Amazon Will Win

November 26th, 2014 By Ted Paff

Lots of companies want to help local service businesses get leads that turn into customers.  Google, Yelp, Facebook…they are all in the business of selling leads.

toolsBut Amazon, more than any of these companies has a better brand image with consumers and massive direct web traffic.  So when Amazon starts selling local services, pay attention because its going to be big.

Amazon Will Win

Yes, there are lots of competitors in this market: Angies’ List, Thumbtack, Handy and many others all want to compete in this space but Amazon has a natural advantage.  In a marketplace (which is what all of these companies are trying to be), the hardest and most expensive part of building the business is generating traffic.  With the exception of Amazon, all of the other competitors in this space rely on Google which has its own thoughts on being a marketplace.  Amazon, on the other hand, has traffic and a consumer brand image that will be very difficult to beat.

Pricing Looks Cheap … at first

One of the striking things about this announcement is that the pricing is reasonable for new customer capture – 20% for transactions up to $1,000.  Most local services businesses would take that business as fast as Amazon is willing to sell it to them.

Yeah…that is what book sellers thought 10 years ago too.

The way this game gets played is that Amazon will take 20% but businesses will be competing on price.  The true cost of capturing a job on Amazon will be much more expensive that 20% because, as the marketplace gains volume, businesses will be willing to offer lower and lower prices. They will make most of their profits on repeat business.

Action Plan

  1.  Register with Amazon to sell local services
  2. ** Capture the name, address, phone and email of EVERYONE you do work for**
  3. Market to your repeat customers with higher margin services (PS we are offering this on a fully automated basis starting in a couple of months.  If you want an early invite, give us a call and ask about our repeat customer marketing solution).




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3 Ways to Turn an Old Taboo Into Your New Marketing Treasure

November 7th, 2014 By Kelsey Brown


Think of a word that rhymes with “complicit” and can have a rather negative connotation.

Okay, here’s a visual hint:

Here’s Johnny on your doorstep, even if you don’t want his vacuum, his political views, his charity request, or whatever else he’s trying todrum roll please — solicit.

For many of us, just the thought of solicitation brings up nightmare scenarios of being woken up early on a Saturday, interrupted during dinner, etc. But when we strip away the negative stereotype and get to the definition of “soliciting” — which is simply “asking someone for something” — we find a huge competitive marketing tactic that you should be taking advantage of right now.

You really can get your customers excited about being asked for something as valuable as reviews. Eliminate the taboo and successfully solicit using these 3 tips:

1. Plant the Seed During Service

customerservice smiley

“We value your feedback” has two sides to it, and you should be using both if you really want to build your reputation. You value your customer’s feedback because, of course, you want to make sure your customer is satisfied.

But you also value that customer’s feedback because it means your customer has just turned into a promoter.

We’ve covered BrightLocal’s momentous survey on the power of customer reviews before, and it’s definitely worth revisiting if you want to use major consumer trends to your benefit. Why? Because the industry leader found that 88% of today’s prospective customers “trust online customer reviews as much as personal recommendations.”

So, the customer who just paid you is now helping you attract more paying customers — all with a few comments on what they experienced. And, to add a simultaneous win-win, your current customer is feeling even more appreciated and respected by your business because you’re openly asking for their important thoughts.

2. Don’t Miss 88% of Your Prospects


A word-of-mouth recommendation passed on by your customer to their friend or two is wonderful, but it’s a tin can on a string compared to the expansive reach of a recommendation published online. With a proven statistic like 88% backing you up, you can feel confident about pushing customer comments onto the World Wide Web.

Even if the customer who provided feedback online never returns to use your services again because customer churn is inevitable — though treatable with the right analysis – their stellar recommendation is still promoting your business to each new prospect who reads it.

Which brings us around to another impressive stat: While the majority of online content is ignored, customer reviews stand out and actually get read. You did the hard work for your customers, now let your customers’ reviews work for you as your Web property cornerstone and new business conversion tool.

3. Take Control of Your Reputation Destiny


The long and short of it is, the best defense is a good offense. Forgive me for the idioms, but it’s true! You want customer reviews published online to boost business, you have plenty of happy customers who say they’ll recommend you…and you have zero guarantee they’re actually going to do it.

So what is a business owner to do, especially when you don’t have the time to chase customers’ promises of eventual reviews?

