10 Online Mistakes Kill Real Estate Business

Online Mistakes

5 Online Mistakes That Will KILL Your Business in 2016

Online marketing is no longer optional for most businesses. A majority of shoppers seek out information and reviews online before making a purchase. They expect the businesses they frequent to maintain an online presence, and will probably seek out alternatives if they don’t find what they expect.
With the end of the year fast approaching, let’s take a look at the five online marketing mistakes you must avoid in 2016 if you want your business to thrive.

#1: Not being mobile-friendly

Not being mobile-friendly
As of 2014, more internet users access their favorite websites using mobile devices than using computers. That means you can’t afford to ignore mobile marketing as a way of getting the word out about your business. Mobile users also spend more time online than people who use computers.
The best way to make your website accessible to mobile users is to go with a mobile-adaptive option. What that means is that your site will automatically adapt so that any user, on any device, gets an easy-to-use version of your site that’s uniquely suited to their phone or tablet. It used to be common for websites to have a separate mobile site, generally indicated by the letter “M” before the site name.
Of course, having a mobile-adaptive site isn’t the only way to cater to mobile users. You may also want to consider collecting mobile numbers to use in marketing. “Text messages are inexpensive to send and tend to have a far higher open rate (close to 99%) than traditional emails.” They can be a great way to engage local customers and get them to visit your business.

#2: Not claiming your “My business” page

Google My Business
Google My Business has replaced Google Local, and if you haven’t logged in to claim your page, you’re making a big mistake. You can claim your page by logging in to your Google+ account, or by creating one for your business if you don’t have one.
Once you claim your page, you should add a profile picture, a brief description of your business, and a link to your website. It’s also a good idea to include basic information such as a menu, prices, or your hours of operation. Check your address and phone number for accuracy, and use important keywords to reap the SEO benefits.
Not only will claiming your page help local customers find you online, it will also give your local search ranking on Google a boost.
Note: you should also make sure to claim your page on online review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List.

#3: Not responding to negative reviews

Negative reviews
The subject of online review sites brings us to the third mistake on our list. Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Google My Business, and others, offer an easy way for consumers to leave reviews of local businesses. Recent studies reveal that a huge percentage of consumers – upwards of 80% — read online reviews prior to making a purchase.
Everyone loves to get positive reviews, but it’s how you respond to the negative ones that can set your business apart. Every negative review you receive is an opportunity to show customers that you care about them.
To handle negative reviews well, start by claiming your page. Once you have done that, you need to monitor your pages and respond quickly to all reviews, good and bad. If you decide to delegate the responsibility of responding to reviews, make sure you choose someone who can respond to a negative reviews without sounding defensive or angry.
Remember that other customers will be able to see your response. This is free marketing designed as customer service, so make the most of it. Be courteous, grateful for the feedback, and make sure to address whatever issues are raised in a timely and respectful manner.

#4: Not engaging customers or promoting your business on social media

Not promoting your business in social media
If responding to negative reviews is important, it is equally vital to maintain an active social media presence and engage with your customers there. Despite the overwhelming popularity of social media, a surprising number of companies aren’t using it to their best advantage.
You don’t need to be on every social media site, but picking the right ones is essential. Facebook is still the largest social media site and a great place for businesses who market directly to consumers. For business-to-business marketing, LinkedIn is the gold standard. Businesses who sell aspirational products that lend themselves well to photography would be remiss if they ignored the benefits of setting up a Pinterest account.
It’s a good idea to monitor some of your competitors on social media and see what they are posting. Try sharing a mix of original content and curated content. One easy way to find content is to follow relevant publications and pages and share their posts.

#5: Not using paid advertising

Not using paid advertising
There are plenty of ways to market your business online for free, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore paid advertising. Online advertising tends to be relatively inexpensive and offers some easy options that allow you to budget an ad that won’t break the bank.
One option to consider is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on search engines like Google and Bing. Both options require you to bid on a selected keyword. On Google AdWords, you can use the Keyword Finder to identify potential keywords. Your ads appear only if you outbid your competitors – the bid is based on a combination of the keyword’s popularity and your website’s authority. Chosen ads appear either at the top of a list of search results or on the right margin of the page.
Social media advertising is another excellent and affordable choice. Facebook offers options to attract new visitors to your Facebook page or website. In addition, you can boost an individual post so it displays to your followers and their friends, or to target demographics you select.
Facebook allows you to set a daily budget as low as one dollar, and emails you regular updates that make it easy to track your results. You can also use customer psychographics – things like interests, hobbies, political affiliations, and more – to target your ads. Other social media sites such as Twitter and Pinterest offer similar options.
2016 promises to bring new marketing challenges for all businesses, but if you avoid the five mistakes listed here you’ll be ahead of the pack.
Facebook's New Ad Tool

Facebook’s New Ad Tool: Lead Ads for Local Businesses

Advertising on social media has become fairly commonplace. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest offer multiple advertising options that allow business owners to boost their pages, drive traffic to their websites, and feature specified posts to increase their social media following. Social media advertising is easy and affordable.
Facebook’s latest tool offers a way for local businesses to generate leads. It’s called Lead Ads for Local Businesses, and it’s changing the way small businesses use social media to advertise.

