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Many social seller swear by their SSI score.

Others, equally adept at selling swear at the SSI score.

Lots of opinions, what's yours?

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Talked with a startup franchisor recently about his franchise sales.

A really nice guy Bob, who has no franchises sold so far.

And he is going into his 3rd year of trying.

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At the outset, Bob spent a boatload of money with a famous and notorious Franchise Development Company to get his FDD & franchise agreement done.

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Sadly, Bob had to hire another law firm to redo the FDD & franchise agreement.

Which entailed starting from scratch.

Since it would have cost more to try to fix the first set of documents.

Bob invested in all the things that certain experts had told him to get in order to build a successful franchising company.

Here's some of what Bob spent big bucks on -

  • State of the Art Franchise Recruitment Website
  • Website Content & SEO
  • Franchise Operations Intranet/Extranet
  • Franchise Management System (FMS) with CRM
  • Outsourced Franchise Sales Team

His website gets no traffic.

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Bob isn't reaching qualified franchise candidates with the requisite talent and capital.

Bob's story is not surprising or uncommon.

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And these are statistics on the 4033 franchises available in North America that show this.

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Readers of this blog will know that I am a HubSpot Partner and I offer the platform as one of my solutions. This does not mean that all of my customers use HubSpot nor does it mean that I think every online business should use HubSpot. Part of my job is to help my customers analyze their situation and find the solution that will be right for them.

That solution may be HubSpot or it may be Google Ad Words or a WordPress website. There are a number of blogs that have addressed this question and several have gone into a feature by feature comparison. I am not going to go into that much detail here but I'll give you the links to those blogs below.

WordPress and HubSpot are tools and like all tools the valuable tools get the job you need done. If you have a flat tire the nicest wrench set is not going to help you if you do not have a jack and a hand cranked jack will lift your car just as much as an hydraulic jack. When you put up a business website you use the tools available to achieve your online business goals.

A business selling online jewelry will have different business goals and a different tool set than a million dollar consultant.

But your knowledge, skill-set and resources may also influence your decision. A master chef can probably make a great omelet with an old frying pan and an electric plate. The chef can do a lot more with a kitchen set up with the tools and utensils the chef needs. (If I were put in that well stocked kitchen I would probably still burn the omelet so I should be left with the electric plate.)

WordPress Has All You Need

The amazing thing about WordPress is that it is free. You can also get for free, or for a very low price, just about any plug-in or widget for WordPress that will enable you to do anything you want to do online. WordPress is very versatile and with some HTML skills or by purchasing a specialized WordPress theme you can make your site look amazing.

All the tools you need to do any of tasks associated with inbound or online marketing can be added to your WordPress site. You can connect MailChimp to WordPress for email and a newsletter.

There are plugins for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Plugins will help you optimize your webpage for SEO or you can add a paid service such as SEOmoz. And we should not forget that WordPress is one of the web's most popular blogging tools.

Notice that I did not say plugins can be "easily added" and the best tools are not usually free. Certainly there are easy and free plugins and WordPress tools but for the most part if you need to do serious work you need to spend a lot of time or spend some money. For example Google Analytics and Google WebTools are very powerful, free tools that give you deep, analytical information about your website.

Most website owners I've talked to have not even put the tracking code in the website never mind delving into the reports and tables. If they do they concentrate on useless metrics like how long someone was on a page. You can also pay between $99 and $499 a month to have a tool like KISSmetrics help you track and interpret this same information.

HubSpot is a Well-Stocked Kitchen

Even if you are not a chef it sometimes helps to have a small pan and a large skillet in the kitchen. It would be even better if the kitchen utensils were labeled so you knew the best pan to fry an omelet or sauté some vegetables. That is what HubSpot does. It puts the tools you need together and integrates them in a way that it is easier to tell what you should do and what is working.

For example when I look at the report that tells me how many people came to my website it also tells me why they came. Did they come because of my Facebook post or because they were searching for a keyword? Do I sell more products when people are responding to a tweet or an email? To top it all off the report is in color so for my simple mind, I can get a visual snapshot almost immediately and delve into the details when I can.

Do Not Use HubSpot, If ...

If you are just going into the kitchen to boil an egg do not bother with HubSpot. At the end of six months you'll be looking at your bank account with a negative balance and you will be frustrated and angry. If your goal is to make beautiful websites that amaze the eye and stimulate the senses do not bother with HubSpot. Not that you can't make beautiful websites on HubSpot but that is not its main purpose.

If you want the freedom to build anything on your website with any tool you choose then do not bother with HubSpot, you may find it too restricting.

If you just need a static website to act as an electronic calling card, then do not bother with HubSpot, it is overkill.

If you have a small cash flow and no plans to use online marketing to increase business then do not bother with HubSpot because you will go broke.

But, if you are a marketer or online business and you want to be freed from the burden of getting the information you need to make business decisions then consider HubSpot.

And, if you want to know what marketing actions affect your bottom line then consider HubSpot.

If you want tools you need in one place then consider HubSpot.

If you want to concentrate on marketing and not web development then consider HubSpot.

Other Bloggers Weigh in on HubSpot vs. WordPress

A number of other bloggers have gone into much more detail than I have on the features and the pros and cons of HubSpot and WordPress. Here is a brief list:

Marcus Sheridan is The Sales Lion and a small businessman who achieved a lot with HubSpot. He also has an extensive background in WordPress and his two blogs, The Most Important Customer Review of Hubspot You'll Ever Read and The Most In-Depth HubSpot Vs. WordPress Review Ever Written, go into a lot of depth with a feature by feature analysis.

Zach Browne is an internet veteran with lots of experience doing custom websites and CRM deployments. His blog HUBSPOT VS WORDPRESS FOR SEO, IS HUBSPOT WORTH IT? is posted on his WordPress site.

Adarsh Thampy is the Conversion Champ and another non-HubSpot user who goes into a lot of detail in his blog Hubspot Review: Should You Buy This Inbound Marketing Tool? As a follow up he posted WordPress: A FREE Alternative to Hubspot, that lays out exactly what you need to have to match HubSpot's functionality on Wordpress. At the bottom of this blog he has a quiz that will help you decide what platform to use.

From my friend Doug Kirk, CEO of Optimize 3.0 we have #1 Reason Why Hubspot Doesn't Work | Hubspot Fails| Hubspot good? Doug is a HubSpot user but has a great perspective on why it doesn't work for many people.

One caveat on these reviews, HubSpot keeps making upgrades and changes to its system. Many of these reviews were written before the upgrade to HubSpot3 so there have been many changes and upgrades to the HubSpot feature set.

Tell me what your favorite platform is and why you prefer it in the comments section below. But take a look at the video from HubSpot.

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

In the January 21, 2013 issue of The New Yorker financial reporter James Surowiecki writes about the sunk-cost effect.

In the article Surowiecki uses the example of New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Jets extended Shanchez's contract and will pay him $8.25 million next year even though he has thrown more career interceptions than touchdowns. The Jets bet big on Sanchez and against all evidence they are hoping that their investment will pay off if they keep at it.

This not only happens in sports it happens in big and small businesses all the time. You have invested, or sunk, a lot of time and money into a project and even though it is not getting results you continue to invest. I often see this with online businesses who have a new website that is not getting the results they need but will not give it up because they have invested so much in it.

The article quotes Hal Arkes, a psychologist at Ohio State University, "Abandoning a project that you've invested a lot in feels like you've wasted everything, and waste is something we're told to avoid".

It's not only about waste it is about reputations. Giving up on a project is like admitting a mistake and accepting failure is something that is very hard to do. In sports you can fire the coaches (something the Jets did do) and in business you can bring in a new manager. Not having been part of the original decision new blood can look objectively at a problem and make changes without admitting having made a mistake.

This is a lot harder to do in a small business or for those of us who are sole proprietors or solopreneurs. Abandoning a failed project also goes against the common business ethos to just stick with it. If quitters never win then when you quit you are a failure. Investing more in a poor quarterback or a failed online marketing strategy is what is called "escalation of commitment" and it just deepens the sink hole.

When to Dump Your Online Business Strategy

There are definite advantages to sticking to a project, marketing plan or a business but you need to know when you are being patient and steadfast or just plain obstinate. Every successful enterprise or winning team has had its dips and disappointments but that does not mean that success is on the other side of every dip or sink hole.

