listings Level the Playing Field

Did I mention local businesses have a lot of competition?

Because beyond the other local businesses there are some huge companies that can seem really intimidating. It's an actual David and Goliath story when a local coffee shop competes against Starbucks, and local listings make the competition a bit more fair.

A local business can take more time to optimize the listing for the local area, appeal to local customers and drive more reviews (although we think multi-location businesses and franchises should do more here).  Most directories are free to be listed on and, as previously mentioned, provide the benefit of visibility, as well as links back to that local business' website.

Those directories and backlinks mean that when someone searches "coffee shop" on any search engine, not only will the nearest Starbucks appear, but the local coffee shop will, too. That local shop could even be the first result on that page.

Reviews Play into Local Listings too

Google My Business isn't the only directory that will link your listing to online reviews, many of the most biggest and most visited directories, such as Yelp, include reviews as well. 88% of people trust trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends meaning that they may be able to find a business through directories but if they reviews are bad, they may not go to your business. Supplement local listings with  responding to reviews for a powerhouse beginning marketing strategy.

A small change in a business' rating can mean a big change. On Yelp a business with 3.5 stars versus 3 stars is 63% more likely to be full. 33% of negative reviews turn positive, making it possible for a business who may be a half star off to turn things around, all through responding to reviews!

Get started by claiming the local business listing beginning with Google, Bing and Yelp.  While those aren't the only directories to be listed in its a good start in the over 130 main directories that should be targeted.

Start converting 2-3x as many new web searchers all through local listings alone and then take things to the next level by responding to online reviews, enhancing each listing to show how great people think your business is! With prospects like that, why wouldn't local listings be the first step in a local business digital marketing plan?

 The post Why Local Listings Matter appeared first on LocalVox.

The first step to having an optimized Yelp profile is to claim your Yelp listing.

Once it's been claimed, be sure to use accurate categories for your business.

Below are some suggestions on how to set up your profile to expand your online reach.

  • Use photos! Have at least 5 photos, ideally from high resolution images
  • List your business hours
  • Be sure to list your current phone number and address
  • Provide an accurate and detailed business description, with search keywords throughout

1. What To Do Once Your Yelp Profile Has Been Optimized?

Once your Yelp profile has been optimized, businesses need to engage with the people leaving reviews, and that includes negative reviews too! People trust reviews, even online ones. 79% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 44% of customers base their decision after reading a review. It's key to thank positive reviews and encourage them to come back; while it's equally important to respond to negative reviews. Below are a few tips on how to handle a negative review. If you want to help customers, give them tips on how to avoid the Yelp review filter.

2. How to Respond to Yelp Reviews (Even Negative Ones)

Yelp Court Ruling Consumers33% of negative reviews turn positive when you respond to them, so your social reputation is within your control as long as you have a social reputation monitoring tool so you know what people are saying about you.

It's critical to remember that the people leaving reviews are real people and often vocal and opinionated. Acknowledge the negative post and the issue they describe and ask the person to contact you offline. Be very polite and be sure to use proper grammar. If the person has a legitimate gripe, address the comment and provide a path to resolution offline. The last thing you want to do is go back and forth in front of the entire online world.

The absolute worst thing to do is to respond and defend your business online, while you're still angry; this can lead to bad press and even make national news. Remember, ignoring a negative review is the second worst thing a business can do.

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As a small business, doing all your online marketing by yourself can be very challenging. You must build and market your website to build your audience, send out email newsletters to engage customers, and utilize social media to increase awareness.

Having just a company website isn't enough to get found through the search engines. The "if you build it, they will come" mantra doesn't apply for most small business websites.

Your potential local customers are constantly conducting quick searches on online directories. These directories not only have substantial brands/marketing budgets to drive traffic, but they also rank well in the search engines for your most important search terms. So even if you can't get your website ranked high for a specific search term, you can appear on the local directory site that ranks for that term.

Listing your business on these 5 local online directories can really help you generate more customers:

1. Google Places for Business

Since over 80% of searches are conducted through Google, you need to make this directory number one on your list. Your Google Places page allows you to control what information Google has and presents to searchers about your business. You can fill in your Places page with information like a description, images, hours of operation, and contact information.

2. Bing Places for Business

Bing Places for Business is another local directory that gives you all the tools you need to easily and quickly manage your reputation and find local customers online. Enrich your business listing with compelling online content like photos, specialties and services on the second largest search engine.

3. Yahoo! Local Listing

 A free Yahoo Basic Listing helps customers get your business's contact information, including address, phone number, and URL. Simple to create and easy to manage, the Yahoo Basic Listing can be a first step if you're just starting out online. They also offer paid plans that give you additional benefits like enhanced listings, special offers, and analytics.