What is Lead Ads for Local Businesses?

Lead Ads for Local Businesses
Traditional Facebook ads offer users the chance to click and be redirected to a business’s Facebook page or website. Lead Ads is a little different, because it allows customers to click the ad and then request additional information from the business in question. For example, they might request:

  • A price estimate or quote
  • A product demo
  • A free menu item
  • A newsletter
  • General information

You might think of Lead Ads as being a bit like a portable landing page. You can use these ads to collect prequalified leads and get them into your sales funnel.

The Benefits of Using Lead Ads

Benefits of Using Lead Ads
Internet statistics for 2015 show that more users access the internet using mobile devices than computers. However, reading information about a company on a mobile device can be challenging, even if they’re on the mobile version of Facebook.
Lead Ads offers users an easy way to request additional information about your company wherever they are. The ads are mobile-friendly and easy to use. When a user clicks a Lead Ad, they will see a form with pre-filled information from their Facebook profile. That means they don’t have to struggle to fill in the form using their phone because Facebook does it for them. By streamlining the process, Facebook has eliminated one of the biggest roadblocks to gathering leads online. It also reduces the likelihood of you getting inaccurate information due to the customer making a mistake. It’s quick and easy to use.
The ease of completing the contact form is a plus for users, but Lead Ads offers benefits for business owners, too:

  1. You can customize the form so it gathers only the information that is relevant to you. For example, you might want to gather just a name and email address, or include additional information such as a mobile number.
  2. You run a smaller risk of bouncing (or losing) customers due to a complicated lead form. As a rule, customer sign-ups decrease when additional fields are added to opt-in forms. Usually that means you can gather only an email address, but Facebook’s automatic forms make it easy to ask for additional information without worrying that users will refuse to complete the form.
  3. You have access to the same psychographics and targeting tools you can use for all Facebook advertising. That means you can target ads based on age, gender, marital status, and geographical location, as well as using things like hobbies and interests.
  4. Lead Ads offer a quick way for you to grow your email list, but that’s not their only use. You can also use them to gather applications, registrations, or pre-orders. Their flexibility means you can use them in a variety of ways.
  5. You can create Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences to hone in on the people who are most likely to be in the market for your product or service.
  6. In addition to targeting specific demographics, you can use the information you gather to remarket to existing customers as well as reaching out to prospects.

Lead Ads offers many of the same advantages of regular Facebook advertising. You can set a daily budget and monitor your ad’s performance using Facebook Insights.

Ways to use Facebook Lead Ads

Ways to Use Facebook Lead Ads
While the most obvious way to use Facebook Lead Ads may be to grow your email list, there are many other things you can do with this exciting new advertising option. For example, you could:

  1. Get people to sign up for your newsletter or for information about your product or service.
  2. Send out deals and coupons for your local or online business.
  3. Announce new promotions and sales.
  4. Gather interest forms or applications for things like financial services, education, or other professional services.

The versatility of Facebook Lead Ads means that you can adapt the form and targeting to almost any purpose you can imagine. The information you gather can then be used to nurture leads with follow-up emails and social media posts, retarget existing customers, or even to gather valuable demographic information about potential customers.

How to use Facebook Lead Ads

How to use Facebook Lead Ads
The basic requirements for using Facebook Lead Ads for your business are the same as using any kind of Facebook advertising. You must have an active Facebook page for your business, and you can set up the ad from your home page. Be prepared with information about whom you will target with the ad and how much you want to spend. You should also think about what information you need to get from potential customers so you can request it when you customize your information form.
One thing that sets Facebook Lead Ads apart from other social media advertising is that you will be required to include a link to your company’s privacy policy. Doing so offers customers the reassurance that the information they submit will go only to you. Facebook prohibits advertisers from selling lead information to other businesses, and you should make sure to read their terms and conditions before you get started.
All in all, Facebook Lead Ads provide a quick and easy way for you to gather customer leads and use the information you collect to grow your business. These ads benefit consumers and businesses equally by making the process of gathering leads easier from both ends. Consumers have the convenience of one-click sign-ups, and businesses can gather accurate information that they can then use in a number of ways.
Online Reviews

How to Make the Most of Online Reviews

Online reviews are here to stay. Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google My Business offer consumers an easy way to share information about their experiences with local and online businesses. While sites like these were once fairly small, their use has become commonplace. In fact, about 88% of all consumers say they check online reviews before patronizing a business. Not only that, they tend to assign a high degree of credibility to what they read, trusting online reviews from strangers more than they would personal reviews from family and friends. What that means is that no business owner can afford to ignore online reviews. The way you react and respond to reviews can have a huge impact on the growth and success of your business.

