The Importance of Call Tracking

What is call tracking, and why should you care?

You’ve probably heard that call tracking is important for your business, but why is this the case?

Online marketing campaigns typically drive traffic through multiple channels, such as paid search, email marketing, and social media. These channels work together to drive people to your website, where they can take any number of actions.

As a business owner, you want these people to eventually become your customers. However, when they reach your website, this probably won’t happen right away. Instead, they might show their interest or try to do more research before determining if your business best addresses their needs. Only then will they hand over their hard earned cash.

To understand and improve your marketing efforts, you need to be able to clearly visualize what is working for you and what isn’t. You need to know what activities are causing people to show more interest in what you have to offer, as well as understand their behaviours and how your internet presence can influence these behaviours.

One way of capturing marketing data is by tracking content form submissions. Almost all websites with contact forms will automatically track them. So why don’t we do the same for calls?

Despite the fact that we are living in an increasingly digital area, people are still calling businesses, especially when they’re interested. In fact, the number of calls to businesses is only increasing as smartphone capabilities improve. Phones now, making it easier to call a business than ever before. As well, according to digital marketing expert Neil Patel, calls convert 10 to 15 times more often than web leads.

If you don’t track calls, you are losing valuable data. Calls are far more important than you think.

How Does It Work?

Call tracking provides you with data that shows which marketing efforts are driving calls to your business. In fact, if you don’t track calls, you might not be tracking up to 80% of your conversions. Without accurate conversion data, you can’t appropriately allocate resources towards your most effective marketing efforts. You’re basically throwing money at all sorts of channels, with no idea of which ones are giving you the best ROI. You won’t have any idea which pages, tactics, and campaigns are effective and ineffective, as you will only be seeing part of the picture.

Check out this handy infographic we made to visualize how this works:

To track calls from different sources, digital marketers use something called dynamic number insertion. What this means is that your leads will see a different phone number to call, based on the channel and geographic location they are on. All of these numbers will lead back to your actual number, so the visitors will contact you directly. However, the usefulness of this is that you will receive data about the referring URL, search keywords, landing pages, and ads the caller came through. As well, the tracking code will remember the original channel for each visitor, so they will see the same tracking number each time they visit your site.

When Is It Useful?

Unlike traditional marketing, online marketing has the ability to clearly demonstrate which activities are yielding specific results. When you have this information, you can then make adjustments as needed and optimize your activities.

Imagine you’re working on an email campaign for your business which redirects visitors to a unique landing page. There might be a form on there for visitors to fill out, but there might also be a phone number at the top. If you only track the form submissions, you’re completely missing data about the email campaign. You won’t know how many people called your business because of that specific email. Call tracking will give you that data so you can see how successful the campaign is, and learn and make improvements for the next email campaign you do.

Call tracking can track calls from a wide variety of platforms. If someone calls your business from directly accessing your website, an ad campaign, Google My Business, or even from Yelp, you will know and be able to see exact data. This data will then allow you to better understand your consumers, drive conversions, and help your business flourish.

State of Local Search in 2018

The Gamut of Changes to Google My Business

In less than 2 years, Google has relentlessly rolled out a series of updates to Google My Business features. In 2017, they had added a featured post feature, Q&A section and introduced a messaging option. In December 2017, we wrote about a post on some of the new Google My Business features. In 2018, they have added a business description section which allows businesses to capture user attention with a 250 character message about the business. Clicking this description shows a longer description, up to 750 characters.

What does this reflect?

One thing is clear – Google is devoting a lot of resources towards Google Local. This particular segment has been identified by the search giant as one of its most important segments. To continue being the most popular search engine, it must deliver the most relevant results to users.

Finding service providers is a BIG part of user search behaviour and includes all kinds of queries like restaurants near me, plumbers in Vancouver, dentists, plumbers and so on. In fact, the device you search from would know your location and if one searches for pizzas, one expects Google to show pizza places near me. So we, the users, are even going to stop saying things like ‘near me’ or ‘in Vancouver’ but expect geographically relevant search results for a variety of queries.

This indicates two things –
1. Businesses need to make Local SEO a bigger priority in their marketing plans
2. Google Local is expected to be an important revenue generator for Alphabet

How Significant are Organic Search results now?

Take a look at the Google search engine results first page real estate for the query – ‘Dental Implants’

As you can see, one organic search result popped up right below the top 4 paid ads and then the rest of the organic results are buried half way down the page. For some queries, these results are going to be higher up in more prime spots but for a variety of searches, they are getting pushed as far down as shared in the example above.

The map results are the result of Local SEO and those have become extremely important for businesses to generate phone calls and website leads. These map results can also include paid ads in certain cases. E.g. for ‘Dental Implants Near Me’ –

WHAT IS ONE TO DO?

The Local Search Optimization includes actively managing the following –

  • Citations – business listings across various online business directories
  • Reputation – soliciting and responding to customer reviews across important directories
  • Map listings – updating business information on Google My Business (Bing and Apple listings are less important to maintain as regularly)

New Google My Business Features For Your Business

gmb profile

I wanted to share some recently introduced Google My Business features that a majority of local businesses are not yet using. They were discussed in details during the ‘office hours’ webinar hosted by Local Marketing Institute.

These new features can help you further promote your offers or content and encourage/enable new ways for users to interact with your business. So without further delay, let’s dig into these 3 new(er) features:

GMB Posts:

Google Posts are similar to Facebook posts, except that you need to log in to your Google My Business dashboard and then create a post in there.

The advantage is that your post will show up on the knowledge graph when people search for your business on the Google search engine.

In this post, you can promote blog posts, events, offers etc…

As you can see, a thumbnail of the image, dates, short description and a link to your website or landing page can all be included.

