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    Local Commerce Software: The Future of Local Marketing Is Here

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Recently, ReachLocal announced new local commerce solutions, including our consumer service ClubLocal, and several exciting new software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions that help local businesses convert more leads into customers.  

    ReachLocal President Nathan Hanks gave an overview of these new solutions when he spoke at Borrell’s Local Online Advertising Conference which was keynoted by well-known marketing guru Seth Godin and featured presentations by “disruptors” within the local marketing space like Facebook, Pandora, and ReachLocal, among others.

    Nathan shared his unique insights on the evolution currently happening in local marketing where the entire customer acquisition funnel is moving online. “Soon, many local service transactions will take place entirely online; in fact, the shift has largely happened in the travel and retail industries with companies like Expedia and Amazon,” he said. “We believe that everything local that can be bought online eventually will.”

    To that end, ReachLocal has been hard at work on local commerce solutions that enable merchants to deliver their high-touch service along with an Amazon-like online buying experience that helps them win more customers. This local commerce shift will unfold for merchants in two ways:

    1.     Through tapping into new consumer-focused services that connect consumers with local merchants (e.g., OpenTable for booking a restaurant table, Uber for booking a taxi)

    2.     Through new merchant software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms that enable local merchants to do local commerce online themselves

    ReachLocal has created innovative solutions for both of these models. First, ClubLocal is our new consumer brand that builds the relationship with consumers and drives new business for local home service providers. Second, our new SaaS solutions enable SMBs to manage the entire customer lifecycle online, from lead generation (already largely online) and automated lead management to online booking and mobile payments. 

    These SaaS solutions include:

    • ReachSite – a smart website solution that helps businesses convert more of their visitors into leads. It includes basic SEO, dynamic content optimization, and lead capture technology that helps businesses build their marketing list and see the effectiveness of their various marketing tactics.
    • ReachConvert – a lead management solution that helps businesses turn website leads into customers. It notifies the business of new leads via text message, email or the ReachLocal mobile app and helps them stay top of mind with consumers through automated emails to their prospects and reminders to the business’ staff to follow up with new leads.
    • ReachCommerce – a local commerce solution that takes local merchants’ entire booking and buying process online. This will not only allow consumers to book appointments and pay online, but it will digitize the business’ entire back-office operations, including scheduling, employee and fleet management, estimating, transaction processing, invoicing, retention, business intelligence and reporting. 

    These solutions will help local merchants take their entire customer acquisition process online and more cost-effectively grow their business while delivering much better buying experiences for consumers so that they keep coming back again and again.

    What’s next in the local space? Share your thoughts below about how you think this shift to online local commerce will benefit both merchants and consumers. And, stay tuned to hear more information about these and other new solutions from ReachLocal. To stay up to date on the latest news, tips, and information, you can subscribe to our blog via RSS.

    Types of Content You Should Be Posting Now (Part 1): Blogs, Videos, and Ebooks

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Content marketing is arguably one of today’s top online marketing trends. But, it’s not just large businesses that are using storytelling as part of their online marketing strategy. Today, 74% of small businesses use content marketing to help share their messages and build their brand online.

    With so many types of content you can share online, what content should you be using? In this three-part series, we’ll discuss the types of content you can use to fuel your content marketing, generate engagement, build your brand, and drive new leads online. In this post, we’ll cover the different types of long-form content that form the cornerstone of a solid content marketing program: blog posts, videos, and ebooks.

    1) Blog Posts

    A business blog not only gives you a platform to demonstrate expertise in your field, but it also enables you to optimize content around your business name, industry, and products and services so it’s found in search engine results. Plus, with the increasing amount of usability built into different blogging platforms, you can use a business blog as a hub to share all of your brand's content from.    

    Types of Posts You Should Create:

    Informational – You know that you are an expert in your field, but you can prove this to your customers and prospects through informational blog posts about your industry. Plus, by writing informational content with your target keywords in mind, you can increase your blog’s visibility on search engines, which can improve brand awareness, brand credibility, and your online reputation.

    How-To and Educational – Posts that explain a business-related process are great for building interest in your business and educating consumers about your products and services. For example, if you operate a bakery, you could explain the best types of apples to use in different desserts. Or, if you run a window-installation company, you could provide tips on how to treat windows during different seasons. You could also use this as a forum to help existing customers get the most out of your products or services if they require additional maintenance. 