Why you must respond to negative reviews

Respond to negative reviews
Do you take negative reviews personally? Sometimes business owners think that they’re taking the high ground when they ignore negative reviews, but doing so can be very costly. You might not be able to quantify the effects of ignoring those reviews. Let’s face it, no customer is going to call you and announce that he’s decided to give his business to your competitor – he’ll never show up, and you’ll never know. However, you must assume that a single unanswered negative review has the potential to drive 30 customers away from your door. Few businesses can afford to lose customers like that.
In case you think that I’m exaggerating, you should also know that studies show that “four out of five customers have changed a purchasing decision based on a negative review.” That doesn’t mean every customer will flee as a result of a negative review, but it does mean you can’t take the chance of assuming they won’t.

How to respond to negative reviews

How to respond negative reviews
Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to respond to negative reviews and turn each one into a marketing opportunity.

  1. Claim your pages on online review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Google My Business, and any other relevant sites. Approximately 49% of businesses have not claimed their pages. That means they can’t respond, and they may also have pages that list inaccurate information. When you claim your page, make sure to check your name, address, phone number, website, hours of operation, menu, and any other relevant information.
  2. Read all reviews and respond. Even if you have some old reviews on your page, it’s still a good idea to respond to them. You should apologize for the delay if a review has been there for a while. If an issue mentioned in a negative review has already been addressed, make sure to mention it.
  3. Be polite. No matter how harsh the review, you won’t do yourself any favors if you sound defensive or angry when you respond. In fact, you can worsen the impact of a negative review if you fail to see it as the opportunity it is. Remember the old adage “The customer is always right” and respond as if you truly believe it. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you feel that a customer’s complaint is valid or not – you must act as if it is and respond accordingly.
  4. Remedy the situation. If a customer had a bad experience with your product, offer to exchange or repair it. Restaurant owners should consider offering a discount or a free appetizer or dessert, and service providers may consider a discount or free do-over. Whatever you offer, make sure to follow through on it. You may not want to make these offers publicly. Instead, ask the reviewer to message you privately so you can take care of the problem offline.
  5. Delegate responsibly. If you choose to delegate the responsibility of responding to reviews online to an employee, make sure that you are both on the same page about what qualifies as an appropriate response. If you routinely offer a complimentary appetizer at your restaurant to customers who have had an unsatisfactory experience, you don’t want your delegate to offer an entire meal instead. Set out clear guidelines that include the timeliness of responses, the tone to be used, and what you are willing to do to remedy a bad experience.
  6. Respond quickly. You don’t want a negative review to sit out in plain sight with no response. That means monitoring your pages every day and responding to negative reviews within 24 hours – more quickly if possible.
  7. Don’t ignore positive reviews. Just because negative reviews require a response doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to skip responding to the positive ones. Even a simple “Thank you” can go a long way toward making customers feel valued.

The benefits of responding

Benefits of responding feedback
Responding to negative online reviews can have a big positive impact on your business. Word of mouth is hugely important. In fact, 74% of all consumers report that word of mouth is a key indicator of whether they will make a purchase from a business.
When it comes to your overall ratings on Yelp and other sites, they can have a direct impact on your bottom line. Businesses who increased their ratings by one star on Yelp experienced, on average, revenue growth of between eight and nine percent. That’s a significant increase.
The other thing about positive experiences on review sites is that they inspire sharing. 58% of all consumers say they share their positive experiences with companies and brands on social media. That can translate to significant free advertising for you.
If you can turn a negative review around and reclaim a customer, they may tell their contacts about it. Considering that the average Facebook user has 338 contacts, it makes sense to consider what people are saying about you on social media when you decide how to respond to online reviews.
The bottom line is that word of mouth matters. The average internet user places a lot of importance on online reviews and comments, and you can’t afford to ignore them. When you respond in the right way, you have the opportunity to grow your business and increase revenue – and why wouldn’t you want to do that?
Customer Experience

The Customer Experience Today – Better Think Mobile!