Solicit your reviews. Really, it’s okay. Remember that soliciting reviews boils down to taking a proactive approach to wide-reaching customer feedback about your company. Launching a proactive approach opens the doors to some very unique opportunities, like:

  • Getting in front of the two audiences that make or break the success of your Web property: your already-satisfied, ready-to-review current customers, and your prospective customers.
  • Tailoring the way you collect reviews to accommodate and delight your customers. Your customer doesn’t have Internet access? Use a phone call to collect their review, letting them freely talk about their good experience while all the publication work is covered. Some customers are hard to reach by phone? Send unlimited emails with direct links to where they can submit reviews. Not sure if your customer will remember to do a review weeks later? Get reviews on-site and at the time of service. Your customer prefers print? Hand them a short and sweet review form and have their comments published online later.

Here’s Another Hint…

Customer Lobby members have access to all of these routes for getting more valuable customer reviews, much more easily. If you’re not a member, we still want to hear from you. If you already have a method for soliciting customer reviews and want to find out if it’s optimized, or if you are just starting your online reviews campaign and need to know more about increasing your capture success, get in touch with us. We’re happy to discuss what you are or should be doing to make sure you’re proactive with your reviews and reputation.

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New Google Review?

October 30th, 2014 By Ted Paff

How would you know if you had a new Google review?

Google My Business App on Android (iOS coming soon!)

Up until today, your only choices were to:

  1. Google your company name and look
  2. Log into your Google My Business account and look
  3. Sign up for a review monitoring service

Said another way, you either had to remember to do it (i.e. not going to happen that often for most busy entrepreneurs) or pay someone to Google for you (i.e. seems like a waste of money to me).


Yesterday Google announced that  they were updating their Google My Business App with real time alerts when you get a new review and the ability to respond to reviews while still in the app.  Awesome!  Finally!!

 Mike Blumenthal also noted that Google has a feature to Enable or Disable Google Review Notifications without the mobile app through the settings in your Google My Business page.  Using this feature, the business owner is supposed to be alerted to a new review via an email. However, after spending some time on the phone with Google support staff, I found out that this feature is not available and that the page on Google’s site has not yet been taken down.

Action Step For You

If you have an Android device, go here and download/update your app.

If you have an iOS device, go here and download your app.  *This feature is not yet available in the iOS app so if you download it today, look for the automatic update prompt in the next few days and update when its next available.



Mike Blumenthal just responded to my post and is checking with his Google sources but he believes that Review Notifications via desktop are going to be enabled over the next few days.  I will update this here if I learn more on this.


It is fixed.  Go here to Enable or Disable Google Review Notifications.

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Google Advises Local Businesses

October 23rd, 2014 By Kevin Baca



Earlier this month, Google released a series of instructional videos to help local businesses “build an online presence.” And, they’re pretty good. Comprehensive in scope, the videos cover everything from settling on a unique value proposition to a detailed step-by-step look at the online buying funnel. The whole thing can be viewed in just over a half hour.

Note: I have included links to the individual videos below.


No website required?

From the outset, the presenter, Maile Ohye, makes it clear that a business website was a necessity “in the past.” This is the first bit of foreshadowing on the theme of bolstering web properties such as reviews sites and social media platforms instead of a private domain. In fact, the introduction video walks through “website requirements,” such as time, technical help, security issues, and domain costs which make websites seem like a needless hassle.

They hammer this point home repeatedly before ultimately suggesting an alternative to the traditional business website — A Google+ Page. Maile Ohye describes a Google+ page as a “lightweight homepage” that, when combined with other optimized channels, makes a business website only a consideration, not a must.


Big Picture of Online Marketing

The videos go well beyond the standard technical to-do list and answers many of the strategic questions that underlie online marketing goals. It is easy to lose sight of the goals when optimizing online properties, and these videos reinforce traditional marketing concepts like the customer journey, sales funnel, and conversion. Remember, this is Google talking: When they speak of the consumers’ online journey, they have an ocean of data to back their conclusions.


Online Research

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the videos is the fact that Google is openly championing other web properties like Yelp, Facebook, and Linkedin. This is especially surprising considering Yelp sued Google not that long ago. However, the videos make it clear that Yelp is by far the most important online channel (outside of Google itself) in terms of the customer journey or buying funnel.

Yelp garners top billing for good reason — consumers seek out reviews. It’s worth repeating, Google draws their conclusions from an ocean of online behavioral data, so when they imply that reviews are the most important aspect of the customer journey, get reviews. After Yelp, Facebook is the next online channel referenced, and again one of the first features highlighted were Facebook reviews. Reviews are regarded as key to competitive differentiation and conversion.


User Experience

The videos reinforce Google’s priority on user experience. The best way to choose content and optimize web properties is to put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. This jibes with the last few updates to the Google Search algorithm which seem to benefit sites that load quickly. It is all about creating a better user experience for people conducting research online; i.e., shoppers. To this end, my favorite piece of advice in the video is to make a list of the most frequently asked questions posed by customers, and answer them everywhere. So simple yet so smart.