    Special Offers and Events – One way to build a following on your blog is to post deals and special offers for your products or services. While your blog shouldn’t be overly promotional, occasionally giving your subscribers incentives via your blog post can help generate awareness and engagement. In addition, if you are active in charitable organizations, sponsorships, or other community events, a business blog is a great place to announce and promote the events and to give readers a wrap up after the event is over.

    2) Videos

    Video is a major form of content distribution that receives billions of views monthly. In fact, in January alone there were nearly 36.2 billion video content views, with the majority coming from YouTube. Of course, many of those views are for the viral video du jour, but videos featuring products or services are a great way for brands to encourage consumers to purchase. Research shows consumers who watch product videos are 174% more likely to purchase than those who do not. Plus, watching product videos on a mobile device is becoming more popular, with half of smartphone owners watching a product video on their mobile device within a three-month period.      

    Types of Videos You Should Create

    Customer Testimonials – Do you have happy customers who are willing to share their positive experiences about your business? Ask them to record a video discussing the benefits of using your products or services. You can then share these videos on your social pages, blog, and on your website to build trust and credibility with prospects.

    Demonstration Videos – If you have product or demonstration that is best described in action, create a video to deliver an easy-to-understand message. One survey indicated that of consumers who watch product videos with demonstrations, 57% were likely to spend at least two minutes watching a video. So, in order to get the most out of your videos, make sure they are short but informative. Plus, you can also include these demonstration videos in a blog posts about the same topic.

    Company Culture – Creating videos that show the human side of your business can help you reach consumers on a personal level and can be a nice addition to your company’s “About Us” section of your website. From a video showing your business participating in a local community event to the story of how your business began, these types of personal videos can help you connect with local consumers.

    3) Ebooks

    If you want to present a large amount of content or information, an ebook can be a useful way to do so. Because ebooks generally require a download, you can use them as a way to generate new leads and collect important information from your interested prospects so that you can effectively manage your new leads. To get the most out of your ebook from a lead generation perspective, make sure it is high quality, well designed, effectively branded, and includes conversion elements like a tracking phone number and lead capture download form.

    Types of Ebooks You Should Create

    Thought Leadership & Expertise – Are you an expert in a complex process, system, or topic related to your industry? These are excellent subjects for ebooks, because they typically include a large volume of information that you might not be able to cover in a single blog post or video. Just remember, choose topics that you have real expertise in so that consumers see you as a trusted source for solutions within your industry.

    How To – If you have a collection of similar tutorial topics, creating an ebook can be a great way to bring them all together. For these ebooks, you can arrange detailed descriptions, step-by-step instructions, tips, and multiple images into a comprehensive guide for consumers who are interested in your business type.

    Products Benefits – Do you have multiple variations of the same type of product or service? If so, you can create ebooks that describe the common uses and key benefits for different types of products and services. This is a great way to demonstrate the diversity of what you offer, and give consumers a comprehensive and detailed comparison of your products so that they are equipped with all the information to make a purchasing decision.  

    By creating blog posts, videos, and ebooks, you can give potential customers detailed information and data that proves your expertise in your field while generating new leads. Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll discuss how images and “snackable” content can help you in your content marketing efforts.

    What kinds of blog posts, videos, and ebooks have you created as part of your content marketing strategy? Do you have questions on specific types of content you can create for your business? Let us know in a comment!

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    About the Author:

    Tara Banda writes about how small business owners can reach local customers through online marketing for the ReachLocal blog. You can connect with her on Twitter.


    Facebook News Feed Gets a Makeover: Is Your Business Page Ready?

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Last week, Facebook announced a brand new redesign of the News Feed. During the event, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg discussed how the new News Feed was created to give users a richer Facebook experience on the Web and via mobile devices. The main updates include:

    • Elements that create richer stories in the News Feed, such as larger images and detailed content
    • More control over what users see in their News Feed, with separate feeds for friends, music, photos, and pages they follow
    • Consistency on mobile devices, making the Facebook experience seamless from the Web to mobile

    Facebook is gradually rolling out these changes, and if you want to get on the early waiting list you can sign up now to have your Facebook News Feed switched to the new look and feel. But until then, there are a few things you should be doing to make sure that your fans, and their friends, see the best and most usable content from your brand.

    Focus on Bolder Images

    Images have played a major role on Facebook since the launch of Timeline and the purchase of Instagram. In fact, 50% of News Feed stories are now photos. And to make the most of images, Facebook has increased the size of the pictures across the site. So, what can you do to get the most out of the new image sizes on Facebook?

