Customer Engagement Critical for Local Business Survival During Re-Emergence

It has been an especially hard few months for small businesses, many of which will never reopen or will take months – if not years – to recover financially from the shutdowns and reduced patron numbers. 

Despite the challenges, there are very real opportunities for sustained growth during this time. To survive and thrive during this next period, local businesses must deepen their customer relationships despite having fewer resources available. While it may sound like a conundrum, this actually presents a significant opportunity to deliver a personalized customer experience and drive loyalty. 

Location-Based Search Disrupts Brand-Centric Theory of Marketing

Building a brand will never stop being essential for companies with brick-and-mortar locations hoping to secure the dollars of nearby consumers. But a new report from location marketing firm Uberall suggests the rise of location-based or “near me” search is undermining the power of branding alone, increasing the importance of optimizing for searches in which consumers are simply looking for the closest, most convenient option while on the go.

Top 5 CRO Tools That Will Increase Conversions for Your Small Business

CRO is the process of setting up a website in a way that leads site visitors to take action and purchase products. As a result, they are converted into customers of the business. 

If you have a site that has high traffic, that is naturally a good sign. But it doesn’t mean much unless that traffic leads to conversions. Based on current research, we’ve compiled the top 5 CRO tools that you can use to increase conversions and bring in greater profit.

Yelp Revamps its Business Control Center and Releases Other Pandemic-Adaptive Features

The announcement follows massive layoffs at the company as advertising plunged along with SMB revenue in the face of coronavirus-fueled lockdowns. But a recent Brandify survey showed Yelp remains a massive presence in the local digital marketing space: 64% of US consumers are somewhat or very likely to turn to Yelp when searching for restaurants, second only to the leader across verticals, Google.

Yelp’s new features will prove especially helpful for businesses in the months, if not years during which Covid-19 continues to affect everyday habits, but a number of the changes align with digital marketing best practices that will serve Yelp clients well beyond the next 12 months. Below is a rundown.

With Stimulus Funds Delayed, Small Businesses Digitize for Survival

Experts at helping SMBs adapt to a tech-first commercial landscape say the pandemic has led some businesses to tap into their long-dormant potential as digital marketers and sellers, possibly setting them up for gains in the aftermath of the recession. Now that e-commerce is the only path to survival, mom-and-pop shops, aided by martech firms, agencies, and Silicon Valley giants, are capitalizing on cutting-edge marketing and retail techniques, many for the first time.

Thousands, if not millions, of Main Street businesses will close their doors for good as a result of the pandemic. Those that survive will be technologically savvier and sleeker than they were before.

As Agencies Feel the Squeeze, Covid-19 Reshapes the Martech Industry

One in four small businesses has temporarily shut down, and 43% believe they have fewer than six months until permanent closure is unavoidable. With the small business community in panic mode, budgets for digital marketing have been slashed, and agencies are feeling the pinch.

“Everyone has been in panic mode, and rightly so. Businesses are worried about who might have to be furloughed [or] laid off, getting their PPP loans, what kind of regulations do they need to comply with, [and] what their contingency plans are for keeping any amount of revenue coming in,” says Simon Schwartz, founder of Locasaur. “Businesses are not interested in being pitched new marketing tech.”

Womply, FundRocket Launch SMB Stimulus Program

While Congress continues to deliberate on a stimulus package that will provide as much as $400 billion in aid and loans for small businesses, tech companies that serve SMBs are stepping in to offer their own assistance packages. Among them is reputation management, CRM, and email software firm Womply, which has launched an SMB stimulus program in collaboration with its capital partner, FundRocket. 

How Local Businesses Should Prepare for Coronavirus

A quick Google search on this column’s headline reveals a large number of sites offering recommendations to businesses large and small about how to prepare for the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak as it moves into pandemic territory. Articles on Inc., Fast Company, and the World Economic Forum echo a common theme: Businesses need to develop a plan of action for containing the spread of the illness, as well as contingencies that allow normal operations to continue as smoothly as possible.

In the sphere of digital presence management, key players like Google, Nextdoor, and Facebook are offering recommendations to help businesses develop plans and communicate effectively with consumers who need to access their products and services. The advice comes at a time when business operations may be modified or interrupted by multiple factors such as quarantines and supply chain interruptions.

Capitalizing on the Big Game Buzz on a Shoestring Budget

Iconic moments in Super Bowl history like Oreo’s ‘Dunk in the Dark’ Tweet prove that ads are no longer the only path for creating noise. Smart businesses can capitalize on the game with strategic social content but should not over-rely on it. Instagram and Facebook are notorious for outages during big moments such as Thanksgiving Day in 2019. Twitter has also experienced its fair share of downtime, with outages across platforms lasting as long as 24 hours. 

Instead of zeroing in exclusively on social channels, why not deliver a one-two punch by also serving up relevant content on your business’ blog and website? Here are a few tips to maximize content across marketing channels.

Then vs. Now: 10 Years of Local Search

David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal offer their take on a decade in local search. Among other topics, they take stock of Google’s dominance.