Bring your local business online

1. Introduction and hot topics
2. Determine your business’ value-add and online goal
3. Find potential customers
4. Basic implementation and best practices
5. Differentiate your business from the competition
6. Engage customers with a holistic online identity

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In a World Where Printers Can Print Themselves…

October 16th, 2014 By Kelsey Brown

The future is now. We have suitcase-sized machines that can replicate themselves and stock small communities with tools. The same technology is allowing artists to create unconventional pieces like this jewelry collection, and giving doctors detailed 3D models to reference during daring procedures — vital brain surgery included. 3D printing technology is here in a major way, and its rise seems to have come out of nowhere just like its creations.


The world’s first 3D-printed car out for a spin in Chicago, IL.

The point is, it’s hard to predict the next big thing. But, that doesn’t mean you have to be left in the dust.

Remember These Two Pointers:

  1. Determine what’s going to make your life easier, and what’s going to be more hassle than help. Some things are better the “old-fashioned” way, like speaking with a live expert about building your competitive Web property instead of being forced through automated mazes. Other advances, however, offer your business benefits. For example, the linkable telephone numbers we wrote about that can connect customer to business with a click, and automating the process of getting valuable customer reviews.
  2. Be adaptable. The idea of printers printing themselves is an odd one, and it’s taking time to grasp. Then again, wouldn’t we have said the same about handheld computers? Technology changes — so do your customers’ attitudes — so having an open mind about what’s coming next will keep you from being detrimentally blindsided. Instead of picking up the pieces after (which will put you even further behind) recognize what’s out there and take just a little time to analyze what you could be doing differently. Maybe that free app or software upgrade is worth installing.

Note: Call us today and ask about setting up our free invoicing software integration. Get more reviews with a lot less effort.


HP “setting you free” with a measly 9 pounds of machine.

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How to Reduce Customer Churn

October 9th, 2014 By Ted Paff

I went to a conference a couple of weeks ago at which Sharon Rowlands, the new CEO of ReachLocal, mentioned that the average churn in the digital marketing industry is 50-90%.


Why Customer Churn Matters

Every great business throughout history has had a profitable product or service and very good customer retention.   You simply cannot build a long-term successful business and suffer massive churn. The cost to get and keep customers is a substantial expense for every growing business. The increased profitability that comes from retaining customers at a higher rate enables businesses to reinvest in more marketing to grow faster.

Our company is a low-priced subscription-based service that relies on keeping customers for a long time to keep our business model working.  Said another way, one of our largest expenses is the cost to find and set-up a new customer so we need to retain customers for a long time or we will be out of business.  Happily, our customer losses are a small fraction of the industry average.

“I don’t lose customers”

Every business loses customers.  If you run a subscription-based business its easy to measure those losses.  However, if you run a local service business  (home services, auto, professional services, etc.), measuring losses is much harder because its not obvious if you lost a customer or if they just haven’t been back yet.

Measuring customer losses starts with a customer database.  Most likely, this database is in your financial system today (e.g. Quickbooks, etc.).  Regardless of where it is captured, the first step to building a business is to analyze  the name of customer and the date they spent money with you.  Dumping this data into a spreadsheet enables you to answer the question: what percentage of my customers do I not get back again.

Pro Tip:  If you have a Customer Lobby account, we will be releasing a new feature in about 60 days for all of our users to help analyze this data for you.  Simply enable our Direct Connect feature and we will do the work for you.

Why you Lose & Keep

Once you know who you lose, its time to figure out why.  There are many reasons why you keep a customer but only 3 main reasons why customers don’t come back:

  1. Don’t need your product/service ever again;
  2. Make or buy or do it themselves; or
  3. Buy product/service from another business.

Answering the “why” question is all about listening to the customers who are happy (why did we keep you) and the customers you lose (why did we lose you).  Customer reviews are a great way to do this plus they become one of your top-performing marketing assets as a business.

Before you can begin analyzing the results of listening to your customers, you need to ask yourself what value you deliver to your customers.  Make an exhaustive list.  Next line up your customers perceptions of your business that you got from listening to them next to your perceptions of what value you deliver.  Typically, there are gaps where you believe you are delivering value to your customer that they don’t perceive.

What to Do

First, pick your spots.  Use the exercise outlined above to help you better understand your actual market (item #1 above), as well as your competitive position in  your local market (items #2 and #3).

Once you have identified the gaps using the method above, the least costly and most immediately impactful thing you can do is to educate.   Educate your staff who can educate your customers in order to close the gap between value delivered and value perceived.