Any small business faced with this dilemma needs to read Seth Godin's The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit. In fact one quotable Godin insight is, "Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations". It is hard to admit a mistake and move on so my advice is to reframe your outlook and think like a scientist.

    • Experiment: Everything you do is an experiment. Some things will work and other things will fail. Accept and keep the successes and dump the failures. As Seth Godin says, "Stick with the Dips that are likely to pan out, and quit the Cul-de-Sacs to focus your resources".
    • It's not personal: If success depended on our good looks and intentions then more successful people would be well intentioned and good looking. If something you tried fails you are not the failure. Unless you keep trying the same failed project.
    • Rely on statistics: Did the project increase web traffic? Did it decrease sales? Rely on the numbers and do not get personally invested in the outcome.
    • Focus on the goal: One of the hardest things to know is what activity is moving you toward the goal and what is keeping you away from the goal. To quote Godin again, "Persistent people are able to visualize the idea of light at the end of the tunnel when others can't see it".

None of this is easy. If it were we would all be champions, but it is possible to move beyond the sink hole.

In The New Yorker article Surowiecki tells how the Seattle (my home town) Seahawks signed quarterback Matt Flynn to a hefty free-agent contract. Even though the Seahawks had a lot invested in Flynn and he had a guaranteed contract, new draftee Russell Wilson outperformed Flynn and was put in the starting lineup.

A heartbreaking loss in the final seconds of the Atlanta Falcons game doesn't diminish Wilson's role in getting the Seahawks into the playoffs.

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

Are you posting content to social media but not getting any response from your audience?

Here are 5 potential reasons why your content is not being shared...and what to do about it.

1. Lack of Visuals - Social media audiences like visual content. If your content is text-heavy, try posting some images, infographics and videos. Visual content is shared more frequently than anything else.

2. Too Promotional - If your content is consistently aimed at selling, then you are not offering your audience anything of real value. Likely your content is also not being seen (Facebook's new algorithms are specifically aimed at reducing promotional content seen in newsfeeds). Try posting content that is helpful, inspiring or entertaining instead.

3. Wrong Time - You may be posting content at times when your audience isn't online. Try posting at different times of day and measure what times generate the best response.

4. Wrong Message - It could be that the type of content you're sharing isn't really what your audience wants to hear (or it's simply not what they want to hear from you). Start switching things up. Create a range of content messaging that serves your audience in different ways, and see what they respond to best. Exploring competitors' pages is often helpful.

5. You're "Lecturing" - If all you're doing is posting content and you, yourself, are not listening to your audience, responding to their comments and engaging proactively with them, then you can't expect them to engage with you. Start engaging in the conversation.

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Your website sells products, gives timely information, provides help, shows locations, answers frequently asked questions, gives information about the company, establishes your bloggers as thought leaders, and then load quickly.

It has to do many of these things and so sometimes competes with itself.

This charming short video by Google explains what happens next.

When you are serious about treating your website as business tool, then you are ready for Google Analytics.

When you are serious about marketing to franchises, connect with Joe or me on LinkedIn.

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I recently had a client say to me: "I don't need to do anything else for my existing customers; I need to find new customers."

Dumbfounded, I couldn't wrap my head around this. Didn't she realize that it costs more to attract new customers than it does getting existing customers to buy more? In her defense, she was already working several other "channels" with blog posts, newsletters, email promotions and even an active podcast. She WAS communicating and building relationships.

But I am right...right?

Actually, you could argue that advertising and promotional activities aren't just about converting that first time customer. They are also about supporting the brand in current customer relationships. And current customers can typically enjoy the same discounts as prospective customers. However, communicating to existing customers without listening to what their actions tell you is no more efficient than continuing to look only for new customers- wherever they may be.

So where is the flaw in my client's thinking? Data. What she, and many other businesses, both large and small, has failed to do is look at the data collected on those existing customers. As a business, you must realize that you are unique, either by product location or a combination of many things. Even franchised concepts can serve a largely different demographic (which in turn could demand a unique product mix or price point) simply based on their location. You may also find that the way you communicate with current customers is not as effective as you thought.

Collecting data doesn't have to be a daunting task, but once you do collect it, it is essential to get it all in one place and actually look at it. "One place" can be as simple as utilizing a pivot table within an MS Excel document, to engagements with data analytics professionals. Either way, you've got to start somewhere.

Key places to look for data:

  • Receipts
  • Loyalty Programs
  • Social Media
  • Surveys
  • Contests
  • Coupons
  • Online (Google Analytics)
  • Demographic Research

If you are just starting to collect data, it's important to track each marketing channel so that you can not only determine response rates for a particular promotion, but also tie responses to the items purchased, the sales revenue and buying patterns. Use unique offer codes and ask for customer feedback if in direct contact during the sales process. When considering social media insight, be sure to compare and contrast it with what you are seeing from other marketing feedback specific to your business to get the true story.

Things you should you look for in your global data:

  • Patterns in the buying habits of your customers for discounting only when necessary
  • Potential efficiencies in marketing expenditures and product inventory
  • Processes that could be improved
  • Any risks or instances of fraud

An important thing to remember is that your data collection process should be unobtrusive enough so your customers don't feel harassed in the process. You should also be aware of Privacy Laws that impact how you manage your customer's information. In the end, a solid data collection and analysis strategy will tell you things about your business and your customers that you very likely didn't know, or validate what you suspected. If managed correctly, a long term relationship with data is one neither of you will regret.

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]

Many years ago, a favorite cousin decided to open a pizza shop. Everyone told her that she made the best pizza in the world - and she did! Even though a pizza shop is a great business idea, I just wish I could have convinced her that the public doesn't want to buy "the best pizza in the world".

The public wants to buy "the most convenient pizza in the world," which is why there are so many pizza shops. When people are hungry for pizza, they don't want to wait!

Too Few Buyers
Unfortunately for my cousin, she lost everything to her great business idea. But it wasn't because people didn't like her pizza. They loved it! It's just that not enough people bought her pizza.

What really sunk her business was her marketing plan.

She invested huge chunks of money in the wrong marketing tactics.

For example, she thought ads in the Sunday newspaper would make the phone ring. They did, but not enough to justify the cost of the ads.

She either didn't know about door hangers - which actually do sell pizza for a fraction of the cost of other advertising - or she considered them unworthy of her product.

I understand, but I wish I didn't.

Listen to the Public
People often complain that franchises have dumbed down product quality. Even if that's true, the public isn't complaining!

And that's what you need to understand about business ideas and franchises. Selling "the best" of anything isn't necessarily the goal, at least not anymore. But less than the best doesn't mean it's bad, either. It just means the public has spoken. And you need to listen!

Marketing is the key that unlocks the vault to the public's desires, and money. And the franchise company that understands that is a contender for your investment dollars!

And now that I've spoken, I'm calling my favorite franchised pizza shop . . . I know they listen!

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]

A Fish Story

When I was much younger, my grandfather used to take my younger brother and me fishing. Fishing on one of the lakes in the interior of B.C.

We would get up at 5:00 am to help Grandpa Webster pack up the Ford Camper. Drive for what seemed like 12 hours, but was only 3 or 4.

Grandpa had his favorite lakes. In the 1940's, Al Webster was running a hotel at 100 Mile House in the interior of B.C. So, Al knew a lot about hunting & fishing.

The lakes he liked were accessible only by logging roads. Roads which were not maintained. Sometimes nothing more than 2 deep ruts into the bush.

When we arrived at camp, my brother and I were eager to go fishing right away.

But, we had to wait until the next morning.

Grandpa would wake us at 4:00 a.m. And it was chilly -even in the summer- on those mountain lakes that early in the morning.

We would dress in several layers over our pyjamas. Get into the back of his 15' boat and go trolling.

Grandpa had 50HP Mercury, which he hated because it wouldn't go slow enough to troll properly he said. But, he needed its power when we had to get off the lake in a hurry.

We would troll in and out of the bays. Until we found where a school of fish was feeding.

And, then if we were lucky, all hell would break loose.

Catch 4, 6, or even 10 lake trout or salmon within 18 minutes.

