Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Yahoo Local - Gets an update

As we said before, getting listed in the local search engines is critical. Consumers start their research on the internet first. So be sure your listed and rated.

Yahoo, the biggest is getting more interested and aggressive in the local business searches, they just completed a major upgrade; Yahoo drills deeper into local markets.

It's important and easy to get listed with Yahoo Local.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bad PR and the Fence Contractor

There’s a story in this week’s FenceWeek about a fence company that puts offensive jokes on signs in front of its business. They got a lot of free PR - but not very good. Boycotts were launched, old customers came out to state how he's done this for years. ometimes, when the audience is big enough (think Bill Maher on TV), you can find a market for offensive jokes and you can get away with it. The first amendment, after all, may allow you do that (if it’s not pornographic) - free speech, etc. - but even if the constitution and your town zoning allow it, offensive jokes are bad PR and bad for business. Don’t do it. You will offend many more people that you will attract, and people don’t do business with companies that offend them.

“H.V., owner of Hamlet Construction in Ocala, said he stopped buying fencing from the B...s. He said his construction company buys about $100,000 in fencing annually from other area suppliers."I'm surprised other people haven't taken that position" on a boycott, he said. "I used to do business with him ... the sign is part of his personality. "I wish I was still doing business with him so I could tell him to stop putting ... signs up like that," V. said.”

But not putting offensive jokes on your sign is really not much of a stratagy.

Bad publicity happens; sometimes it’s out of your control and it is important to have a plan in place on how to handle it. A PR professional, Todd V from Performance Marketing, says this about bad PR:

“When a situation comes up, it's important for the individual
or company involved to respond quickly, in an honest and sincere manner
through one spokesperson. The more proactive the response is to bad
public relations, the faster the situation will get resolved. Also, by
limiting the number of people responding to the situation, a company can
better ensure that the response is consistent.”

Bad PR these days is also worse than it used to be, because of the internet.

There is a growing movement on the internet for user-driven content. There are many community based reviews of companies. Google and Yahoo allow readers to write reviews, and there are other reviews sites like Angies’ list. Many potential customers look to the web first. They make quick decisions based on these ratings. So be aware and be ready.

What happens when your company gets a review like this:

"This company installed our wood fence and, within a year, one of the posts
on our large gate split. I could not get them to return my phone calls.
Most of the time you can't even get an answering machine. Not
Recommended. One star."

Is this the company a potential customer who sees this will call first? One bad review can be very damaging if that is the only one. Make sure you have many good reviews to offset any bad ones. In general customers expect to be satisfied; but people with a complaint are far more likely to write a review then a statsified customer - it's just human nature.

So it's important to solicit the good reviews. Make sure you do a follow up. Call the customer to make sure he or she is happy. Send them a follow up questionaire. And when the customer is happy, ask them to write a review. Steer them to Angies List.

One company even said that they would donate money for each review to Toys for Tots. Not a bad idea. You can pick a local charity somewhat related to your business. Animal Shelter, Little League etc.

With the internet, assume each call you get, each job you bid, and each job you finish is a reviewer who will publish their thoughts on you for the whole world to see. Act accordingly.

That’s good PR.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Rate It! - Customer Reviews in Yahoo

One thing most local searches have is an area for customer feedback about a particular listing. I did a quick search in various zip codes around the country for various fence companies and was amazed at how few companies had any rating at all.

Just take a look at what I found for the Little Rock Arkansas area for Fence. There are two companies out of 93 with a five star review. None of the other companies have any rating at all. Imagine if you were looking for a fence company in Little Rock, which would you click on first? Plus, they let you sort the listing by ratings.

There is nothing simplier to do then to get to stand out from the crowd than to have many glowing reviews.

How do you get good reviews listed on Yahoo?, It's very simple - you ask.

Everybody has a list of happy customers, just simply ask them to spend 60 seconds to write a quick review on the web.

They must be logged into Yahoo, which is free and very simple. The other big advantage of having mulitple glowing ratings is if you ever do have a customer who has a gripe against you it greatly diminishes the impact of a bad review. 10 good 1 bad is much better then 1 bad.

Other local listings also have rating systems, make sure company takes advantage of this easy and effective tool.

Make it a goal. By the end oif the month, make sure you have 5 good reviews on Yahoo.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Google Coupons

This past August Google introduced "Google Coupons" as an enticemnet for companies to list themselves with google maps.

In the past when a user used Google Maps to look up a type of business in a particular geographic location, Yellow Page-like listings for businesses in the area appeared next to the map.

The new coupon program now allows those businesses also to promote discounts or special deals in printable coupons next to their listings. Customers can then print out the coupons and bring them to stores for redemption.

Both the local listing and the coupons are free.

Contractors can enter their listing and coupon information by logging in at the Local Business Center at Google Maps. You can update your coupons as often as you want.

No Need for a web site.

The Google coupon program does not require a business to have a web site to participate. Like coupons that come in the mail or in a newspaper, Google's virtual coupons enable businesses to target potential customers looking for fencing contractors or suppliers in their local area.

Google Maps attracted 23.7 million visitors this past July.


Here's an example of a listing Jones Spa and their coupon

What do you think?

Has anyone in the fencing industry tried using these online coupons before? Do you often use coupons in general? Let us know what;s working.

- Gene

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Local Listings

The internet keeps growing and growing. A recent survey concluded that over 70% of the United States population is using the internet. 70%! Well over two hundred million! Even if your not using the internet much, rest assured, your customers are.

People use the internet for all sorts of things: email, shopping, research, and now, music and TV. Such exposure creates opportunities, and this blog will attempt to give tips and advice on how a small fence business can take advantage of some of those opportunities.

First, we are going to make some "big" assumptions. We are assuming that you are not a web expert, and for the most part, have no interest in becoming one. We are assuming that you don’t want to spend a lot of time on this part of your business. so we’ll keep it simple and relatively quick. (There are a lot of books allegedly showing techniques on how to run a successful internet business; we’re not going to do that.)

There is a lot to cover and we are going to go slowly dealing with one topic at a time.


One of the fastest growing segments of internet searching is: consumers looking for local information... looking for a local builder, for example, or a fencer, or a taxi company.. (At one point the internet was mostly used for searching for catalog items and electronics, but now, people ordering pizza more often than not will go to their computer instead of the phone book!)

That's an important trend...searching behavior relating to local searches... users looking for information, products, and services provided by businesses in their local geographical area (the difference between ordering a catalogue item and a pizza.). A study done by comScore shows
"63 percent of U.S. Internet users (or approximately 109 million people) performed a local search online in July 2006, a 43 percent increase over July of 2005"

So the very first task for a fence contractor new to internet marketing is to get himself listed on the local search engines - where your customers look to find what they want. The two most important local search engines to be listed on are Google and Yahoo. They both make it easy to get your business listed, even if you don’t have a web page:

Start with "are you already listed?
Go to http://maps.google.com/maps go to the "Find Businesses" tab and type in the word "fencing" with your zip code.. Does your business show up?

If you’re not listed, Google has an easy way to add your business; you don’t even need a web site, plus you can add coupons for free. Click and follow instructions at . http://www.google.com/local/add?hl=en&gl=us


Do the same test; put in the word fencing and your zip code in the search box. Do you show up? If not, you can add your business for free by going to http://listings.local.yahoo.com/

On the lower right hand side is where the free option is. You may want to do a paid listing but start with the free one. If you’re the only one there, no reason to pay for the top spot. The other big search engines we’ll discuss next time are MSN and Ask.com But for now make sure you’re listed on Yahoo and Google.

Is this a blog going to help? Let us know what you think and what you want to know more about.