4. Yelp

Best for word-of-mouth, Yelp Business Accounts offer a suite of free tools for local businesses. Communicate with your customers - privately and publicly. Track how many people view your business page. Add photos, a detailed business description, up-to-date information, history, and specialties. Recommend other local businesses and build your audience with co-marketing.

5. Manta

Manta's free business directory is one of the fastest growing small business resources in the United States. Not only is it a local directory for you to claim and promote your business, but Manta also centers around connecting its community of small businesses with one another, perfect for expanding reach. They also offer a paid plan with additional features and benefits.

Other great local directory listing opportunities

Don't forget to pick the low-hanging social media fruit of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Foursquare. There are more businesses utilizing these outlets than ever before so make sure you're competing on them locally!

Getting listed on these local directories is a great way to maximize your online marketing results and expose your business to more potential local customers, but you should not stop there.

Make sure you're also building co-marketing partnerships to build relevant inbound links to your website and optimizing your pages with your most valuable keywords using a tool like BoostSuite.

Have you ever listed your website on any of these local directories? What was your experience with them? Do you recommend any others that weren't included in this article? Let's hear them in the comments! Thanks!

The post The Five Best Local Directories To Get Listed In To Maximize Results appeared first on LocalVox.

Most franchisors have robust franchise marketing plans in place for the franchise that revolve around advertising. The marketing programs are usually mandatory and pool funds from all of the franchisees within the franchise.

The national marketing plan typically includes advertising campaigns, email marketing, television and radio commercials, Internet advertising, social media around the central brand, public relations, and direct mail campaigns - all assets that aren't at the core owned local media channels.

National marketing campaigns that are funded through franchisee fees are great for producing high quality marketing collateral that normally wouldn't be financially feasible for a business owner generating less than several million dollars per year in profit and they ensure brand consistency.

1. Local Franchise Marketing

Many times franchisees are also permitted to execute local marketing campaigns that meet the franchisors parameters and guidelines. In most cases approval from the franchisor is required prior to moving forward with the local marketing plan - creating additional overhead and requiring local marketing sophistication for the franchisee.

More often than not, franchisees need to address local marketing, as the franchisor is focusing on promoting the company on a national level. Currently, well more than half of franchisees are not happy with the marketing support they receive from the franchisor.

Below are some interesting facts that summarize the franchisor and franchisee marketing gap:

  • 64% of franchisees are dissatisfied with the marketing support they receive.

  • 53% of marketing executives at franchise firms believe marketing is critical to the franchise's success

  • 88% of franchisees see locally synchronized national campaigns as a competitive advantage

  • National brands miss 86% of the feedback on social media channels

Potbelly Sandwich Works has managed to build their marketing plan around local marketing. Potbelly offers local organizations and charities the ability to use their locations to host events, as well as a stage for local musicians. The company also does an excellent job managing their social media profiles.

As you can see from the Tweet below, Potbelly is responding on behalf of the company, but is representing the Burlington, MA location. Tweets like this build loyalty.

Potbelly.jpg

Potbelly recently retweeted a Thrilliest Chicago post that highlights their secret menu. Not only does it promote the Chicago locations, but also builds excitement around their secret menu.

Potbelly_ii.jpg

2. Integrating Franchise Marketing with Local Marketing is Key

In summary, it's crucial to localize the marketing message wherever possible, and to empower local specific messaging at a regional or single location.

A successful franchise marketing budget should allocate a portion of the budget to focus on local online marketing, and not just advertising within a region (as less than 2% of local businesses think pay per click advertising is effective).

The messaging needs to be tailored to the region, while considering the area's demographics and culture, and fit into the dynamics of franchise brand control and local franchisee enablement - no small feat.

For a path to a successful local franchise marketing strategy, check out our most recent franchise whitepaper, Who Owns Local Marketing? Examining the Franchisor/Franchisee Gap.

The white paper explores how multi-unit enterprises and franchises can monetize local Internet marketing and how to narrow the growing gap between corporate HQ and their local retail locations.

The post Successful Franchise Marketing Starts with a Local Marketing Strategy That Aligns the Franchisee with the Franchisor [Whitepaper Included] appeared first on LocalVox.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

For many franchises, especially location based businesses, a Google AdWords or paid search campaign can be a valuable part of their online marketing plan. A pay-per-click campaign can quickly produce new leads.

I have talked to a lot of business owners who have told me that paid search was a waste of time. But they are wrong.

They did Google AdWords once and nothing happened. When I probe a bit deeper it turns out that they used a free Google AdWords voucher worth $100 and posted one ad for a week.

But, the same people who will pay $2,000 a month for a billboard and have no idea if it is generating business!

This happens because many business owners do not understand how Internet Marketing works and how to use Google AdWords as part of their marketing plan.

Many of the common mistakes marketers make with inbound marketing they also make with paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) marketing and wonder why they are not more successful. Here are ten very common mistakes.

