I couldn't resist adding my own thoughts to an article I read in the Huffington Post this morning, 'Working From Anywhere': Employees Flung Afar by Hurricane Sandy Telecommute from Wherever.
Having lived in New York my whole life, it comes as know surprise to me that New Yorkers are creatively working from "wherever" in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy and businesses are being equally creative in getting their operations back up. After all this is the home of the New York Minute and do I dare say, The Bronx Cheer and Fuhgeddaboudit! It is in times of crisis where New Yorkers shows their true colors. Through natural disasters, terrorists attacks, and blackouts we rise to the occasion and do whatever it takes to get our city and state up and running. And I will let you in on a little secret that we don't like to let too many outsiders in on as it would blow our "street cred"; we are actually a lot nicer to those in need then we are given credit for. So working from Starbucks, airports, train stations, at the home of friend or neighbor, or a hotel lobby and plugging into a generator on the street, a lamp-post or whatever else has power is just another day here in the Big Apple!
I am pleased to report that all of the SimplyEngage team members and their families are safe and that our platform remained up during the storm. While we wait to get power back on in lower Manhattan so we can get to our office, we are working remotely meeting all of our client's needs.
Finally, in typical New York fashion, If there is anything we can do to help you in your recovery efforts, please do not hesitate to call us on 646-535-1602 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to part two of my three-part series, “Franchise Owners: Entering a Zip Code to Find a Location is NOT Local Marketing”. In this post I will offer some useful tips on how a local franchise owner or the manager of a local multi-unit company can leverage some online marketing strategies to build local awareness and ultimately increase sales without breaking the bank or taking up too much time.
As mentioned in part one of my series, we discussed how 87% of local franchises and multi-unit store locations (corporations that have multiple locations that are corporate owned) have little to no online presence at a time when there are more than 2.6 billion local searches being performed each month and when mobile search, which is inheritably local, is growing at over 500% a year. So not only is a local franchise owner missing out on potential new customers coming from search since there is no local website that the search engines can find, but there is no way for local owners to build an email list to communicate with their local audience or leverage the viral capabilities of social media. Since the local franchisee has P&L responsibility for their location, they are being asked to conduct business with one hand tied behind their back!
Before I move on to what a local franchise owner can do today in terms of online marketing, let me dispel a myth that I heard again this week by a corporate franchise CMO. There is a perception that by allowing local stores to have their own websites, search traffic to the corporate website will be dramatically reduced. Well, I am here to state that not only is this not true but it will actually have the opposite effect - more traffic to the corporate parent! I know, you are sitting there asking how can that be; again an analogy is order. Think of a room that has only one door to enter. The room represents the corporate parent website and the door represents visitor traffic. Now let’s assume that we were able to increase the number of doors or pathways to the room / corporate website by as many local locations as the corporate parent owns or franchises. That is actually the effect that can be realized by turning on local websites that have links back to the corporate parent.
Now for what I promised, two strategies a local franchise owner or multi-unit store manager can take to begin leveraging online marketing tools to improve their marketing success and assist in monetizing their local audience:
Online Local Listings: Online local business listings can have a dramatic effect on the amount of exposure your company receives. Local businesses can increase awareness and, ultimately, sales by allowing its local audience that use search engines to find its services and products via online listings.
Today people use many different sources for local information including: the major search engines; mapquest; superpages; and foursquare, to name but a few. Since Google, Yahoo and Bing are the dominant players, start by listing your business with all three of these search engines. If you type the search engine’s name along with “local listing” in any search engine you will see a link from that search engine that will walk you though how to list your business on their platform. You do not even need a company website in order to list your business for customers to see. If you want greater exposure than the big three search engines, there are third party services that for annual fee will list your business on dozens of the most popular listing sites.
The rationale for doing this is to get found. Remember, over 2.6 billion local searches a month and growing. If you are not found your competitor will be.
Social Media: Social media represents an incredible channel to reach new customers and carry on a dialogue with existing ones. Odds are you probably already have a Facebook and Twitter account for your personal use. Creating one for your local business is not much different and best of all, it’s free. My advice is don’t be afraid to try. Ask friends, students, peers and current customers about their social media experiences and what they would like to see from a local business; the insight you get will be well worth it. In addition, it will make for great material to write about on you wall or tweets.
The next logical question that I am sure you are asking is does this work? In a recent small business survey, 88% of respondents found that social media helped them get increased exposure and follow on benefits included qualified lead generation and improved sales. Think you don’t have enough time to keep up with Social Media Marketing? The Social Media Examiner survey found that 75% of those small businesses that spend as little as 6 hours a week on social media marketing saw increased traffic.
Hopefully you will find these two strategies useful and as always nothing is a silver bullet. All strategies take commitment and dedication but if you are diligent, the results will come.
In part three of my series I will lay out a simple business case for why franchisors and multi unit corporations should be investing in online marketing at the local level.
Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to read my post. Talk to you again next week!
