Using Google My Business to Improve Search Results

Google My Business logo

Google My Business, Google search, and maps changes all the time. We here at One Hand Off spend a lot of time keeping up with the latest and I have a few suggestions for you that should help maintain or improve your google results.

That’s critical because Google is still by far your best source of traffic. My suggestions:

Create posts on Google My Business.

This is not the same as posting to Google+. I know it’s confusing, but google. Google released a new feature late last year to allow businesses to post stuff about themselves. The posts appear in google search and google maps results. Here’s an example:

Google Post example on Desktop and Mobile

The experts at Search Engine Land have shown that regular posting can have a good impact on your search result placement.

It’s easy and it’s free so why not?

How To Do It

You have two options:

New features in Google My Business can help your search results.
New features in Google My Business can help your search results.

Search for your business while logged in to your business’ Google account.  In most areas you will  be presented with a Google My Business panel in the search results like so:

Then click the “Create post” link and follow the on-screen steps.

Or, you can log in to your Google My Business account directly using https://business.google.com/ or use the Google My Business app for iOS or Android.

Learn More

Megan Pritts over at LunaMetrics wrote a great article with much more detail on creating great posts and some things to avoid.  Definitely click over there to read more.

Good Housekeeping To Drive Engagement and Traffic

Google  continues to invest in new features within the Google My Business tool.  But obviously to get the benefit each business must choose to implement them effectively.  Here is a new one and an old one.

Feature: Action URLs

New features in Google My Business can help your search results.
New features in Google My Business can help your search results.

In your standard GMB listing you can of course add your web site address.  Did you know you can add an “action URL” for things like appointments, reservations, and such?

These links make it easier for customers to take action directly from Google Search or Maps.

In Google My Business, you can add your own URLs for specific actions, including:

  • Booking an appointment
  • Placing an order
  • Reserving a table
  • Searching for items
  • Viewing the menu

How To Do It

The step-by-step instructions are at https://support.google.com/business/answer/6218037

Feature: Questions and Answers

This has been around a while on maps on mobile devices, but just recently has started to roll out on the web search as well.

Unfortunately we still see too many businesses that do not manage it actively.

Questions show you have engaged customers or prospects.
Questions show you have engaged customers or prospects.

Every business nowadays invests time, effort, and money to get engagement from their customers. So it does not make sense to ignore a free and ready source of engagement: questions from existing or potential customers on google.

The downside is that there is no notification system in place so you’ll need to check the listing regularly (daily).

How To Use It

It’s easy to use.  Go to your search listing or maps listing and you can ask and/or answer questions.

This is an engaged customer you should not ignore.
This is an engaged customer you should not ignore.

A great way to leverage it is to preemptively enter some frequently-asked questions.  If you get the same questions over and over, why not ask and answer them yourself?

Mike Blumenthal has a nice post with more details, if you’re interested.

What Pop-Up Books Can Teach You About Commitment

Pop-up book as lesson in commitment.

I recently spent 3 weeks assembling 60 pop-up books for a client. Quick math tells me that I effectively earned less than minimum wage for my trouble – plus cut fingers, a sore back, and a crick in my neck.

So what does this have to do with commitment?  This is one of those lessons that you know that you know, but every once in a while you have to re-learn.  In this case, it’s a lesson on over-commitment.

We all know the business maxim:  under-commit and over-deliver.  Expectations are everything in a relationship so no matter what you actually accomplish, if more was expected, then you have unhappy clients.  We all know this, it’s logical, it’s obvious, but sometimes in the heat of a sale, we can forget.

Which brings us to our story.

The Road To Hell Is Paved With [Desperate] Intentions

The president of our parent company was working on sales material for one of his key clients. The client was to participate in an industry event where important retail partners would be attending.  Our president successfully pitched the idea of using a pop-up book to hold the sales material. It was a genius way to distinguish our client’s information from the myriad other vendors at the show.  Great idea and the client loved it.

Great for us too, as we’ve done many pop-up books before and the negotiated price was very good.  Just one problem – in the eagerness to “wow” the client and help secure future work, one key question was overlooked:  timeline.  As it turns out, the show was in less than 2 weeks.