Keep In Mind:

  • Posts will stay live for 7 days, after which they just get archived
  • It will be shown on mobile (Android and IOS), Google maps, desktop and tablets
  • Although there is no conclusive evidence, it appears that these posts can positively influence your business ranking on maps and organic search

Questions & Answers

This was a feature that was rolled out a couple of months ago. It allows users to ask a question which can be answered by anyone in the community and by the business owner.

To manage conversations, the owner needs to be logged into the associated Google account on an Android mobile phone or tablet. IOS devices do not have the ability to manage these conversations yet.

If you are signed in to that Google account on your Android phone/tablet, you will receive a push notification when someone asks a question or someone in the community responds to the question.

Just the way reviews show up, the name of the person who asks or answers the question will show up. If the user is a ‘Local Guide’, then that badge will show next to the person’s name. If the business owner responds to a question, it will show up as a response from the business.

Keep In Mind:

  • Only Google maps on Android/tablet can be used to manage Q&A’s
  • You have to be signed in to the respective Google account
  • You get push notifications on mobile when people ask or answer questions
  • Anyone can answer questions – answers will show up as answered by individuals name, individuals name (local guide), or the business owner

GMB Messaging

Business owners can login to the Google My Business dashboard and turn on messaging.

They can choose the phone number which will receive the messages if consumers choose to engage with the business in this way.

The option to message a business is, currently, only going to be visible to users who find the business listing via mobile web search. They will not see the option to message the business if they find the business on their desktops/laptops.

Interactions will be exactly the same as regular text messaging as the message from the user will reach the SMS app on the listed business phone number.

Keep In Mind:

  • Use Allo (app by Google) if you want to separate personal texts from business texts. It will allow business texts to be directed to the Allo app.
  • Enable if you can commit to reply within, at least, a day. Although, Facebook and Google want businesses to reply almost immediately – which is not always practical.

Note: If you are a dental clinic or a law firm, the Google My Business guidelines are slightly different than what they are for regular businesses. The features discussed above will still be applicable. But we had recently published a post to highlight some of these differences. Click here to read it.

Google My Business For Doctors And Lawyers

Google my business for doctors and lawyers

How is Google My Business unique for Doctors and Lawyers? According to Google policy, doctors and lawyers are allowed to have their individual practitioner listings with the same address and phone number as the business page of the clinic or law firm that they work with.

This is because doctors and lawyers are often associated with multiple clinics or firms and Google wants to allow users the option to review the practitioners instead of the clinic or firm. Such practitioner listings are not considered duplicate listings by Google. 

Google Policy on this is:

Multiple Practitioners At One Location

If the practitioner is one of the several public-facing practitioners at this location:

  • The organization should create a listing for this location, separate from that of the practitioner.
  • The title of the listing for the practitioner should include only the name of the practitioner, and shouldn’t include the name of the organization

Solo Practitioners That Belong To Branded Organizations

If a practitioner is the only public-facing practitioner at a location and represents a branded organization, it’s best for the practitioner to share a listing with the organization. Create a single listing, named using the following format: [brand/company]: [practitioner name].

Acceptable: “Allstate: Joe Miller” (if Joe is the sole public-facing practitioner at this Allstate-branded location)

This post addresses practitioner listings when multiple practitioners work at one location and we cover what happens when:

  1. A practitioner works at multiple locations
  2. The practitioner stops working at a location
  3. A practitioner moves to a different city/country

We will also conclude with some of our personal thoughts on why this is not a perfect system and how it can be improved.

We Are Experienced With Digital Marketing For Dentists

Having worked with dental clinics, practitioners and labs, we know how to get you found online and drive new clients to your practice. Helping our clients present the best version of their business online is our passion.

SEO & Local

Reviews

Websites

Tracking

Paid Ad

Social

Email Marketing

When A Practitioner Works At Multiple Locations

If a practitioner works at multiple clinics/law firms, then the practitioner should have a separate Google Business listing for each of the locations. The hours of operation will need to be different for each listing. E.g:

  1. John Miller, MMD; 111 A Street, City, State, Zipcode; 666-666-6666; Mon-Fri 9 am to 11 am; X Clinics Website
  2. John Miller, MMD; 222 B Street, City, State, Zipcode; 777-777-7777; Mon-Fri 1 pm to 3 pm; Y Clinics Website
  3. John Miller; MMD; 333 C Street, City, State, Zipcode; 888-888-8888; Mon-Fri 4 pm to 6 pm; Z Clinics Website

This allows users to search for the practitioner’s name and find his/her information in the knowledge graph. It enables a user to leave a review for the practitioner instead of the clinic/law firm.

Note: The name of the practitioner should not include the clinic/law firm’s name. E.g. do not put the name as X Clinic: John Miller, MMD or John Miller, MMD: X Clinic.

Also Note: Practitioner listings should be owned and controlled by the practitioner and not the organization that he/she is working at. It is best for a practitioner to claim all his/her listings with the same email address. This way, when he/she logs in to business.google.com, all the listings will be visible on one dashboard as shown below –

When A Practitioner Stops Working At A Location

If a practitioner stops working at a particular clinic/law firm, then he/she should mark the listing with that location’s address as ‘Permanently Closed’. To do so, he/she would log in to business.google.com and select ‘Manage Location’ for the location that he/she quit.

Then, select ‘Info’ from the left column and choose ‘Close or remove this listing’. This is where they can choose to ‘Mark as Permanently Closed’.

Note: The other option within ‘Close or remove this listing’ is to ‘Remove Listing’. This option simply undoes the verification of the page. It takes away your ability to manage that page, respond to reviews and also lets anyone (yes, anyone) claim that page to be their own (requiring verification).

When A Practitioner Moves To A Different City/Country

When A Practitioner Moves To A Different City Within The Same Country

If a practitioner moves his/her residence, he/she may start working at a new location/locations and quit the clinics/law firms he/she was working at previously.

