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April 17, 2015

“Trust Is the New Black”: Marketo Summit 2015 Recap

By Andy Caron

Local marketing was the focus of three sessions conducted at the 2015 Marketo Marketing Nation Summit, held April 13-15 in San Francisco. One of the key take-aways: being locally relevant and accessible means finding a way to speak to customers in their local language (whether via local terminology or a different dialect). Doing so will make your brand not only more relevant and accessible, but also trusted.

Marketo partnered with several technology providers to present the results driven for co-customers through locally focused campaigns. In the session, Localization Is the Ultimate Form of Personalization, Marketo and Cloudwords discussed how they have partnered in order to roll out campaigns in native languages of target buyers of Sherwin-Williams. Cloudwords provided a translation management system that allowed Sherwin-Williams to translate its content into each local language used by the customer, ultimately, building confidence that the company’s message would be effective and consistent regardless of the location in which the content was received. And in the session, The Power of Print: Running a National Campaign with a Localized Feel, Marketo and PrintingForLess.com presented a success story for localized promotional strategies from their work with Mathnasium. The co-presentation demonstrated how the local mindset can grow a brand.

During one of the keynotes, Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, said, “Trust is the New Black.” Drawing on her experience in building The Huffington Post, she asserted that loyalty is built from value, and ultimately trust in the brand must be the goal for connecting with customers. It has been my experience as a marketer that trust is built when brands provide a relevant, useful, and easy experience for the customer. If trust is the new black, then at the local level, trust starts with having accurate, easily accessible data that enriches a customer’s experience with a brand. For instance, when your brand provides accurate name, address, and phone information for your local storefronts, you build trust. When you mislead potential customers with inaccurate data, you erode trust.

So what does accurate, easily accessible local data mean to engagement marketers?

At SIM Partners, we believe it means driving local customer acquisition by optimizing and promoting local data. If a conversation starts with the customer finding the brand through a local channel, a transition to an ongoing engagement campaign that keeps the conversation local focused and relevant and can help a brand maintain and build trust. We agree: trust is the new black — and you build trust locally with one piece of data at a time.

April 15, 2015

From Discovery to Delivery: The New Patient Journey

By Amanda Bury

Patients are acting more like savvy consumers in the way they make their healthcare choices. This trend was a key theme discussed at the 2015 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference, which drew nearly 40,000 healthcare marketers and information technology professionals April 12-16 in Chicago. One of the key takeaways: healthcare systems providers have an opportunity to be visible, relevant, and engaging in the moments where and when patients are looking for them across search, social, and mobile.

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April 13, 2015

Insurance Brands: Local/Mobile Search Is Your Digital Secret Weapon

By Jill Linsenberg

Photo credit: Business Today

During the past several months I have noticed that thought leaders are becoming increasingly outspoken about the need for insurers to embrace technology or else risk extinction. If you are one of the many insurance brands feeling the pressure to adapt to digital, don’t forget to capitalize on an essential asset: a local/mobile search program that maximizes the value of your network of agents and brokers.

Pundits Apply Pressure

A number of publications have identified risks and opportunities that come with digital. For example, on March 26, Propertycasualty360.com stated, “Technology is also affecting how businesses grow and what will identify them as a leader going forward. As technology expands and allows consumers to operate in the digital space, insurers are finding that they must adapt to these changes to meet customers’ growing expectations.”

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April 8, 2015

“Mobilegeddon” or Mobile Movement?

By Adam Dorfman

It seems like everywhere I look — Twitter, Google, Facebook — I keep seeing the word “Mobilegeddon”.

For all of those worried about Google’s upcoming algorithm update coming to a SERP near you on April 21st — don’t panic. Whether you have noticed it or not, Google has been moving in this direction for quite a while.

For some perspective on “Mobilegeddon,” and what it means to your brand, check out my byline in Search Engine Land.

Is your website mobile friendly? If so, what benefits have you been seeing as a result?