Fish for eating. Fish to be flash frozen back at camp. Not for catch and release. My grandfather despised trophy fishing.

But, most of the time we weren't lucky. We were just bored.

Catching, reeling in and netting a lake trout is fun.

Trolling up and down a cold lake in the morning's damp mist and not getting a nibble for several hours? Not so much fun.

Back then we didn't have the technology that fishermen have today.

We couldn't afford a depth finder. Grandpa wasn't impressed with such tools. He preferred to determine the depth of the lake by measuring how long it took for our lines to hit bottom.

Then, we would reel in and come up to the exact right depth. Or sometimes not. We always blamed it on the lousy lures, when we returned to camp without any fish.

I really wanted a depth finder back then. If only just to break up the boredom.

Well, I told you that story just to tell you another. This time about content marketing.

Using content marketing articles to attract leads has a lot in common with fishing.

With content marketing & fishing there is the potential for a lot of boredom.

You think that every flashy article will lure all the right people to your offer. And for the most part, you are not right.

And a few times, fewer than you would like, your content does work. It lures the right people to the offer on your website. And the fish are biting.

A Depth Finder for Content Marketing - Google Analytics

So wouldn't it be nice to have something like a depth finder for your content marketing articles.

How much should it cost, do you think?

How well it would it work?

Could it be simple to set up?

Cheap, good & simple are not usually found together.

Yet, this is exactly what implementing Google Analytics on your website will give you. A cheap, good & simple "depth finder".

I had demonstrated for you a neat application using Google Analytics which showed you the best place to put your links on your website.

Remember too, we had talked about the attention economy -where you trade your knowledge for their email and name.

Now, let's put both ideas together.

Find the right places to fish for leads. And lure them to an irresistible offer on your website.

1. How much attention does the typical content marketing article attract on Franchise-Info attract?

Ok, so for a month this article attracted a little over 80 readers. People who spent on average 4:47 minutes reading the article.

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That is pretty good.

But, you can see that for most of the month the article attracted zero attention --it was all bunched into a couple of days.

You wouldn't expect to get a lot of leads from this article. It just doesn't create enough attention.

2. A month's worth of attention.

The next article is significantly better, but not as common.

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You can see that for the month of March, this article continually attracted attention.

In fact, this article garnered 750 readers who spent an average time of 4:33 minutes reading it.

Ok, that author had 750 people knocking on her door asking for more. Those would be great leads.

At the very least, for that month of March, the author could have connected with those readers who looked at the author's LinkedIn profile.

3. One year's worth of attention.

Now, our next example is even better. And rarer, too. It is almost the ideal content marketing piece.

For an entire year, this article attracted attention.

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Over 1800 readers for the entire year, and each reader spent 5:55 minutes reading the article.

Now, that is a terrific amount of attention. It is a great lead generating article. Hopefully, the author had a great offer to make in exchange for all that attention!

4. The Energizer Bunny of Content Marketing Articles

Finally, we have an article which just keeps on going, and going, creating quality leads each month. Month in and month out.

This article attracted over 6,000 readers, 6,159, last year. And since it was published in August, 2013, the article has been read by 9,013 readers.

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And we have collected a lot of leads from this article's success.

None of this is difficult. Google Analytics is easy and free to implement.

The Moral of the Fish Story

To have your prospect know, then like and finally trust you, you need a plan.

Part of that plan is convert some attention into people who like you enough to give you their name/email in exchange for some of your knowledge.

So, when a lot of people do finally pay attention to a specific article, make sure you are giving them something in return.

Or you will return to camp without any fish.

Recommendations and so much more ...

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

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

Boosting website traffic is essential for local businesses: all the visitors to your website are potential customers.

However, actually driving traffic and increasing visitors to your site is a challenge - especially for businesses with new websites.

Many businesses are hesitant to invest in advanced traffic strategies until they see a correlation between in-store sales and website visitors.

However, without website traffic, a business' local online marketing strategy will suffer (a perfect example of the chicken and the egg cycle caused by inaction). To get out of the chicken/egg rut, you should learn and master a few local business website traffic strategies and start using them in your marketing mix.

You can drive local business website traffic by learning how to use the right tools and mastering how traffic methods work.

There are three main ways to get more website traffic:

  1. Paid media: PPC and display ads, ad words, sponsored posts, etc.
  2. Owned media: websites, blogs and social media pages
  3. Earned media: free publicity, word of mouth, social media mentions/shares/reposts, positive reviews and organic SEO

Read on for a website traffic overview and then decide which method works best for your local business -- without spending a large portion of your marketing budget.

1. Paid media

Covering the ins and outs of paid media is beyond the scope of this article (there are entire courses dedicated to this topic), but with a few basic guidelines you will be able to decide if it is a good marketing strategy for your local business.

a. Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

PPC advertising (or banner ads) are ads you place on targeted websites to drive traffic back to yours. PPC ads are effective in driving traffic quickly, but if you don't carefully manage them, they could end up costing you a lot of money (and have nothing to show for it).

There are many reasons why businesses choose to use PPC advertising, including:

  • It is a way to drive traffic to your website while you up your SEO game
  • For companies that don't have great rankings, it can help make up for lost time
  • They have the ability to geo-target ads by city, state or zip code

If you are interested in using PPC advertising as a part of your strategy (and aren't familiar with things such as programmatic ad buying and using data science to buy ads) it is best to find an expert that can guide you.

b. Ad words

Ad words is when you bid auction-style on a particular keyword in a search engine (such as Google or Bing). The higher the bid, the better placement your ad will receive on the search engine results landing page. The marketplace determines price of keywords: high-demand keywords are very expensive (i.e.: "buy car insurance online" or "cheapest homeowner loans") while keywords that aren't as popular are relatively cheap. The actual cost of keywords can fluctuate from a few pennies for obscure, long-tail keywords to hundreds of dollars for the most competitive words.

topic-search.png

If you choose to use ad words, keep in mind that you will be competing against your large national counterparts, who most-likely will have a higher bidding price than you. The good news for local businesses is that bids are affected by how well a bidder's website ranks and the relevance of the landing page, often giving you an edge over those with unlimited budgets.

c. Social paid media

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (and soon Pinterest) all offer businesses opportunity to pay for media that will reach a targeted audience. Paid media on social are usually called "sponsored/promoted posts/tweets" and blend seamlessly into the network.

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There are many ways to have an effective social media strategy and not pay for posts. Check out this free resource for strategies that will drive traffic to your website, but not cost you a fortune.

2. Owned media

Owned media includes assets that could be considered an "extension" of your business and that are fully controlled by you. Examples include your website, blogs and social media pages.

Regularly updating and posting to your owned media assets is crucial to boosting their ranking on search engines (and thus driving traffic to your website).

  • Add more content: Website content includes blog and social media posts, how-to guides, ebooks, etc. And one new blog post won't help -- if you can't regularly commit to posting, it is best to hire someone to do it for you. According to researchers, it takes about 20 quality blog posts to start seeing traffic growth.
  • Write valuable content: The quality of published content is more important than quantity. The headlines of your posts should draw readers in and your content should highlight your areas of expertise.
  • Include videos and photos: Not only do videos and photos receive 5x the engagement vs. posts without, they are a great way for your business to stand out from the crowd and personalize your website. Some ideas for videos include employee interviews, product descriptions and customer testimonials. Create a YouTube channel and start posting videos to drive additional traffic.

3. Earned media

Earned media is free promotion your business receives. Examples include unpaid publicity, word of mouth, mentions/shares/reports on social media and reviews on sites, such as Yelp. While you can't directly control your earned media, you can encourage it by keeping your customers happy (who will, in turn, provide you with positive reviews, recommend you to friends, share your social media posts, etc.) and building your owned media platforms correctly.

a. Organic SEO

Increasing organic traffic to your website is something any business can accomplish -- at a reasonable price (usually, your time). However, unlike PPC advertising which is immediate, building your organic SEO takes time. A good place to start is to ensure your website, blog and social media pages all incorporate the keywords you would like to rank for.

