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Technology can be a conductor or a barrier. Everything we do to market local businesses is meant to culminate in a human encounter. When we get our part right (and external forces smile upon us), technology connects us. When we get our part wrong (or external forces impede us), technology can have the frustrating effect of sundering local brands from their customers, with everybody losing out on the deal.
The modern phenomenon of local search exemplifies the concept of a “mixed blessing”. Loss of control over significant parts of the customer journey can be a source of legitimate stress for owners and marketers. Stress isn’t good for us, of course, and that’s why I’m hoping this message brings some welcome relief: control of the most important aspects of the consumer journeys remains strongly on your side, and you can thrive without the parts you have to give up. We’ve got data to back this up, thanks to Moz’s recent report, The Impact of Local Business Reviews on Consumer Behavior, and I’m hoping today’s column will lift some burdens that may have been weighing you down.
Let’s start out by taking a moment to really reflect on what it means that 96% of adults read local business reviews. Basically almost everyone in your community is perusing this content, making it the widest possible road to your front door, but the truth is that it exists in a space you only partially control. Given that only 11% of review-readers trust brand messaging over public opinion, reviews matter greatly, and it’s a tough reality that they mainly happen in digital spaces you rent rather than own.
If something goes wrong with your reviews on third party platforms like Google, Nextdoor, or Yelp, such as a spam attack, or the random disappearance of your reviews due to a bug or update, or a single irate customer shouting half-truths or downright falsehoods through a megaphone amid a small number of reviews, you have limited direct recourse for resolution. Platforms may or may not respond to your pleas for help, and some customers may ignore even your best offers to resolve their complaints – the sense of lost control is not imaginary.
Here is the good news: for 91% of your potential customers, the very next step they take after reading reviews will land them in spaces you own. 51% will head to your website, which you fully control, 27% will visit your place of business, which you also fully control, and 13% will contact you, and it’s you who control your phone and text lines, your email, forms, and live chat. Apart from the 8% that will move from reviews to the profiles you rent on social media platforms, management of customer experiences is almost all on your side and in your house.
Barring mishaps like your website being infected with malware, a temporary closure of your premises due to illness, or a power outage bringing down your phone lines, it turns out that you remain in charge of key customer/brand experiences during nearly all of the post-review consumer journey. Great news, indeed! But it carries some big responsibilities with it.
Converting on the next step after reviews
The wide funnel begins to narrow as consumers transition from reading reviews to their next steps. Winning maximum conversions from their next actions depends on having the right welcome in place in all three of these spaces:
The local business website
Whether customers click from the review profile to your website homepage, or to a landing page your listing is linked to, prepare this welcome for them:
Highly visible information on every way in which the customer can contact and visit you, including phone, text, chat, messaging, email, forms, hours of operation, maps, and written directions.
Additional first-party reviews to provide further proofs of your good reputation and tide you over in times when bugs make your third-party reviews go missing.
A unique selling proposition to seal the deal.
Your place of business
Whether your place of business is your physical premises, or your clients’ locations, you can shine on this main stage with the following:
Exceptional customer service based on the training of your staff and good management of the entire customer service ecosystem. With 65% of review writers saying they’ve written negative reviews because of experiencing bad or rude customer service, building an employee-centric company that radiates both happiness and helpfulness is your best bet for building an excellent reputation.
Careful guardianship of your supply chain. 63% of review writers say they’ve written negative reviews after purchasing bad products. The quality of your inventory supports both repeat purchases and high ratings.
Accurate online local business listings. 52% of survey respondents have written negative reviews after encountering incorrect business information on the Internet. Use of listings management software like Moz Local can ensure that what’s published about your business online (like hours of operation, addresses, and key services) matches what the customer will experience in the real world, preventing inconvenience and disappointment.