April 2, 2015

Four Reasons Why Banks Struggle with Local Marketing Online

By Brett Fritz

Photo credit: http://www.financialjobsweb.com/images/banking-jobs.jpg

Why do banks struggle with local online marketing? Only 46.9 percent of banks will increase their digital marketing budgets in 2015, whereas 80 percent of businesses across the board will increase their digital marketing budgets for the year, according to a study conducted by Mondo. Additionally, banks say they will put only 20 to 30 percent of their budget towards online marketing efforts, such as advertising, social media, and paid search. Following are four major impediments to banks investing into local marketing online — and tips for overcoming those obstacles.

Reason #1 – Issues creating local content, at scale

Most digital marketers have heard the saying that “content is king.” This mantra holds true for banking as well. The problem is that many banks have a hard time creating local content at scale — content that should be properly optimized for online search results. Simply putting up a branch web page or an online business card for your mortgage loan officers is not enough; banks need to publish unique local content that will help the brand gain visibility, website traffic, and online conversions from non-branded search terms.

Tips:

  • Empower your field employees to become content writers for you. Allowing your field to write content will scale your content, especially if your marketing staff is small. (Note: if compliance is an obstacle for you to implement this tip, please review Reason #4 in this post.)
  • Use a local marketing automation platform that can create and publish local content, at scale.

Reason #2 – An internal lack of digital marketing expertise

Did you know that in 2014 Google released 15 major algorithm updates and more than 890 product updates and changes? Most banking marketers are very good at marketing their bank and financial service products but lack the expertise concerning the changes in the world of digital marketing. Not keeping a pulse on how the digital landscape is evolving can be very detrimental to how your bank will achieve success online.

Tips:

  • Take time once a day/week to read up on digital trends. Some great resources to consider are: American Banker TechnologySearch Engine Watch, and the Moz Blog.
  • Hire an expert to join your team. Hiring someone with a digital marketing background will bring a new perspective that can yield great results to your marketing initiatives.

Reason #3 – Belief there is no budget available

Bank marketers have a hard time correlating an investment in digital marketing to a direct ROI received for the bank. When bank marketers consider local marketing initiatives online, the relationship between investment and return can become even fuzzier. Many banks end up staying the course with existing marketing programs that have proven out a positive ROI for them in the past, even if there are new opportunities that could produce an even greater return.

Tips:

  • Make sure your local marketing projects have a tangible way to measure ROI. For example, if you are measuring increases in website traffic, are you also able measure the amount of new checking account signups that occurred because of the program’s efforts?
  • Review your existing marketing programs and compare them against the expected return on your proposed local marketing project. Slowly reallocate budget over to the new local marketing project as it proves to produce the better ROI.

Reason #4 – Compliance, compliance, and more compliance

Working in a heavily regulated industry creates additional work and compliance obstacles for the marketing department within the bank. As a bank marketer you need to fully understand how compliance and regulations affect your marketing program. Remember that your compliance team is there to help you, not hinder you. Implementing your digital marketing efforts in a compliant way will ultimately help your brand and protect your business in the long-term.

Tips:

  • Create a process in which your compliance team is included in the digital marketing planning and roadmap. Allow the compliance team to be your partner early in the project launch cycle to ensure there are no obstacles introduced at a later stage.
  • Implement a workflow and approval process for how content is created. Doing so is especially important if you make your field employees part of your content creation team. Don’t allow any newly created content to get published online without first being approved from the compliance team.

Some common themes emerge in our tips: empowerment and collaboration. As a marketing executive in the financial services industry, you should empower yourself to learn constantly, and empower those around you to become stronger brand ambassadors by sharing content. And you can overcome so many obstacles by collaborating with the stakeholders who share in your success, such as compliance teams. By constantly improving and collaborating, you can make digital succeed for your brand.

April 1, 2015

Apply the “20-Second” Rule to Your Local Online Customer Experience

By Phil Rapisardo

Photo credit: foxbusiness.com

Is the local online user experience for your brand stopping potential customers from buying from you?

I recently had a poor experience with a brand’s website where, despite wanting to, I struggled to become a customer. The page was full of rich, relevant content, but I needed to ask a question before making a purchase, and I could not find a phone number to do so. Eventually I found a clunky form that I could fill out to get an appointment, but not an answer to my question. I wanted to talk with the brand — but I could not do so easily.