1. Using the wrong keywords: Many people think if they choose a keyword that gets lots of traffic then the high volume of searches will result in clicks to their ad. Searchers are generally very focused so even if they see your ad if they are not looking for it they will not click. For example, the keyword "cheap purses" gets 2 to 3 times more traffic than the keyword "Gucci purses" but someone looking for a cheap purse will not click on a Gucci ad.

2. Too Many Keywords: In Google Adwords you can associate your ad with as many keywords as you like. There are for example, over 700 keywords that can be associated with the word "purse." However, not each of those words would be relevant for someone searching for a cheap leather purse. Restrict your keywords to about 10 or 15 per each ad. This will also help you see how well that ad is doing with that set of keywords.

3. Too few Ads: When you set up a Google Adwords campaign you set up your budget for a group of ads so the cost remains the same if you have one ad or ten ads. The advantage of 10 ads is that you can quickly see what is working and what is not working so you can drop unproductive ads and promote the productive ads.

4. Keywords not in ad title: When someone searches on a keyword those keywords are bold on the results page, including keywords in the ads. So if you are bidding on the keyword "leather purses" make sure your ad title reads: Sale on Leather Purses.

5. Not Targeting Ads: Again, if you are selling leather purses you will do better picking keywords such as: leather purse, leather purses, woman's leather purse, leather handbag, as opposed to: women's purse, tote bag, laptop bag, unique purses and bags.

6. Bad User Experience: What happens when someone clicks on your ad? Do they go to a landing page with the information they are looking for? Can they buy the product or find the information they are looking for? If not they will leave, you will have paid for the click but lost a customer.

7. Not paying attention to Quality Score: The quality score is a grade between 1 and 10 that Google assigns to each keyword associated with your ad. If the ad does not get very many clicks or if the clicks do not result in a conversion or sale then Google will give it a low score. If it has a low score your ad will not show up on future searches or it will get a low position. Pay attention and optimize your keywords and ads to get a higher score.

8. Ad on wrong platform or time: Advertisers on Google have a lot of options on where and when their ads show up. For example, a downtown restaurant that is busy on Friday and Saturday nights can target ads to show on computers within a 50 mile radius of the restaurant on Friday and Saturday afternoons when people are planning their evening. In the evening when folks are out on the town the ads can be targeted to mobile phones within 5 miles or even within one ZIP code. The mobile ads can even promote late night happy hours or specials that are time sensitive.

9. Not investing the time: One of the great advantages of Google Adwords is the opportunity to get almost instant results and see what is working and what is not working. Too often a company will set up a pay-per-click ad campaign, make the mistakes listed in points 1 through 8 and conclude that paid search is a complete waste of time. If the ads are not working figure out why and fix the problem.

10.Not checking results: Worse than coming to the wrong conclusion about your Google Adword campaign is not coming to any conclusion at all because you are not following the results. It is possible to follow the results and make corrections almost immediately to maximize your results, but not if you are not paying attention.

Using Google Adwords is not an automatic process and profitable results do not come just by the fact that you have an ad. Too many companies have tried paid search and when they failed they blamed Google and not what they were doing or not doing.

Marketers need to pay attention just as much with paid search as they do with inbound marketing. Paid search and Google Adwords does not take the place of good search engine optimization and should be used in conjunction with a good inbound marketing strategy.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

3 out of 5 searches are conducted on a mobile device*.

When it comes to being found by local consumers, mobile visibility is quickly becoming nearly as essential for a local business as having a business phone number.

The small screen size means a business has to show up among the top listings for its particular product or service, or risk never being found by their local customers using their mobile devices.

Getting the basics right is where businesses need to invest their efforts--from mobile optimized local landing pages, to verified business profiles across search, social, directory sites and mobile apps.

Join us on October 10th for our webinar where we will be discussing the importance of having a local mobile presence and the key differences for national brands and SMBs.

Register via Local Search Association.

In the early days of the commercialized Web, the idea that you could purchase goods and services from providers anywhere in the world using your personal computer was exciting and irresistible. But as the Internet has evolved and the search experience has advanced, consumers have become increasingly focused on their local world when looking online for products and services.

From desktop to smartphone to tablet, local search intent is strong, with one in three searches having local intent, according to Google.

For businesses with multiple locations--whether national brands, regional chains or small businesses with more than one location--finding a way to capitalize on local search intent is critical.

Research shows that 49% of local searches are conducted without a specific brand in mind, and 61% of searchers consider local results to be more relevant than standard search results.*

Even if you are successful in appearing in local searches, if you don't point consumers to a landing page with relevant local content, you will lose them along the path to purchase.

Separate landing pages, rich with relevant content and keywords, will help you engage local consumers. These landing pages will not only help local consumers find you more easily, they will increase the chances consumers will conclude their purchase journey with you.