In this case, the practitioner can create newly verified listings for the locations he/she is working at now and get them verified. Then he/she can request Google to mark the old listings as ‘Moved to a New Location’ and punch in the details of the new location. By doing so, the review strength of the practitioner will be passed over to the new listing.

When A Practitioner Moves To A New Country

If the practitioner moves to a new country, then the old listing cannot be ‘moved to the new location’. In this case, the old listing will need to be marked as ‘permanently closed’. Remember, this does not remove the listing from the Google database. However, it does eventually delete the listing when there is no engagement with the listing. But this can take 1-2 years and there is nothing that can be done to speed up the process.

Why Can This Get Complex?

From a local search optimization point of view, NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) consistency is the elusive goal that we are constantly chasing. When one address gets associated with multiple listings, it can be a recipe for disaster.

There is a high probability that many business directories pull information about local businesses from Google. So we may be dealing with one instance of a John Miller, MMD Google Business profile right now but in the future, there could be several other listings with John Miller’s name that can pop up on the Internet that show the address of the clinics/law firms that John worked at.

Another issue is when a practitioner moves to a different country. Since Google cannot move the listing to a new country, the old listing will need to be marked as ‘permanently closed’. We don’t like this because it means there will be a permanently closed listing floating around on the Internet with the clinics’ address for a year or more.

Alternative (Proposed) Solution:

Practitioners should not be expected to create their own listings. Instead, only the clinics/law firms should have their listings. But these clinics/law firm listings should be able to mention the names and basic details of the practitioners that work there.

When a patient/client wants to leave a review, Google can ask if the review is for the organization or for the practitioner. If the user chooses practitioner, he/she should be able to choose from the list of practitioners that work at that location and leave a review for the particular individual.

Such a practice will reduce the number of listings that are to be created and managed and thus make the Internet slightly less congested. It will also leave the administrative responsibilities in the hands of the firms rather than having the doctors/lawyers worry about such things.

This alternative solution is a personal opinion shared by the local search experts at ElementIQ who are not looking to be hired by Google to lead such an initiative (unless they are extended an offer they can’t refuse!) 

The Local Business Marketing Summit 2017

Introduction

Right off the bat, this was an awesome arrangement for anyone interested or involved with marketing local businesses.

The quality of presentations compared just as well with presentations in big conferences where you pay over $500 for a single ticket.

And this was FREE. So, hats off to the Local Marketing Summit 2017 for organizing this.

The topics and conversations were beneficial to both – business owners and marketing professionals. The set of speakers were all highly credible with the likes of Myles Anderson, the CEO of BrightLocal to Bernadette Coleman, the CEO of Advice Local.

They literally re-created a physical conference experience online with over 1500 attendees and the opportunity to share comments and network with industry experts. The only thing missing was the music and the fun stuff which can keep you from dozing off between sessions.

List Of Topics And Speakers

Let me begin by listing the set of topics presented on Day 1 and Day 2:

Day 1 

  • A Complete Local Digital Strategy in 30 Minutes – Eric Shanfelt, Founder & CEO of Local Marketing Institute
  • Social Media Tactics that Actually Work – Lissa Duty, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Rocks Digital, Social Media Trainer and Author
  • Anatomy of a Well-Designed Local Business Website – Marcus Miller, Owner and Digital Strategist at BowlerHat, Moz and Search Engine Land Contributor
  • How to Get More Reviews for Your Business – Myles Anderson, CEO of BrightLocal, Search Engine Land Contributor
  • Keys to Successful Facebook Advertising – Dennis Yu, Founder and CTO of BlitzMetrics
  • Get the Most from Google My Business – Joy Hawkins, President of Sterling Sky, Google My Business Top Contributor, Search Engine Land Contributor, Speaker at SMX
  • Should You Use a Paid Local Listing Service? – Roundtable discussion with Joy Hawkins, Phil Rozek, Myles Anderson, and Bernadette Coleman
  • Which Local Business Review Sites Work Best for You? – Collin Holmes, CEO of Chatmeter, Former VP of Product Management and Marketing for V-ENABLE

Day 2

  • How To Avoid Digital Marketing Landmines – Phil Nicolosi of Phil Nicolosi Law
  • Tips and Tricks to Build Your Email List – Chris Davis, Director of Education for ActiveCampaign, Former Head of Marketing Automation at Leadpages
  • Creating a Super Offer for your Local Business – Sean Daily, Founder / Lead Strategist at Social Media Ninjas
  • Content Marketing in a Bloated Age – Laurie Macomber, President of Blue Skies Marketing, Local, SEO, and Content Marketing Expert
  • Get the Most from Your Local Business Facebook Page – Bernadette Coleman, CEO of Advice Local, Contributor to Search Engine Land, Forbes
  • The Local SEO Checklist – Eric Shanfelt, Founder & CEO of Local Marketing Institute
  • Keys to Successful Google Local Advertising – Conrad Saam, GM of Mockingbird Marketing, Former Director of Marketing for both UrbanSpoon and Avvo

What Do The Topics Tell You?

The assortment of topics speaks a lot of about the conversations that are most current and relevant in the industry. To put all the topics in broader categories, they covered:

  • Local SEO
  • Web Development
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Google AdWords
  • Email Marketing
  • Reputation Management
  • Legal and Regulatory Considerations

Outside of Analytics, the 2 days have essentially covered the full gamut of topics that are relevant to digital marketing for local businesses.

Of course, there can be a whole series of sessions on each of the categories and one hour sessions can’t make you an expert. Yet, they can serve as a great introduction or inspire you with ideas to implement or improve your ongoing initiatives.

