By Allison Nuanes
By Allison Nuanes
Your self-storage business probably has a Facebook page and maybe even a Twitter account, but what about an active local profile such as on Google+ Local, Yelp or FourSquare? If youre not using your local profiles to get customers to check in to your establishment and write reviews about your business, youre missing a large marketing opportunity. In fact, by being active on your online local profiles, you have the power to engage, retain and attract offline customers for little or no cost.
Having an active local profile puts your business on the map, literally. For example, a customer looking for self-storage can use Yelp or FourSquare to search for a facility nearby. If you have a local profile on those sites, your stores information will appear in the results. People can even opt to get driving directions to your location. And being present on Google+ Local is directly related to Google Maps, which is a very important place for any self-storage business to be found.
Once at your business, customers can check in on certain local platforms such as Yelp, FourSquare and Facebook, which means theyre sharing where they are with their local community. Gaining check-ins gives your business a few valuable benefits. First, it allows you to see exactly whos coming to your business so you know if youre marketing to the right people. Check-ins can also impact your online rankings. The more check-ins you have, the higher your ranking may be.
After someone has done business with you, he can also write a review within the local platform. While the idea of public reviews can seem scary to business owners, they really are a great marketing tool. Obviously, good reviews encourage others to do business with you. But even negative reviews can turn positive because you have the opportunity to reach out to the community and correct the negative experience. Often, how you handle and turn around the negative experience carries more weight than the negative review itself.
So while online local profiles can seem like just one more thing to manage, they really do have a large business impact and can greatly influence your offline business activity. To make the most of your local online profiles, here are four key strategies.
Claim Your Listings
If you do nothing else, at least claim your listings on the major local platforms including Google+ Local, Yelp and FourSquare. Doing so will help your overall online rankings. Notice the suggestion is to claim your listing, not create it. Chances are your business is already listed (even if you never personally created the listing). How? Often, when customers want to check in to a business but cant find it listed, they simply create the listing themselves. Google also creates business listings automatically based on information available online.
Therefore, do a search for your business on the local platforms. When you find your listing, click the button that says Is this your business? and complete the verification process. When youre verified, your business can be ranked higher in searches.
You want to be proactive in this process and manage your listing to ensure the information showing for your establishment is accurate. If you leave the listing claiming or creation step to customers, they may misspell the businesss name, miss-categorize it or include inaccurate information. If theres currently no listing for your business, create one.
Which Local Platforms Do Your Customers Use Most?
With your listings created or claimed, you can decide which local sites to which to devote attention. The best way to decide is to ask customers which sites they use most. If your business is one that has lots of direct interaction between staff and customers, encourage your managers to ask people. For example, if they notice a customer checking in on their smartphone, they can say, Oh, great, youre checking in. Which site are you using? Were trying to decide which site is best and would love to know what you prefer to use. Likewise, if your staff sees someone taking a photo, chances are theyre going to post it somewhere. Find out where. Engage the customer in conversation; thats the best market research you can get.
Youll quickly find theres a group of people who embrace the culture of journaling their life online via check-ins and photo-sharing. These people usually feel happy and appreciated when they get asked questions about it or acknowledged for doing so because theyre doing it out of their own interest. So dont worry about being obtrusive or appearing nosey. If you approach it from the mindset of engaging customers so you can better serve them, theyll be happy to talk about their online preferences.
You can also add a sign reminding customers to check in at your location. Yelp and FourSquare in particular have many marketing items you can get for free including window stickers and QR codes to educate and remind people.
Watch Your Local Profiles
To get the most from your local profile, you need to manage it. Train your managers to check the profiles daily or at least once a week to respond to new reviews. If theres a negative review, you want to immediately reply to the customer to turn the situation around.
For example, if a customer writes that he received poor service, apologize, assure him thats not your companys culture, and offer him an incentive to return and try you again. When others see how you handled the negative comment, theyll see it as an isolated incident and not the norm. Conversely, if they see negative reviews with no resolution, theyll think you dont really care about customers.
Likewise, when you receive positive reviews, thank the person for visiting and encourage him to return. Use it as an opportunity to reinforce your brand and your companys image in the community.
Post an Offer
Incentivize people to check in, post a picture or interact in some other way by offering a discount or other perk. Some ideas include a free lock or box, 10 percent off a retail purchase or anything else that would be of value to your customers. Realize that for most people, their smartphone is an extension of their personality and its something they carry with them at all times. When your incentive pops up on their app, youre keeping your company in front of your customers and they will take action, especially if they feel rewarded for doing so.
Small Steps Yield Big Results
Using local platforms to engage and interact with customers is a way to influence offline behavior using online channels. For many people, its a new way to look at online marketing, especially since its not designed to generate online sales. Therefore, you need to view it as one component of a comprehensive promotional strategy. When you embrace online local marketing as a tool to influence offline sales, youll reap the rewards of an integrated marketing campaign.
With more than seven years in Internet and social media marketing, Allison Nuanes is the director of off-site promotions at Volume 9 Inc. She focuses on identifying opportunities for brands to expand their footprint online. Volume 9 creates custom-search marketing campaigns for clients. For more information, visit www.volume9inc.com .