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Connect with Consumers and Create More Conversions (Part Two)

Picking up where we left off in part one of my chat with the LSA’s Greg Sterling, we continue to dig into tips and tactics for taking a more integrated approach to mobile, websites, business profile pages, local search, print marketing, and more.

JN: How has the explosion of mobile usage affected how businesses connect with consumers (and visa versa)?

GS: Simply put, businesses with effective mobile sites are in a much stronger position to engage consumers than those without. The most successful businesses understand that mobile is likely to be the first and primary way consumers interact with them. They are ready to respond.

Back in the day, the home phone used to be the way consumers connected with businesses. This isn’t to say that phone calls aren’t important today; it’s just that more calls are being made from mobile phones than from (now disappearing) landlines. However, there’s a belief out there that people don’t want to talk on the phone anymore. That’s not entirely true. What mobile phones have done to change consumer behavior is essentially to provide multiple ways for people to communicate with businesses via one device. Businesses need to be ready to respond in every possible way that can be contacted – phone, email, social media, review, and so on.

Direct messaging is particularly interesting to me. The fact that people can send a quick message to say, “Hey are you open?” or “Can I book an appointment?” is stunning in both its simplicity and effectiveness. As an example, a contractor who’s running late to do work at your house could text and say, “I’m running late” now – and that’s seen as perfectly acceptable and respectful. People like, want, and need efficiency. Mobile is driving that shift in a big way.  

JN: With the uptick in mobile usage, local search is becoming a more valuable marketing tactic. What are some of the latest trends proving to be most effective?

GS: The value proposition associated with search is simple: “I’m looking for a business that does XYZ service.” Whether you intentionally make your search local – by adding things like “near me” or “in XYZ city” – there’s a good chance the search engine will provide nearby results by default. Location is used in search algorithms to provide more relevant results to consumers. What consumers may not realize, however, is that location data creates a profile of sorts. For example, if I visit a particular fast food restaurant five times in a week week or tend to frequent my local golf course only on the weekend, those bits of information become part of my digital profile, reflecting my interests and behaviors (both online and offline). The digital advertising I receive in return across all of my devices is then tailored to fit that profile.

These profiles allow businesses and brands to target consumers with greater precision and relevancy. Location data also makes it easier to measure attribution (i.e. if an ad lead to a store visit). This is the bridge between the online and offline worlds. In the past, digital ads were linked directly to search intent. Today, mobile phones can provide businesses with insightful behavioral data, even when you’re not actively searching. The end result is a more relevant, immersive, and productive experience for both consumers and businesses.

JN: What about the role new digital trends play for local business? Virtual assistants, Snapchat, etc.

GS: The industry likes to beat certain ideas into the ground. To say that mobile is on the rise is nothing new. What we should say is that there is an erosion of PC usage as mobile devices become a consumer’s primary communication tool. What this means is that ecommerce will ultimately become a mobile marketplace not too far down the road.

However, there is still a battle going on between apps and websites. Do people prefer apps? It depends on the context or the task at hand. However, we’re starting to see more of a point of convergence as (mobile) websites are looking and feeling a lot more like apps.

As mentioned earlier, direct messaging with businesses is gaining speed. Consumers have so many ways to communicate with businesses (and visa versa) today: text messaging, direct messaging, in-app messaging, social media, etc. The only real challenge here is that not all businesses and consumers are using the same platforms, social media channels, or apps. So, communication is becoming increasingly segmented by platform, which, in turn, parlays into a question of demographics. This is both an opportunity and a challenge at the same time.

JN: It’s also important to mention that print is not dead. How are local businesses successfully integrating print marketing (direct mail, directory listings, ads) into their overall strategy?

GS: Couldn’t agree with you more. Print still has a very important role to play.

It’s a mistake to assume that young people only respond to digital and older people only respond to print. Not the case at all. How consumers – of any age – engage with print and digital marketing varies based on context, location, device, behavior, and other key demographics. For many businesses, print can actually have a lower cost per lead than AdWords and also be a strong tool for driving in-store foot traffic (especially direct mail). Just because mobile is on the rise does not mean that consumers today are oblivious to all things non-digital.

To decide which media is most appropriate for businesses to use to engage their target consumers, you have to look at what’s going on in your industry or category. You can’t make blanket statement like, “People are always using ___.” It’s not true, and it will lead you down a path to nowhere. People today use multiple sources to find information, complete tasks, and make purchases. It’s important to understand what works for your target audience – it’s not one-size-fits-all – and cover your bases accordingly.

JN: Any final words for all our “Local Doers” out there?

GS: I know it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the tools and marketing channels out there, but if you do your homework, experiment, and be patient as results start to pour in, you can come up with an effective marketing strategy – and fast. There’s always a learning curve, but business owners today can overcome it a lot more easily than ever before. Now, if you don’t have the time and resources to dedicate to building and executing a solid marketing strategy, then it’s important to find the right partner to help you along the way (you know, like all of you at YP, The Real Yellow Pages®).


Julie leads the content strategy and events for YP Marketing Solutions, directed at local businesses. She is also a published songwriter and avid runner who enjoys traveling and spending time with her family. You can connect with her on Twitter (@julieneumark) and on LinkedIn

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