Here are just a four reasons why deploying individual local landing pages is a smart move for your multiple location business:

1. Hyperlocal presence - be seen where your consumers are searching. With separate landing pages containing location-specific content and keywords, you can dominate hyperlocal searches in more than one city, town or neighborhood.

2. Increased brand awareness through visibility across multiple markets. Make full use of online and mobile search portals, directories, aggregators and review sites. Your business will stay in front of the consumer, creating constant visibility and market saturation.

3. Enhanced, relevant content draws local consumer attention. Increase your findability in local searches by ensuring the consistency of your information and the inclusion of enhanced content like location-specific website links, hours of operation, logos and other images.

Consumers are more likely to click on a local search result for your business that includes an image. What's more, your business will show up in image searches, increasing your overall search visibility.

4. Express your local personality. More than one-third of smartphone users are looking specifically for retailer contact details such as phone number, address and directions (source: The Mobile Path to Purchase).

Separate landing pages enable you to add specific information about each business location (e.g., local phone number, local address, cross streets and directions, special products and services offered by the location, other details specific to the location), helping a consumer see you as a truly local business.

Conclusion

Ultimately, if your business--whether a national brand or SMB--has multiple locations, you are a local business.

You need to focus on the needs of your local consumers across the cities, towns and neighborhoods you serve.

And that begins with helping your customers find you and quickly identify you as a local business that can fulfill their needs.

Separate landing pages for each of your locations will help you establish your local presence in the minds of local customers.

From there, it's up to you to win their hearts and their business.

* Resource.com

For more useful advice on local search, read more of Brian Coryat.

Building a strong offline and online presence in local markets is of key importance to every organization that sells products and/or services to a local audience.

For franchises, this is an ever-increasing challenge because as they grow, they expand into more and more local markets. It is a challenge that, if ignored, can lead to devastating results. On the flip side, when addressed properly, it can lead to industry widespread exposure...and that's a good thing.

One important aspect of that is securing a prime spot in the increasingly important map listing results that appear in response to keyword searches on Google.

When that all-powerful map appears, you need to be there.

While Google Local Pages are still active, Google is transitioning priority to Google+ pages, so it's imperative that franchises that need a local presence setup a Google+ page. Not just any page can be setup, however.

In order to appear in local map results, you must setup a Google+ page as a "Local Business" rather than choosing an alternative such as product/brand, company/institution, arts/entertainment/sports or other.

It's also crucial that you then go through the process and complete all the steps in order to take advantage of the power that Google+ offers:

  • -Specify correct physical location
  • -Choose the correct categories
  • -Add a description with keywords
  • -Adding a website link
  • -Add a logo and cover photo
  • -Post a welcoming message

And lastly...verify the page! Without verification the page will not appear in Google results...then the efforts are wasted.

It is important for franchises to determine who is responsible for the setup and maintenance of these pages. Many pages can be setup through a single Google account, which makes it easy for the corporate franchise team to maintain.

Given that in most industries audience engagement on Google+ is not as crucial as it is on other networks such as Facebook or Twitter, corporate management of the pages may be the most practical and make the most sense.

If it is decided that independent franchises will setup their own Google+ pages, then the corporate team should provide them with instructions about how to do so properly in order to maximize results.

Regardless of who sets it up, Google+ is an essential component of establishing a solid online presence for franchises in local markets.

    Mobile search has fast become consumers' preferred method when searching for local businesses.

    In fact, 50% of Google mobile searches are local. The data is clear--mobile search is surging as desktop search continues to decline.

    Having a mobile optimized website is now a must for local businesses that want to be found by the millions of local consumers who are routinely conducting mobile local searches from their smartphones and tablets. Mobile optimization--and the related building blocks of local SEO--is nearly as essential for a local business as having a business phone number.

    And yet, most small and medium-sized businesses, many of which are local businesses, are not well positioned to be found by mobile searchers. According to data from SMB DigitalScape, 94.5 percent of U.S. SMB websites are not mobile optimized.

    It's time for local businesses to get serious about mobile, or risk losing ground to mobile-ready competitors.

    1. Is Mobile Really So Important for My Local Business?

    Among the advantages of mobile search is that it's newer; therefore mobile search results are a lot less cluttered than desktop search results. This lack of competition in the results gives a local businesses even greater visibility in searches.

    If that doesn't offer sufficient motivation to start thinking seriously about mobile, there's a growing mountain of data to support the urgency to get mobile optimized...now.

    Consider that:

    • Mobile searchers convert faster, with 55% responding within one hour of a search. ***
    • Mobile optimized websites have 11.5 percent higher click-through rates. *
    • 25% of mobile users who search for a local business make an in-store purchase. **
    • 49% of mobile users who search for a local business location search for it on a map. **
    • One out of three smartphone users search specifically for contact information, such as phone numbers, maps and driving directions. ****

    2. I'm Mobile Optimized, But I'm Still Not Showing Up in Mobile Searches

    Optimizing a website for mobile devices is only one piece of a local business' mobile strategy. The smaller screen size means a business has to show up among the top listings for its particular product or service, otherwise the customer will never see the business' listing. Therefore, search engine optimization is a critical component for visibility in mobile searches.