As 2014 wound down, marketing experts predicted that 2015 would be the year that mobile searches outnumbered desktop computer searches on Google. Those predictions proved to be accurate. What that means for local business owners in 2016 is that, like it or not, mobile marketing has to be a priority. It’s no longer reasonable to deny the importance of reaching out to mobile customers.
With so many options available to consumers, it is absolutely essential to make it easy for them to connect with you. Having a mobile-friendly site used to be optional, but now it’s a requirement. The easier you make it for your customers to interact with your business, the more likely they are to buy your product.
This type of outreach is especially vital for local businesses. Google’s recent “Mobile Path to Purchase” study showed that approximately 93% of mobile customers who researched a company using their mobile devices went on to make a purchase. Keeping that in mind, here are the top four ways you can target mobile customers in 2016.

#1: Use text messaging to reach customers on the go

Use text messaging to reach customers
Text messages, or SMS messages, are a surprisingly underutilized form of marketing. They’re inexpensive to send, and text messages are more likely to be opened than traditional marketing emails. In fact, the open rate for text messages is about 99% — not a statistic you can afford to ignore.
Text messages can be used to send out information about sales and promotions. Mobile users love to feel that they’re getting something exclusive, so mobile-only coupons can be an effective way to get people into your store. You can even time their release so that they reach customers right before they leave work – a great option for restaurants offering happy hour promotions. You can also use text messages to remind customers of upcoming appointments.
It’s important to remember that customers must opt in to receive SMS messages. However, many people prefer to receive text messages rather than getting emails, so it’s a good idea to consider collecting mobile numbers.
One service that offers affordable text messaging services is SumoText.

#2: Optimize marketing emails for mobile inboxes

Marketing emails
As a rule, people spend more time accessing the internet on mobile devices than they do on desktop computers. Your marketing emails need to embrace that trend and make it easy for customers to read them on any device. For example, you should:

  1. Limit subject lines to 35 characters or less
  2. Use a responsive design
  3. Implement a single-column layout for easy reading
  4. Use alt attributes for images
  5. Make your call to action button large and easy to access on mobile devices

It may also help to keep your emails relatively short and as uncluttered as possible. An email built around a single column of text, a strong image, and a clear call to action will be friendly for both mobile users and computer users.

#3: Ramp up your local SEO

Local SEO
There’s no point in being mobile-friendly if you’re not going to do everything you can to make it simple for your customers to find you. That means you need to optimize your mobile site for local search so when customers seek you out using a mobile device, they can find you. Google laid out its guidelines for mobile-friendly sites in 2015. Here are some things you can do to make sure your customers can locate you:

  1. Standardize your business listings on social media pages, online review sites, and online directories. Your NAP (name, address, and phone) listings must be identical on every site if you want your search ranking to be high. Using “Avenue” on one site and “Ave” on another will dilute your listings’ power.
  2. Make sure to use local keywords on your website. For example, a long-tail keyword like “Suburban Chicago plumbing service” is going to help your local ranking while “plumbing service” will not.
  3. Optimize your listing on Google Maps so that smart phones can calculate where you are in relation to a mobile user’s location.

You want your mobile users to be able to find you when they are out and about – and that means doing everything you can to make your business visible and accessible.

#4: Use Local Awareness Facebook Ads

Local Awareness Facebook Ads
One of the great things about social media advertising is that it lets you target customers based on detailed demographic information, including their geographical location. One thing to consider when it comes to mobile marketing is using Facebook to target ads to nearby mobile users in your area.
A targeted Local Awareness Facebook ad will reach customers when they access Facebook on their mobile devices. For example, someone out running errands on a Saturday might see an ad for your store and decide to stop in while they’re in the area. The benefit of this type of advertising is that it is inexpensive – Facebook lets you set a daily budget as low as one dollar – and highly targeted. You only get charged for people who engage with your ad, and you can be sure that your ad is only seen by the customers you decide to target.
If you are not already collecting mobile numbers from the people on your list, now is the perfect time to start. You might consider sending out an email (in mobile-friendly format, of course) that gives customers a chance to opt-in for text messages. It’s a good idea to start with a coupon or special offer – think of it as a mobile lead magnet. Once people have opted in, you can use the information you collect to send out information about new products, sales, in-store promotions, and more.
Mobile marketing used to be the wave of the future, but the future is here right now. Every local business should be targeting mobile customers, and the four simple techniques outlined in this article will help you start doing that right away. 2016 will be the year of mobile marketing, and you don’t want to be left behind.
Best Online Strategies to Boost In-Store Sales

Best Online Strategies to Boost In-Store Sales

Owners of brick-and-mortar stores sometimes overlook the importance of online marketing. They focus their efforts on local and print advertising, and as a result, they end up missing out on ways to keep existing customers – and attract new ones. This article will explore the reasons you need to have an online presence even if you don’t have an online store, and give you some great ideas to use online marketing to boost your sales.

Why Online Marketing Matters.