Three Key Takeaways

At the CTA Conference in 2016, Carl Schmidt, the CTO of Unbounce told me he didn’t like noting down what speakers were saying. Instead, he’d keep a pen and paper handy to note ideas that he could implement which were inspired by the speakers.

This is the approach I adopted and some of the refinements I will make to our approach to digital marketing will include:

1. Implementing Customer Lifecycles

Being more diligent and articulate with breaking the digital strategies into customer lifecycles referencing the image included below –

Image re-created referencing a slide from Complete Local Digital Strategy in 30 Minutes – Eric Shanfelt, Founder & CEO of Local Marketing Institute

This was also referenced as AIDA by Laurie Macomber in her presentation Content Marketing in a Bloated Age. AIDA is an acronym for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. It also translates to know me, like me, trust me, pay me – a phrase first coined by Barry Moltz.

2. Improving Local SEO Audit Process

Improving our local SEO audit process based on insights gained from the Local SEO Checklist session by Eric Shanfelt. This came in at a great time as I was already working on updating our internal local SEO audit checklist. While our current checklist covered most things that Eric touched upon, there were a few additional insights which I’m excited to incorporate. Here is an outline of the topics included in our local SEO checklist –

    • Business Listings/Citations
    • Mention and placement of business name, address and phone numbers on the website
    • Link analysis
    • Competitors link analysis
    • Reviews audit

3. Considering Different Online Platforms

Lissa Duty’s gave a talk on Social Media Tactics that Actually Work. She encouraged us to think about the platforms which the future customers of a business could be using. She encouraged marketers to ask a bunch of questions before selecting the social media networks where the business chooses to be active.

She said, instead of blindly jumping on the Pinterest or Instagram bandwagon, it’s important to establish why.

While the who and the why were questions that we already ask, we have given less thought to where the future customers will be hanging out. There may not be a definite answer to this question because the future is uncertain and ever-changing, but one can analyze trends and user demographics to make educated guesses.

Closing Thoughts

Digital marketers operate in a fast-paced ever-changing environment. To keep up with the changes, you need to be continuously learning. We often refer to blogs and resources on platforms like Search Engine Land, Moz and Digital Marketer. We also subscribe to industry experts like Neil Patel and Annie Cushing.

Along with the daily reading and courses, most marketers would recommend attending one or two major conferences every year – and I agree with them.

All learning resources can be great but summits and conferences can inspire ideas like nothing else. Attending the Local Business Summit was about as real as attending my first major conference of 2017.

If you attended the Local Business Summit, please do share your own experiences. I would enjoy hearing about the same. I also encourage questions and comments from business owners and marketers who did not attend the conference.

Google Uses Location Intelligence To Improve Maps

Google Uses to Improve Maps

A few days ago, my roommate ordered a Vietnamese sub from a restaurant (Truong Thanh Restaurant in Vancouver) for the two of us through an app on his phone which allows home delivery. Note, he used ‘his’ phone. Mobile delivery methods are becoming increasingly popular and most restaurants now offer custom apps.

Location Intelligence In Action

Later that day, after the food was brought to the house, I got a notification from Google. It was asking if I could answer a few quick questions about Truong Thanh Restaurant. Here is a screenshot of my phone with this notification – While this instance inches closer to the ‘creepy’ line, it is something to delve into.

Mapping Based On Addresses

The reason I received this notification is that the food delivery address is marked as ‘home address’ on my phone.

The app that was used to order the food must have been integrated with Google in some way – maybe simply with Google Analytics.

Since Google understood that this food was delivered to my home address, it assumed that I was ordering this meal.

A Growing Trend

I have noticed on numerous occasions now that when I enter a new restaurant, I get a similar notification urging me to answer a few quick questions.

This is a result of location intelligence and the efforts of Google to continue improving maps, local content, and data tracking.

Room For Improvement

However, they must still have a few of their initiatives in testing phases. I should not have received that notification on my phone.

I mean, what if there are 4 people living in a house, each with the home address marked on their phone. If one of them places an individual order, are all 4 members going to get this notification?

The testing phase is used to uncover such challenges and then modify a program accordingly. But I thought this was a great, real-life example to share with regards to the use of location intelligence.

Also, I was skeptical about having a Vietnamese Sub but it turned out to be absolutely delicious!

5 Advantages Of Local Search Optimization

The purpose of local search optimization is to:

  • Help businesses show up on the map
  • Outrank their competitors on the map
  • Be the most desirable choice among the businesses that show up on the map

Map results show up when users search for products/services in a specific geographical region/city. For example – when users search for ‘best seafood restaurants in Vancouver’, they will see 3 restaurants pop up on the first page on the map between the advertisements and the organic search results.

This post highlights 5 advantages of local search optimization.

1. Get Found With The Buyer’s Intent

Have you ever searched on Google for things like ‘restaurants near me’ or ‘plumbers near me’? Do you remember phoning the ones that popped up on the map? When users search for such keywords, they are generally searching with a buyer’s intent.

With the help of local search optimization, you can be a part of this last, which also gives your business some credibility. This will entice your potential customers to come to  you, rather than your competitors.

Here is a video explaining the different categories of search results on Google

2. Have Your Business Information Displayed In The Knowledge Graph

When users search for your business name on Google, what do they see? Do they see a list of websites or see your information display prominently on the right-hand side of the search results (known as the knowledge graph)?

What would you, as a business owner, prefer? You don’t need to answer that question.

Your business information will appear in the knowledge graph when you have a properly created, verified listing on Google Business. A Google Business listing is the preliminary step to Local Search Optimization.

Here is a video demonstrating the same

3. Make Users Interact With Your Business Through Website Links And Phone Calls

When you appear on the maps, are you one-click away from getting a phone call or having them visit your website? By ensuring that your phone number and website links are included in your Google Business listing, you will make it easier for users to get in touch with you to research you further.