    Local businesses must ensure they not only claim their online business listings, they must also make sure their basic business information - name, address, phone number - is accurate and consistent, everywhere it appears online.

    3. Where's My Google Map Pin?

    Local search is broken on most major directory apps. For example, when performing a local search on Google, your business may not show up - even if you are standing inside your business location.

    Once again, to show up on the Google map in a local search, you need to make sure your business listing is claimed, the data is accurate and the location pin is in the correct place.

    So, Just Do It

    Smartphones have clearly changed the way we perform everyday tasks.

    For local businesses, mobile is no longer something to push off until next year. If you want to remain competitive in your local marketplace, your business has to be visible to the growing number of mobile local consumers.

    Move local SEO and mobile website optimization to the top of your to do list. And just do it.

    * Google-Nielsen Study

    ** Startapp

    *** Google Smartphone Study

    **** Mobile Path to Purchase Study by Telmetrics and xAd

    Local Market Launch today introduced a local visibility audit tool that enables national brands and multi-location businesses to gauge the local online presence (across search, local directories, and social media) of all their locations--whether they have two, hundreds or even thousands of locations.

    Until now, managing the local online presence of multiple locations has been a resource-intensive undertaking for national and regional brands, often yielding mediocre results.

    Our new tool allows brands to efficiently identify locations with underperforming aspects of online presence, such as inconsistent or incomplete business listing information in online directories, a factor that can diminish a location's findability in online and mobile searches.

    Manual approaches to managing the ever-increasing number of digital channels that publish local business information are simply ineffective.

    Our new local visibility audit tool enables multi-location businesses to get a handle on local online presence, control brand assets across their organization, and ultimately help increase traffic to their local operations. We look forward to introducing our new tool to attendees of next week's Street Fight Summit West.

    Distinguishing features of the tool include:

    • Ability to input a business location phone number and view associated directory listings in real time
    • Widgetized for easy sharing of the same functionality with another website
    • Ability for multiple businesses with the same name (e.g., Rusty's), or for businesses that can't be found with their phone number (e.g., new           businesses) to be found
    • Currently actively scans the top 25-plus directory websites, with additional directory sites continuing to be integrated into the tool
    • "A select group of agency partners have been using the tool in beta release with their national brand clients to review their local online visibility across search, local directories, and social media," said Jeff Hoyer, VP of sales, Local Market Launch. "Feedback indicates it is a compelling pre-sales tool that agencies and resellers can use to effectively demonstrate the overall value of our business listings and reputation management solutions."

    Local Market Launch will showcase the new tool and the company's full range of local online presence solutions for SMBs, franchisees and multi-location businesses, as a sponsor of next week's Street Fight Summit West, which takes place June 4, at the Bentley Reserve, in Downtown San Francisco.

    Local Market Launch's Coryat will take to the conference stage to introduce a panel discussion titled, "How Mobile Analytics and Mapping are Transforming Local," featuring Street Fight columnist Matt Sokoloff.

    On the eve of the conference, Monday, June 3, Local Market Launch will host an invitation-only wine tasting event offering conference attendees "A Taste of Santa Barbara" and the opportunity to jumpstart the networking with their peers in the hyperlocal industry. To request an invitation to the event, contact Angela Tan at angela(at)localmarketlaunch(dot)com.

    Users have demonstrated that they prefer mobile for their communications because they see it as a two way street where they can both self-select and receive individualized content.

    But many brands and companies are still harboring the "If the experts say mobile helps drive sales then we'll use mobile to drive sales".

    That's the kind of strategy that banks get 'dinged' for in TV commercials all the time. All jokes aside, even if banks get a bad reputation for not caring enough for their customers, they sure have done exactly what their customers have asked for by allowing mobile deposits through their banking apps- and it's really paid off.

    Consumers are embracing mobile devices for the ease and convenience they bring to everyday activities, such as using smartphones and tablets to deposit more than $40 billion into their accounts by snapping a picture of a check, according to Mitek, a provider of mobile imaging services that enable the mobile deposit features of banking apps. And, you know that when personal finance management via mobile apps is entrusted by millions that you've hit the jackpot for proving that there is enormous potential for consumers to trust mobile for every activity and interaction.