Local businesses have a leg-up in the organic SEO game, due to the rise of mobile, simply because of how search engines classify their business. For example, Google gives priority to local businesses when a searcher is on a mobile device because they assume they are looking for a business nearby to visit. Make sure your website includes a phone number (with a local area code) and local address to rise even higher in the SEO rankings.

b. Review sites

Mention the word "Yelp" in a room full of local businesses and you'll get strong opinions (both positive and negative). Why? Because review sites, and the reviews left on them, have a powerful impact on local businesses.

If you aren't familiar with Yelp, check out this free guide on getting set up.

Search engine algorithms are heavily influenced by review sites -- in some cases, your Yelp page will appear higher than your website.

c. Social media

In the past few years, social media exploded and is now an essential part of any online marketing strategy. When you update your website (with a deal, new product, etc.), you should also be sharing that information on your social media pages so your audience knows where to go for more information (your website).

d. Directories

Directory optimization is a critical part of any online marketing strategy and every local business should submit their information to the major directories:

If you are curious about how your local business appears on major directories, run a free report today.

While every directory has a different set of guidelines for listings, your submissions should all be consistent and identical in order to up your organic SEO.

Most local businesses use a combination of paid, owned and earned media to drive traffic to their website (and therefore, in-store). We would love to hear the mix that works best for your business and how you made the decisions -- please share your stories in the comments section below.

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 Strategies to Boost Local Business Website Traffic appeared first on LocalVox.

1. Your Website is a Grocery Store with Shelves Full of Links

When you go to the grocery store, you walk down the aisles. Most of the time, you reach only those items within your reach.

You don't spend a lot of time searching high and low.

Imagine, however, that you are the owner of the grocery stores. You notice that the items on the middle shelves are not moving. You would rotate new stock onto these shelves. Because you hope that the new stock sells.

Something similar happens on your website. People browsing will click on links that are the most convenient.

We know that the links with the most clicks are usually above the fold.

"Elements above the fold were seen more than elements below the fold: the 100 pixels just above the fold were viewed 102% more than the 100 pixels just below the fold."

But, just as the stock on your grocery shelves might need restock or rotating, so might your links -- from below the fold to above the fold.

Some of your links to your best content might need to be moved to a more convenient place.

2. How to Tell at a Glance What Links are Most Read

Here is a "heatmap" of our front page from a couple days ago.

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Ok, red is best, and green is worst -- in terms of readers.

At a glance, you can see that on the right hand column some of our best links, those in red, are lower down the page. On our front page, the most read link is "Prices for Franchise-Info Business Directory", but it is past the fold. It would make sense to move it up. There are some links above them are less valuable. Indeed there is one link near the top, our past newsletter archive, that is largely wasting space.

It would like having a whole shelf full of canned spam --which nobody is buying. Why bother? They aren't interested.

So, this heatmap shows us how to rotate or move upwards above the fold -where we hope that they will get even more attention. And to move less worthy links below the fold.

And, I made the changes, and here is what the heat map now looks like this.

And this small change, over time, will reap big dividends!

3. And, How Do You Get A Heat Map Like This?

There are a number of heat map technologies out there.

But, this one just uses Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a powerful program. Incredibly it is free. Google, some years ago, bought out Urchin software. Urchin was selling its analytics solutions for over $10,000 a month. Yet, we get it for free & much more.

But, managing all that analytic power is overwhelming for many people.

Here is a short-cut. Use the page analytics chrome extension.

The Page Analytics Chrome Extension allows you to see how customers interact with your web pages.

The Page Analytics Chrome Extension allows you to see how customers interact with your web pages, including what they click and don't click.

Use these insights to optimize your website layout, improve user experience, and increase conversions.

Sign up for a free Google Analytics account, sign in.

Then on any page in which you have your google analytics tags on, you will be able to create a heat map. Following these two steps.

1. Go to the page you want the heap map for. And turn on the page analytics extension. The orange button should go from "off" to "on".

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2. Next go to the bottom right of the analytics that are now showing and look for these symbols.

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Just click on the red/orange/green color icon. And you will have created your heat map. (If you want the percentages to show, then click on the icon directly to the right, also.) I have found that you must toggle the heatmap on and off as you move to different pages in your website.

Very simple and yet powerful insights.

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

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

Think about your website and LinkedIn as the former being a booth in a tradeshow & the latter providing the traffic or flow of leads to your booth.

So, what typically happens a tradeshow?

Well, somebody drops by your booth.

After a short chat, you carefully hand over your business card.

And wait. Expectantly. Perhaps, this will be a sale? It's been a long day and sale would make it better.

But, soon your visitor leaves.

You made a rookie mistake, though. You didn't get the business card. The entire point of being at the tradeshow & you blew it.

Nobody buys from you the first time that they meet you.

You have to follow up, navigating the know, like, and trust cycles to get to buy.

You vow never to make that rookie mistake.

And so you don't.

The Biggest Mistake You Are Making on Your Website

But, every day your website commits the same type of error -- to all those visitors coming from LinkedIn.

Remember last time, I told you about 2 surprising but also well known facts about websites.

1. Your 'about us' page is the most visited.

2. Your 'about us' page is the weakest page on your website.

Jeff Hayden had some great general ideas about how to spruce up your 'about us' page.

I also gave you one idea about how make your 'about us' page more like an elevator pitch.

But, there is one bigger change to make.

People who visit your website don't immediately phone you and ask "Can you help me? Name your price."

Worse, they might never get in touch, despite it being a good deal for both of you.

You have to ask them to leave their name/email so you can get in touch with them.

You must offer them something in return.

Like meeting your visitors at your tradeshow booth, it is rude not to offer something of value for their name/email.

And when you are collecting their names/emails, you know that they are interested in what you have to offer.

Otherwise, they wouldn't have made the exchange.

Make An Attractive Offer


Joe and I have signed up tens of thousands of people over the last couple of years.

We make offers that people are interested in. Exchanging their information for something of value from us.

Many times, we simply ask them if they want more of the same. And ask them to sign up for our newsletter.

One article is a perpetual lead generator, since it was published in September, 2013, our article on Popeye's Louisiana Chicken has generated over 7,000 readers.

popeyes.png

It is the Energizer Bunny of lead collection. Leads come in on a monthly basis to our Franchise Buying Newsletter.

Here is how we ask them if they are interested in knowing more.

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When a visitor clicks on the image, they are whisked away to a simple Mailchimp sign-up form for our How to Buy a Franchise - Tips for Savvy Franchise Buyers

And we can help you do the same, collect leads from those people who are interested in doing business with you.

Generating leads and much more ....

If you liked this idea, 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]

And, What Do You Do?

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The Problem with Elevator Pitches

When people ask "What do you do?" they're just making polite conversation. With rare exceptions, they don't really care.

Tim David, Improving Your Elevator Pitch.

You care to let people who visit your website what you can do for them.

But, do you care if some of those people are really interested in what you do? Interested enough to buy from you?

(Or do you have too many good high-paying clients already to bother worrying about your website, or online business directory listing?)

First, let's think about how you get people you meet in person to care about what you do. Because that is not easy, is it?

Second, we can change that dialogue into something just for print on your website or online business directory listing.

It's your job with your first response to shake them out of the polite convention.

How to Make People Care What You Do

Tim David, whose fine article on elevators pitches I just quoted, has a good 4 solution to making people care. (Read the whole article, you will enjoy it.)

Here is my summary of his solution:

1. Respond with a surprise. Here is how he answers the question, "What do you do?"

You mean, in addition to be being an international body building champion?

Tim is 5'10", weighs 135 lbs and when he steps on ants, "they live". It is obvious that Tim is angling for a laugh - or a real connection. And he gets it.

2. Now that you have their attention, maintain their interest in the original question. Get them to agree with your both problem formulation and offer a potential solution.

3. When the timing is right, and you hear in the conversation something like "How do you do that?" & give them a results based story. Something you have just done for someone just like them.

4. Finally, ask for the meeting.

How does this help us with our website or online business directory?

With a modern online business directory listing, or your own website which you can edit, you could produce a similar effect to Tim's in person dialogue. But, you would have to give up on having your 'About Us' page read like a static big yellow page ad.

Break your single 'About Us' page into 4 'Smart About Us' pages, and lead the reader from one page to another with next buttons.

Surprising Opening.png

Now, each vistor that goes to your website & visits your 'About Us' pages will click through your 'About Us' pages by pressing a "Next" button.