It is also important for your business name, website and phone number to be accurately and consistently published on the myriad of online directories where your business information may be published.

Examples of online directories can include Homestars, Yellowpages, Yelp, BBB, Industry Canada etc.

In the attached video, we demonstrate the user experience on a desktop.

4. Run A More Effective AdWords Campaign

To create a verified Google Business listing, Google verifies your business’s physical address by mailing a postcard with a pin number. Upon verification, Google is able to confirm that you are indeed located at the particular address you mentioned.

A verified Google Business listing can be connected to your Google AdWords campaign. By connecting the two together, you can improve the effectiveness of your ad campaign by using location extensions. This is especially important for a business that wants to drive foot traffic. Location extension allows ads to display your address and also show nearby searchers their distance from your business with a link to get directions.

Imagine that you are a hair salon in Yaletown. When a user searches for hair salons nearby from Yaletown using his/her smartphone, your ad shows up with your salon name, ad copy and the user’s distance from the store. They can easily tap the call button or the get directions button. This is great for user experience and translates into more visitors to your salon/store.

Another advantage of connecting the Google Business listing with AdWords and using location extensions is that Google rewards campaigns that use such features. This can mean higher ranking ads, higher click through rates and lower cost per click.

Here is an example of a client we use the location extension for.

Having a link to your address in your ad makes it that much easier for your customers to find you. They can simply tap/click on the address and Google maps will show them directions to the place. It’s these little things that can make a big difference.

Included is a video with live examples.

5. Positive Reviews Will Outrank Competitors With New Search Result Filters

Along with rankings, review management is the other half of local search optimization. A positive review profile on Google, Facebook, Yelp etc can impact rankings.

But more importantly, a positive review profile helps you to get an edge over your competition.

Very recently, Google started testing new filters on the map wherein users can filter results based on ratings or hours of operation.

Here is a screenshot of search results in the map pack for ‘Cosmetic Dental Clinics in Burnaby’:

As you can see, Google has introduced new filter options for users to look only at the results that are relevant to them.

These new filter options allow users to filter results based on:

1. Ratings: Users can choose to only see clinics with 4 or more stars, 3 or more stars or 2 or more stars.

2. Hours: Users can choose to see only the businesses that are open now or only the ones open on Monday/Tuesday or any other particular day of the week.

Here is a short video where I demonstrate the same.

Given that users can now filter results based on reviews, the online review profile has become more important than ever before.

There are software and tools that can help you manage reviews across multiple platforms with ease. You can consult us for our recommendations.

But please do note that, 2017 onwards, online review management needs to be an integral part of your overall marketing strategy.

Final Thoughts

The whole idea of search engine optimization (SEO) is two fold –

1) Ranking: For your business to be discovered by users when they are looking for products or services that you provide.

2) Reputation: To appear as the most attractive choice for users as compared to your competitors.

The focus of Local SEO is to be featured on the map results. This is becoming an increasingly popular part of local marketing plans.

The space on the map pack (the 3 map results that show on page 1 of Google search results) is limited and can be highly competitive. Making an effort and allocating some resources towards local SEO can be a great decision depending on the type of industry and the geographical region you are in.

To find out how you can outrank your competitors on the map and for effective online review management solutions, reach out to us and we can assess the benefits of local SEO as it relates directly to your business.

5 Management Lessons Learned From Missing A Goal By 5 Days

A quote I really like is ‘Be stubborn about your goals, and flexible about your methods.’

As stubborn as we were, we missed our goal by 5 days. Were we not stubborn enough or did our flexibility let us down? That is for us to decide. But success is a product of failures and our failure to meet a recent internal goal has influenced this post.

The following management lessons can help in managing a project with greater efficiency –

Start With A Vision And Work With A Plan

Before putting pen to paper, begin with a vision. For example, if you are designing a product, envision it in fine details. Imagine its looks, its feel, its use, and even its colors.

Once the project leaders can clearly visualize the end product and agree upon it, a thorough plan should be prepared to break the vision into phases, tasks, and responsibilities.

This will involve separating big rocks from the small rocks and it will help in resource planning and creating milestones.

Decide The Decision-Making Process

I can bet that we are all guilty of having spent our precious time in meetings that we have walked out of without making any real decisions.

How are decisions taken in your group or organization? Is it through a diplomatic process where everyone involved gets to vote and the majority wins? Or does the decision ultimately rest in the hands of a leader or influencer?

It is best that the decision-making process is decided upon by a group before starting discussions on any project.

Repeat After Me: “Actionable And Deliverables”

Speaking of meetings – have you ever felt that they are a waste of time? They sure can be if you don’t walk out of a meeting with actionable and deliverables.

All too often, we get into a meeting room and rant about various topics on the agenda. After the meeting, people walk off with a deeper understanding of issues at hand and possible solutions.

However, if you do not summarize the meeting and break it down into actionable and deliverables, there is a high probability that you will find yourself in the same meeting room again and experience a déjà vu moment.

Share Your Progress Periodically

Project management pro’s ensure that everyone knows what is to be done and who is in charge of what. Everyone takes ownership of their responsibilities and boom, everyone delivers as expected. Right?

Let me remind you – we lost Atlantis (if it ever existed) a long time ago. Reality is, things often fall through the cracks. It is critical that progress reports are discussed periodically to ensure that the planned milestones are being achieved in a timely manner and no stone is left unturned.

Don’t Worry About Getting It Right, Get It Done

Geoffrey Fisher said – ‘When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target’. In the real world, it is less valuable to get it right than it is to get it done. Silicon Valley is known to prophecies the concept of a ‘minimum viable product’ and it works in many cases.