    Now, you have to stop and ask yourself, how did the banks realize this point of convenience would be so admirably appreciated by consumers? Even more so, imagine what barriers would have been difficult for banks to overcome to reach such an innovative idea. For one, coming up with an innovative idea like mobile check deposits isn't something the bank would HAVE to improve upon- the fact that banks have already invested in ATM and branch locations throughout their geographic footprint means that there was not a gap in the services. The idea of going to the bank to deposit your checks had been working fine for literally hundreds of years. Today, it's now just another thing we expect from our banks- proven by the high adoption rate and the billions of dollars in deposits that have been entrusted in the care of mobile banking apps. 

    Plus, another study conducted by Quicken found that 15% of those surveyed say they prefer to check their financial accounts on a smartphone or tablet and that number is only going to grow in the next five to ten years, according to Barry Saik, vice president and general manager at Quicken. Additionally, more than 50% of users check their financial account balances on their smartphone monthly.

    What are the implications for your brand or business? When you think about mobile, challenge yourself not to think inside the box (re-designing your current desktop web assets for mobile) but allow yourself time to think bigger. 

    Are there any areas of your business that perform customer facing functions that would be easier and more fun to do on mobile? Our clients have unanimously agreed that old paper and desktop web and email surveys are not quite as engaging, so they've moved their customer feedback program to our system to give their customers a refreshingly simple mobile experience for giving feedback. Since the ability to feel that one's opinion has been heard and is appreciated improves customer loyalty, it's a double win for you! Your other win for customer loyalty is adapting user experience to be simple and snazzy on mobile, but more on that in a little bit.  

    When it's easy to do on the go, people will do it. In the graph to the left from Google's Our Mobile Planet you can see than an overwhelming majority of US smartphone users say that they use the internet on their smartphone to pass time while waiting (around 70%) and to answer questions quickly (around 60%) and that behavior doesn't really change at all between the 18-year old and 49-year old users.

    Ultimately, it's important to keep in mind what consumers really expect. The percentage of smartphone users that expect websites to be as easy to use as on a computer is already over 60% and it continues to grow. Consumers expect your web experience to be seamless on mobile- even if you think it's an unreasonable expectation from the brand's perspective. It takes a serious investment of time and resources to be mobile friendly but it's worth it! 

    In fact, it may be what's standing between you and increasing your sales. First impressions are everything with mobile: 44 percent of online shoppers said they would never return to sites that are not mobile friendly, according to a new report from Kentico Software. 

    "The most surprising finding was the difference in the trust placed in self-selected content such as reviews and natural search versus digital push communications such as banner ads and text messages," said Tracy Stokes, principal analyst at Forrester, Boston.

    A new report from Forrester Research on digital push communications showed that less than 15% of U.S. consumers trust text messages from marketers and information on mobile applications. This is important- make sure that you offer options for your customers to connect with you- allow them to have several interactions with your brand via channels of their choice to build their trust. And, above all, find ways to allow your customers to initiate and choose the timing of communication and engagement with your mobile brand assets. 

    The moral of the story: If you make everything your customers need and want to access seamless on mobile, they'll choose to visit your content again and again. And, you'll become the brand that they're checking out when they're on the go and passing time browsing the web on their smartphone.

    Not sure where to start in becoming mobile friendly? Ask your customers! Consider using mobile surveys (like ours here at On The Spot Systems) on your website that are smartphone and tablet friendly and extremely easy for consumers to use.

    Ask your customers visiting your website on their smartphones and tablets (you can target showing the mobile experience survey using browser detection) Ask them if they think the experience is mobile friendly, what pages or sections of your site need the most attention to be user-friendly, and what they need to be improved before they consider using your site on mobile frequently.

    Then, you'll have a starting point where you can begin your rollout of redesigned mobile web properties with user-experience in mind. Need help? We're here to coach you on delivering your customers the best user experience possible across every device- mobile and otherwise! 

    Inevitably, the path to purchase has become much more complex with the advancement of digital media.

    While buyers once heavily relied on word of mouth recommendations, they now have a proliferating number of channels to research and evaluate who or where to buy from.

    This is especially confusing for business owners, who must adapt to all the directories, social media sites, and apps that people are using to find local businesses.

    Considering the kind of decisions consumers are making and how they are making them, we've architected an infographic to map out the many stops on the path to a final purchase.

    digital-path-to-purchase-infographic-copy.jpg

    Just wanted to bring to your attention the new funding that we have received, and how we will use it.

    "Business listings management startup Local Market Launch, launched in 2012 by ValueClick founder Brian Coryat, has secured $1.5 million in Series A funding from Rincon Venture Partners, adding to $1.2 million of founder contributed seed funds, bringing total capital raised to $2.7 million.

    The funds will be used to support rising demand for Local Market Launch's local presence solutions by multi-location national brands and small and medium-sized businesses. Local Market Launch will also accelerate development and delivery of its partner-branded solutions for local media channel partners.

    A recent study by Google/Nielsen revealed that 73 percent of mobile searches trigger additional action and conversions, such as store visits, calls and purchases.