Each time that visitor presses "Next", to learn more, the closer they are to being your next client -someone whose next step is to ask for the meeting.

There's more .... 'Smart About Us Pages'

If you liked this idea, 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]

As a franchisor, of course you want to have a brand that is well-recognized and well-respected in the marketplace. Sometimes, however, things are going on behind the scenes that you may not even know about...and they may be causing your online brand damage.

Answer these 10 questions to determine whether your franchise brand is in good shape online or if your franchise needs some help to get its online brand management on track.

Franchise_Online_Brand_Management_Infographic-468x1024.jpg

For each "no", deduct 10%.

If you got 70% or less, your brand needs help. Connect with me and let's talk about how Wired Flare can help.

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]

Why is it that AdWords always gets the best data and reporting?

I know the answer is because advertisers are Google's primary source of revenue, but still.

The rest of us shouldn't be left in the dark when it comes to reporting.

Over 90% of clicks on Google go to organic or local listings and we've lost access to referring keywords and can't see click-to-call data - which is the best measure of ROI short of actual visits.

What Is AdWords Click-To-Call?

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For those unaware, a few years back, Google introduced the "click-to-call" AdWords extension.

With this extension a "call" button was added next to ads that allowed mobile users to call a business with one click.

A "call" costs the same amount as a standard AdWords click. Click-to-call works especially well in the locksmith industry.

Just imagine, if you were to search for a locksmith from a mobile phone, are you more likely to call them up or leisurely sit back and read about their services?

 

AdWords Click-To-Call Reporting

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When you sign up for click-to-call in AdWords you're given detailed reports on your calls. As you can see in this AdWords click-to-call report, you can see that out of 1,839 actions, 10 of those were phone calls.

This is great data that lets you allocate your advertising spend appropriate and calculate ROI.

Why Local Search Is Made More Difficult By Google

It's simple.

Over 90% of searchers click on organic listings but all organic click-to-call data is withheld.

On Google+ Local we have access to: impressions, website clicks, more info clicks and driving direction clicks.

The simple addition of calls would make local search and Google+ Local optimization a no-brainer but until then we'll be left with lots and lots of local businesses wondering what the ROI of their SEO campaigns are.

What are you waiting for Google?

If you need help managing your Google+ Local page or local online presence, contact us for help!

The post Come On Google! Give Us Our Local Click-To-Call Data! appeared first on LocalVox.

 

 

 

As someone who advises others on ways to increase their web traffic, including but not exclusively SEO, I use Alexa. Anyone interested in measuring web traffic should use it.

One thing that Alexa is great for is weeding out the hucksters. Most of us get email from so called SEO experts who promise to increase your SEO ranking. Take a quick look at their Alexa score and see if they can walk the walk.

Remember that the goal of SEO is to increase traffic NOT necessarily get ranked high on one or two keywords. For example getting ranked #1 for your company name on Google Search does not help your web traffic.

It is easy to get ranked high for one keyword but bit harder to increase relevant web traffic.

Alexa is an excellent tool for comparing website traffic in a general way in that it gives your website a ranking compared to all other websites. It is not great for measuring the website traffic for any one particular site.

For example I know what my site's Alexa score is and from Google Analytics and HubSpot I know what my site's traffic is.

Then, I can look at the Alexa rankings and tell if other sites are getting more or less traffic & if they are getting a lot more or a lot less.

You can register your site with Alexa for free and this will increase your chances of getting a more accurate ranking.

Paying for certification will give even more accurate results and give you tools to measure your site's activity.

For quickly measuring another website I use the SEO for Chrome extension for my browser and SEO Book has a great toolbar for Firefox.

This is a great article about Alexa and everyone publishing on the web should know about their Alexa score, because everyone else knows your score.

Why don't you?

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]

Last week, Joe and I were helping a franchisor supplier understand the value of his business listing in a online directory.

Companies and franchisors can pay between $150 to $900 monthly for a business listing in a specialized online directory.

They want referrals or leads.

But, many fail to understand how to evaluate the effectiveness of their listing.

We asked our client (2) questions.

1.  How many leads/month did he get from the listing?

2.  How did he know the answer to the first question?

He thought that he maybe got 5 leads/month.  He based this upon what the owners of the directory told him & what the leads said.

I didn't believe these numbers - more on why in a moment.

So, I asked him what he asked the leads?  "Oh, I ask them where they heard about us."  

"And you prompt them, don't you, with "Did you see us in X directory?" or something like it?", I said.

The client agreed - and then realized that of course the lead had no idea if they had seen his business in the directory.  The lead was just being pleasant and agreeing with him.

And what about the franchise directory owner's and their numbers?

"Well, they tell me that 5 leads is about what they see?"

"Really - and what reports are they sending you?", I  asked.

Despite the site having Google analytic tags, the franchise directory owners were not sending any reports on what traffic the listing was actually seeing.  

Because the franchise directory owners weren't tracking events, they could not they track how many people had visited the directory & clicked through to his website for a demo.

There are a number of solutions to this tracking problem - as long as you can access your directory listing and change the content.

1.  You could insert you own google analytics code - and get direct reports.

2. You could insert some other tracking code, from either Compete.com or Quantcast.com

But the solution, we favor and like, is different.

Put a simple form on your franchise directory listing - first, last name & email.  Offer something of interest in exchange for their first, last name & email.

And here is the extra sauce: construct a process by which the lead qualifies themselves for your product before you ask them to sign up for a demo.

One thing we are keen on is getting a LinkedIn verified lead - so that we have someone's Linkedin profile before we put a lead into our sale process.  

And we have various ways of getting the person to ask to connect with us - if they don't, they aren't a prospect only a suspect.

In fact, if you like this idea then, sign up for Franchise-Info newsletter.

97% of consumers search for local businesses online.

Which basically means that people are searching for you but at a local level!

This is where your partner sites fit in: as a platform to capture leads that are in need of a business like yours, but within their area.

Setting up your partner sites is the first step towards moving your brand into the Internet!

And it's a big step at that: in this first instance, your partners need to get EVERYTHING together since it's like they're starting from a clean slate. Basically, they'll need to build a whole site from the ground up.

To get a better idea of what needs to be taken care of in this stage of the process, here's an overview of what's included to set a site up and have it ready for a successful launch:

What Partner Sites Setup Entails

1. Planning

You need to figure out what your strategy is and how that affects your partner sites. Think about defining questions like: what are you going to control? what will you allow partners to edit? What materials will you provide?

2. Design

What will the partner sites' colors be? What typography are partners using in their site? What's the layout and navigation plan for the partner sites? Design is what gives off the first impression of your company to potential customers so be sure you have everything down!

3. Content

Content is the reason visitors are in your site. Design can make it appealing but, at the end of the day, content is what they're looking for. For example, there are some information musts that need to be in your site before anything else happens (like your contact info, list of services/ products you offer, among other things).

4. Elements

Now that you have some of the basics down it's time to move on to the other elements that will complete your site: buttons, CTAs, social media feeds, apps, images, and other elements in your site that need to be placed.

5. Usability

For a site to work properly, you need to think about the user experience. An unfriendly partner site can drive visitors away from it. Think about what users expect to get from your site and how you're providing it to them. For example: is your site mobile optimized? Is it intuitive enough for others to use it? And, what's the loading speed like?

Conclusion

Setting up a site is hard work because you're taking care of all the basics a site needs for it to work properly. From the design to getting it to work for mobile devices, a site is a lot more than what meets the eye. If you or your partners aren't ready to take on this step but still want to take advantage of all the traffic local businesses are driving to their sites, feel free to give us a call and try Empowerkit out!

How Empowerkit Can Help

As you can see, this task can be a handful. And, if it's not done right, it won't do much good for your partner online marketing strategy. And let's face it, doesn't matter how easy you make it for your partners to take care of this themselves, chances are they're too busy with their physical business to move into the world wide web!

But don't worry! Empowerkit can help you, your partners and your business out! We handle the initial site setup and on-boarding process to get you acquainted with our program. We take on the task of setting up your partner sites until they've reached the standards corporate have set for them.

