Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Online marketing: A roadmap for local businesses

Whether you’re an independent operator or a franchisee, the challenge of marketing a local business is the same: geography. Since your business territory is limited, your marketing efforts should be localized; ideally, they should also be targeted at consumers who are actually potential customers.

While conventional local marketing channels (e.g. radio ads, mailers, etc.) allow you to blanket a given geographic area, they can only offer a spray-and-pray approach: you do reach local consumers, but many of them are not necessarily interested in your products/services, so you end up paying for exposure that’s not really relevant to your business.


Several online channels, however, offer local businesses marketing opportunities that are not just localized, but targeted, as well. In fact, marketing your local business online offers a better return on its marketing dollar, allowing you to increase sales while saving on resources that you can ultimately invest back into your business.

Google my business

For the most part, Google+ was the search giant’s failed attempt to eat into Facebook market share. While it was a flop as a social network, it did give local businesses a powerful and effective way to target local users. Google My Business helps local businesses target customers who are looking for their services on search or in Google Maps.

Search engine users are the most targeted users online because they’re already looking for your products/services. Targeting them through a Google My Business page, moreover, is doubly effective because it allows businesses to target local users who are in close proximity to their brick-and-mortar locations.

Hotel de Ville

Once you’ve created and verified your local business with Google, your My Business profile will show up in search results for your business’s name, helping you establish legitimacy and capture users’ attention. More importantly, though, Google My Business pages also power Local Search Results, allowing businesses to target consumers in their neighbourhood searching for their products/services.


Yelp for business owners

When it comes to local business listings, Yelp is quickly displacing directories such as the Yellow Pages. In fact, a 2013 study by The Boston Consulting Group found that businesses who claimed their free Yelp Business page generated approximately $8,000 in annual incremental revenue. Similarly, a Nielsen study that same year found that 82 per cent of users visit the site when preparing to make a purchase, with 89 per cent of them making a purchase within a week of finding a business on Yelp.


Source: Yelp Fact Sheet.

Source: Yelp Fact Sheet

Indeed, your business may already be listed on Yelp (submitted by either users or Yelp itself), and Yelpers may already be reviewing your products/services. By claiming your Yelp business profile, though, you can better engage local consumers, manage your business’s reputation, and drive more foot traffic through the door (consider these case studies). It will also help your business capture an additional piece of real estate in search engine results.

“Yelp was incredibly effective for bringing in foot traffic when we first opened our doors just over a year ago,” says Adriano Mielewczyk, owner of Scotch & Scissors, a local online barber shop. “It really helped us raise our profile in the Montreal barber shop scene, and we even regularly get bookings from out-of-towners who find us on Yelp.”

Facebook for business

As the largest social network in the world, Facebook cannot be overlooked by a business of any size. Simply put, having an active local presence in the world’s largest online community is just part of doing business these days.


At bare minimum, your business should set-up a Facebook Page and optimize it. This will not only help your business engage local Facebook users, but it, too, will help your business capture more real estate in local search results.

“Facebook has really helped us reap the benefits of word-of-mouth,” says Mielewczyk. “Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t come in asking for a haircut they saw on our Facebook page.”

Facebook for business also offers additional paid marketing opportunities that businesses can leverage to either promote their products/services directly to local consumers, or continually build and interact with their local Facebook audience.

“Facebook’s advanced audience targeting allows our local clients to reach users who otherwise would have no interaction with their business,” says Sanjay Mayar, chief marketing strategist forImajery, a local digital marketing agency. “It’s like having billboards all around town, but we get to choose who can see it, and we only pay for the people who actually engage.”

Locally grown marketing

The advantage of shopping locally is one of convenience: businesses are close by, and offer a more personal shopping experience. Well, online channels offer local businesses similar opportunities: users are nearby, and you can target only those who are interested in your products/services. With that kind of efficiency and return-on-investment (ROI), online channels represent a marketing opportunity that local businesses simply cannot ignore.

Article Source: http://montrealgazette.com/business/online-marketing-a-roadmap-for-local-businesses

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

The ins and outs of IFTTT in the CNET Smart Home

The CNET Smart Home is a 58,000-square-foot property filled with all sorts of connected gadgetry. The problem? Not all of those gadgets are compatible with one another.

In December, we started taking a closer look at how the free online service IFTTT might be able to help cover those compatibility gaps. Its name an acronym for "if this, then that," IFTTT lets you craft automation recipes by plugging social-networking services, Web tools and smart home gadgets into its eponymous cause-and-effect formula. You pick the "if this" and the "then that," and IFTTT does the rest. That comes in handy with gadgets like the Amazon Echo and the Nest Learning Thermostat that don't work together without help. Both are compatible with IFTTT.

For weeks, we've been putting IFTTT to the test. Along with the Echo and Nest, we've used IFTTT to control our Belkin WeMo Switches, our Philips Hue lighting, our SmartThings gadgetry and our Lifx color-changing LEDs. The goal: determine if IFTTT is useful and reliable enough to serve as the glue that holds your smart home together. Here's what we've learned:

Creative connectivity

Head over to IFTTT's website, and you'll find oodles of automation guidance, along with curated collections of sample recipes to test out. Still, it takes a little bit of imagination to put IFTTT to work. The full list of "channels" (the services and products that work with IFTTT) is daunting to say the least, and most of them offer a number of different ways to trigger a recipe or be triggered by one.

A lot of the suggested starter recipes are somewhat gimmicky. For instance, I tested out one recipe that changed the Smart Home's Lifx color-changing LEDs to purple whenever it was about to rain. It worked well enough, but didn't seem any more useful than, you know, looking out the window.

Recipes like those help to showcase some of what IFTTT is capable of, but it's up to you to tailor things in a way that's more applicable to your day-to-day life. I found that the best way to do this was to start at the end, and imagine things that I wanted the Smart Home to do automatically. Then, I'd log in to IFTTT and figure out a way to make it happen.

In most cases, this came down to connecting devices that wouldn't work directly together otherwise. Two of my main targets were the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Amazon Echo smart speaker. Both are central pieces of our smart home setup, but neither one works with everything -- and they don't work with each other, for that matter.

Fortunately, both have fairly robust channels on IFTTT. On the Amazon Echo end, you can craft your own voice commands, then program them to trigger whatever you like. I used this to add some voice-control smarts to our thermostats.

The process was a bit tedious. I needed to craft a separate recipe for each degree -- "Alexa, trigger Nest to 68, "Alexa, trigger Nest to 69," and so forth. I also repeated the entire process with different sets of nomenclature: "Alexa, trigger the thermostat to 68" and "Alexa, trigger the temperature to 68."

All in all, I finished with dozens of IFTTT recipes linking Amazon Echo and Nest. That's obviously more of a hassle than enabling a single all-in-one integration, but there are some subtle perks with IFTTT's approach, too. Primarily, I liked that I could get as detailed as I wanted, teaching Alexa to respond to all manner of different thermostat-related voice commands. If you're a control freak, there's some definite appeal.

Article Source: http://www.cnet.com/news/the-ins-and-outs-of-ifttt-in-the-cnet-smart-home-part-two

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