When Google unleashed its Pigeon update months ago, my colleagues at SIM Partners and I agreed that it would take some time before we could assess Pigeon’s impact on brands. Since then, using the Velocity platform, we have researched its effect on clients and have learned that Pigeon has a number of implications for brands. Studying 5,000 location pages across several industries, we wanted to know how Pigeon affects crucial factors such as website traffic and ranking performance among businesses that depend on local listings. I discuss the results of our study in my new byline for Search Engine Land and encourage you to read our findings and let us know how Pigeon is affecting your brand. Read the article here!
With 72 percent of consumers searching for local information on a smartphone visiting a store or location within five miles (and likely within five to ten minutes), the local marketing opportunity is clear. But local marketing consists of more than just optimized pages and listings — it’s a complex ecosystem that is always on and always changing. Many marketers struggle to take advantage of the local marketing opportunity because of its complex nature.
Enter the local marketing adoption curve. By taking a phased crawl, walk, run approach to building a comprehensive, cross-functional local marketing program, brands can be more visible, relevant and engaging in the eyes of their consumers and, ultimately, drive customer acquisition across hundreds to thousands of locations. In my new column for Search Engine Watch, I introduce the marketing adoption curve and discuss the concept in more detail. As you can see from my column, local marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Your ability to embrace and manage the adoption of local marketing will determine your rate of success. I encourage you to review the details and let me know where your brand lives on the local marketing adoption curve.
This week our Team Member Spotlight features Annie Badeusz, our Sales Support Administrator!
Who in your life has influenced you the most? How did they do it?
The people in my life who influence me most are definitely my parents. They taught me from an early age you need to work hard and put yourself out there to get where you want to go.
If you could buy one thing to complete your home, what would it be?
If I could buy one thing to complete my home it would be a Bath & Body Works 3-wick “Leaves” scented candle. Go get one and thank me later.
Why do you like working at SIM Partners?
My favorite thing about working at SIM is knowing that your work has an impact. Every day working here is different, it’s a great learning environment full of challenges. Everyone here works so hard at what they do and they enjoy it which is great to be a part of.
Eighty percent of consumer buying activity takes place within 15 miles of the home. But brands struggle to define, implement, and track the local opportunity across paid, earned, and owned media. According to Jon Schepke, CEO of SIM Partners, brands can achieve a breakthrough by learning how to crawl, walk, and run with local. He shared his insights September 24 via his presentation, Defining the Local Opportunity, at the SIM Partners annual SIMposium event.
SIMposium explores the tools and techniques that brands need to drive customer acquisition with always-on consumers, especially at the local level. Schepke shared with executives in attendance an approach for understanding the local marketing opportunity.
He set the context by sharing some compelling Google data: 72 percent of consumers who search for local information on smartphone visit a store within 5 miles. And local search converts at a higher rate than other forms of search engine marketing.
And yet, not enough companies are building their brands at the local level — partly because mastering local means embracing search, social, and mobile, “a dynamic ecosystem that requires brands to adapt constantly,” according to Schepke. And understanding the complexity of the ecosystem can be a challenge even for the most digitally savvy marketers.
He also previewed forthcoming research from SIM Partners and Forrester Research, which includes a survey of brand executives that reports their perceptions of local marketing. The survey uncovers a number of perceived barriers to local marketing, as identified by the executives surveyed. Among those challenges:
- Brands need to take control of their local data. He recounted how SIM Partners recently met with a company that believed it would take 18 months to organize its local data before embracing the local opportunity. As it turned out, the brand really did not need 18 months to clean up its data; in fact, SIM Partners was able to tackle many of the brand’s problems in about one week. The brand needed someone with experience to help in order to realize that its obstacle was not as bad as perceived.
- Brands struggle to prove the value of local marketing. Schepke stressed that proving the value of local marketing is more of a perceived obstacle, not a real one. “The issue is not proving value but making sure you are defining the appropriate KPIs to determine local return on investment.”
On the other hand, brands told SIM Partners and Forrester that they understand the potential benefits of a local strategy, such as getting more qualified leads and differentiating their brands.
“Marketers see the opportunity,” he said. “They just need to know how to seize it.”
Seizing that opportunity means recognizing that local is complex — too complex to simply “dive in and do local search” without a well defined approach. Google and its myriad updates alone can present a daunting challenge to any marketer. At various times, Google’s updates, ranging from Carousel to Hummingbird, have forced marketers to address responsive design and rethink their approaches to using Google+. All told, Google released 890 updates in the past year alone.
