Local Marketing Strategies For Your Small Business
In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Laura Nelson. Laura has marketed, sold to, and collaborated with local businesses for over 10 years of her career as a marketer and business manager. She is currently VP of Marketing at Signpost, following roles with Broadly, Reputation.com, and Patch. Laura earned an MBA from the University of Michigan and a BFA at Carnegie Mellon University.
Marketing has changed for all types of business in the last few years thanks to new platforms, channels, and technology. But for small businesses — the changes have been revolutionary, often leveling the playing field and providing a way to reach their customers and new audiences in a low-cost, targeted, and personalized way. In this episode, I talk with the VP of Marketing at Signpost, Laura Nelson, about the latest trends in local marketing and what strategies to focus on.
Questions I ask Laura Nelson:
- [1:17] So what did you work on in your fine arts and what do you do with it now in your life?
- [2:07] Let’s talk about the local versus national differences in marketing — are there any significant differences let’s say for a plumber versus say a software company when it comes to digital marketing?
- [3:57] Does a business with 10 locations need to be optimized for all 10 locations?
- [5:40] For a lot of businesses, the Google profile presence is one of the most important aspects of the business — what do you have to do to show up there?
- [8:52] Consumer behavior has changed dramatically — how have referrals changed the game for local businesses?
- [12:27] How do we get those reviews from customers that seem to be happy?
- [15:16] How do you manage all of the various channels available today like online, live chat, SMS, appointment scheduling, etc.?
- [18:02] What are some industries that you think are ahead of the curve in having automated and integrated communication?
- [20:25] What benefits can Duct Tape listeners redeem from Signposts?
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John Jantsch (00:00): This episode of the duct tape marketing podcast is brought to you by the salesman podcast, hosted by Will Barron and brought to you by the HubSpot podcast network. Look, if you work in sales, wanna learn how to sell, and frankly who doesn't check out the salesman podcast, where host will Barron helps sales professionals learn how to find buyers and win big business ineffective and ethical ways. And if you wanna start someplace, I recommend the four step process to influencing buying decisions. Listen to the Salesman Podcast, wherever you get your podcast.
John Jantsch (00:44): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Laura Nelson. She's marketed, sold to and collaborated with local businesses for over 10 years of her career. As a marketer and business manager, she's currently the vice president of [email protected] and patch. She an MBA from the university of Michigan and a BFA at Carnegie Mellon university. So Laura, welcome to the show.
Laura Nelson (01:15): Hi Jen. Thanks for having me.
John Jantsch (01:17): So what did you work on in your, uh, fine arts?
Laura Nelson (01:20): I was a paint drawing, um, print making specialists. So mostly two, two dimensional works. However, through the program, we had to learn how to use every medium from the traditional media to, uh, computer based video, everything in between.
John Jantsch (01:42): So, so what do you do with that now in life Still paint or,
Laura Nelson (01:47): Yeah. Awesome. I do still practice my art. I, I draw quite a bit and make prints of it and give them the friends or sell them. The pandemic was a great opportunity to get back into it. Just given that I had more spare time as
John Jantsch (02:03): We, I picked up the, I picked up the mandolin. Oh, there you go. So yeah, I think a lot of people did that. Yeah. So, so let's, you are at signpost for those that don't know signpost specializes in, in a lot of, uh, local marketing, uh, tactics. So we're gonna talk about local national differences in marketing. So let's start there. Are there any significant differences, uh, say for a plumber versus say a software company when it comes to digital marketing?
Laura Nelson (02:33): Yeah, absolutely. Um, a plumber primarily is trying to attract homeowners, you know, to his or her business right
John Jantsch (02:42): In their community generally. Right?
Laura Nelson (02:45): So like, you know, they are restricted by geography. They have a certain budget in mind. Often there are trade offs when they're budgeting for marketing versus other, you know, expenses and other staff, et cetera, company like ours signposts. We are a B2B or business to business company. So we sell all across the United States and we sell primarily to businesses rather than to homeowners plumbers are our customers. Right, right, right. Along with other contractors who are looking for ways to, uh, attract homeowners with looking for ways to build their brand and their communities and ultimately grow their businesses. Right.
John Jantsch (03:30): So that local business that works in a community, obviously they, they want people generally speaking in proximity for a lot of businesses to, to be able to go online and find them. I mean, that's obviously the major difference. And in, in my experience, especially lately, if they're not finding you in maps and things like that, it's almost like you don't exist because so many people are making or purchase decisions that way. What about that business that has 10 locations, they have a, a different problem, a different challenge. Do they need to be optimizing for all 10 locations? How does that kinda change their calculus when it comes to, to online local marketing?
