Yesterday, I received an email from my brother-in-law, Bob Herman. He has successfully run BuyOnlineNow (BON) online office supplies since 2000, literally from the ground up from search marketing (SEO and PPC) and customer service. He just had a question regarding local search pricing. He’s a master of search, often speaks with local brick and mortar office supply store owners and wonders if they are sometimes taken from SEO firms.
I really didn’t have a pricing answer and replied “anywhere from free to five figures”.
The reason I gave that answer depends on the store owner. Do they want a turnkey solution or do they want to get their hands dirty and do it themselves? I’m going to focus on the latter.
If you’re in search, you know all of this. My brother-in-law knows many brick and mortar office supply dealers who will read this. To the store owners, I do hope this will give you enough information to decide if you can do this on your own.
- Local Listings
- Online Reputation Management
- Social Media
- Combining Online and Traditional Marketing
I may have further information specific to local office supplies sites, but for right now I’m going to point you to a free starter guide (opens a new PDF window) created by Google.
At the least, get and claim your office supplies store found on Google Places. To do this you will need either a free gmail address or Google Account. Fill out every field that you can including photos, videos, hours of operation, etc. Here’s an informative video from Google itself. Oh, this is free, too.
Online Reputation Management
There are companies that do this for you from $20/month up to premium prices. You can somewhat do your own online reputation management for free through Google Alerts.
Here’s how an alert may look for Twin City Office Supply. Note, I have no affiliation with this company. They just happen to be close to here.
Here is what comes up.
Pretty slick. Many results will be from your own site, but some company mentions may come from places like yelp and Facebook (see above).
Note this is just one alert. You can create as many as you wish including different spellings of your business name, competitors, industry keywords or anything you want to see what people are talking about.
If you see that someone left a positive review for your store, you can do something creative like thank them in an email or even a handwritten, mailed letter. If you see that someone left a negative review, you can proactively contact the customer and try to correct the situation.
Blogging is sort of social media. Should you blog? I don’t know. Office supplies are kind of boring… or fun. I enjoyed writing this post a couple years ago.
Bob blogs and I like his style. He rarely talks about his products and proactively calls it “rants of the office supply industry”. It’s engaging and customers can get to know the owner of BON in a fun way. If you had someone design your site, the same person can easily pick out a free or low-cost WordPress or Blogspot blog theme for you.
Twitter – This is funny because Bob and I actually disagree with its relevance. I love it and have met over 100 industry contacts because of it. If you ask 20 “experts” on how to use Twitter, you’ll get 20 different answers. Here is just my two cents on how a local office supply store could use Twitter
- Follow people you are genuinely interested in.
- Stressing on the number of followers you have is wasteful time
- Once you build a following, honestly engage in conversations by replying to tweets
- Don’t talk about your company all the time. People want to hear about them, not you.
- Follow local competition. I call it “co-opetition”.
- Follow the diner across the street who is also on Twitter
- Follow other local businesses, media folks, just interesting locals in general.
- Search for your store name. People are talking about you. Engage with them.
Why the last bullet? Here’s why.
OK, Jeff works for BON but he did mention a nice shout out to them. In the past, I have seen tweets about people excited that they got their BuyOnlineNow order the next day (that’s the norm, actually).
There was an occasion where someone tweeted that their order came damaged and they probably wouldn’t do anything about it. I can’t prove, but I believe that customer was indeed contacted how to return his item at no cost and a replacement was sent out. Could you image how happy that customer probably was? That is customer service at its finest.
Combining Online and Traditional Marketing
I spend a lot of my time in a marketing environment and think we do a great job combining online and traditional marketing. Running a TV commercial with a special? Include Google Places coupons and blog/tweet about it during the run. Is your print yellow pages ad working? Great, still use it. Just ask your rep why your ad spend is partially based on circulation stats including delivery to boarded-up homes.
I didn’t really get into SEO, analytics (measuring leads), Facebook or Flickr (I love Flickr). There’s a reason for that. The intended audience for this post is to local office supply store owners. If that’s you, it probably means you’re more knowledgeable than I’ll ever be regarding office supplies. The above info alone could be overkill for someone who doesn’t spend their life analyzing SEO and social media strategies.
The main reason for this post is because there’s a rumor that at least one office supply company has been taken by a SEO firm who
provides didn’t provide leads. Then, an industry group warned that there is no ROI in this.
So, local office supplies owners. What are your experiences? We want to hear. Have questions on any of the above? Please comment. If it turns into a discussion, I may have a follow up post on this as well.