Mike: Now, it seems that the battle to become the hegemon of local has been signed, sealed, and delivered by Google not just in the US but worldwide. Their well-played hand with Android seems to have been the push they needed. And they managed to gain a totally dominant position IN SPITE of the Google Plus fiasco, which started around that time. 

David: Google Plus! I’d honestly forgotten about that debacle already. In our little corner of the world, the fact that Google could waste all those years, person hours, and billions of dollars developing Google Plus and still ascend to its current position in local search shows you just what a colossal opportunity Facebook has missed in this space.

The Path to Agency Scale: Product, Sales, or Both?

David: I’ve been thinking quite a bit about our product mix at ThriveHive recently. And in particular the segmentation of the various offerings of our newly combined GateHouse/Gannett company by customer budget.

It has surprised me, frankly, that so few agencies seem to go to market with the essential digital marketing bundle for local businesses you and I proposed exactly two years ago. In re-reading that article, I’d still give the same advice today and with even more urgency based on the rollout of Local Service Ads.

Last-Minute Shoppers Help Small Retailers Compete with Amazon for Holiday Sales

During the holiday shopping season, it’s Amazon’s world — or is it?

Outside the digital sphere, brick-and-mortar holiday sales at big-box shops like Walmart and Best Buy continue to be buoyed by bullish shoppers willing to hit the streets in search of timely deals during consumer-focused quasi-holidays like Black Friday. As a result, shoppers are spending more during the holidays than ever before. 

And then there’s the independent, local retailer. How is a small shop supposed to compete with the ease of mobile e-commerce or the allure of big-box doorbuster deals? Turns out, they have an ace in the hole: last-minute shoppers. 

Nextdoor Releases Local Deals to Connect Businesses with Nearby Customers

Nextdoor, the social networking app that requires users to enter a verified address in order to connect neighbors, is announcing local deals, a feature that will allow businesses on the platform to promote sales, discounts, and other offers to nearby customers.

Nextdoor is active in more than 248,000 neighborhoods across 11 countries.

Constant Contact Expands Beyond Email, Adds Website Builder for SMBs

Constant Contact, known for its email marketing platform, is expanding to offer an AI-driven website builder as well as tools for branding, productivity, and e-commerce. It’s the first major expansion for Constant Contact since its acquisition by Endurance International Group.

The company’s new website builder is specifically designed for SMB owners and operators without the time or expertise typically required to build an effective site from scratch. Constant Contact claims sites can be created in minutes.

Embracing Hyperlocal Creative at Scale

The challenge of authentic content is doing it at scale, in a way that is brand safe, across all markets. While creating custom content could seem like a feasible task for international companies with endless resources at their fingertips, even legacy brands all too often struggle with personalized, custom, local content at scale. It’s equally as challenging for local businesses like franchises, small agencies, and Mom-and-Pop shops who are charged with many business tasks outside of content creation. One of the pivotal concerns in digital marketing as it applies to content and content creation is having an efficient process to scale content production. 

So, how can franchises, local businesses, and brands scale their creative marketing content to better reach local markets?

The Retailpocalypse Doesn’t Have to Be Scary for Local Businesses

Headlines about retail closures suggest it’s Amazon’s world and we’re all just living in it, but there’s more to the story. For local businesses, in particular, there’s ample reason to be optimistic that the retail apocalypse doesn’t have to spell end times. In fact, exactly the opposite could be true. Let’s walk through a few of the reasons for optimism. 

Google’s Fake Listings Problem Gets More Attention—and May Spur Regulation

Blumenthal to Mihm: It seems to me that Google could take the fake listings issue off the table by seriously investing in cleaning up the fake listing and fake review issue. I just don’t think that they think that way.

At a minimum, as the company that has the monopoly in the local space, Google faces the expectation and responsibility to provide a service that truly serves the public and businesses. And they seem to forget that.

Google Antitrust: Is It Enough for Yelp?

Mihm to Blumenthal: I’m not averse to the idea of the government regulating Google’s practices in Maps or local search, but it feels like rewarding Yelp in particular is not going to bring consumers any particular benefit, nor will it meaningfully benefit small businesses, as Elizabeth Warren seems to indicate is a primary goal of her plan.

If anything, Google has gone out of its way to help small businesses compete in its search results with the introduction of the local pack and the Venice update, whereas small businesses continue to rate Yelp as poorly as any company in tech.

SMBs Warm Up to New Tech But Are Skeptical of Impersonal Interactions

A freshly released report from SMB software firm Broadly uses data from a survey of 300 SMB leaders to paint a picture of the American SMB in 2019: gradually embracing mobile-first communication, skeptical of innovation that undercuts human connection, and ambivalent toward large digital marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy.

Who’s Winning the Reviews Race? How Do We Define Winning?

In their latest Street Fight conversation, Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm examine the state of the local reviews space and assess the reasons for Google’s dominance. “For me, the question of the future is whether Google’s behaviors will impact the remaining vertical sites over the next 10 years,” Mike writes.