Marketing experts know that a potential customer must encounter a product or brand several times before making a purchase. It is difficult to know how much exposure is necessary to drive a sale, but repetition is clearly the key. While there may be some benefit to advertising in your local newspaper, online marketing may be the best way to familiarize customers with your brand. Here are some reasons to use online marketing:

  • Studies show that a huge majority of consumers research companies and products online before making a purchase. A 2014 study revealed that 89% of consumers used Google or an alternate search engine to do online research before buying. Other studies reveal similar results for smartphone users.
  • Online marketing tends to yield a higher return on investment than other types of marketing, perhaps because it is so easy to target your efforts based on demographics and psychographics.
  • 71% of consumers expect to be able to view information about a retailer’s products online even if they can’t buy them there.

As you can see, it is probable that most of the customers who walk into your store have already checked you out online. You can translate that behavior into bigger sales if you make the most of online marketing.
Online Marketing to Drive Sales

How to Use Online Marketing to Drive Sales.

Now that you understand why online marketing is so crucial for your local business, let’s talk about some specific ways you can use online tools to increase your sales.

  1. Use social media. Social media usage is growing daily. Regardless of your industry or product, it’s safe to assume that most of your customers have at least one social media account. Many small businesses fail to use social media effectively. Here are some suggestions:
  • Start with Facebook. It is still the largest and most popular social media site, and its versatility allows you to interact with customers in a variety of ways. Two great options are using Facebook Offers, or Local Awareness ads to reach more locals in your area. 
  • Don’t rule out other sites. Pinterest users are more likely to make purchases based on what they see people share than users on any other social media site. They also tend to spend more money than people on other sites – something to keep in mind.
  • Integrate your marketing efforts with customer service to maximize customer engagement. Answering customer questions can go a long way toward building brand loyalty.
  • Don’t forget the “social” in social media. People want social media content to be fun and informative.
  1. Use coupons and promotions. One of the primary reasons people give for following companies on social media (or subscribing to their email lists) is that they want to get special deals. Traditional retail stores can and should use coupons to encourage customers to visit. However, even businesses who don’t normally use coupons can find ways to offer them. For example:
  • Service-based industries can offer a free consultation or evaluation.
  • Restaurants can offer a free appetizer or beverage with the purchase of one (or more) entrees.
  • Offer a time-specific promotion to drive sales at slow times. For example, if you own a garage and Monday is your slow day for oil changes, you might offer 10% off to people who come in on Monday.
  • Not all coupons need to be online. A lot of stores give out a coupon with a purchase to entice customers to come back to the store.
  1. Sponsor a contest or giveaway. Everybody loves the idea of winning a free product or service, and online marketing lends itself to such things. Consider running a contest that encourages people to share your information with their social media followers. For example, you might offer one entry in a raffle to people who share information about the contest on Facebook, and a second entry if they also Tweet about it. Contests are a very effective way to get customers to share information about your company – and to get your products in front of new customers without having to spend any money.
  2. Start a “Refer a Friend” program. This type of promotion won’t work for every business, but for service-based businesses, it is a very effective marketing tool. Instead of giving out coupons, tell existing customers that you will give them a freebie or discount if they refer a friend and the friend makes a purchase. It’s a way of increasing customer loyalty and attracting new customers at the same time – and it doesn’t cost you anything up front.
  3. Don’t forget about mobile customers. If your website isn’t mobile-adaptive, it might be time to think about revamping it. More people access the internet on smartphones today than ever before, and the numbers are still rising. In addition to updating your website, here are some other things to consider:
  • Text messages have a 99% open rate (much higher than email) and they’re a great way to reach local customers when they are out running errands.
  • Consider offering mobile customers a special mobile-only coupon.
  • Time text messages to coincide with subscribers’ activities. For example, you might send out a coupon for a free appetizer during Happy Hour, and time it to go out right when most people are leaving work on a Thursday or Friday.
  1. Start a blog. Blogging is easy and inexpensive, and it is a great way to engage your customers on an ongoing basis. With a blog, you can highlight new products as they arrive in your store, feature customer reviews, and even offer video demonstrations with ideas for how to use products. You can also:
  • Share blog posts on social media.
  • Include links to blog posts in text messages or emails.
  • Invite customer comments and feedback.

These are just a few of the most effective ways to use online marketing to increase your in-store sales. Thanks to the popularity and versatility of social media and other online tools, the possibilities are endless – so use your imagination, and watch your sales go through the roof.