Your contact options
Whether a review reader turns next to your phone line, text line, live chat, website form, or email, assist them towards a next conversion by:
Reducing on-hold times on your phone line to the bare minimum
Ensuring all public-facing representatives of the business are well-trained in your products, services and policies
Providing realistic estimates of when a customer will hear back if they are required to leave an email address on chat instead of speaking immediately to a live person
Reducing the number of form fields the customer is required to fill out before reaching you
Offering an after-hours support option
And, of course, for the 8% who will visit your rented spaces on social media platforms as their next step after reading reviews, be sure your full contact information is included on your profiles.
Despite the market disruption of the Internet, so much about local businesses remains the same
While technological innovations are ongoing, it’s apparent that deeply-rooted consumer behaviors continue to follow a traditional pattern that’s existed for hundreds of years. In summary, people in your town want to know what others say about your business >>> people want to connect with your business for a possible transaction >>> people then tell others about what they experienced with your business. All of this cycle has always happened offline, and the only real change is that the means for some of this communication has partly transitioned online.
Just as business owners always had to do without the ability of controlling the word-of-mouth reputation their community was creating for them on front porches and over fences, modern business owners can live without directly controlling the online brand sentiment that exists in spaces they have to rent rather than owning. While it’s true that traditional PR may have had more power to shape public perception before online local business reviews made individual consumer voices so loud, the not-so-secret ingredient to brand longevity and loyalty remains unaltered: great customer experiences at and around the time of service are the foundation of success.
What every local business needs today is a thoughtful plan for managing the digital assets that now contribute to these positive consumer experiences. The winning recipe, then, is developing high standards for the spaces you own (your website, place of business, and most contact methodologies) and being as hands-on as possible in the spaces you rent (the online profiles containing your local business information, reviews, and social content). With a workable strategy and good quality tools for managing this ecosystem, the development of your good name in the community you serve will follow.
Although often underrated or reduced to a “networking platform,” LinkedIn has the potential to help you drive traffic to your website, increase brand awareness, and boost your revenue. How? Through LinkedIn sponsored updates or ads.
Salesforce has announced an integration between Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Google Merchant Center to help merchants highlight the availability of products in stores. The move builds on Salesforce data that suggests both the widespread use of online search in advance of brick and mortar store visits, and an increased likelihood of shopping trips when consumers can see that a store has an item in stock.
Using this new integration, merchants using Commerce Cloud will be able to turn local inventory data into local product listings on Google Search and Google Maps and in the Shopping tab.
Varför vi bryr oss. The distinction between digital and real-world commerce continues to collapse. Those online shopping behaviors that exploded during the pandemic will be with us for the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t mean store visits are a thing of the past.
Rather, consumers are looking for seamless connections between an online product discovery experience and in-person purchases. This integration seeks to support that aim at a granular local level.
The Salesforce data that supports the move can be found here.
Embedding commerce in discovery. The integration also braids together online discovery and the commerce experience. Just as many merchants now seek to provide a frictionless transition from finding a product online to making a digital purchase, this sees the opportunity to link discovery with in-person shopping.
This move pairs with the recent announcement of Salesforce’s Einstein GPT for Commerce that combines proprietary and generative AI models with real-time data such as customer demographic data and shopping history, to automate and tailor shopper recommendations in Commerce Cloud.
Kim Davis är redaktionschef för MarTech. Född i London, men en New Yorker i över två decennier, började Kim täcka företagsprogramvara för tio år sedan. Hans erfarenhet omfattar SaaS för företaget, digital-annons-datadriven stadsplanering och tillämpningar av SaaS, digital teknik och data i marknadsföringsområdet.
Han skrev först om marknadsföringsteknologi som redaktör för Haymarkets The Hub, en dedikerad marknadsföringsteknologiwebbplats, som sedan blev en kanal på det etablerade direktmarknadsföringsmärket DMN. Kim började på DMN proper 2016, som senior redaktör, och blev Executive Editor, sedan chefredaktör en position som han hade till januari 2020.
Innan han arbetade med teknisk journalistik var Kim Associate Editor på en hyperlokal nyhetssajt i New York Times, The Local: East Village, och har tidigare arbetat som redaktör för en akademisk publikation och som musikjournalist. Han har skrivit hundratals New York restaurangrecensioner för en personlig blogg och har varit en och annan gästbidragsgivare till Eater.