Only after education programs to close that gap are in place should a business look at the next step which is to evaluate changing your product or service in response to competition.  More often than not, the direction that most makes sense in responding to competition is to specialize – get better at serving a smaller group.


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Clicking Through

October 6th, 2014 By Kevin Baca

According to recent research, as much as 71.33% of all Google searches culminate in a click on the first page of results. Said another way: Someone looked something up in Google, then clicked a link on the first page without looking any further. Apparently, Google did its job and they were compelled to click-through.

Even more important isn’t when they click, but where they click. It turns out, that 71.33% only includes Google organic search results. So, rather than clicking ads or Local listings, the overwhelming majority of people click the first 5 Google organic search results.

There are three main types of search results on the Google results page: 1. Ads, 2. Organic Search Results, 3. Local Listings


Google Search Results


The big takeaway for small businesses is that their web properties in Google organic search results yield the greatest click-through rate. On average, a business’s own website and third-party web properties, such as reviews pages, are generating the vast majority of search traffic from organic search results.

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Is This Business Using Reverse Psychology? Nope, It’s Reversing Yelp Policy

September 26th, 2014 By Kelsey Brown

Last week, news broke about a restaurant actively asking customers for negative Yelp reviews. Botto Bistro, an Italian restaurant located in Richmond, California, has gone so far as to offer significantly discounted meals to customers who give them 1-star feedback on the popular reviews site.

And it’s working. Big time. Botto Bistro’s Yelp page is now filled with (hilarious) faux-negative reviews full of complaints against the establishment like its too-friendly service and too-fresh focaccia. Many of the reviews go even further, telling tall tales about outrageous expectations no restaurant could fulfill (“Walked in today only to find that they don’t carry the iPhone 6 Plus. WTF”).

So, is Botto Bistro using the power of reverse psychology to get more positive buzz? Maybe to some extent, but the real inspiration for this idea, according to the owners and head chefs themselves, came from their frustrations with what they viewed as unfair publishing policies on Yelp.

After allegedly receiving advertisement calls from Yelp that reached spam status, co-owner David Cerretini caved in and paid Yelp for its ad services for a few months. He says when he stopped paying, his reviews page noticeably shifted from mostly positive to more negative, while the best reviews simply “disappeared”.

Proactively getting more positive reviews in more places, including a site as widely used as Yelp, is imperative for building a competitive Web property. But, it’s equally essential to understand that review publishing policies vary from site to site, and to be sure you’re not getting dinged by reviews that can’t be verified as coming from your real customers.

If you’re dealing with a real negative review, not one like poor Botto’s, let us help with our multiple Management Tools. Also, find out how we get more legitimate reviews onto your Google+, Yelp, and Angie’s List pages with our Smart Invites feature.





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How to Fix a Bad Review

September 18th, 2014 By Ted Paff

First, let’s cover some basics:

BUT…, if you are in business long enough to matter, you are going to get some bad reviews.

Fix a Bad Review

Fixing a bad review is generally very simple.  Here is some basic advice that works.  But before you begin, stop.

If your business just got a bad review, you are likely to be unhappy and feel attacked.  That is not a good mind-state to begin this process.  Give your self some time to get this right

As hard as it might be, you must find (or fake) a real sense of understanding about the issue that the reviewer wrote about (i.e. compassion) and you need to be sorry enough about what happened to find a way to make sure it doesn’t happen again (i.e. contrition).


This must-read article will hopefully inspire you before you begin.

P.S.  We have and will continue to offer free help to anyone that wants help in crafting a response to a negative review – just call us.

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California Passes Yelp Bill: What this means.

September 11th, 2014 By Kevin Baca


California governor Jerry Brown signed the so called Yelp Bill yesterday, which effectively puts an end to non-disparagement clauses; i.e., clauses that prohibit customers from writing negative reviews.

It turns out, some businesses have resorted to special verbiage in consumer contracts — often the kind of fine-print terms of service that no one reads — prohibiting negative reviews. These clauses were used by some businesses to basically intimidate customers from writing reviews, which is how I imagine Joseph Stalin would do reputation management.

The new law follows a trend nation-wide of anti-SLAPP statutes that penalize businesses for using the threat of legal action to stifle reviews. California businesses found to be in violation face civil penalties of up to $2,500, so the legality of intimidating consumers from writing reviews is quickly coming to an end.

And, though their motives may be more self-serving than a love free expression,  Yelp deserves credit for doing their part in this crusade.

But, what’s most interesting to me is the idea that transparency can or should be avoided. It can’t and shouldn’t.



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