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Quarter 1, 2014


Five Search-Savvy Secrets to Google Maps Listings

A potential customer is looking for a brick-and-mortar business like yours, but you only have a fraction of the marketing budget of that big-box competitor down the road. Luckily, Google has helped level the playing field with Google Maps listings.

But if you want to pop up online when customers are searching for you nearby, you need to be SEO-savvy, popular with your customers and consistent across a slew of networks, sites and platforms.

That's easier for a small marketer than it sounds, however. Allison Nuanes, local marketing manager at Booyah Online Advertising, says small location-based businesses have a built-in advantage these days: someone searching Google doesn't even have to type in their city or state for Google's search algorithm to trigger a local result for terms like "restaurant."

"Even if you aren't searching for 'Denver,' Google maps will infer that there's local intent and start giving you results for restaurants nearest you," points out Nuanes.

In addition to a location advantage, more reviews of your business from happy customers can easily push you ahead of your competitors, says Nuanes. And because small businesses tend to focus on just one location, you can have a bit of an edge.

Here are five simple tips for making sure your Google Maps listing is working for you:

g-plus icon Tip #1: Integrate Google+ for better results
Google's algorithm integrates Google+ into local results, so make sure to claim your Google+ listing, and that all of the categories are checked off correctly.

Address bar Tip #2: Make sure your address is consistent
If Google displays your address with S. in front of the main street instead of South, keep it that way. "The way Google decides to display your address is the way you should do it on every other site if possible, including your website," Nuanes explains. Consistent listings can help your business appear higher on search engine results.

Foursquare/Yelp website Tip #3: Claim or verify your business on other sites, too
Foursquare and Yelp are clearly frontrunners, but "I would definitely also do Yahoo! and Bing as well," Nuanes says. "Yahoo! Local and Bing Local have their own platforms now. They have smaller numbers, but still quite a lot of people who use them. Bing's map is feeding into Apple now for iPad® and iPhone®, and Yelp is also feeding into Apple systems for mobile search results, so it's really important to hit all those big platforms." Simply verify the listings or claim your business on all four sites to get started.

Like symbol Tip #4: Seek engagement from your customers
"Once you have claimed your business in all of those different places, take it to the next level by talking to your customers and putting up signs reminding them to check in on Foursquare, Facebook and Yelp," Nuanes recommends. "Remind people to post reviews if they're happy customers, whether that's through signage, email footers, or talking to employees in your store to remind them to talk to customers." A large number of positive reviews and check-ins help boost your search engine ranking.

yelp customer-alert Tip #5: Be careful not to cross the line
Don't pay for reviews or incentivize them with prizes. "When Yelp discovers that someone is paying for reviews on Craigslist, or is finding elite Yelpers and asking for reviews, they will completely remove the business from their site and put up a big sign saying that the business has paid for reviews. There are pretty big consequences for them," Nuanes explains.

What's next? The biggest development in location-based apps is that Foursquare will be rolling out some advertising for small businesses. If someone checks into a bar, for example, a specific liquor brand can advertise to that user. In addition, Foursquare is rolling out ads to connect people looking for somewhere to go with businesses that want to drive foot traffic to their locations. Businesses will pay when people visit the listing on Foursquare or their location in person. These programs are still in the pilot phase, but businesses can sign up on Foursquare and get information as it becomes available.

Bottom line. The best way to compete with big businesses is to make sure your business profiles are claimed, your information is consistent and up-to-date, your listings are relevant and your customers are engaged. It doesn't matter if they check in on Foursquare or on Facebook, as long as they're checking in with you. And getting good reviews from happy customers is always helpful, whether they're posted on Yelp or Foursquare or Google or Facebook. That means you can outdraw your competition, no matter how big.


Show Some Love — Inspiring Customer Appreciation Ideas

Did you know that acquiring a new customer is more costly than retaining an existing one? According to "The Value of an Existing Customer," by Flowtown, it's six to seven times more costly. Which simply means you should keep your current customers happy. Getting new customers is always a goal, but not only do loyal customers keep your business thriving, they also cost you less. So how do you show those customers some love? Here's a compilation of customer appreciation gifts, ideas or loyalty programs to inspire you:

Car dealer Car Dealerships
Many car dealerships offer top-notch benefit programs which may include free scheduled maintenance, free car washes for life, free breakfast, and even free use of their gym. Dealerships want to keep you and your vehicle happy. By offering perks like these, they keep you coming back, continue to build upon your relationship, and hope that when it's time for your next vehicle, they'll be at the top of your list.

Old navy cards Old Navy
There are several rewards for being an Old Navy credit card holder. You get a $5 reward card for every $100 you spend, as well as an extra 15% off on Tuesdays when you use your credit card. Old Navy also sends emails with exclusive offers like "Stuff and Save," in which you save a certain percentage off everything you can stuff inside a specific bag you receive in the store.

Portico resturant Portico Restaurant
Portico, a chain restaurant spot in the Financial District of San Francisco, offers busy lunch seekers a "Diner's Club" card good for $6 off their next purchase after eight visits. Many businesses use this same model of validating purchases to earn something free or a percentage off. There are even apps, like Key Ring, to keep track of loyalty cards. Another favorite customer appreciation idea from Portico is one in which your meal is free if your self-serve salad weighs exactly one pound.

Makers mark Maker's Mark
Maker's Mark, the small-batch bourbon distiller, has an extensive, popular ambassador program "reserved for the truly passionate." It includes getting "your name in Maker's Mark history", plus a personalized Maker's Mark barrel, an opportunity to purchase a bottle of bourbon from your batch, updates on the aging of your bourbon, advanced notice of rare, special release bottles, and opportunities to purchase Ambassadors-only Maker's Mark merchandise. They also send out cool swag (like a Maker's Mark bottle sweater) to members during the holidays.

Tillamook cheese Tillamook
Another excellent reward program comes from Tillamook Cheese. Each loyal customer receives a "Klout Perk" from Tillamook that includes a t-shirt, canvas bag, granola, nuts, coupons, and a glass canning jar for making yogurt parfaits, which encourages trial of the company's yogurt products.

Club chandon logo Domain Chandon
At "Club Chandon," like many other wineries, you get perks for being part of an exclusive group. There's an additional fee, but it includes special deals, 20%-30% off wine and food, a members-only area at the winery, tours and a glass of champagne during every visit, plus other perks. They also serve complimentary glasses of bubbly to locals, rewarding them for visiting the winery and bringing their out-of-town friends.

Picky bars Picky Bars
Their Picky Club perks include opportunities to sample new flavors of their gluten- and dairy-free energy bars, members-only discounts, free random stuff (t-shirts, handwritten thank-you notes, etc.), and "whatever else we think of." Most importantly, they make being part of their club a fun, cool, rewarding experience.

We hope these examples have started your own customer appreciation ideas flowing. By researching other business's customer loyalty programs, you can easily learn and discover what will work best for your business.