I wish the brand I encountered had applied the “20-second rule” of sales to its website experience. As manager of the Inside Sales Team at SIM Partners, I have a general rule for cold calls: never speak for more than 20 consecutive seconds without letting the prospect say something. Potential customers often are eager to tell you what they want, but you have to give them the opportunity to speak and even act.

The 20-second rule applies to multi-location brands. Quite justifiably, many large enterprises have invested a lot of money and resources into building content and a search program to help customers find their content. In other words, they’re good at talking about themselves. But brands also need to give prospects a fast, simple way to become customers by encouraging interaction and allowing a simple way to complete a transaction.

So how do you ensure you aren’t getting in your own way? The key is to establish clear calls to action (CTAs) that can trigger conversion the moment customers determine they want to do business. Here are a few steps to optimize your user experience for conversion:

  • If you have not done so already, establish the CTAs that are most important to your brand. You probably need two to three at most.
  • Place those CTAs directly on your locator. Converting straight from your locator is great. Don’t let “page views” to location pages get in the way of your end goal, which is acquiring customers.
  • Publish the CTAs in multiple places on individual location pages. Regardless of what section of the page consumers are visiting, or what device they’re using, they should always have a simple way to become your customer.
  • Don’t talk yourself out of the simplest way for a customer to do business with you. In my personal example, all I wanted was a phone number, and it wasn’t given to me. Internal headaches (like not enough resources to answer a phone call) shouldn’t trump a quality customer experience.

We have a philosophy at SIM Partners that the brands that are closest to their customers will win. Let’s make sure that once your brand is close to a potential customer, you get out of the way and let them give you their business!

March 31, 2015

Announcing the SIM Partners Local SEO Platform Buyer’s Guide — Second Edition

By Tari Haro

Natural search is exploding in 2015, and brands are beefing up their search optimization (SEO) programs to gain their share of natural search traffic at all levels, including local SEO. But local SEO is a complex undertaking, especially for businesses that want to scale their efforts across thousands of markets instead of just a few hundred locations. The amount of business data and information about each one of these locations currently on the Web is staggering.

Fortunately, many tools and technologies are available to help brands succeed. Some vendors offer very specific services that might be used in tandem with different local tools. Other larger, holistic platforms address broader local SEO needs. To help marketers understand how to choose the best platform to support their local SEO programs, SIM Partners has published the Local SEO Platforms Buyer’s Guide. The buyer’s guide is essential for any large enterprise brand to maximize the value of its SEO efforts.

The SIM Partners Local SEO Platforms Buyer’s Guide will help any company with a large regional, national, or global footprint assess local SEO platforms. With this guide, you will be prepared to make sense of the crowded marketplace of available tools, define your goals for selecting a platform, and understand the benefits these tools will deliver, such as simplifying your local search efforts and boosting customer acquisition. We break down the selection process into four steps that will make tool assessment more understandable. We also address common barriers to implementing a complex SEO program and how to overcome those barriers.

By selecting the right local SEO platform, you are well on your way to unleashing more value from local SEO than you ever thought possible. We encourage you to download a copy and maximize the long-term value of local SEO platforms here: http://resources.simpartners.com/the-definitive-local-seo-tools-buyers-guide/

March 27, 2015

Digital: Disruption or Opportunity for the Insurance Industry?

By Jill Linsenberg

For the insurance industry, disruption has arrived in the form of a category 4 storm. According to Ellen Carney of Forrester Research, insurance companies are being rocked by a combination of forces: rising expectations from increasingly sophisticated customers, the entrance of new competitors, and an explosion in available product options. For insurers and the agents who sell for them, it’s time to batten down the hatches and change course or risk near certain peril. And digital is key to change.

Forward thinking enterprise brands see these changes collectively as an amazing opportunity to go where their customers are and make digital a key component of the customer journey instead of viewing digital as another force of disruption. These changes in the industry are revealing new opportunities for brands to use digital technology to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape and scale efforts at the local level in partnership with the agents who sell for them.

And increasingly, local search is essential to acquiring and keeping customers along the journey. A well-formulated and executed local search program can help an enterprise brand with multiple locations achieve reach and scale quickly. Local search can help insurance brands not only level the playing field against new entrants but also build customer relationships effectively by sharing relevant content at key moments throughout the customer journey.