Laura Nelson (04:13): Absolutely. And you know, we work with businesses that have one to 10 locations. It's just an example. That would be our sweet spot. You know, the single location is going to be solving for slightly like different problems than someone operating a business at 10 locations. Sure. They're thinking about scale and achieving economies of scale, right. Depending on how they're set up, you know, across multiple communities or multiple states, you know, they may have different, um, needs in turn of their marketing strategies, the reach and the software that they invest in. However, they, you know, the things that they have in common are the basics, right? You mentioned showing up on Google maps, like if your business is not optimized for that, you're not part of the conversation. A homeowner is not going to find you and, and pick your business.
John Jantsch (05:07): Yeah. The, so, so let's jump right to what makes Google maps happen. The Google business profile for a lot of businesses is I, I mean, we work with businesses. It's probably the most important aspect. I mean, it's scary because it's owned by somebody else, but it's, it is, it's probably the most important aspect having optimized, having the right signals there, having lots of good reviews, but obviously showing up. I mean, that, that, that, you know, for a lot of local marketers is maybe job one. I mean, so what advice, I, I know you work with business owners, helping them optimize that, uh, tool. So what, you know, what advice I, I'm sure people come to you all the time, say, I wanna show up in that thing of, of course you do. What do we have to do to show up in that thing?
Laura Nelson (05:49): You're absolutely right. John, the Google business profile also formerly known as Google. My business is probably the most important thing you can do to establish your business's presence online. And everyone wants to be in what we call that local repack, right? When someone searches for plumbers in your area or roofers cetera, you wanna be one of those businesses that's in the top three that are most obvious to those homeowners looking to solve a problem. The real challenge as you alluded to is that, you know, that is somewhat out of our control. Right? Right. There are basics that we can do to invest in improving that profile. Like first claim it first. And for most, if a business hasn't claimed their presence on Google, you know, they're missing out on this free opportunity to be found and chosen. So that's number one. But beyond that, there are optimizations to do right.
Laura Nelson (06:51): Link it to your website, link it to your scheduler, add photos of your team and the work that you do, make sure your phone number's right. Yeah. I just went over to, uh, a granite countertop business over my lunch break a few minutes ago. And you know, I told him, Hey, I've tried to call you for two days and your number's not ringing through. Right. So we'll get into what happens next in terms of a homeowner making that next step. But getting all that critical information is, you know, absolutely essential to showing up online. And of course, I, I don't want to leave out customer reviews. Right. We don't know the perfect Google formula to, you know, what enables a business to rank in that three pack. But we do reviews are an important part of that. So having a lot of reviews, ensuring you've got a consistent, um, stream of them over time is really important.
John Jantsch (07:50): Yeah. And, and, and actually I think they are giving some pretty good clues these days, because if you do a local search, a lot of times what they surface will say, well, these words were in some of the reviews. I mean, and they'll actually show you some of those reviews. So we obviously know that they are, that they are using those really almost like keywords in the past for optimization. One of the things that, of course over the last 10 years, let's say has dramatically changed for local business is, is just the way people buy. You know, everybody wants to talk about how all the changes in these platforms and new, you know, new networks and things that show up, but it's really the consumer behavior, you know, has really changed dramatically. And I would say that even comes to referrals. So referrals are for local businesses, word of mouth for local businesses, still a huge, uh, way that they generate business. But you used to be, if I went across the fence and asked my neighbor and they said, oh, you should call this for remodelling contractor. I just picked up the phone. I called, you know, today I go and I do a full review of them, you know, to, before I ever call. So how has that, how has that, what I just described kind of changed the game for local vis.
Laura Nelson (08:58): Yeah, it definitely has. And we perfectly described how homeowners have shifted their behavior. Right? We'll still have those conversations with friends and neighbors and trust what they say, but then we're gonna go online to what we learned. Right. So if my neighbor tells me, Hey, work with this contractor, he did a great job. I still need to go on Google to figure out how to get in touch with him. Right. Right. If I see something lower than a four and a half or four stars, I'm gonna start to question right. That recommendation, right? These are people who are coming into homes and, you know, doing an important job. And you know, if the quality of the reviews isn't aligned with that recommendation, I'm gonna start doing my homework. I'm gonna start looking at other providers in my area. Yeah. That's one way, I think also, you know, first and foremost, people are starting that search on Google, right.