The viability of that concept can vary from project to project of course. I mean, don’t launch a car knowing that it runs but without being sure that all components are working properly. Otherwise, you’ll just end up having to go through a very expensive product recall like Ford, Honda, Toyota, and GM.

But in many cases, getting it done can be better than getting it right.

CTA Conference 2016 Review – The Best Of The Best In Digital Marketing

Image credit: Georgia Straight

The Unbounce CTA Conference was a 3-day whirlwind and it’s taken a few weeks for us to settle down, get our thoughts together and discuss what our major takeaways were.

First of all—WOW! Talk about the cream of the digital marketing crop all under one roof! This conference was jam-packed with one engaging and informative speaker after another.

There were frequent breaks and great snack offerings—Lara Bars and fruit snacks galore all day (yum), food trucks and to top it off, we walked away with some cool swag as well!

Knowledge Grows from Sharing

Building on the momentum of the conference, we are writing this article in the spirit of ‘marketers share tips and tricks with each other and then use those tips and tricks to beat each other’.

So without further delay, here are 3 things we are dying to share as we reminisce on the 2 days invested in dancing with the celebrities of the marketing industry:

Machine Learning is creating algorithms that are smarter than the collective intelligence of over a thousand marketers.

Machine learning refers to writing software which can learn from past experience.

Marketers currently invest considerable time in creating and optimizing site pages and landing pages, looking at elements such as content quality, design, colours, and user experience.

A/B testing allows marketers to discover best practices for conversion rate optimization. Data scientists are now using the massive amounts of data collected through years of research to create highly sophisticated algorithms which will be capable of analyzing pages and identifying gaps and opportunities to optimize for conversions.

In the age of technology, being human is the secret sauce to the best strategies.

With Machine Learning becoming more developed and widely used, we must remember that machines can’t think on their own and they can’t be creative. So, while we strive to make data driven decisions, it is important to remember who your marketing is directed to.

The real person you are trying to converse with does not like bots or even marketers. He/She prefers having real conversations with real people. So maybe it is time to ditch the email templates and start sending emails like the ones you receive from your mother – plain text.

Perhaps it is also time to go beyond the data and actually meet people who fit the buyer personas you create.

A goal without a plan is just a wish and an opinion unassisted by data is just an opinion.

‘Don’t bring an opinion to a data fight’, exclaimed Andy Crestodina from the stage. Remember this every time you are pitching ideas to your team or your manager or even bickering about any topic with your colleagues.

Data has become fundamental to all decisions – from strategy to design.

Phew, with that now out of my system, let us move on.

Unbounce did a great job in organizing this event. I was impressed by their attention to detail and especially impressed when they said they had an official note taker assigned. This meant that the audience could keep their laptops and notebooks at bay and really pay attention to the speakers.

Digital Marketing Nuggets

However, there are some statements and quotes we felt compelled to write down during the presentations and here they are:

1. ‘What is the best place to hide a dead body? – The second page of Google’ – Andy Crestodina | Applied Analytics: Insights & Actions from 13 Reports | @crestodina

2. ‘Our goal is not to shove content into Inboxes; it is to provide the right content to the right people’ – Anum Hussain | Re-thinking Blog Subscribers: The Playbook Nobody Told You About | @anum | anumhussain.com

3. ‘Don’t spam people and don’t waste their time by sending emails that don’t say anything’ – Susan Su | Open Rate: 100% | @susanfsu

4. ‘If you have a bad product and you invest in marketing, you will just be pissing off more people faster’ – Morgan Brown | Lessons Learned from Building a Fast-Growing Subscription Business | @morganb

5. ‘A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week’ – Morgan Brown | Lessons Learned from Building a Fast-Growing Subscription Business | @morganb

6. ‘2001 Space Odyssey: Nobody knows what the movie is about. It answers a question you never asked with an answer you don’t understand. This is what makes it brilliant and my presentation will be like that.’ – Andre Morys | The Growth Canvas – Stop Searching for Nuggets – Build a Goldmine | @morys | web-arts

There were so many more nuggets flying from the stage, but my hands could not possibly keep up while my brain and ears were engaged in learning. Besides, remember there was an official note-taker (can’t say this enough).

Finally, in the interest of all the savvy readers who have made it this far, I am including a table of the conference schedule with links to all the talks. It’s your lucky day, have at it –

MONDAY, June 20, 2016TUESDAY, June 21, 2016
Oli Gardner – The Conversion Equation

Co-Founder, Unbound

Rand Fishkin – The Measure of a Marketer’s Worth

Wizard of Moz, Moz

Andy Crestodina – Applied Analytics

Co-Founder, Orbit Media

Mackenzie Fogelson – Evolve or Die: How Authenticity Builds Durable Brands

CEO, Genuinely

Anum Hussain – Rethinking Blog Subscribers

Senior Growth Marketer, HubSpot

Brian Davidson – Syncing Facebook Ads with Mobile Landing Page Conversions

Partner, Matchnode

Erin Bury – 7 Key Marketing Lessons I’ve Learned Growing 20+ Brands

Managing Director, 88Creative

Mathew Sweezy – The New Psychology Behind Top Performing Campaigns

Principal of Marketing Insights, Salesforce

Kevan Lee – 10 Lead-Gen Strategies from the World’s Best Social Marketers

Content Crafter, Buffer

Kristen Craft – Video Analytics: What to Know About It

Director of Partnerships, Wistia

Susan Su – Open Rate: 100%

Partner, 500 Startups

Johnathan Dane – The 5 Best-Kept PPC Secrets

Founder, Klientboos

Morgan Brown – Lessons Learned from Building a Fast-Growing Subscription Business

COO, Inman News

Cara Harshman – The Homepage is Dead

Content Marketing Manager, Optimizely

Andre Morys – The Growth Canvas

CEO, Web Arts AG

Aaron Orendorff – 3 Counter-Intuitive Tactics for Successful and Brand-Defining Content

Content Strategist, iconiContent

Annie Cushing – Five Tips To Get Your Google Analytics Account Ready

Founder, Annielytics

Stefanie Grieser – Marketing Tips to Pack the House

International Marketing Manager, Unbounce

Hana Abaza – Myths about High Converting Content

VP Marketing, Uberflip

Amy Harrison – Is Your Copy Selling you Short

Founder, Harrisonamy Copywriting

Michael Aagaard – The Psychology Behind Terrible Conversion Experiences

Senior Conversion Optimizer, Unbounce

Closing Ceremony

With all the videos, slides and notes from the conference made publicly available, it is fair to question the need to pay for the ticket and physically attend a conference such as this.