    Accurate business listing information is the unassuming workhorse underlying much of today's local commerce, which is being driven by mobile and online search.

    "Despite the digital revolution of the past 20 years, many businesses, especially small local establishments, have largely been left behind," said John Greathouse, general partner, Rincon Venture Partners.

    "As such, there is a tremendous opportunity for Local Market Launch to become the trusted business listings management partner for the world's small, local businesses, and for national brands targeting locally.

    When Brian founded ValueClick, he ingrained in the organization the principles of over-delivering value to its customers by consistently developing killer technology and providing unparalleled service.

    We believe that Local Market Launch will likewise achieve market dominance by following this simple, but difficult to execute, strategy."

    Coryat founded Local Market Launch to raise the level of quality in business listings data and service. He brings rich experience earned at the forefront of the Internet marketing industry, where he has led several successful ventures, including online advertising company ValueClick, for which he was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2000 for ecommerce.

    "It's time to take business listings management to a new level of accuracy and trust, and Local Market Launch is committed to raising the bar," said Coryat. "We're excited by the tremendous interest we're receiving from national brands, multi-location businesses and franchises, as well as channel partners, and we're truly gratified by Rincon Venture Partners' confidence in our technology and our vision for the company.

    With their backing, we will be able to accelerate our growth and fulfill our mission, which is grounded in our commitment to the highest quality standards for our data and customer service."

    About Local Market Launch

    Local Market Launch delivers next-generation business listings management and local presence solutions for national brands, multi-location businesses and franchises, and local SMBs through a growing network of channel partners, including directory publishers, newspaper publishers, broadcast media companies, digital media agencies and certified marketing representatives (CMRs).

    The company is driving new standards of quality and service through a hybrid approach to business listings management that combines the best of DIY technology with the quality-controlled ease of a do-it-for-you solution.

    Learn more at www.localmarketlaunch.com,www.localsearchoptimization.com, on Twitter @LocalLaunch and @LocalSearchOpt, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/localmarketlaunch and Google+.

    In a recent study by the CMO Council, in partnership with Balihoo, 59 percent of national brand CMOs surveyed said localized marketing is essential to the growth and profitability of their business.

    Yet only 7 percent of the brands believe they have "highly evolved campaigns and measurements in place to activate customers at the local level."

    A number of factors--from budget constraints and lack of resources (43 percent cited lack of resources and bandwidth to coordinate with multiple regions, local marketers, partners and agencies), to the desire to tightly control brand assets in local marketing campaigns--have hampered the local marketing aspirations of national brands.

    Local Marketing Automation

    One of the keys to overcoming these challenges lies in the adoption of local marketing automation technologies.

    The CMO Council study revealed 94 percent of brands currently use primarily manual methods to track compliance and application of their brands at the local level.

    Manual approaches are simply no match for the ever-increasing number of digital channels publishing local business information today.

    It seems that national brands recognize this, as 30 percent of the CMOs surveyed said they intend to invest in local marketing automation technologies to overcome their bandwidth, budget and brand asset control issues.

    Local Presence for National Brands

    One area of local marketing automation that addresses branding objectives and helps drive local traffic for national brands is business listings management.

    An important first step for national marketers targeting locally is to ensure their local partners and affiliates can be found in local online and mobile searches.

    Syndication and publication of consistent and enhanced business listings of local partners will go a long way toward helping national brands increase their local findability.

    What's more, the increased traffic resulting from national brands' local business listings management efforts, should help brands win the hearts and minds of their local partners, making them more inclined to support additional local marketing initiatives.

    When it comes to considering the use of call tracking numbers and their impact on local search and business listings information, local search optimization practitioners should take a page from the Hippocratic Oath, and "first, do no harm."

    Search marketing specialist Christopher Sheehy of SEO provider Sidewalk Branding recently wrote,

    "Businesses tell me all the time how difficult it is for them to know what marketing tactics work and which ones don't - what tools or services would be good for them, and what's going to hurt them.

    So when a client was asking me about [call tracking] services recently - I went directly to the source and sent them the following excerpt from Google to answer their question.

    "'You should only provide the phone number for the location of the actual local business. Types of phone numbers that should not be included are: call tracking numbers and phone numbers that are not specific to a business location [source].'"

    As Sheehy observed, Google clearly discourages the use of call tracking numbers.

    The reason is, phone numbers, along with business name and address, are the most important pieces of local search optimization data used by search engines to authenticate a local business.

    Sheehy explains, "When the phone number is replaced with a generic number that is not consistent with the local standards - they lose that vital component of authentication.

    Other SEO experts agree about the importance of a business' name, address and phone number.

    As respected local SEO expert David Mihm advises, "Think of them as your business' thumbprint."

    Consistency in your business thumbprint leads to confidence in your business information, which increases the likelihood search engines will rank you, increasing your online "findability."

