Email: Still A Huge Opportunity for Your Business

November 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

Most of the time these days, people are emphasizing Twitter & Facebook, “Social Media”, Gowalla, Foursquare, LinkedIn, blogs, YouTube, Flickr, etc, etc. It gets a little complicated and it’s always about the ‘newest thing’. Email is under rated, in my opinion. It’s the ultimate in ‘social media’ – you most likely got the email from a hand to hand, face to face interaction, either in your place of business, a drop off in a business card repository, or in a meeting of some sort. You are then following up and communicating with them via a very personal medium: someone’s email in-box! It can pay dividends for your business if done right.

Local is getting HUGE!

November 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Local Internet, Local SEO, Search

You need to pay attention!  Google is.  They just re-assigned Marissa Mayer, who used to lead the ‘search’ group at Google i.e 98% of Google’s revenue.  Was this a demotion?  Some speculate yes, others speculate that in fact local search is on Google’s radar as ‘thee’ next big thing, along with ‘mobile’.  Which is like saying “sauce and cheese” are becoming really big…and so is ‘crust’.  It’s gonna be bigger than pizza!  It’ll take  a lot of innovation to intelligently put together all the moving pieces of location based local search (think Foursquare & Gowalla), Twitter, Facebook, check in’s, “Groupons”, Yelp, user reviews, more search, social media, make your head, etc.  And with more and more of this ‘local’ stuff involving not only search and mobile, you – the small business owner – should really get on the ball and start managing and paying attention to this.  It’ll pay dividends in the future, if not now!

Chipotle Launching New Concept

November 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

I LOVE Chipotle - I love what they are doing for the ‘environment’, their zeal at sourcing local food in their various markets, their direction in ascertaining a more high quality, higher % organic menu year in and year out and I like their attention to detail, the speed of their line, customer service, design, music and of course, their prices and their food.

They are developing a new Asian Fast Casual concept, to be rolled out in about 30 markets nation wide around mid 2011. Check out the article if you’re interested.

Highlights from the article:

“Using the Chipotle service model for an Asian concept and having Chipotle do it will give them incredible credibility”

“They have always been open to the idea that their Food with Integrity model is not specific to Mexican cuisine,” she said. “And Asian in general is one of the fastest-growing categories in the U.S., though it’s very fragmented.”

Read more:

Just do it!

October 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Photos & Video, Social Media

Get on with your ‘social media’ interaction and get ‘your message’ out there! One of the #1 impediments to doing just that is getting hung up on the questions of ‘what medium should I use’ – ‘do I have the right camera’ – ‘is that picture “good enough”, etc.  Just getting your message out there is far more important than getting caught in the weeds of having just the right format ‘to start’.  Start now and all that stuff will work itself out along the way.

Increase in Seattle Parking Meters Bad for Small Business

September 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

The more hassle imposed for people to park and pay money for services via small business = bad. More hassle = bad for small business. More hassle imposed by city = bad…for small business…in my opinion. This article agrees:

King 5 Seattle Killing Me With Their Login / Website

September 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

I love King 5. I’d love nothing more than to see them succeed. In representing my clients, I try and help them generate the most qualified traffic to their small businesses around the Puget Sound.

Recently a few customers have pointed out that The Best of King 5 “Western Washington” is now up and going at:

In trying to sign up to vote for your favorite restaurant they have you:
1. Put in your full name, email, personal information, password and your phone number.
2. Then you have to go to your email address and verify the account.
3. Then you have to write a review as to why you like the business your voting for.

The owner of the restaurant I was working with got so exacerbated at the process that he gave up, laughing when he got to the point where they actually asked him for his phone number (required field). And he really wants to win! He’s motivated – but not that motivated.

I’m wondering how many passive users were willing to go through this tedious sign up process? How many users is King 5 missing out on? And considering how much of a footprint King 5 has in the marketplace on Television with both content and reporting why have they chosen to have such a lack luster website? It has a 6/10 Google Page Rank – so the website is getting some traffic, but something tells me someone at King 5 or Belo is missing a huge opportunity…

What am I not getting? Is it easy for you to vote for your favorite business at Best of King 5? Can you find Best of King 5 online? Let me know what you think

Local Business and The Video Opportunity: Why Local Business Should Use Video

June 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

Here is a great article – or should I say ‘an article’ – regarding the virtues of using video to engage customers here at Conversation Agent.

Now, I should definitely be doing a video blog post here, but it’s early in the morning, I’ve yet to shower (the virtues of having a home office) and I need to bang this blog post out before getting onto more serious matters of the day, like client and account work, including editing their videos.

Now onto the point:  if you’re a local business, consdider buying a small video camera and start doing videos of everything.  By everything I mean respond to user reviews, introduce you and your team, show your kitchen and how you make your favorite dishes, talk about the products you source or the services you provide – and do it over video, post it to YouTube and your blog, talk about those video responses to your customers in person and online via Yelp, Citysearch etc and start to engage a wider array of customers and “potential customers” using your real you – a real you that can only come out via video.

A surprising number of businesses don’t use this.  The barrier to entry is so, so low now you really should consider it a part of your “mix” from here on out.

What do you think?  Have you seen any cool examples of local business using videos to engage their customers?

User Review Management:

May 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

It’s amazing to me that so many restaurant owners get crazy mad at user reviews online yet do so little about them.

I can understand.  Restaurant owners (and all local business owners) work so hard, day in and day out, on so many aspects of their business.  One thing they do know is food and to hear some ‘guy’ talk about their restaurant who clearly doesn’t know what they are talking about is frustrating.  Worse yet, when you see insanely off base reviews with a one star rating, what else are you going to think than “competitor”?  It’s a tough field of play – publicly displayed user reviews that is.