How to Market Your Home Services Franchise

One of the great things about living in the modern era is that you can hire somebody to do almost any task you can imagine. Our lives are busier than ever, and sometimes we need help around the house. Home service franchises are increasingly common, and they run the gamut from housecleaning services to pet care to health care.
One of the benefits of selling franchises – or buying one – is that you have brand recognition from the start. Most customers need to be exposed to a product or brand several times before they make a purchase. When a name is already familiar to a potential customer, it increases the likelihood that they will utilize your services. An example of a home service franchise with great name recognition is Comfort Keepers, a company that provides non-medical home health services.
Marketing a Home Service Franchise

Challenges of Marketing a Home Service Franchise

In spite of the name recognition you bought along with your franchise, there are some challenges associated with marketing a home service franchise.

  1. No physical location. For services like home repair, home care, plumbing, electricians, etc. you probably won’t have a brick and mortar location. Because your franchise is service-based and mobile, paying for office space probably isn’t necessary. That can be a good thing in terms of your monthly budget, but it does mean that you are going to have to rely on online marketing, especially having a well-designed, high ranking website to help you attract customers. 
  2. Updating local listings. When you are marketing a business that has multiple locations, keeping your online listings consistent and up-to-date is crucial. Google’s algorithms deliver search listings that are specific to each searcher’s location, so it is essential to have your local listings in line.
  3. Duplicate content. You might think, because you want customers to know that your services are consistent from location to location, that each franchise’s website should have the same content. However, that is not the case. Google can and does penalize websites that have duplicate content. While you might need to have similar content on each location’s website, you also need to make sure that the content is original to avoid taking a hit in your search ranking.
  4. Localizing your mobile websites. It is absolutely essential to have a website that is mobile-adaptive for your company. More customers than ever before are accessing websites using their smartphones, and they are notoriously impatient. Your site needs to load quickly and be easy to read and use on a mobile device to be successful. You also need to make sure that your mobile sites are customized for the local area so they are easy to use.
  5. Managing your reputation. One of the downsides of being part of a company that sells franchises is that sometimes, a single franchise location can get into trouble and, by association, taint the whole brand. When each location is fully localized, it becomes easy to reap the benefits of brand recognition while also distancing yourself from any trouble or negative press.”

“For many people, the benefits of being associated with a franchise – especially one with a great reputation – far outweigh the risks. But the right marketing strategy is critical.”

Marketing Tips for Home Service Franchises

Now that you understand what the challenges of marketing a home service franchise are, let’s talk about some of the ways you can overcome those challenges.

  1. Standardize your local listings. Your NAP (name, address, and phone) listings are essential for local SEO and marketing. Even a small discrepancy in the way your name is listed (such as writing out ‘Avenue’ in one listing and abbreviating it as ‘Ave’ in another) can have a negative effect on your search ranking. Review your online listings and make sure they are consistent.
  2. Make the content similar, but your own. Take the information on the company’s main website as a suggestion and rewrite the content to be specific to your area and customers. That way, you will improve your local optimization by including keywords specific to your service area, and avoid the inevitable penalties from Google for having duplicate content on your site.
  3. Check out local options for your mobile site and make sure to use them. You want customers to be able to access your site from anywhere, and that means not skimping on having a mobile-friendly or (even better) mobile-adaptive website. Your site needs to be quick to load, easy to read, and simple to navigate. It also needs to have the same information and functionality as your regular site.
  4. Separate your franchise. If one franchisee runs into a reputation problem, do what you can to distance yourself from the problem without badmouthing the company. For example, you might make a point of telling customers on your website or social media that you are “independently owned and operated” or something like that. There are ways to create a buffer zone and preserve the reputation of the company while also reassuring customers.
  5. Make use of two important services, Amazon Home Services, and Google Home Services.
  6. Amazon Home Services is currently available in 15 major metropolitan areas. The way it works is that when customers buy a product on Amazon that’s related to your service, they see a suggestion of local service providers that can help them with it. For example, a customer who buys a new air conditioner might see a selection of HVAC companies in their area who can help them install it. The service is also usable as a stand-alone option to search for services. Providers pay a small fee to Amazon to be included.
  7. Google Home Services works on a similar principle, but it is specific to Google searches. This service is currently being tested in the San Francisco area with plans to expand. When you search for something, part of what you will end up seeing in your search results is a list of local service providers. There are two basic ways to get your company included. First, you can optimize your site for keywords and hope that it shows up in a list of organic search results. Second, you can pay for a Google ad to have your company featured when someone searches for the service you offer.

As long as you pay attention to the five areas detailed above, you can be sure that you are getting the most out of marketing your home service franchise.