Then, we scale this mold (known in Empowerkit as "Master Site") down to all partners who opt-in this co-op web marketing program. Plus, if there are any updates to be made for the Master Site later down the road, you can call us at 510.859.8452 and we'll work on them for you! Once they're done, the results will immediately appear in the partners sites!

The post 6 Key Elements to Launching a Successful Partner Web Marketing Program: Partner Sites Setup appeared first on Empowerkit - Local Websites for Franchisees.

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"My customers are not online, they don't do LinkedIn."

Generally this comes from a business owner who doesn't like social media or they talked to one of their customers who does not have a LinkedIn account.

For all I know they may be right.

I haven't researched their customer's profiles but after a few questions it is clear they have not researched their customers' profile either.

Even though some of your potential customers are not online many of them are. Most of these active, online prospects are not going to be reached with outbound marketing techniques like direct mail or an ad in the yellow pages.

Where can a business owner or marketer get information on what their potential customers are doing online?

First, you will need to define your customer profile or persona so you will know what your potential customer is like.

A good place to start is this blog from HubSpot: How to Build Better Buyer Personas to Drive Killer Content.

The next step is to start finding out a bit more about who your potential customers based upon the demographic data you have been collecting when they visit your website.

How to Use Forrester's Social Technographics Tool

In Forrester's ground breaking book Groundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, they classified consumers into seven overlapping levels of social technology participation. (See slide 3 for the classification.)

This tool shows you how different groups identified by age, gender and nationality fit into each of these classifications.

For example, with this tool we can see that 18 to 24 year old women in the U.S. are more likely than men in the same age group to be creators while men are more likely to be critics.

Both genders in this age group are more active online than those in the 35 to 44 age bracket.

Go ahead and try it, using the demographics you have been collecting on visitors to your website.

Link: Forrester Social Technographic Profile Tool

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Marketers may say all customers were not created equal, and customer segmentation makes it possible to understand and embrace the fact that it's human nature to be different. You may never know which customer segment will be the most valuable to your business until you've tried to match your marketing and customer experience efforts with the needs of your customer types.

This anecdote can help you understand why you need to identify the right way to engage with each customer segment.   

refining customer segmentation with surveys otss.png

Part 1: Understand Types of Engagement and Common Gaps in Data

Remember back to elementary school, how differently your classmates reacted to the teacher when questions were posed- It's likely that there were some kids who raised their hands, some who just wanted to shout out the answers and couldn't wait to be called on, and some that knew the answer but wouldn't raise their hand- but would offer it up if they were called upon.

Now flash forward a few decades: All those kids are grown up, and they're your customers.

You can probably imagine how those kids who used to just shout out the answer are the ones that always want to let everyone know when they had an amazing experience at a company, or when they feel wronged.

These people make great customers when everything is going great because they'll tell everyone about how much they love your company.

However, when they have a bad experience, they might tell their friends, post a review on Yelp or social sites, or raise the issue directly with the company's customer service department. Or they might do all three. 

Picture those kids who raised their hands but waited patiently for the teacher to call on them- All grown up, they represent customers who will readily give your company valuable feedback, and will go through the appropriate channels you provide to give their praise or make you aware of their concerns.  It's important to make the 'hand raiser' customer type feel as though your company is 'making it easy' to give feedback and takes customer opinions seriously.

If you don't, a truly negative experience with a company can push the 'hand-raiser' customer type towards other outlets, such as posting an inflammatory comment on a social media site, or submitting a lengthy description about where your company went wrong on Yelp.

Now take the students who wouldn't raise their hand, but would answer when called on- Imagine how they react socially to having positive or negative experiences with a company. They probably still don't like to be 'hand-raisers' and volunteer feedback, even if they've had a poor customer experience at a company. 

But, they represent a promising customer segment because if 'called upon' directly, they will engage with your company and give feedback and tell you exactly what they like and dislike about your brand.  If you don't engage directly with this customer type to get feedback on their experience, they're the most likely to stay silent and you'll never know what they think of you.

Even if they have a terrible experience, they're likely to react passively; they won't reach out and ask you to address their issue, but may never return to be a patron or customer of your business. 

After considering those three types of customers, you can imagine that it's easiest to get the most data from the answer-shouting bunch, and you may feel like you know much less about those that need to be 'called upon'.

However, don't let this discourage you- you can begin to create your customer segments using the plethora of data that you already thanks to the answer-shouting bunch.

Make the hand-raisers feel like you're focused on being attentive to their needs- Make direct appeals for feedback in email campaigns, and don't be afraid to be direct when asking them to try your new menu items or check out a new location you've opened. For the customer type that needs to be called upon, you can use incentive-based campaigns to elicit more information from them over time.

Once you factor in the best ways to solicit information from the three different levels of engagement, you're ready to start segmenting further. 

Part 2: Gather Additional Data to Develop More Accurate, Multi-faceted Segments 

As you begin to collect more customer contact information and additional data on who these people are, you will start to see some trends and consistencies across your customer data set.  Perhaps a lot of people found out about you on Facebook. Maybe many of them came to your website last month. Perhaps the most loyal customers often fill out surveys for you. Whatever the case, identifying these segments and maintaining them can mean a huge growth in your sales and strength of your customer relationships. 

Once you create segments, you can send targeted and custom messaging that relates to what that segment cares about. They will appreciate the tailored messaging and you will benefit from them coming and giving you more of their business. 

As a marketer, you may know a lot about one person- they like the cheese dip appetizer, come 1-3 times per week, usually redeems coupons during the dinner service- while, you may know much less about another person- say, just that they usually redeem coupons during the dinner service. 

If you usually send out special offers to 'usually redeems coupons during the dinner service', you should keep doing that to promote continual engagement. 

However, to continually improve your segmentation, it will be important for you to continue to learn more about your customers- such as maybe dividing that segment of 'usually redeems coupons during the dinner service' into 2 groups-those who come 0-1 times per week, and those who come 1-3 times per week.

So, you may need to get some more information from customers to create that second segmentation. To get that information from those 'wait to be called on' people, you may want to add-on another offer. Perhaps you offer a 'buy one, get one' coupon if you fill out a survey on your dining habits, that is targeted only to those individuals who 'wait to be called upon' so that you can show them that you value the opportunity to learn more about them.

Thus, the "creating context of engagement" can help you understand what you need to give customers so that they give you more information on themselves in return.

If you're a franchise marketer, you know that Google has been making silent changes aimed at encrypting all organic search queries....except for advertising of course.

Some people have said it's Google trying to keep the NSA from spying on us all but most have said it's to increase the usage of their cash cow, Adwords. 

About 2 years ago, Google started encrypting searches for anyone that was logged into Google while they were searching.  

Google's reason was privacy.  

  • Google wanted to block anyone who might actually be listening in on a string of searches.  
  • Google also wanted to block publishers from seeing searches as some of them may have been too "private" to expose. 

Google says....

"We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year. We're now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in." 

Over the past two years there's been a steady movement up and to the right for the keywords that are "not provided" until recently a huge spike happened. See the chart below courtesy of a site called www.notprovidedcount.com

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So what does all this mean to the franchisee or franchisor?  Here are 4 takeaways.

1. Focus on Better Content

Even though secure searches seem aggravating to many people that do SEO, I think it's a move in the right direction.  This is really pushing the industry to focus on producing awesome content and meaningful social connections that truly transcend the keyword focused mentality.  Instead of pumping out 100′s of SEO driven blog posts that have ZERO value for the people reading them, how about you focus on your personas for once and answer some of their toughest questions.

2. Focus on Business Results

Franchise marketers should really be focusing on actual business objectives like local sales or obtaining new franchisees.  The disappearing keyword data is forcing  us, in a good way, to take a look at business results which is ultimately where we should be in the first place. 

3. Double Down on Paid Search or PPC

The "issue" at hand only affects free, organic traffic.  If your franchise uses Google Adwords, you're sitting on a gold mine of data.  I recommend linking your Adwords account to your Google Analytics account and use that data for future projects.

4. Measure Your Referral Traffic

If you're seeing some of your website pages getting more traffic than others (referral traffic from Google), you should be aware of the type of content that's on that page.  It could well be that those are the actual keywords that your prospects are looking for. 

If you want More Customers, Let's Talk about Our Services.