    • Images attached to articles will also appear larger in the News Feed. So, if you currently post your business blog articles on your Facebook profile, you should make sure that each blog also has a relevant and engaging photo. That way, when fans share your posts from Facebook or from your blog, they will also see an image that represents the article instead of your logo or other images that might be on the page.

    • Create and post photos instead of only posting updates. For example, do you have an inspirational quote, a compelling stat, or a new product or service? Instead of posting just a text status update, consider posting a snackable photo that conveys your message, but in a visual format. 

    Put Your Best Profile Picture Forward

    Not only are images that you post more prominent on the new News Feed, but your profile image and cover photo are also now front and center on new fans’ News Feeds. In other words, each time a new fan likes your profile page, a snapshot of your cover photo and profile picture will appear in your new fan’s News Feed so that their friends will see your photo, along with an option to “Like” your brand directly from the image. So, how can you make sure you create the best first impression of your business?

    • For your profile image, consider using a square version of your logo, as this will fit best within the dimensions. Also, avoid displaying unnecessary content in your profile image as it takes up valuable space and may not display large enough for fans to read, especially when viewed on mobile devices. 
    • When selecting an image for your cover photo, make sure that the image is an accurate representation of your business page. For example, if you run a bakery, consider a display of your best-selling sweets. If you run a dentist office, you could use an image of your staff with happy patients, with their permission. Facebook also has a few guidelines for cover photos, so make sure to follow them so that your image doesn’t get flagged or removed. 

    Add Detailed Content

    In addition to larger images, shared articles in the News Feed will also display more content in order to create a robust News Feed filled with information and details. Here are a few key details you should consider to promote your business page.  

    • When a fan checks into your business on Facebook, their friends may see an update with the check in and your location. The new News Feed will include a larger, more detailed map, so it’s critical to have your physical address listed on your business page. 

    • In addition to adding your physical address, you should also make sure your page is complete so that consumers can find your business when searching with Facebook Graph Search. This includes selecting your categories, adding your business hours, and completing your “About” section so that consumers who click on your business page from a shared article, a checkin at your location, or a Graph Search result can see exactly what your business does.

    • When a you share a link from your website or blog on Facebook, more of the article description will appear in addition to a larger image. In order to get more clicks on your article, make sure that the meta description for your blog post is detailed and enticing so that fans who see your post will want to read more. 

    Build a Strong Fan Base

    By creating multiple News Feeds for specific categories, Facebook has given users much more control over what they see. Users will be able to sort their feeds by groups, such as: All Friends, Most Recent, Music, Photos, and Following. This change is significant as it makes it more important than ever for your business to build a quality fan base and to distribute quality content. Here are some tips to help you get started:

    • Promote your Facebook page across your online presence. Your blog and website, at the very least, should feature Facebook “Like” or share options at the top of the page or every article. You can even add Facebook buttons to any emails you may send to current customers and leads. Also, consider reminding customers to “Like” your Facebook page with in-store signage or flyers.
    • Once you get customers and other consumers to “Like” your business on Facebook, make sure to give them a reason to stay connected. For example, you can offer deals and promotions through Facebook, give your fans a first glimpse at new products and services, create engaging contests and promotions, or show your loyalty and involvement in your community or charitable organizations by posting images and videos.

    What do you think about the new changes to the Facebook News Feed? Do you have any additional tips on how you are preparing for the update? Let us know in a comment! 

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    About the Author

    Tara Banda writes about how small business owners can reach local customers through online marketing for the ReachLocal blog. You can connect with her on Twitter.

    ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon Talks Local Commerce for Consumers [VIDEO]

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Last week, ReachLocal introduced a variety of new service offerings, with a focus on reinventing the way consumers book and buy local services. Currently, consumers face a multitude of challenges when making a buying decision, such as:

    • Who do I call?
    • How much will it cost?
    • When can I get an appointment?
    • Will the service pro be on time?
    • How easy is it to pay?

    In reality, consumers are overwhelmed with information when they search online, but are provided no transparency into pricing and scheduling from most local service providers today. That’s where our new consumer-facing service ClubLocal comes in.

    ClubLocal is our new local commerce service that takes the entire purchasing process online, allowing consumers to instantly book and buy 17 home services like plumbers, handymen, and heating and air conditioning repair, all via the ClubLocal website or mobile app. Plus, it’s 100% free to join. 

    In this video interview with Fox Business Network, ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon explains how ClubLocal works and what this shift toward online booking and buying means for both local merchants and consumers.  