Photo credit: http://www.cbg.gm/images/insurance.jpg

In a recently published blog post, Ellen Carney says insurance companies cannot afford to take the “wait and see” approach with digital and must act now. She notes how digital is a double-edged sword, too. “Digital technology has done more than simply enable the insurance customer in 2015: Your customers and agents have been emboldened by the speed at which they can consume find information and share their experiences,” she writes. Note that even as digital makes customers more savvy, digital also creates an opportunity for agents to up their game.

What is your insurance brand doing to integrate a local/digital approach into the customer journey?

March 26, 2015

SIM Partners Joins Factual’s Trusted Data Contributor Program

By Gib Olander

You often hear local search described as an ecosystem of interrelated stakeholders and technologies, with the brand and consumer residing at the center. When one member of the ecosystem changes — such as when Google announces an algorithm update — the entire chain is affected. Today, SIM Partners received some recognition for helping our clients extend their reach across the local marketing ecosystem: we have been named an official partner for Factual’s Trusted Data Contributor Program.

Factual is a location platform that makes it possible for brands to harness global data to provide personalized and contextually relevant mobile experiences at the local level. (The company was recently cited as one of the hottest start-ups in Los Angeles, too.) SIM Partners works with Factual to disseminate customer data across the entire Factual network. Being a member of the Factual program means that Factual trusts SIM Partners to contribute, on our clients’ behalf, authoritative customer data. (The only other way a brand can provide data to Factual is via Factual’s own application programming interface.)

Distributing business data to the foundational layer of local search is a core component of a brand’s long-term successful local marketing strategy. Deepening our partnership with Factual makes sense for SIM Partners because Factual is already an important part of the local search ecosystem owing to the companies already using Factual data for local marketing.

Factual also does a great job of making data easily available to new and emerging local search or mobile app developers. Our partnership means that the next wave of great local search utilities that are launched will have access to our clients accurate, complete, and fresh business listing data as those emerging utilities gain users.

SIM Partners is one of 13 new partners in the program. As Factual noted, “This select number of partners provide high-quality data to Factual and equally excellent service to their customers. These organizations have a large number of SMBs and national brands under their belt, and we gladly help them disseminate their customer’s data with fidelity across our network.”

We are proud to strengthen our ties to the Factual ecosystem.

March 24, 2015

Twitter and Foursquare Partner to Add Geo-Specific Locations to Tweets

By Adam Dorfman

Location and context just became more important to brands. On March 23, Twitter disclosed a relationship with Foursquare to make it possible for people to add specific locations to their Tweets. In other words, you can give your tweets additional context by sharing your location (e.g., “Starbucks, 123 Mission Street. San Francisco”) along with your activity. The relationship underscores how important it is for brands to create personal, contextual relationships with customers at the local level — such as by offering location-specific offers targeted to Twitter users based on their location and activity.

Twitter users are already able to add cities or neighborhoods to their tweets. But as explained on the Twitter website, soon users will be able to add specific locations– such as restaurants, businesses, and retail stores. As Twitter notes, “You can choose to add a location to your Tweets using Twitter for Android, Twitter for iOS, twitter.com or other mobile applications.” The mobile applicability is crucial: mobile searches are expected to surpass desktop searches in 2015, per eMarketer.

The Twitter/Foursquare relationship creates an opportunity for businesses (such as large enterprises with multiple locations) to create more location-relevant information, such as offers and recommendations. For instance, if you Tweet about the lunch you are having in the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, the Banana Republic Twitter account that you follow just might want to let you know about a sale going on at the nearby Banana Republic in the Financial Center. But retailers are not the only brands that can benefit. For instance, a medical practice might share with you information about the doctors at its location depending on where you are and what you are doing.

The relationship is also a huge win for Foursquare because Foursquare extends its reach as a source of business data for third-party applications. Foursquare already supplies data to Uber and Pinterest to make those apps more locally relevant. Partnering with Twitter makes Foursquare a more influential player in local search.

For brands to succeed, they should consider carefully the importance of context. Brands that tweet offers willy-nilly based on someone’s location may alienate customers and prospects. Brands that take into account a person’s context — such as the time of day a tweet is shared, the actual content and tone of the tweet — will win by being relevant.

Photo Credit: TechCrunch