Can Your Customers Find You Where They are Searching? - Tire Review Magazine

Can Your Customers Find You Where They are Searching?

What is mobile marketing and why do you need to know about it? That’s a question I have been asked a lot lately. In this first column for Tire Review, I want to give you an introduction to the world of mobile marketing.

My goal here is to provide you with some answers and insight about new and powerful ways to generate more business, both with new customers and repeat customers.

In 2011, more mobile devices were shipped than laptops or desktop computers. You might even be seeing this trend yourself with your employees, family and customers. They all are on their phones or tablets, tapping away.

A few weeks ago, while meeting with a group of shop owners, one of my clients told me this story:

John Thompson had been walking around his shop wondering where all of these cars were coming from. His shop is located about a mile off the highway, and over the last 18 years most of his business had come from customers in his own town.

Suddenly he was seeing cars he didn’t recognize, some with out-of-state plates. Yes, he always got a few travelers in the shop from the interstate, but that was usually during a few big summer months or holidays.
So, where were these new custo­mers coming from? John was stumped until one of his techs told him it was “from Google.” 

Of course, John was thrilled with the new business, and they were coming in consistently. But he was still having a problem understanding what “from Google” meant.

For those of us raised on local news­papers and Yellow Page ads, “from Google” is the way most customers are finding you today. Over the past de­cade, we have witnessed a technological revolution. First we were able to find anything we wanted to know, from anywhere around the world. Then, as technology continued its inevitable march, we were able to communicate instantly with someone on the other end of the world – and even see them.

The old days of just having a sign outside your shop or simply relying on word-of-mouth advertising are gone. The Yellow Pages are not nearly as effective as they were just a few short years ago.

Sadly, even your website may no longer be producing the results you had hoped for – or even the same results you got when you first launched it. No, there is a new media and we must pay attention to it.
The world has gone mobile and you must go with it.

Mobile Matters
Check out these stats from Google:

• 95% of all smartphone users have searched for local information.

• 61% of users call a business after searching, and 59% visit the location.

• 90% of smartphone users act to make a purchase within 24 hours of doing a local search.

• Nearly 50% of all searches are performed on mobile devices, and this figure is growing each and every day.

But let’s take another look at these figures. If you look closely at the numbers, they suggest people searching for you on their mobile devices are more likely to be active, interested buyers. After all, why would they even take the time to search your business while they are out during their busy day? Think about it this way: Do you ever look for information about plumbers unless you really need one?

The convenience – size and range – of today’s smartphones make them the perfect shopping tool. It’s like melding the Yellow Pages with the telephone, and then throwing a full-blown laptop computer on top for good measure.

People using a desktop or laptop are able to type and search more easily and leisurely, so they may be more inclined to “shop around.” People searching for you using their mobile devices have an immediate need and just want to easily connect with you.

Take Advantage
Step 1: Take out your cell phone. Today most phones are smartphones – iPhone, Android or BlackBerry. In fact, in a very short time, these will be the majority of phones in the U.S. and Canada.

Step 2: Find your smartphone’s web browser.

Step 3: Now type in the URL for your website and see what comes up.

Here are a few things to look for:

• Does your website also have a .mobi address? This is the newest do­main that has been set aside specifically for mobile websites.

• Using your smartphone, is your site easy to navigate, meaning can you get to the most important functions quickly and easily?

• Does it load quickly when display­ed on your smartphone?

“OK,” you might say, “We have a great website, so why is all of this im­portant?” There are a few reasons. The reality these days, according to Google, is that four out of every 10 online searches are being done using a mobile device (smartphones or tablets like the iPad.) Simply put, without a mobile-friendly website, you could be missing out on 40%-50% of the people looking for your business.

But there are other reasons you need to pay attention to this. For example, many auto repair facilities are paying firms to make sure their website gets a high ranking when people in the local area are searching for them. 

Google recently stated it is penalizing companies that don’t have mobile websites by downgrading them in search rankings. What that really means is Google will have your ad appear farther down the page and will be charging you more per ad. 

Here’s a quote directly from Google: “As a result of this change, ads that have mobile optimized landing pages will perform better in AdWords – they will generally drive more mobile traffic at a lower cost.”

[As a side note: Websites that use Flash animation will only appear as a blank page on iPhones and iPads, since Apple does not support Flash.]

Easy Connections
On the next page are before and after pictures of a website. The “before” is how a business website would display on a mobile device. The “after” shows how a mob­ile-optimized website would appear. Which do you think customers would make better use of?

Notice that in the “after” photo, there are only a few key options displayed, allowing your customers to easily and quickly connect with you. The important thing with mobile-friendly websites is to keep things easy and simple.

We live in an instant gratification society and if your site doesn’t load quickly and make it very easy to connect, customers will simply go on to the next search result.

The good news – and the bad – is that less than 10% of our industry’s websites are mobile-optimized, so there is still time for dealers to take advantage of this opportunity.

Bottom Line  
Consumers looking for your tires or vehicle services will most likely be searching on their mobile phones. And as you’ve seen, studies have shown that a majority of buyers will make a purchase within 24 hours of searching.

Mobile device shoppers have an urgent need, unlike shoppers scanning their laptop for the best price. The question is: Can today’s mobile device users find your business when they need tires or service?

Getting back to John and his effort to define “from Google:” After a while, John understood why his lot was full of out-of-towners.

Those customers were searching for a tire or repair facility on their smartphones. When his customers typed in “Tire Store” or “Auto Repair,” John’s new mobile website showed up in the results. The site has a “click to call” button and a map so they can easily navigate right to John’s shop.

Finally – it all made sense!

There are several other components of a successful mobile marketing strategy, including mobile apps, text messaging, appointment reminder programs and, of course, mobile customer capture systems. We’ll cover all of these in fu­ture articles, but if you have any mobile marketing questions in the interim, email them to brian@trackableres­ponse.com and watch the next issue for your answer.  

Brian Sacks is a mobile marketing expert with more than 26 years of direct response marketing experience. He is co-founder of Trackable Response Inc., a mobile marketing provider to the tire and auto service industries, based in Catonsville, Md. Brian can be reached at [email protected] or 410-747-1100.

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