During the after party (which was at the Telus Science World and reason enough to attend), we met Carl Schmidt, the founder of Unbounce.

When we commended him for organizing official note takers, he shared a gold nugget. He said he never liked making notes of what the speakers were saying or presented on the slides. Instead, he carries his notepad and tries to jot down three actionable ideas that can be implemented at work. These ideas are inspired by the presentations made by speakers.

Presentations are the nucleus of the conference but equally important are the people you meet and the ideas and inspiration that the entire ambiance creates. We highly recommend that you facilitate your marketing team members to attend at least one big conference a year.

What Does Marketing Mean?

what does marketing mean

The American Marketing Association Board of Directors approved the following definition of marketing in July 2013 – Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

Many other definitions of marketing can be found in this article which includes marketing as defined by Philip Kotler and 72 other highly successful marketing professionals.

I think of marketing as an action verb for market. It’s like putting market in motion. This is not how any of my marketing professors or the several dozen books I have read have described it. I think this is a unique description and one that seems to explain so much in such little words. But I am going to continue this sermon.

The Objectives Of Marketing

First and foremost, I am going to begin with exploring different objectives of marketing. These, from my experience, can include:

  1. Brand Awareness
  2. Lead Generation
  3. Sales Facilitation
  4. Customer Satisfaction
  5. Customer Loyalty and Retention

Depending on what the overarching marketing objective is, the marketing strategy planners design a campaign. Now that we know what various marketing campaign objectives could be, let us continue with our primary question of what is marketing.

A business, any business, is an entity that provides a product or a service. The consumers (past, current, potential) of this product/service are what constitute the market. Marketing is what makes this market active. Without marketing, a product would be manufactured but no one will ever know about it and its market will remain dormant.

So is marketing essentially communication?

The answer is no. Communication is an integral part of marketing but marketing is broader in scope. Marketing is actually deeply integrated into business strategy. Neil Borden, the president of the American Marketing Association, coined the term ‘Marketing Mix’ in 1953. This mix continues to be taught as the foundation of any marketing course even in top B-schools around the world.

The 4 P’s Of Marketing

Let’s explore this marketing mix which includes the 4 P’s of Marketing – Product, Price, Place and Promotion:

Product

Marketing is the link between manufacturing and end users. Based on customer feedbacks, marketing is able to guide manufacturing in the development of a better product. In some cases, marketing might determine that consumers do not want a change.

For example, consumers were enraged when Coca Cola altered its formula in the 1985. Based on the feedback from the marketing team, Coke decided to revert to its original formula. Of course, commonly, the feedback is more subtle than nationwide protests.

Price

There can be different approaches to pricing. For example, one could determine the manufacturing cost of a product and add a markup based on industry standards for profit.

Alternatively, one could look at competitive pricing and price the product at par with its competitors. It could price it higher with the promise of higher quality or engage in price cut. Here again, the marketing team can gather and analyze industry data to determine industry standard mark-ups, competitor pricing, price sensitivity of target consumers etc. For example, the tobacco companies had engaged in price-wars which had lowered the value of the entire industry in America in 1993.

Apple, on the other hand, charges a premium for its products with the promise of a higher quality. My first employer had used the analogy of the automobile industry to explain how he approaches pricing. He said you must determine where you wish to position your product and base pricing accordingly – do you wish to be a Rolls Royce Phantom, Porsche Cayenne, a Toyota Camry or a Chevrolet Spark?

Place

This is a decision that relates to determining the market for your product. Here, the marketing team helps establish which particular countries, cities, and neighbourhoods one should target. The surest way to failure is in trying to be everything to everyone. The better a business can determine what the niche is; the more effective it will be is creating demand. For example, if you are a service provider serving only the Vancouver metropolitan region, the marketing team can delve deeper into what neighborhoods are more likely to be interested in your product.

If you provide a service like interior designing for affluent houses, you will not want to waste your resources advertising your service in neighbourhoods populated by low-income housing communities. An example of this is Amazon choosing the e-commerce model while Walmart chose the more traditional retail model. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Promotion

This involves deciding the mix of tools to be used to promote your product or service. These days the choice includes two broad segments of traditional and digital media. Traditional media includes print advertisements in newspapers, magazines, billboards etc. Digital media includes television, radio and more recently the elaborate world of the internet which everyone is on. These sub-segments can be further broken into more sub-segments and the marketing team must decide the appropriate media mix based on your product and brand guidelines. E.g. Nike uses the whole gamut of media from T.V. ads to Billboards to actively leveraging social media.

On the other hand, Apple advertises on TV, magazines, and events but chooses not to have any presence on social media. This was explained well in an article by Kissmetrics – ‘Why Apple Doesn’t Tweet’.

The Role Of Communication In Marketing

Now that we have touched upon the broader scope of marketing and briefly elaborated on the marketing mix, let’s explore the role of communication in marketing.