Laura Nelson (10:00): That's where the majority of people are starting, but there's this other class of referral that I don't want local business owners to miss out on. And, and that's the conversations that are happening in Facebook groups. Sure. On nextdoor, you know, especially when it's a tougher project. And for instance, I can refer back to the contracting project I'm working on right now. It's a smaller job. It's not a mansion, but I do have a renovation planned. And you know, I had a hard time connecting with the contractor through traditional means, right? Like filling out contact forms and calling people. Yeah. So I went on next door and posted, I went in faced groups to post and asked people, you know, who do you recommend? And I got a lot of responses that way. Yeah. So it's another important thing to keep an eye on.
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John Jantsch (11:38): So many of the home services industries right now are swamped in, I mean, getting somebody to even call you back right now, it's gotten, uh, much more difficult than you would think it should be is hasn't it?
John Jantsch (11:48): So, so let's jump back to, uh, reviews. You mentioned that 4.5, uh, I've actually seen some interesting research on that, that, that says 4.6, 4.7 is actually the perfect score. And that's because I think as consumers, we see 105 star reviews and we kind of go, uh nobody's perfect. And so I think that's interesting. You actually wanna few three star reviews that you can respond to in a public way. I think, because it, it, it feels more believable, but I know I work with a lot of businesses that have customers that love them, but they still can't get reviews. So how do we get those reviews from customers that seem to be happy?
Laura Nelson (12:33): You're absolutely right about, you know, these mid four star reviews are great. Yeah. Right. Real business is perfect and they'll make mistakes and you'll see the occasional irate customer that adds to the authenticity of the reviews that are there. Right. So it's so painful and so personal. Right. Especially when a business gets a, a one star review it, the recommendation here is to bury it with positive reviews. Sure. So you asked how, right. It all comes down to putting a process in place and getting your team behind it and ensuring that you have the right tools. Yeah. So for example, I see team all the time who, you know, wrap up a job, they have a happy homeowner right there and, you know, fail to take the extra step and say like, you know, Hey, are you happy? And, and if so, would you mind writing a review for our business?
Laura Nelson (13:26): You know, these matter to us, they help us find more homeowners just like you. And you know, it'd be mean the world to us, if you did, that's one, you know, making that ask personal, when you wrap up every job and number two is actually following up, right. Gotta make it easy for the homeowner. If they can't find your Google listing, if they can't find your Yelp listing, even if they have the best intentions they're gonna move on with their day. Right. They're gonna go somewhere else. Like they wanted to do it, but it wasn't easy. And, and that's where tools like signposts can really make a difference. Right? You shoot, 'em a text message. You shoot, 'em an email goes right to your listing link and takes several steps out of the process and ensures that it gets done.
John Jantsch (14:13): Yeah. And I, it, it's funny that, uh, you know, QR codes are certainly high having a day again. Right. Um, because we all got used to ordering our hamburgers with them and
Laura Nelson (14:23): Yeah.
John Jantsch (14:23): So I'm seeing more and more people put those on business cards and things, you know, for reviews because it is actually, everybody knows how to do it now, you know, you you're seeing them in ads on television and things. I mean, it, it's kind of funny cuz they were hot 10 years ago and then it just kind of went away. But they really so, so to your point of making it easy, certainly a way to do it.
Laura Nelson (14:44): Yeah. QR codes are a great tool and, and you used to need a separate app to read them, but now we can read them through the cameras on our phones and you know, that's a great DIY way to leave behind a card with a customer, no matter what business you're in. Like they know how to use them. Now.
John Jantsch (15:05): It's kinda like when it's kinda like when podcasts first came out, it was very hard to listen to 'em and when apple put the app right on the iPhone, all of a sudden podcast took off as well.
Laura Nelson (15:15): Oh yeah.
John Jantsch (15:16): So what about all the, one of the things I know frustrates some business owners, but I think it's, it's like back in the day when it's like you, you have to take credit cards and checks and cash, you know, now you have to be online and chat. You have to use SMS, have to have appointment scheduling because people are going to, people want to interact with you the way they want to interact with you. How do you manage all of those various channels?
Laura Nelson (15:41): Yeah. It's incredibly difficult. And this is where technology and other services can make it super easy. I referenced that granite countertop store, my first breast for reference was not to call them, but they forced me into it.
John Jantsch (15:56): Right,
Laura Nelson (15:57): Right. So I will not always do that because I would like a path of lease resistance. Yeah. And that's what homeowners and customers are really gravitating toward, but I send way more texts a day than make phone calls. And I think that's common across the population. So if I can get a quick answer, you know, through text message or through chat, I'm gonna do that. I'm gonna take out the friction of a phone call, but that's like, that's very difficult for businesses to manage if they're using like their traditional tools. Yeah. Like, you know, the owner's cell phone and you know, a team member, cell phones and you know, a chat widget,
John Jantsch (16:37): Someone's gonna be there's yeah. Graded.