Home Services FranchiseThe 5 Biggest Reasons Your Online Marketing Sucks and How to Fix It

Online marketing is an ever-evolving field. New websites, apps, and tools spring up every day. While online marketing is a must for any small business, the fact is that most small businesses aren’t doing a very good job with their online marketing. The chances are that you aren’t doing a great job either – in fact, your online marketing probably sucks.
Offended? Don’t be. Instead, read on to learn about the five biggest reasons your online marketing isn’t getting the job done – and specific steps you can take to remedy the mistakes you’re making.

Reason #1: You’re Not Optimizing Your Website Properly

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is complicated business. You might think that you have done everything you can to optimize your website, but I’m willing to bet that you haven’t. Here are some things you can do to change that:

  1. Pick the right keywords. A lot of small businesses try to optimize for head keywords. These are short, general keywords, and there tends to be a lot of competition for them. You should be aiming for medium-tail or long-tail keywords.
  2. Think about keywords in the right way. A keyword isn’t just a word – it’s a question. When a potential customer goes to Google and types in a keyword, he’s looking for information. He’s asking a question, even if he isn’t wording it like one.
  3. Don’t just include keywords in your content. Make sure to make use of H1 tags, image tags, and any other opportunity you have to use your keywords.
  4. Don’t overdo it with keywords. You need to use them, but the context in which you use them matters as much as the frequency.

Reason #2: You’re Not Analyzing Your Results

A lot of small businesses put up a website and use social media, but they never bother to look at how their marketing efforts are performing. There’s no excuse not to be reviewing that data. Google Analytics provides detailed information showing how people are getting to your site, whether it’s by clicking an ad, finding you on social media, or doing an organic search. Facebook provides detailed analytics too. Here’s what you should be doing:

  1. Look at your Google Analytics data to figure out which pages are attracting the most traffic and where people are bouncing (clicking away) from your website.
  2. Review your Facebook page performance and identify the types of content that get the most views and shares.
  3. Check the open rates and response rates for marketing emails to determine how well they are engaging customers.
  4. Don’t overdo it with keywords. You need to use them, but the context in which you use them matters as much as the frequency.

Reason #3: You’re Not Testing and Refining Your Page Based on the Data

Reviewing the data from Google Analytics and other sources is important, but it won’t help you unless you do something with the data you collect. When you have information about how customers are finding your website, when they’re bouncing away from it, and how engaged they are with your email and social media posts, you can use it to improve your marketing campaigns. Here are some suggestions:

  1. If a page on your website has a high bounce rate, do some A/B testing to see if you can fix the problems customers are having.
  2. Make sure to test only one element at a time. For example, if you think your call to action is the problem, do a test to see how the old one performs against a new version.
  3. Revamp your social media strategy to increase customer engagement. If you see that photographs you post are getting a much higher engagement rate than written posts, you can increase the number of photographs you share. The same goes for checking out engagement based on days of the week or times of day.
  4. Rewrite and split test emails to improve your open and reply rates.

Reason #4: You’re Not Creating Enough Content

In the early days of the internet, Bill Gates famously declared that “Content is king.” His statement was a remarkably prescient one. Today, creating great content is the core of any successful online marketing strategy – yet many small companies drop the ball on this very important task. You can get back on track by:

  1. Starting a blog. Blogging is still very popular, and it’s a great way to engage your customers on a regular basis. Each blog post should offer something of value to your customers, whether it’s a product explanation, some practical advice regarding a topic relevant to your industry, or a how-to video.
  2. Setting up – and sticking to – a social media schedule. Not all of the content you share has to be original. The important thing is that it is (a) relevant to your industry, (b) useful to your customers, and (c) entertaining. To find content, you can follow industry publications and related pages and share their content. Facebook has an automatic scheduling option for businesses, or you can use an online tool to manage all of your social activity at once.
  3. Set aside money in your budget to create videos. Videos are hugely popular and highly shareable, which makes them a great choice for any business.

Reason #5: You’re Not Engaging Customers

Having a Facebook page is great – as far as it goes. However, if your business is forgetting the “social” in social media, then you’re not getting the most out of your pages.
Here are some tips that can help you increase customer engagement and loyalty:

  1. Make sure to monitor your page and reply to comments on a regular basis. Your comments don’t need to be long – sometimes a quick “Thank you” is fine. Customers like to feel that the brands they follow value their presence, and replying to comments is a good way to demonstrate that you do.
  2. Don’t overreact to negative comments and complaints. Sometimes customers take to social media to register a complaint about a product or service. Instead of getting defensive, be grateful for the opportunity to turn a customer’s experience around. Reply quickly and professionally. Other people will see the way you respond, and a courteous and useful response can help win you some new customers.
  3. Give customers a reason to comment. Asking customers to share stories about your product, or asking their opinions about something, is a great way to drive engagement and get customers involved. The more comments you get, the more likely it is that additional people will see your post.