In doing so, let me highlight the classic marketing funnel and the distinct role that communication plays at each stage –

Awareness

This is when you make potential buyers aware of your product/service. Your communication is designed to highlight that you are a player in a particular industry. For example, people interested in buying a car are aware of the popular brands in the market. But in this competitive market, Kia wants to make people aware of its all-new 2016 Sorento. It does so with a commercial focusing on key features such as space, utility, and toughness. Watch the ad here

Consideration

Here, the focus is on conveying more specific advantages of your product. This focus can range from features to visual appeal to price. Using the same example of Kia Sorento, the company has a detailed page published on its website with a complete overview of features, price, reviews, unique selling propositions etc.

Intent

By now, you have moved interested people further down your marketing funnel and now you want to move them closer to making the purchase decision. In the automobile industry, this popularly done with a common call-to-action of a test drive. You want your leads to touch and feel your product. One way of booking a test drive of any Kia model is by filling in a form on their website where you can select the model, your preferred dealer, a suitable date and time etc.

Purchase

You have already created the willingness to buy and now the intent of the communication is to guide the consumer in the buying process making it as easy and seamless as possible. Kia allows you to book your car online with their Build & Price tool on their website.

Loyalty

This is about continuing to build a relationship even after the sale. You want to create loyalty to encourage repeat purchases to increase the customer lifetime value. This can be done by following up to get post-purchase feedback or smart communication relaying information that can add further value to the user – e.g. Kia can look at complementary products like windshield cleaners or even gasoline and give its customers a loyalty discount at select retailers.

Advocacy

Once you win customer loyalty, you should aim to make your loyal customers your brand ambassadors. You can encourage them to refer you to their friends by providing financial or psychological incentives. With social media, encouraging users to share your brand messages has become more integral to marketing communication than ever before. For example, Kia can offer discounts on vehicle servicing for customers who share their post on social media or complementary servicing for customers who refer other buyers.

In the pre-internet age, marketing communication was usually one sided and easier to control until you confronted the sales personnel. In the internet age, it has become more complex because customers have greater control on media and information that they consume and media sources are much more spread out than before.

This has sparked interesting discussions in the marketing teams of various companies like Google, Intuit, SAP, Sephora, Twitter, and VISA. An article published on the Howard Business Review website makes for an interesting read – Marketing can no longer rely on the funnel.

Marketing In The 21st Century

So, now we have visited the Marketing Mix and the classic Marketing Funnel. Let me finally list out three key ingredients of marketing in the 21st century:

Data

having entered the information age, it is not the lack of but the access of data that is a challenge for most companies. But data can be the most useful tool for your business if one knows how to collect, gather and analyze data to draw quality insights.

Data can be used to get a better understanding of your buyers, the buyer’s behavior, the target market segments, the competition, the industry, and all sorts of other variables that influence your business and marketing strategy.

Data projects an unbiased opinion on market realities and can be used for descriptive and predictive analysis. An amazing example of predictive analysis is the accuracy with which Microsoft, Apple and Google predicted the results of each game of the FIFA 15 Men’s World Cup with astounding accuracy. Microsoft Bing’s prediction technology was perfect in the knockout stage scoring 15 out of 15 correct results.

However, one must exercise a high level of caution in using data to guide decision making. Any bugs in the entire process from collection to analysis can alter the end results. Also, data normally needs context to make it relevant.

Authenticity

A dozen years ago, my father use to say that a good salesperson can sell ice to an Eskimo. I differ in my opinion, especially in this day and age. With easy access to abundance of information, consumers are now much smarter than before. Before making a buying decision, they are now likely to research your product a lot more thoroughly.

While before they may have been convinced by the advertising copy and might have consulted their friends and family; today, the advertising copy might be compelling but they will want to check your website, read your blogs, browse your social media feed, look for reviews and may even post a message on their social media page to source an opinion from a much larger pool of family and friends. If they don’t think you are being authentic in your value proposition, not only will they choose not to purchase your product but they might even discredit your brand publicly on the internet.

This has made authenticity extremely important in all of your communication and marketing campaigns. A great example of authenticity is the way Taylor Swift promotes her brand. She actively engages with her fans on social media and her posts and comments are genuine – not tailored by a PR agency. She is excellent in understanding her fans and often goes above and beyond to delight them. No wonder that there was an article published on July 16, 2015 that Hillary Clinton is borrowing marketing tactics from Taylor Swift (and its working).

Responsiveness

One of the differences between your previous smartphone and your new smartphone is that your new smartphone is able to open applications one-tenth of a second faster that your previous phone. As small as this may be, engineers have worked really hard to ensure faster processing speeds and it matters to you. The same way, we have become expectant of faster communication.

A long time ago, postal careers were used to deliver messages. Now we use emails and instant messengers for instant communication. With this breakthrough in the time taken to deliver and receive messages, your consumers have become expectant of almost real time responses to their queries.

Hence, you must have a robust process in place to attend to consumer queries almost immediately when they submit a query form on your website or ask you a question on your social media page. Here is an article that highlights 10 companies that take this very seriously and totally rock customer service on social media.

There are many other factors that play a crucial role in marketing in the 21st century, but off the top of my head I covered three that I feel are very important. One thing to remember is that a sale is a function of marketing – marketing is a much bigger strategy that might have sales as a primary goal but extends much beyond a financial transaction.

Lastly…

I am Vikram Shivahare – a student, thinker and practitioner of Marketing for more than 10 years. I started writing this article with the intent to answer a fundamental question – What is marketing? There is a fine line between passion and obsession and I believe that by continuing to rant on this subject, I might cross that line. Hence I am going to stop here. But I sincerely hope that this article raises the level of understanding of marketing amongst those who are curious. I also hope that for the more experienced professionals in the field – they are able to revisit some of the fundamentals and it sparks more enriching discussions on this subject.

Any feedback and comments are encouraged and will be deeply appreciated.