Laura Nelson (16:39): Yeah. If it's not integrated. Yes. It becomes overwhelming. Right. Right. And you have to hire someone to manage all of that. That's what signpost helps to make easy is to bring all of those messages into one place. So you don't and have 50 tabs open of leads coming from different sources that can come into one dashboard. Yeah. Right. And you've got all your messages there where you can fire off quick replies or automated replies too. Yep. Is really important. You know, if you miss a customer's call, for example, know, our system can send a text and ensure that customer was heard. Right. We got your message. We'll get back to you. And that enables you to start a text conversation, right. With them.
John Jantsch (17:23): You can say, while you're waiting, here's the 27 projects we did last week, right? Yeah, exactly.
Laura Nelson (17:27): You can customize that reply. You can send your scheduling link, you can get them kind of moving down the funnel of making a decision of whether they're going to hire you.
John Jantsch (17:37): Yeah. Yeah. It's a very differentiator too. Cuz a lot of people may maybe called three people, you know, Sunday night, you know, waiting for them to all come call 'em back Monday morning. And uh, yeah. All of a sudden you've advanced the ball a little bit by having
Laura Nelson (17:50): And people are gonna hire the person who responds first simple
John Jantsch (17:55): Cases. That's right. Especially the environment where we're in now, its anybody responds. They're probably gonna get hired. What are some industries where you think or ahead of the curve in this and, and then I guess maybe, well you don't have to name some that aren't doing it well other than to say, if you're not doing it well, you can learn from these people.
Laura Nelson (18:15): Yeah. I think, you know, in the realm that we're talking about, say online reviews and communications technologies. In my experience, I've seen dental and medical offices a little ahead of the curve there. That's not to, to say all of them are because you know, the issue now that we're seeing is that the software is pretty educated, so it doesn't solve all of their needs, but there was a time when dental adoption of these products was quite sure
John Jantsch (18:43): The it's probably true of anybody who lived by appointment, you know, scheduled all day long. You know, that, that, that those were probably some of the first adopters weren't they?
Laura Nelson (18:54): Yeah. Because like they, you know, they want to fill every slot in their day and they know if, you know, if someone cancels, didn't get a reminder as just an example and they're losing revenue yeah. For that spot. And it's very difficult for them to fill unless they've got a long waiting list and you know, people are available fill slots.
John Jantsch (19:11): Can I just complain about the people that send me an email, call me and send me a text as well. They really need to, it's like when we first got into the AI bots, you know, it's like, they've gotta be done well or they're really not very helpful.
Laura Nelson (19:25): I totally agree. I think that, you know, businesses, you've gotta choose one and my recommendation is communicate in the way back that the person came in. Right? Yeah. With the exception, if you missed their call, you ha you give them that option of texting back. That's just, you know, a common courtesy. Right. But yeah, aside from that, you know, people don't need to be bombarded. Correct. That's not a great experience and you know, that may turn them off. So it's really risky.
John Jantsch (19:55): Yeah.
Laura Nelson (19:56): To add on the question that you asked previously, signpost really concentrates on contractors though, we serve dozens and dozens of industries. We focus on contractors because we saw real need, you know, there are companies across the spectrum when it comes to tech adoption and, and marketing savviness. So we saw that, you know, there was a need, we had the best product market bit. And so that's why primarily we focus in that area.
John Jantsch (20:25): Yep. So we've mentioned the name signpost, it's just signpost.com. Do you, do you wanna invite anybody for the 50% off, uh, special because they're a duct tape listener.
Laura Nelson (20:36): Yes, absolutely. Um, visit, sign post. I can't guarantee that you'll get a 50% off rate, but you know, certainly if you are a listener, you are eligible for a promo rate. So visit signpost.com, visit the upper right corner and request a demo, check our product out, see if it's a good fit for your company.
John Jantsch (20:59): Laura saying, thanks so much for stopping by the duct tape marketing podcast. And hopefully we'll, uh, get to run into you one of these days out there on the road.
Laura Nelson (21:06): Thank you so much us John. Really appreciate it.
John Jantsch (21:09): All right. So that wraps up another episode. I wanna thank you so much for tuning in and you know, we love those reviews and comments. And just generally tell me what you think also did you know that you could offer the duct tape marketing system, our system to your clients and build a complete marketing consulting coaching business, or maybe level up an agency with some additional services. That's right. Check out the duct tape marketing consultant network. You can find it at ducttapemarketing.com and just scroll down a little and find that offer our system to your client's tab.
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