But to not pay attention and manage and address these reviews is insane.  Some people writing reviews about your business may be idiots, but actually most of these people are sincere.  Most of the reviews are 3+ out of 5 stars i.e. positive.  And most aren’t written by competitors or recently ‘released’ employees.

Here are some tips on managing your user reviews online:

1.  Respond.  Pure and simple.  There are a ton of ways to respond, but overall be authentic, have a backbone and set the record straight when necessary, apologize if necessary, own it if you came up short or don’t know exactly what happened, and overall, just be professional.  Have some fun.  Have a bit of a sense of humor and just reach out a bit – make a connection.  These people just want to be heard and recognized for the most part.  You have no idea how many people will change their horrendous reviews or give you another chance.  You’ll be amazed.  And if not “amazed” at least pleasantly surprised.

2.  Say thanks!  So many people miss the importance of responding to 4 and 5 star user reviews.  They figure they’ll just get back to the 1 and 2 star reviews.  If you had to choose, and you don’t (respond to all), respond to your fans.  This takes someone from a fan to an ambassador of your brand and restaurant offline.  This gets  the word of mouth from the ephemeral “online” world to the offline, very real, on the street word of mouth world we all so love and understand.  This translates into conversations that happen all the time:  “so and so got back to me at such and such restaurant and was so nice to me about writing a great review.  It was great – I’ll definitely be going back – it is a great restaurant.”  See, they had a great experience in the first place – make it an even better experience with a nice follow up reply and they’ll talk about you – that is for certain!

3.  Rate the positive reviews about your business as helpful “yes” on Google Maps or “funny” or “useful” on Yelp.  This helps ascend your good reviews into various searches.  It’s online PR.  It can only help and it takes close to no time.  Yes, it’s a bit “schilly” but you know, if it’s helpful, it’s helpful and if it’s not, it’s not.  Who knows better than you?

4.  Read the user review guidelines on Yelp, Citysearch, Trip Advisor, Zagat, Google Local Maps, Live MSN and Yahoo.  If your reviews tend to be close, or clearly break these guidelines, stick up for yourself and send an email to these properties requeseting a review of the user review.  Most of them will take these considerations very seriously.  You not agreeing with the review does not suffice.  It has to infringe on the rules set forth by these sites (racial comments, language, pesonal attacks, etc).

5.  Start your own blog and respond to these user reviews on your blog.

These are just a few suggestions.  What have you done to manage your user reviews?  What success stories can you share?

Twitter Tips: @replies…Include a Piece of the Previous Conversation

May 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

Twitter Tips abound, some more obvious than others.

One thing that I don’t really get:  doing @replies with no indication of the previous or relevant aspect of the original “conversation” or comment.

Be courteous and polite – be useful – include a brief summary or indication of what you are @replying to in your “tweet”.  This makes you more useful and it makes everyone a part of the “conversation”

Example Tweet:  @jamesatbuzz tweets “Love @pagliaccipizza and looking forward to their free comedy night – Pagliacci Pizza:

A terrible @reply:  none at all.  Just not replying, especially as a business, is a no no, but more than that, it’s a lost opportunity.  It’s like going to a social gathering or cocktail party and not socializing.  What’s the point?

A not so good @reply.  @pagliaccipizza replies “Thanks @jamesatbuzz – see you there!”

Your timeline / followers only see your reply and undless their following both of you (rare) and see in their timeline both posts and make the connection over a period of time (very rare) it’s not as relevant as it could be.  They don’t know what you’re talking about.

Recommended:  Either RT (Re-tweet) the original tweet and say “thanks” or reply with something like:

@pagliaccipizza:  “Thanks @jamesatbuzz for recommending our free comedy night every first Monday of the month at our Capitol Hill location:

The recommended reply 1.  has a link (always recommended) and 2. insights your readers as to what you’re replying to and 3. results in all of your followers, or at least the ones that see your tweet, knowing details about an event or feature of your business they otherwise didn’t know about.

What do you think?  Have you been off put by all the @replies that flood your stream, not knowing what they entail?

(new feature of Twitter:  unless your following both people, the settings automatically pre populate that you won’t see the @reply to people you aren’t following.)

Google Ad Words for Local Business

May 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

It is my opinion that Google Ad Words is a tremendously under utilized weapon in the “war on” great positioning on Google.  I’m not sure it’s a “war on” but you understand what I’m saying, and if you don’t…let me know in the comments.  Restaurants, bars, salons, hotels, shops, etc in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest, New York and LA (where our current clients reside) – and Columbus, OH – often ask:  how do we get better positioning on “key” keyword terms we don’t currently show up for?  BTW:  100% of our clients show up page 1 of their respective category and cuisine types, but there are ‘tail’ terms and ‘tangential’ terms these clients also want to show up under.  GOOGLE AD WORDS is the answer (sorry for shouting).  There are many keywords that are ‘tail’ terms that have zero competition (no bids) and start off at $0.05.  You can get your feet wet with a $100 – $200 cap per month and really make an impression, pun intended.

Here is a great video that serves as an introduction to Google Ad Words auction.  You bid on the keywords, so there is no arbitrary set price and your only competition is the previous high bid.  You can set amazingly targeted ramifications and track it through Google Analtyics.

Check out this video from Google’s “Chief Economist”:

Google Ad Words Explained

What type of success have you had with your local business using Google Ad Words?

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