In the pop-up book world, that is not enough time to design, layout, test fit, get approval, set up the dies, print, cut, assemble, and ship the books.  So we were faced with 2 options:  renege on our commitment and ruin a client relationship; or create the books by hand.  Our answer of course was this:

Making pop-up books by hand.
Making pop-up books by hand.

The details are long and painful (physically and allegorically).  The punch line is that we worked long nights and through three weekends, paid for temp help, but in the end missed the deadline to get the books to the show.  Sure we got enough of the books done, but they were done late and had to be shipped overnight to Europe for the show at great expense.

Did the client appreciate the enormous effort to get the work done?  Of course not.  Should they have?  Of course not.  The commitment was to have the books ready at a certain day and time but they were not.  Never mind that enough books got to the show in time, and that the client loved the final product.  In their eyes we did not meet our commitment.

Lessons. Lessons.

The moral of the story is of course to under-commit and over-deliver.  In this case we got it backward.  We risked losing a very important global brand client, and most certainly lost a good chunk of our lives getting the work done.

Lesson re-learned.

Ninety percent of [leadership] is half mental.

Yogi Berra management quote malapropism

Yogi Berra, the baseball hall of fame catcher, was well known for his malapropisms. Less appreciated is the leadership wisdom behind some of his finest “Yogi-isms.”

The following excerpt was taken from a list published by the good folks at PeopleTek Coaching. In Mike Kublin and co.’s words:

Yogi’s wit was often viewed with humor, and is actually thought provoking and useful for leadership.  Here are some of his most commonly quoted quips with additional thoughts that we added:

If you don’t know where you’re going, you wind up someplace else – Do you have a shared strategy? Do all behaviors support yours (or that of your organizations) vision, mission, and goals? Is there a development plan/roadmap in place that addresses gaps and obstacles?

It ain’t over till it’s over – things don’t always go as planned. What could you change? Persist and persevere until you obtain your desired results.

The future ain’t what it used to be – expect and plan for change. What will inspire and increase results?   Are you innovative? Are you keeping up with or better yet ahead of your competitors?

You can observe a lot by watching – pay attention to what’s going on around you. What’s happening in your organization? In your industry?  How’s your staff? What about your customers, vendors, and co-workers?     

When you come to a fork in the road, take it  –  make a decision and move forward. Indecisiveness will stifle progress and create complacency and stagnation.

There are some people who, if they don’t already know, you can’t tell ’em – not everyone is receptive to feedback and willing to learn new things. Pay attention to the resistors; tough decisions may need to be made.

Thanks PeopleTek Coaching for the great list and insight. One could go on and on with so many Yogi quotes.  I’ll close with this:

“You have to give 100 percent in the first half of the game. If that isn’t enough, in the second half, you have to give what is left.”
— Yogi Berra on entrepreneurship (well actually baseball)

Will your Cinco de Mayo restaurant sales be a Fiesta or a Fiasco?

Cinco de Mayo fiesta or fiasco with dog

Hey Mr. GM or restaurant owner, a month from now will you embrace Cinco de Mayo and make it a winner?  Or shrug your shoulders and chalk up another losing night to “everyone going Mexican”?

The reality is that Cinco de Mayo is as much an American celebration as it is truly Mexican.  Likewise, every American restaurant should consider having a Cinco de Mayo restaurant promotion.

Don’t leave money on the table. Tequila sales more than double during Cinco de Mayo. In 2013, more beer was sold during Cinco de Mayo than during the Super Bowl or even St. Patrick’s Day!

Execute the ultimate judo marketing technique: use the momentum of the national holiday BUT redirect it to your benefit.

How to get started you ask? Here are some suggestions for non-Mexican restaurants to make the most of Cinco de Mayo:

Leverage The Food Focus

No, not every restaurant should serve Mexican food or hang cactus decorations or make the servers wear sombreros.  However, food-oriented holidays like Cinco de Mayo are wonderful opportunities to generate not only additional revenue but also generate good will from your customers.  Relax and have a little fun.

Here are some ideas for Cinco de Mayo restaurant promo’s used at my restaurants as well as some of my client restaurants in the past — just in time for Cinco de Mayo this year,  and also  for Bastille Day or …:

Cinco de Mayo Restaurant Promo’s


Promote a Cinco de Mayo “warm-up” night a day or two before

Feature discounted Corona or Modelo beer or perhaps incorporate some Mexican-themed food as a special (see below).  Leveraging the anticipation is an easy way to entice people to come in.