    ClubLocal is currently available in Dallas and will be launched in Q2 in San Francisco.

    Gordon touches on the key foundations for making a local commerce solution work for consumers. ClubLocal does this by:

    • Screening and criminally background checking all service providers
    • Pre-negotiating pricing and standardizing SKUs, making costs transparent to consumers
    • Providing two-hour appointment windows and sending notifications when the service pro is en route
    • Putting the entire booking and buying process online, from scheduling and estimates to payments and receipts
    • Standing behind every job with the ClubLocal Satisfaction Guarantee

    Gordon notes, “I think it’s really interesting that as we look at this opportunity, there’s about a trillion plus dollars worth of local service transactions that are occurring offline. We believe they’re all going to happen online.”

    ClubLocal is only part of how ReachLocal is powering this shift to local commerce; we additionally announced several software-as-a-service [SaaS] products for local businesses. These include ReachSite, a conversion-optimized website solution, ReachConvert, a lead management solution that helps turn more website leads into customers, and ReachCommerce, a platform for taking the entire booking and buying process online including booking appointments, scheduling staff, and paying via mobile device.

    To see more from the leaders of ReachLocal, subscribe to the ReachLocal News playlist on YouTube and follow us on Slideshare and our blog

    3 Compelling Reasons You Need a Lead Management Process – And What to Do About Them

    Last updated 1 year ago

    With all the ways small businesses are investing in generating leads online—from search advertising to email marketing to retargeting and more—it’s surprising that most don’t have effective solutions in place for managing and responding to their leads. In fact, 55% of companies don’t respond to new sales leads at all.

    Think about your business. What does it cost you each time you lose a viable prospect because you didn’t call them back quickly enough, or because you didn’t have a way to stay in touch after your first interaction with them? Getting someone’s business isn’t always easy. But putting in place a system that helps you organize and follow up with leads makes getting more customers—and keeping them—much easier.

    So, here are three reasons a good lead management system makes sense for any small business:

    1. Up to half of consumers buy from the businesses that respond first.

    Many consumers contact your local business to ask about products or services, get a price quote, or better yet, book an appointment. But if you aren’t able to answer, those calls may go to a voicemail system or answering service that can’t provide the information your prospects are looking for. But when you don’t respond quickly enough—or at all—it’s safe to assume those customers are going directly to your competitors— and that’s not what you want. You’re busy, and that’s understandable— you have a business to run. But that doesn’t mean you or someone on your staff shouldn’t make time provide a quick response to legitimate contacts. To ensure you can follow up as quickly as possible, it’s important to use a system that will record every call so that you can return the call and get the business. Better yet, find a comprehensive solution that will have a record of calls that don’t go to voicemail and notify you when you have a new contact so you can follow up immediately.

    2. Nearly 75% of new leads are never contacted.

    That sounds like a high percentage, right? What does your business do with the calls you’ve received from your online marketing to remind yourself to follow up with them at a later date? If you keep leads’ contact information scribbled on Post-it Notes or on the back of a business card, chances are their information will be lost and you won’t reach back out to them. In fact, research shows that if you don’t call a lead back within one hour, the chances you’ll call them at all decrease by over 10 times. Instead, you need a digital, accessible way to record new lead data, complete with all their contact information and any qualifying information they may provide, such as their interest in certain products or services. Even if it’s something as basic as manually noting lead information in a shared spreadsheet on Google Drive, having a system in place for recording this data will help you and your employees make sure your contacts are consistent and complete so you always know how to contact your leads. A call tracking system can also help you capture, track, and review every lead so you can not only follow up with them but also provide them with the right information they need to make the decision to buy from you.

    3. Only half of leads are ready to buy when they contact you.

    In many industries, especially those with highly-researched products or services or longer sales cycles (such as an auto dealer or kitchen remodeler), many consumers who contact your business will not be ready to make a purchase immediately.  It’s important not to leave those leads hanging. You need a way to stay in touch with them long after they contact you so you can stay top of mind and entice them to book and buy from your business. That’s where lead nurturing comes in. By sending new prospects – or even existing customers – regular email communications with relevant information about your industry, new product and service offerings, or promotions and specials, they are more likely to remember your business and buy from you.

    How are you handling new leads in your business? What are you doing to follow up with them to ensure you close the sale?

    About the Author
    Tamara Weintraub helps equip small business owners with information about local online advertising, social media, and content marketing as a writer for the ReachLocal blog.

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