I've been using that phrase so often in talks with franchise owners and companies with multiple store locations that I decided to write about it. How many times have you ended up on a website and in order to find a “store near you”, you had to enter your zip code only to receive a list of land addresses and a phone number? Let’s take this scenario one step further. Assume for a second you were searching for a sandwich shop or hair salon on your smart phone or tablet. If there was a franchise store nearby, it probably won’t come up in your search results as mobile search is inherently local and with mobile search growing 500% a year this should be a real concern if you are a franchise or multi-unit owner.
In part 1 of this 3 part series, I will lay out both the rationale why every local franchise or multi-unit store should have an online presence, and what constitutes an online presence. In part 2, I will outline some simple ways for the local franchisee or storeowner to get started on the road to creating their online presence even if they are not getting support from “headquarters”. Finally, in part 3, I will make the business case why corporate franchises should be investing in online marketing tools for their local stores.
Since we have all experienced the scenario of entering our zip code to find a location near you, I did some research to understand whether the lack of online tools for the local franchise owner was widespread. My research found that nearly 87% of local franchises have little to no online presence! Add to this the fact that 82% of local searches result in a visit, phone call or purchase and I am amazed at why franchisors and owners of multiple store locations are not empowering the local franchisee or store owner with the basic tools to monetize their local audience, which ultimately increases the overall profitability and value of the brand. Over the course of this three-part series I will demonstrate that if a local franchise owner can increase their daily transactions by only a couple, then creating and managing an online presence will pay for itself...plus!
As mentioned, let's review what I believe are the core components of an online presence:
- Website: This is your home base; the place you want to ultimately bring everyone to carry on the conversation and conduct business.
- Social Media: With 70% of consumers using social media to make purchase decisions you want to be part of the conversation.
- SEO: In concert with your website, media, blogs, and local business listing on the major search engines, you can increase your organic search rankings so that you will be found.
- Blog: A great tool to discuss and alert your audience to specials, industry news or even community events. Remember, local businesses are an integral part of the their community.
- Email: There is no better channel to engage current customers than email.
- Analytics: Understand what’s working and what’s not and make changes to improve.
So now that we understand the basics, I know what you are saying: it's too hard; I'm not technical: I don't have the time; or I don't have the budget! Don’t worry; in part 2 of this series I will provide simple tips on how to get started with your online marketing that won't break the bank and won't take up too much time.
Talk to you again next week!
Recently, our email service partner, MarketTraq, posted a case study on SimplyEngage's content management to email automation technology for local businesses, franchises, and companies with multiple store locations which leverages MarketTraq's M-Connect API's. We would like to thank MarketTraq for not only highlighting the overall benefits of our integrated marketing solution but for also drawing attention to a big issue that is shared by companies both large and small; dynamic creation of an email from content that resides in a companies content management system. We actually solved this issue several years back for enterprise companies and this was a key driver in forming SimplyEngage. We simply wanted to provide a solution that offered everything a local business owner needed to successfully create and manage their online presence and engage their local audience at an affordable price that required no programming.
Here is an excerpt from the article.
"Since one of the core features of the SimplyEngage platform is the ability to host and manage large media libraries, it made sense to build in the ability to pull this content into email creatives. Using the M-Connect™ API allowed SimplyEngage to build a system in which blogs, images, videos, and other components can be automatically turned into email creative, either immediately on publishing or at a later time. Using a system of fixed, highly-customizable templates, and M-Connect™, users can set up a blank-slate creative template that is dynamically populated with content as it is added to their SimplyEngage properties.This is a great feature for users, and operates seamlessly thanks to strong API tie-ins and XML feed integration in MarketTraq which made it effortless to access live content just in time for deployment within emails.
Effectively, the end user doesn't notice the transition from SimplyEnage to MarketTraq email, and just gets the best functionality of both. For example, a car dealership can write a blog post incorporating photos and videos through the SimplyEngage CMS, and then dynamically feed it into a pre-built email creative with only a few clicks, deploying it to their email list at the same time as the content is published online. Total automation through M-Connect makes this process effortless for SimplyEngage, and requires no manual work at all."
To read the entire article, click here…...
We are happy to announce the release of version 2.0 of our SimplyEngage marketing platform for local and multi-unit businesses, franchises and associations.
This release features a completely redesigned user interface, reinforcing our commitment to providing an easy to use, online marketing toolset for the busy, non-technical local business owner that collectively integrates content management, website, social media, SEO and email into a single-sign-on solution.
Additional features of release 2.0 include:
- Redesigned email scheduler allowing you to immediately send emails to your customer list
- Improved SEO content tagging
- Ability to mix video and images in the same media album
- Simplified blog creation and publishing
- Ability to automatically push blog posts to Facebook and Twitter
- Improved social media controls allowing our clients to set how a visitor can share a client's content on visitor's social media pages (e.g. Like, Share, Tweet, Comment)
- Improved website management tools and capabilities
- This is New York, Of Course We Figure It Out!
- Part 2 - Franchise Owners: Entering A Zip Code To Find A Location is Not Local Marketing!
- Franchise Owners: Entering A Zip Code To Find A Location is Not Local Marketing!
- Case Study: SimplyEngage Offers CMS to Email Automation
- SimplyEngage Announces The Availability Of Release 2.0