Feature some Mexican fusion into your menu that night or even in the week leading up to May 5th:

For Chinese/Japanese concepts what about Mexican eggrolls featuring corn, chicken, jalapenos, rice, beans?  Potstickers?
For Italian, what about meatballs in a mole gravy?
For a sub shop, maybe tortas stuffed with sauteed chorizo and cheese, or perhaps a cold cut cemitaMore ideas here.
For a Sushi concept, maybe a sashimi tostada layered with avocado and jalapeno.
For a Pizza concept, um, well how about a Mexican pizza?

You get the idea. Be creative!  You’re an alternative, don’t try to be too authentic or too gourmet.

Promote a “hangover cure” day on May 6th.

Feature light, simple food served in moderate portions.  Or perhaps have fun with the hangover cure and offer “hair of the dog” cocktails, etc.

Offer an early bird “pre-game” special

On Cinco de Mayo pull customers in with a pre-Cinco pit stop with your own menu items.  Maybe feature your world famous porterhouse as an alternative to fajitas, etc.

The key is not to compete directly with the cantina destination, but instead to encourage a complementary visit before heading out to party, something like “Great cerveza at the cantina, better food at [insert your name here]”

Know Your Customers – And Yourself

Whatever tactic you choose for your Cinco de Mayo restaurant promo must make sense for your customers and your concept.  This is critical, obvious, and often mishandled.

Playing traditional mariachi music all night in your rowdy sports bar that normally plays nothing but rock and rap, will most likely drive customers out the door.

Offering a tequila shot special in your ultra-swanky, jackets required, fine dining concept is probably not the best idea.  You may be stretching your customers’ sense of humor too far.

Judo Marketing:  Promote Early and Often

Ok so you have an idea of what you want to do for your Cinco de Mayo restaurant promotion.  Great, now get out there and shove it in the face of your customers, early and often.  I’m serious.  Really.

There is no place for subtlety when promoting your events during national holidays (or adopted national holidays).  Execute the ultimate judo marketing technique: use the momentum of the national holiday BUT redirect it to your benefit.

Don’t push hard enough and your customers will just go with the flow and hit the Mexican cantina, or French bistro, or Cajun shack, or whatever restaurant theme fits the particular national event.

Create a Facebook event, publish on all social media, use check presenter inserts, table tents, signs, and at least two email campaigns.  THIS TAKES SOME PLANNING!  The day before is too late!  If you are too busy, get some help.

Be Consistent

The first or second or third time you try this technique, you may be disappointed with the results.  Don’t give up.  Your customers need time to understand what you are doing, and to build up the courage to take you up on your offer.

A key motivator is to publish LOTS of photos of dishes and happy customers from the event.  Leading up to the event and afterward push out a barrage of photos and testimonials.  This will help cement the event in your customer’s minds for next time.

Bonus Tip

If you were paying attention, you realized that this strategy works for almost any food-focused holiday.  Indeed I’ve written a variation of this post for several holidays, including St. Patrick’s Day.

Follow this plan or one of your own, be consistent, be authentic, and you will be on your way to your own holiday fiesta.

Are your employees owners? If not, your small business will struggle.

Employees empowered as owners.

Handing your employees fully vested shares of company stock is certainly one way to inspire performance, but it can get expensive.  It is tough to dispute, however, that owners care more and deliver more value to the bottom line than a run-of-the-mill clock-punching employee.

The key then is to inspire ownership behaviors.  For that you need three things:  effective training, attitude, and management support.

Effective Training

Training is a key issue for retailers, restaurateurs, truly any small business with customer interaction.  Many operate in industries that rely heavily on front line staff to deliver an engaging and positive customer experience – something that directly impacts on customer loyalty and sales performance.

Are your employees receiving effective training?  Probably not. The percentage of small business employees that receive training at all is remarkably low.  For example, a survey by Qumu  of retail employees in the US and UK, reported that just over 35% received no training at all.  Not just ineffective training, but no training!

What does effective training look like anyway?  The goal is to not only build basic skills, but to cultivate and inspire ownership behaviors:

  • Inspire empathy with the business

An apathy killer. People will fight for something they care about. What’s this business’ back story?