Consumers don't get why brands will spend  lots of money to talk at them with smartphone ads, but yet spend no real money on customer service.  Why talk if you don't listen?

Most days it can be hard for a working professional to take off the "business" hat and approach stats from a true consumer approach. To the unsuspecting American, it sounds great that companies are spending more and more on digital marketing budgets to enhance the user experience, save paper, and increase the focus on continuous innovation in the mobile space.

According to an article written by Mark Walsh for Media Post, Annual digital marketing budgets, on average, amounted to 2.5% of a company's revenue in 2012 and will grow 9% this year. The majority of companies spend between 10% and 50% of their marketing budget on digital efforts, with an average of 25%.

From a consumer perspective, you see all that money being spent and think, "Wow, this 'going mobile' thing sounds pretty good for the economy, and certainly a sign of a stronger marketplace than a year ago!" And, from the consumer facing side of these stats, it's true- the more "screens" that we have to interact with, the more "screens" that marketers need to be present, and prominent.

Back to the marketing professional's point of view, it is stressful trying to put your best foot forward when suddenly you have two paths to walk down at the same time. Public or private, large or a startup, independent or franchised, businesses are all faced with the challenge of how to approach the mobile opportunities ahead.

For a fifth of companies, digital has already been incorporated into each function within marketing broadly, with budgets no longer broken out separately. The Gartner study also made a point to indicate that digital marketing spend is becoming more difficult to estimate as digital and traditional techniques merge. "We expect this trend to continue growth as areas such as second-screen TV, social TV and QR codes integrate with traditional channels," stated the report. This is already apparent considering Macy's new engagement campaign, which has rolled out with mobile touch-points with a traditional media twist.

According to a Mobile Commerce Daily article written by Lauren Johnson in March, Macy's is using a combination of QR codes, SMS and mobile Web as part of its partnership with NBC's "Fashion Star" television show to not only give consumers a chance to enter a sweepstakes, but also build up the retailer's mobile database.

The sweepstakes is part of a bigger campaign from Macy's to connect with TV viewers via their mobile devices this year. "The mobile strategy should be consistent with their overall digital marketing strategy," said Marci Troutman, CEO of SiteMinis, Atlanta. "Access to a brand's portal through mobile simply improves the amount of consumer engagement time on the site and allows for better conversion with real time marketing and sales opportunities," she said.

Why, then, is their store feedback survey so arcane?

Users have demonstrated that they prefer mobile for their communications- but they see it as a two way street, where as many businesses are still seeing it as a one-way communication vehicle- talking at their audience, but not remotely prepared to open the conversation up completely.

What does Macy's mobile campaign really say to consumers? Well, it says buy from us and leave us alone. That's the kind of strategy that insurance agencies get "dinged" for in TV commercials all the time.

The obvious response most could argue on behalf of Macy's would be, well, the technology must not quite be there yet for surveys to be totally mobile, so it must be an expensive investment and require a long transition project.

However, that doesn't mean that's true. For example, systems like ours here at On The Spot are built to run mobile surveys- with user experience as the focus. Surveys like ours cost around $2/day and can be accessed via SMS text, QR codes and mobile web. In fact, two in five companies say they are realizing savings from digital marketing compared to traditional methods(,) according to Gartner.

Sure, many consumers may not yet realize how readily accessible this technology is to businesses, but soon they will, and they will realize where their retailers place their digital budgets- and more importantly, where they don't.

According to Gartner, "Reinvesting savings into digital marketing activities is a smart move. And it's a relatively new activity in a corporate culture where technology has primarily been used in recent years to cut costs." So, the test is where you will put your cost savings to good use. The question is, will you fill an existing void in your mobile strategy mix, or continue to spend your budget on strictly sales campaigns?

This new digitally enlightened consumer is now able to see right through a company's social media façade. They still agree that Facebook is a nice tool for people to share their thoughts, but everyone is now wiser about its actual capabilities for connection within the company hierarchy.

About a third (34%) of businesses went outside for help in managing their presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites. So, it's not really enough to tell people to share their opinions on Facebook- they know it's not going to get to someone in operations who actually could fix the mislabeled sale items that same day. There's no chance for the company to make any actionable use of the data they receive through Facebook.

Macy's would be able to get away with ignoring the location-specific importance of their customers' opinions if they had not already proven in another campaign this past year that they have the means to be location-specific and relevant to consumers at the store level when they want consumers to buy something.

According to Johnson's Mobile Commerce Daily article, the retailer enhanced its iPhone app with Black Friday-specific features that were based on a consumer's local store. Via the app, consumers were able to find Black Friday specials, create shopping lists and pinpoint where a special can be found in a local store.

So, let's assume for a minute that Macy's just isn't aware that their customer engagement strategies lack, well, engagement. Let's assume with a sub-par customer feedback strategy, Macy's is also stuck with minimal insight from real consumers and doesn't "see" that their mobile strategy really comes off as being a one-sided approach to customer engagement.

Think about your own company for a moment- do you emphasize customer loyalty? Do you think a company can get too "big" to care about loyalty?

Hopefully, you'd disagree with the latter statement, since this is one area where we all know there is a payout for "buying in" to a strong loyalty strategy.

According to Ms. Troutman in her statement in Mobile Commerce Daily, "Loyalty programs are a valid and significant method of increasing the average ticket and shop frequency. The use of mobile in this process with all of the unique benefits will improve customer engagement(,)", she continued. "The key is how a brand harmonizes loyalty with offers."

That's about as clear and simple as it can get, but I challenge you to really dwell on that last sentence as you think about the decisions you make about using mobile in your everyday arsenal of customer communication and loyalty programs.

When it comes to mobile, the determining factor that will either elevate or depreciate a brand's overall digital image, is how well the brand is able to harmonize their loyalty reinforcement efforts along with their sales promotion offers.

In case you missed our webinar "Integrated Digital Marketing for Franchise Systems", co-hosted by Google, we wanted to give a recap of the great content outlining why integrated digital strategies are so important and how they can be developed to achieve a balance between the brand and the franchisees. 

This approach is something Location3 Media calls "Franchise impact, Brand intact".

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Although many of us are familiar with online usage stats, it is important to revisit them frequently because the landscape changes so often. 

Here are several statistics about online marketing usage that are great to keep in mind as your brand is determining how to approach investing in digital marketing.

1) People are constantly looking for new information online.  Billions of searches are done each day.  16% of the searches have never been conducted before. (Google)

2) Shopping starts online with 94 percent of consumers researching products online before buying.  Customers rely on online sources for local information. (Google)

3) Spend on digital has grown by 10 percent in the past five years.  (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Wilkofsky Gruen Associates)

Integrated Digital Programs

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Integrated digital programs allow advertisers to reach customers on their individual path to purchase. 

Today's path to purchase is fluid rather than linear, it is consumer directed versus brand directed and it requires guidance from multiple sources.  Managing the path to purchase for franchise systems requires a combined effort between franchisors and franchisees. 

Some of these efforts include:

1) Providing store locations with marketing plans and approved branding collateral for individual use

2) Managing local listings by centralizing at corporate to ensure consistency and accuracy of data

3) Providing franchisees a website framework and CMS that allows for localized custom content

4) Developing a centralized social media strategy that ensures a consistent brand voice, and is supported by store-level voice

Franchisees can help manage the path to purchase by utilizing the tools provided by corporate including vendor relationships and technology resources.

Paid Search & Display

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As we mentioned, billions of searches are done each day with 94 percent of searchers starting their research online.  Search also increases the efficiency of TV, print and radio between 3 and 10 percent.  Here are a few other reasons why paid search is a must-have strategy for franchise systems:

1) Search drives offline conversions. 89 percent of shopping starts online while 93 percent of conversions happen offline

2) Search can be customized to fit individual franchisees including keywords, ad copy, landing pages and most importantly geographic targeting

3) Call tracking is a must have for franchise systems.  We typically see that 70-90 percent of all actions completed from paid search are phone calls

Along with search, the combination of display and search campaigns delivers a 155 percent increase in search activity, speeds up the purchase funnel five times and 27 percent of users perform a search query instead of clicking on a banner.