In such a constantly evolving digital landscape, Schepke suggested brands approach the local opportunity by, crawling, walking, and running:
- Crawl: get the basics right, such as listing management. Cleanse your data and ensure that your brand information is consistent across multiple channels.
- Walk: think more seriously about how location pages are optimized. Leverage dynamic content. Claim and optimize every Google+ listing. At this point, you should be getting enough analytics data to start capitalizing on the opportunity to build your brand.
- Run: have a strategy, tools, and technology to post information with the right content at the right time. Implement an effective pay-per-click (PPC) strategy.
“Once brands learn how to run correctly, they see major benefits such as increased lead volume and lower cost per lead,” he said. “There is no question about measuring the value of local.”
He also shared how technologies such as SIM Partners’s own Velocity platform helps marketers embrace local by making big data actionable. He indicated that through its partnership with Signal, Velocity will be able to more effectively collect and understand customer behavior in real-time, online and offline. Velocity will therefore be able to anticipate local behavior and act on it — for instance, serving up information about local home insurance options for a customer who is buying a home.
“Local is all about commitment,” he concluded. “Brands that apply the time and resources to implement and track local campaigns are predetermined to be more successful than those that do not.”
Digital disruption is an opportunity, not a threat. But only brands that build customer relationships will prosper from digital disruption, according to Shar VanBoskirk, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. The power of digital disruption was the key theme of VanBoskirk’s presentation, A Look Ahead: Forrester’s Interactive Marketing Forecast, delivered September 24 at the SIM Partners annual SIMposium event.
SIMposium explores the tools and techniques that brands need to drive customer acquisition with always-on consumers, especially at the local level. VanBoskirk kicked off the event to deliver Forrester’s forecast for how brands are investing their 2015 marketing budgets. But she also provided a broad context for the numbers by discussing the key driver for marketing spend: digital disruption.
“Digital disruption changes the way companies not only market themselves but also operate their businesses,” she said. For instance, Walgreens has adapted to the disruptive power of mobile to create a photo app that enables customers to print photos in-store via their mobile device. Rolls Royce relies on digital to act as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) for the airlines industry, thus leasing its engines for air travel, not just automotive use.
The New Face of Disruption
Disruption itself is not new, according to VanBoskirk. What’s new is the impact of digital. Thanks to digital, disruption comes from 10 times the number of innovators, and from companies outside your industry. Digital disruption comes at one-tenth the cost and delivers 100 times the power of other disruptive forces. As a result, brands are reeling from competition that arises from unexpected sources. Weight Watchers’s earnings and stock prices have been on the decline because competitors like MyFitnessPal are stealing customers. Netflix has 44 million subscribers — twice as many as Comcast has.
“Disruption is not about changing a function but changing a business,” she said.
So what determines whether a company will be a disruptor instead of being disrupted? Answer: a focus on customer relationships. “Your only differentiator in the age of digital disruption consists of customer relationship,” she said. “We have moved from an age in which giants like Ford and GE dominated via mass manufacturing to the age of the customer, when brands like USAA and Amazon rely on customer insight to satisfy empowered customers.”
But simply “building customer relationships” is not enough to differentiate a brand. Creating better relationships by being aware of customer context is the key to success.
“Marketing has a new remit: context,” she said.
Context means adapting your content and style to how and where customers interact with your brand. Context means adapting your customer experience depending on whether your customer is using a smartphone or a laptop to interact with your brand. Context means being aware of your customer’s location — for instance, nimbly localizing the content you share with a customer when she travels from Boston to Chicago.
“When you are context-aware, marketing shifts from being a creator of message to being an entity that stimulates value-based interactions between your brand and customer,” she said. “In the age of the customer, savvy marketers are guided by constructs such as the customer lifecycle, as opposed to marketing campaigns. In the age of the customer, interactions between customers and brands are continuous.”
According to VanBoskirk, context-aware brands focus on interactions, not campaigns. They focus on customer recognition, not customer segmentation. They focus customer moments, not on media schedules. Context-aware brands invest in tools that build customer insight, such as journey maps and customer personas. They create content that is shareable and trackable in context of customer behaviors, and less on mass advertising. And at the center of context-aware customer relationship building: strong technology, which is the contextual marketing engine that fuels customer insight.
What Should Marketers Do Next?
VanBoskirk concluded the talk by challenging brands to jump-start their businesses in a number of fundamental ways. She offered these next steps:
- Embrace agile tools and processes. For instance, Deloitte uses nimble technologies such as Yammer to manage its business more effectively and bring new ideas to market faster.