    As Mihm affirms, "Maintaining absolute consistency with your business information is the key to a successful long-term local SEO strategy."

    The bottom line is that you must protect the authenticity of your business thumbprint. Steer clear of service providers that recommend publishing call tracking numbers as part of your business listings. They are a good tool for some companies. But they are harmful to businesses that rely on the core business listing details that authenticate their local attributes.

    Work with a trusted local search optimization service provider that can bring your online business information up to best practice standards and effectively monitor and manage your business listings going forward, giving you the assurance that you can easily be found online by existing and prospective customers.

    If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

    Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

    35 Top Restaurant iPhone Apps

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    I've always felt that restaurants have the most to gain in social media, at least for right now.

    After all, social media conversations "began", so to speak, with consumer review sites, such as Yelp, that were mainly restaurant focused at the time.

    People love to eat, and love to share what and where they eat. This is great news for restaurants! The key to success in the future will include being where the customers are when they are looking for somewhere to eat out.

    Currently, that means that restaurants need to be mobile. With so many people continually on the go and making decisions while they're out and about, you have to be visible in the mobile world to be noticed.

    Consider the following statistics:

    • 52% of smartphone users have located a local business' directions or hours of operation while on the go
    • 27% of smartphone users look for local business information on their phones daily
    • 24.2% of smartphone users have used their mobile device to place an order ahead of time at a restaurant

    The infographic below highlights the apps that are most often used with regard to restaurants.

    Take a look at the list and see where your restaurant is.

    If you're not using any of the apps, it might be worth the time to check them out and start using them!

    Restaurant-Apps2.png

    If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

    Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

    The G+ initiative has been accelerated with the merger of Google Place Pages and Google Plus.

    This week Google started the migration from Google places and to a new platform called Google Plus Local. What does this mean for local search and retailers?

    It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For us at Chatmeter, it means that the merger of local and social is continuing and that your brand visibility and reputation among the community is more important than ever. Some of the changes that are being made with this integration are: Google + local pages are indexed, "Search plus your world" is a factor in search results, and the star rating is replaced with the 30 point Zagat rating.

    Not only are the G+ Local listing indexed, but people's engagement and reviews will have a factor in where G+ Local pages are ranked, which is called "search plus your world." For those unfamiliar with "search plus your world," "search plus your world" allows reviews and engagements from people in your Google + network to have an effect on your SERP(Search Engine Results Page).

    For example, if you search for a Sushi restaurant in San Diego, places that people in your network have engaged in will rank higher in the search results page. How is this helpful? The more people that review and engage on a G+ Local page, the more people that page will reach and the higher it will rank on search results pages.

    Like mentioned above G+ local is now indexed, and G+ pages can be used to create trusted back links. When a G+ URL is referenced, Google now sees that as a trusted backlink, which helps in rankings as well. This means SEO plays a factor in this social space.

    Having a Google + page has been an important part of rankings for a while and now it's even more important. This is a great way for local businesses to compete with bigger companies. Local businesses can reference their G+ page in order to help their rankings on Google. This is where having a strong online presence and a community following can be very beneficial for local retailers.

    Google has taken the benefits of having an engaging community to the next level with this merger. The importance for local businesses to manage their online presence and engage their communities is crucial and could be beneficial or harmful if not managed properly. Businesses will be rewarded in the form of higher rankings in friends' searches for the amount of engagement and reviews it has. Reviews will be more clear and easy to engage with by the 30 point Zagat system.

    The challenge here is the Google is now requiring your customers to have a Google+ account to post a review. This is a big challenge for many businesses since adding another new account is always a barrier to engagement. If it's a simple process, then it has less impact, but setting up a Google+ account just to post a review is a big task.

    With the integration of the Zagat review system, customers, potential customers, and businesses can now have a better understanding of what people think about a location. If you have over 10 reviews, the Zagat score will kick in. This scoring system breaks down certain aspects of a business, like food, décor, service and cost based on the customer's comments and scoring. By breaking it down into categories, it allows for better explanation of opinions and makes it easier to understand what is being said about a business.

    This will allow businesses to get the most feedback out of what people are saying. Of course, if you have multiple locations, this can still be challenging. Here at chatmeter, we've designed our system to help you measure what people are saying at each location for your chain or franchise.

    By merging Places with Google Plus, Google is certainly attempting to force adoption of Google+ among both business and consumers. This is a big challenge since the majority of people within these audiences are already using Facebook successfully to interact today.

    However, with the influence it will have on Google Search results that could change. In addition, some are looking for the next big thing, so perhaps Google+ can get some of that audience. Ultimately, this is just making it that much harder to manage your online visibility and reputation with yet another site to create and interact with.

    For more information on monitoring and improving your Google + page, please visit our review management page.
    Google is certainly focusing more and more efforts in the local space. Here is an infographic of the projected product offerings for local in the near future.

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