Social / SEO / Content / Design

625,000 people join Google+ everyday and the Google +1 button is used more than 5 million times a day.  In case you didn't have enough reasons to upgrade your social, SEO, content, and design strategy, this rapidly growing product is the perfect push over the edge.  Here are a few additional reminders about the power of these integrated strategies:

1) Google+ is a megaphone for your brand allowing you to add credibilitiy and enhance visibility on the Google Display Network, Google Search, YouTube and mobile channels.

2) SEO has three components that need to be addressed in every strategy: website optimization, content creation, and content distribution.  Integrating SEO into the path to purchase for franchise systems requires the franchise system and the franchisors to hold up their responsibilities in each section.

3) As the worlds of design, SEO, content, and collide, findability requires as choreographed effort. The bottom line is that a website cannot be designed without planning your SEO and content strategies at the same time.  The are not separate entities.

4) Content marketing is educating and inspiring people enough to do business with you.  It's not about you anymore and your content needs to engage and inspire your customers.

Overall, the success of your integrated digital marketing plan starts with your customers.  Learning about their path to purchase and shaping a strategy to meet them at all points along the way will gain and keep your customers.  Managing the path between the system and the franchisees will empower the individual locations while protecting the brand.

Do you have any success stories with your franchise system and integrated digital marketing that you'd like to share?  If so, we'd love to hear them.  Also, look for the recorded version of our webinar to be ready in the next few days.

 

We stumbled across a site that is a bit interesting - if you're wondering what your social media connections think of you, specifically those you're connected to on Facebook or Linkedin, wonder no more!

Survey Report is a free* program that allows you to anonymously survey your connections on LinkedIn or Facebook. A brief explanation is below:

In looking over the site, it only takes a few simple steps:

1. Login with LinkedIn or Facebook

2. You're set up with a basic survey for people to take

3. You decide who to send it to, and the site takes care of the rest.

If you watch the video closely, you'll see a quick glance at some analytical reports that will be generated on your behalf, letting you know at a glance what people think of you. However, reading their FAQ's, it seems that they admit the response rate is low - the word free has a * next to it earlier in the post because, while you can get as many survey responses as possible, you can only see 5 with the free version.

Never fear though, the site assures you that generally speaking, people only get an average of 7 responses.

Out of curiosity, I decided to try it and see what happens. Signing up was fairly easy - I chose to login with Facebook as to not bother my professional contacts. I set the permission for the app to "only me" just in case; I have no idea of what they may post, so I'll keep that private for now. It also wanted access to my custom friends lists.

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From there, I'm given the free and paid options - looks like you get (of course) a lot more with the paid version. But, I'm cheap and a bit skeptical, so I chose the free version.

Okay, I'm seeing a whole new world here. In addition to the survey, it looks like I have an option to take a few quizzes on my own, including an IQ test, and emotional quotient (EQ) test, and a "what job best suits me" quiz. I also have a face recognition test - I thought maybe this would survey my contacts to see if they recognized me, but instead it shows me people making faces and asking me to rate what they're feeling.

So there's some fun in the site too. I'm happy I chose "only me" as the visibility choice - if I had started taking these quizzes, my results could have been published on my Timeline. Imagine if I had logged in with LinkedIn. These quizzes are not something I would want professional contacts to see - it's none of their business what job suits me best, nor do they need to see that I'm taking quizzes in the middle of a workday!

Back to the survey......they looked at the number of connections I have on Facebook and suggested a number of responses I'll need to get good data. You can see this below:

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Underneath the box it lists all of my Facebook contacts - I can choose to send the invite to anyone from the list. I do think the text is a bit misleading in the invitation though.

I'm not sure if it worked. I chose two of my Facebook friends and hit the send button, but it wanted to post a link on my wall. I closed out of that and a window popped up asking me if I wanted to share on LinkedIn too. I declined and it said that everything was set up, and I should wait for 7 days to view the results.

I have a feeling it didn't go out; I will have to check with my two connections to see if they got anything.

In the meantime, I may play around with it some more to see if I can get anyone to bite. While I can see the idea behind this site, I'm not sure this is the way to go about it. As I said, I don't think this is something I would bother my LinkedIn connections with and it seems like something that others may not be comfortable filling out, even though its anonymous.

If you're curious enough to check it out, share your experiences with us! If you've already used this site and know of some benefits, we'd love to hear them!

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]

In today's world of marketing, data is king.   The more information we have at our fingertips the better we can narrow the offer so that each person marketed to can feel that they are being talked to directly.

More than 10 years ago we were creating a birthday card direct mail program for a casino, the response rate, based upon variable offers was consistently in the 40+ % range.  Why?   DATA!!!!!!!!!!   We knew when these people came in, how long they came for, what types of games they played, how long they spent playing and how much they won or lost on a per visit basis.    If we were able to tie husband and wife loyalty cards together, the data was stronger and so was the response based upon being able to provide an offer that benefited both parties.

Think about how much information is available to you, as a business, if you take the time to collect and analyze it.    How much better could you forecast trends and pre-empt customers from shopping at your competition through timely marketing offers?

There is a story of a certain car company that "found" the leasing information for one of their competitors.   They not only had names and addresses, but they had colour, make of car and when lease was up.    The story goes that you would receive a direct mail piece that would have your name on it and it would say, wouldn't you rather be in car brand X.    On the front would be a version of the latest model year of the type of car you owned, but their model.  I.e.,  if you had a red two door soft top, that would be the picture which would be on your postcard.    The call to action was strong and so was the response rate.    In other words:  great data +  great offer + great marketing program = great ROI!!!!!!!

Here is a great example that was done by a hospital group in the US.    They realized that there were other places for potential clients to go when they needed medical services, so they found a way to make it easy for people to think of them.

This is a variably printed fridge magnet.   70000 + were produced, each one has a different map that takes you from YOUR house to the closest facility that they own.    Think of what this does to the end consumer.   They have a visual on their fridge at any time that shows how easy it is to get medical help when needed.  Notice how each magnet is unique to the address it is being mailed to?  This is a true value add!

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Think of the options that are available using this technology and the variety of different businesses that could attract long term clients using this medium.    Yes, the cost per piece is higher than other mediums, but so is the return on your investment.    If you have a high life time value of every customer acquired, this is a marketing tactic that should definitely be part of your overall marketing strategy.

The next step in this process is the development of PURLS,  Personal URLs.   With this technology, you have driven your customer to a website that is specifically designed for them.   It allows you to cater your information to their individual needs and provide each and every client with offers that are relevant to them.

So take the time to understand what data you have on your clients, what data you would like to have and how that proper use of data can help develop your brand long term and see how we can Get YOU Noticed!

The post What kind of information do you have on your customers? appeared first on CMYK Solutions Inc..

The recent election saw a bold prediction by Dick Morris about Romney's chances of winning the election.  Bold, amazing and wrong.  Unfortunately, for Mr. Romney's supporters the actual odds were running against him, some put him as high as an 8-1 underdog.

Chance forecasts which we intend to rely upon have a curious feature:  "amazing miracles" happen frequently and snatch a sure victory away from us.

 

The actual odds Lucy would have followed through on her professed commitment were, as we know, zero.

But the chances that an involuntary muscle spasm would cause her to snatch away the ball were "astronomical".

A final exploration between the world of chance and strategy is from Guys and Dolls.

 

 

(For a game theoretic explanation of the strategy choices, please see Presh Talwalkar's Game Theory and Charlie Brown.)

Happy Thanksgiving, and avoid getting cider in your ear.

You should be a fan of Dick Morris and his methodology.

As Duncan Watts noted about his disagreement with Malcolm Gladwell on the significance of inluencers: " "My models might be totally wrong," he says cheerfully. "But at least I'm clear about what I'm saying. You can look at them, and tell me if you disagree.

But none of these other thinkers are actually clear about what they're saying. You can't tell if they're wrong."

Dick Morris reads the polls and notices that they have sampled more Democratics, who have traditionally voted less often than their Republican neighbors. Romney Wins!

Dick Morris knows where he went wrong.

He based his turn-out model on an assumption that 2008 would regress to 2004.

His prediction was wrong, but he understands his mistake.

Decision theorists call this a "base-rate" error. What errors are you making in calculating your base-rate of customers?

Will you be honest like Dick Morris and admit your mistake?

Or will you have some comforting story to tell about your lack of sales?


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