- Go local. Have global business stories, but make them local in order to be more context-aware. U.S. Bank, for instance, works with SIM Partners to improve its local presence via social media, mobile, and search.
- Take measured risks. Dedicate resources, time, and budget to try different approaches to business. For instance, adidas piloted a prototype interactive sneaker wall that was then rolled out into retail stores — all because of a measured approach to taking a risk in the way the brand interacts with customers.
- Use customer knowledge to stretch your business model. For instance, Haier, an appliance manufacturer, created a combined washer/dryer unit used in rural Chinese households. The company received an inordinate number of service calls from units that were breaking because customers were using the washer/dryers to wash vegetables. Conventional product strategy would have been to blame customers for misusing the machines. But instead, Haier acted on the customer feedback and created a unit that also washes and peels vegetables.
VanBoskirk’s presentation reflects a more tempered approach to discussing digital disruption than I have experienced with other thought leaders. Many pundits have discussed disruption as a scary cataclysm. VanBoskirk’s discussion did not minimalize the impact of digital disruption. But she took the conversation about disruption from a place of dread and fear to acceptance.
This week, the SIM Partners team, our clients and channel partners will gather in Chicago for our third annual SIMposium. This year the event will explore the tools and techniques marketers can use to build velocity for their brands and businesses to drive customer acquisition…everywhere.
The explosion of channels and devices has made the opportunity to connect with consumers more exciting, as well as more challenging, than ever. Today, brands are living in a dynamic ecosystem that is interconnected, fast-moving and always on. To succeed, brands must be visible where and when their customers are looking for them — locally, nationally and globally — as well as contextually relevant and engaging in the content and experiences they provide across the entire journey.
Through keynote presentations, networking and panel discussions, SIMposium attendees will have an opportunity to share with and learn from top marketers — including Allstate, US Bank and Northern Trust — who are dealing with these challenges. Industry thought leaders will also share their perspectives, including:
Shar VanBoskirk, Forrester vice president and principal analyst serving marketing leadership professionals, will give attendees a sneak preview of her digital marketing outlook report.
Jason Holmes, chief client officer of Marketo, will help attendees understand the evolution of marketing automation for BtoC marketers.
Jon Schepke, CEO of SIM Partners, will share research insights from an upcoming Forrester Thought Leadership Paper on the local marketing opportunity for enterprise brands.
For those not able to attend, you can follow the event in real-time on Twitter using the hashtag #SIMposium. We will also be sharing presentations after the event — watch this space for more insights on the tools and techniques brands can use to drive customer acquisition everywhere.
This week our Team Member Spotlight features Neal Deters, our Local Search Marketing Associate.
1. What do you feel is the most enjoyable way to spend $25? Why?
The most enjoyable way to spend $25 for me would be going to the movies. I watch a lot of TV shows and Movies in my free time, but going to the actual movies with friends is always the most fun.
2. If you could travel back in time to any specific event or era, where would you go and why?
If I could travel back in time, I would go back to the early 90’s during the rise of the commercial Internet. I have always grown up with the Internet around me, but have never quite fully understood the impacts it had early on in people’s lives. Seeing that unfold would be very amazing to witness.
3. What is your favorite part about working at SIM Partners?
My favorite thing about working at SIM is the ability to work with so many different departments to create a positive impact for all of our clients. Everyone at SIM cares deeply about giving clients the best possible service and that is something I truly admire.
We are absolutely thrilled to be nominated for the 2014 ITA CityLights Rising Star Award! These awards celebrate some of the most innovative technology companies in our state, and we are proud to be included with the other fantastic companies that are nominated.
Please help us win by voting for us! Voting ends Monday, September 8th.
From a “selfie” contest to majestic views of Park City, Utah, the 2014 Digiday Retail Summit did not disappoint. The conference brings the best in the retail world together for thought leadership and all things digital. Read more »
Google’s update to their local search algorithm, dubbed Pigeon, has been live for roughly 2 weeks. It’s clear that Pigeon is still mixing things up and we can expect more updates in the future. This recent update would suggest that citations are no longer enough when trying to rank locally. A more holistic approach involving both listing management and traditional SEO must be a part of your digital marketing strategy. While the impact is still largely unclear, I’ve outlined a few theories. The Pigeon update can be outlined by these two points below:
- Local search results are now tied more closely with traditional SEO signals.
- The update supposedly puts more weight on distance and location ranking signals.
Citations don’t play as big of a visible role as they used to Read more »