82% of marketers believe that AI will be the future of marketing—in fact, many of them already believe AI writes better than a human (Capterra study).
Well, with ChatGPT flying past 100 million users in just two months…we’re living in the future.
AI is revolutionizing the way we work, think, and create.
I joined Content at Scale as the VP of Marketing this January in a bold move of ‘adapting or die’ for my career in content—one month in, what I’m seeing, learning, and facilitating for marketers and teams is blowing my mind. Let’s talk about it.
Reduce Content Overhead Costs and Frustrations by 5x-25x With the AIO Model
It’s now the Stone Age to sit at your computer and drum up 2,500 words for an SEO post from a blank slate.
When you can generate long-form SEO content (2,500 words or more) that’s fully original and well-written inside of five minutes or less, you’ll never want to go back.
On average, I’m seeing a 5-25x reduction in associated content creation costs (which is mind-boggling!), and a time savings of 5-10x. (My full-time writer at Content Hacker went from 7 hours per post to one hour per post after we adapted this model.)
Here’s the AIO model I’ve built out reflecting the difference of what you can do in your business and marketing by replacing the human blank-slate writing with AI blank-slate writing, based on hundreds upon hundreds of use cases from Content at Scale clients:
Artificial Intelligence as the baseline writer (replacing the human writer and blank slate)
The human writer as an optimizer of the AI baseline content
With the time and money savings, it’s an absolute no-brainer to switch to AI as the baseline.
The Human Process Involved In AIO
While we see AI perfectly capable of writing an entire 2,500 word blog from scratch, with a single keyword and one-sentence prompt:
We also see the need for the human optimization process pre-publicera more necessary than ever.
Without your unique story (or client case studies/testimonials) woven in, the human touch of adding statistics, double-checking facts and cutting the fluff; AI-written content simply won’t stand out. It won’t set you apart in the content sea; it won’t drive customers and loyal fans in droves to your email list. So, the human touch is necessary.
My C.R.A.F.T. framework within AIO defines the steps writers should take to make the AI content more human and personalized once you take it from AI and get it ready to publish (from AI to O):
1. Cut the fluff
2. Review, edit, optimize
3. Add images, visuals, media
5. Trust-build with personal story, tone, links
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Humans are needed for the optimization side, and for that human touch that must be applied to the content AI generates. Content itself will never be a fully automated, 100% AI process; but AI can remove hours and hours of painstaking work from the content creation pipeline, which will save countless amounts of energy and dollars in the coming months and years when marketers adapt in full force.
Predictions About the Future of Content & AI
This year, Capterra surveyed almost 200 marketers using AI in their marketing. 82% of them said that the content written by AI was just as good if not better than human-generated content.
One of the first Generative AI experts in the world, Nina Schick (founder of Tamang Ventures, and creator of Substack project ‘The Era of Generative AI’), has told Yahoo Finance Live that she believes ChatGPT will completely revamp how digital content is created, and by 2025, software built with ChatGPT will enable us to reach 90% of all online content now being generated by AI. She said: “ChatGPT has really captured the public imagination in an extremely compelling way, but I think in a few months’ time, ChatGPT is just going to be seen as another tool powered by this new form of AI, known as generative AI,” she said.
Google Trends shows a HUGE jump in interest and traffic around the term “ChatGPT:”
Search traffic shows that the interest in AI is the highest it has ever been. The previous peak was in January 2012:
375 million jobs obsolete in the next ten years. In the next three years, it’s predicted that 120 million workers around the globe will need to be retrained and re-skilled for this new world.
Newer and better-paying jobs in AI will come on the scene, but they won’t replace the amount of jobs lost; so without retraining and reskilling, and learning how to adapt, average people will have difficulty finding new work.
Are You Ready to Join the Future?
I’m excited to see just how much AI will revolutionize human efficiency and optimization.
We’re in new times.
Are you ready to join the future of marketing and learn about all things AI?