Do these five mistakes sound familiar to you? I’m willing to bet that they do. The good news is that now you know about them, and you’re in the perfect position to revamp your online marketing so that it gets the results you want.

To App or Not to App: Should Your Business Have One?

Today, it seems like there’s a mobile app for just about anything you could possibly want to do or buy. You might think that having an app for your business is a must, but that might not be the case.

How can you determine whether designing and promoting an app makes sense for your business? There are a few important things to consider when you are making your decision:
1.Who are your customers? If you know that the majority of your customers use smartphones based on your web analytics, then having a mobile app might be a good idea. If the majority of your customers are finding your business on desktop computers, on the other hand, you might want to save your money and invest it elsewhere.

  1. Can you afford the development costs? If you’ve got a background in software development you may be able to develop a great app on your own. But if you don’t, you’re going to have to hire someone to do the work, and those costs can add up.
  2. Is there a way for you to monetize your app? Some apps are aimed at making things easier for customers, and the financial benefits of having one might be difficult to quantify. However, if you can have in-app purchasing then it might be very easy for you to recoup your development expenses.
  3. Does your business lend itself to having an app? Apps are popular and a lot of businesses have them, but that doesn’t mean you should automatically jump on the bandwagon. Sometimes there’s a clear use for an app. For example, a lot of restaurants that deliver food have apps to make it easy for customers to order from them.

The last question is arguably the most important one. Developing and promoting an app is only worthwhile if your customers are going to use it. That means that your app needs to cater to your customers’ needs.

Offering Value to Customers

Offering Value of Customers
Even if your initial response is to think that your business doesn’t lend itself to having a mobile app, it’s worth taking a few minutes to think about apps in a big picture kind of way. What does a mobile app need to accomplish to be useful to customers? Any one of the following things might do in terms of offering value to your customers:

  1. Increase customer engagement. Some companies offer apps that make suggestions about how to use products. For example, a food manufacturer might offer an app that features recipes, social sharing, and an occasional coupon or promotion.
  2. Improve customers’ experience. If a lot of your customers are mobile users, it might make sense to offer them a convenient way to make purchases or schedule services from their phones. The Dominos app that allows customers to order pizza using their phones is one good example. You might have a mobile site already, but an app can make purchasing even easier.
  3. Make customers’ lives easier. A lot of banks and credit unions now offer customers a way to deposit checks using their smartphones. Not only are apps that allow deposits great for customer service, they legitimately make their customers’ lives less hectic. Once they would have had to drive to the bank to make a deposit – now they can do it from the comfort of their own homes.
  4. Give customers a reason to visit your store. Some apps use GPS to send out coupons and promotional codes when customers are close to a store.

I hope you get the idea. If you can conceptualize an app that will meet one or more of the above criteria, then it probably makes sense for you to spend the time and money to develop an app for your business.

Ideas for Apps

If you have decided that your business could benefit from having a mobile app, the next step is coming up with a concept for the app. In this section, I’ll give you some ideas for apps that might work well in various industries:

  1. Retail. Retails stores tend to do very well with monetized apps. Here are a few suggestions for how to use them:
  • Send out coupons and promotional codes. Everyone loves to get a deal, and when you send a coupon you give customers a reason to come to your store.
  • Give suggestions on how to use your product. For example, an apparel retailer might add images of items they sell to an app and let customers play mix and match with their merchandise.
  • Enable in-app purchases. Building on the above idea, a great idea for a clothing store would be to let customers mix and match clothing, and then give them an option at the end to buy the ensemble they created.
  1. Service industry. If you are a service provider and not a retailer, you might think that you don’t need a mobile app. However, there are plenty of ways to offer customers value by selling a mobile app. For example:
  • Combine fun and scheduling. A hair salon might offer an app that lets customers “try on” different hair styles, and then makes it possible for them to schedule an appointment when they’re done.
  • Give service reminders. There are plenty of services that require repeat appointments, such as dental cleanings and oil changes. One feature to include with an app might be a reminder to customers to schedule their next appointment and an in-app feature that lets them schedule it from their phone.

Ideas for Apps

Offer related information. Informational apps can be very useful in some instances. For example, an insurance agent might offer an app that lets customers calculate their insurance needs and then request a quote.

  1. Membership services. What if you own a gym or other membership service? Your app options might appear to be limited, but here are a couple of suggestions:
  • Create an app that sends out daily tips and suggestions on a topic that’s relevant to your members.
  • Offer a related service. For example, a gym might offer an app that provided a calorie counter or some healthy recipes.

Some businesses don’t need to have a mobile app to be successful. However, if you have a good idea for an app that offers value and convenience to your customers – and a chance for you to make money – then it’s probably worth the up-front investment it will take to create and market an app of your own.