  • Connect that employee’s behaviors to their personal success

Be obvious. Make sure to connect the dots between behaviors, sales, and money in pocket. And no, this is not just for staff on commission.

  • Build basic technical skills (the job itself)

Even experienced new hires can bring bad habits; train on how *your* business does it.  Plus skill mastery leads to confidence.

  • Build customer interaction skills / sales skills

Everyone should be taught basic customer skills.  Every customer facing employee should also be taught consultative selling:  up- and cross-selling, closing.

How those goals are addressed within a specific training program depends on the business, industry, role, etc.  The most effective employers start with core minimum skills to get employees functional quickly, then build over time with a combination of experience, regular coaching, and additional training.

Attitude

Call it what you will:  attitude, temperament, charm, personality, work ethic, EQ.  They are all imperfect descriptors for that quality which enables your employees to engage positively with your customers and co-workers — even when they’re having a rough day or are tired or are dealing with difficult customers.

(As an aside, in grooming your future leaders – and you should be doing that continuously right? – there is evidence that Emotional Intelligence (EQ/EI) is a positive marker for successful leadership.)

The management maxim “You either hire hard, or you manage hard” definitely applies here.  Make your life easier by looking for and hiring candidates that exhibit the attitude that will benefit your business. It’s easier to train skills than attitude.

That said, training and coaching can help build positive attitude.  An employee who is confident in their skill and feels empowered can more easily focus on the customer and less on the mechanics of their job.  That won’t mean a damn thing when you ask them to take out the trash — but then again “hire hard or manage hard”.

Management Support

Lastly, a well-trained employee with top-shelf EQ/EI still needs one critical component to truly feel like an owner.  Management support, sometimes called empowerment or even Principle Based Decision Making, is the final powerful enabler.

Let’s say a situation arises which is not directly and completely addressed with the standard procedures. Maybe a customer return that doesn’t quite meet eligibility.  What should an employee do?

What would an owner do?  Most likely the owner would apply listening skills, assess the severity of the situation, the value of the customer, mix in some intimate knowledge of the business (culture, finances, etc.), and take the appropriate action.  Why not empower your employees to do the same?

Look, you’re probably not going to empower a stock clerk to hand out complimentary shoes to customers if they complain.  But why not invite a stock clerk to provide input to the stock room safety procedures?  Or maybe share a better way to organize the inventory on the shelves?

There are great resources out there to help any business start on the path of empowerment.  Find one that makes sense for your business and your culture, and get going.

Can you picture your business if every single employee behaved like an owner?  How much happier would your customers be?  How much happier would your bottom line be?  How much happier would your employees be?

5 Ways Small Biz Marketing Is Like Dieting

Small biz marketing is like dieting

Summer is just around the corner so our thoughts turn to – marketing?  Well, not so much. For many of us it’s mostly about getting in beach shape.  And that means dieting, the painful exercise in denial and impossible discipline invented in the lowest depths of hell.

Okay, so maybe modern successful dieting doesn’t need to be that way. There are a multitude of proven approaches that don’t require blood, sweat, or tears (well, maybe some sweat).

Likewise, modern successful small business marketing works a lot like successful dieting.  It takes a certain mindset, some discipline, but mostly a plan.

1. There Is Not One Good Plan

There are actually a multitude of good plans.  Low carb, low fat, low calories, vegetarian, caveman, beach bum, mountaineer — you get the idea.  As it turns out, they all work to an extent and will help.  Moreover, research by Harvard confirms that the best plan is the one you stick with.

Find *Your* Small Biz Marketing Plan

The same is true for marketing plans.  Don’t stress over finding the one “perfect plan”.  Every category of business, every locality, every individual restaurant or salon or doctor will have different challenges and needs.  Are you just opening the doors or building clientele or maybe refreshing your brand?  Find or create a plan to address your specific scenario and challenges.

2. There Are Many Experts

There is no shortage of diet and fitness experts in the field.  However just because someone is an “expert” does not mean they offer the best approach for you.  Maybe their claim to fame is training Army Rangers which is admirable, but come on, how many of us are ready for that.  What is your goal?  Are you looking to drop a few pounds or sculpt yourself a six pack?  Training for an ultra-marathon or trying to bring your cholesterol down?  Do you even have 90 minutes to work out (apologies to the P90X people)?

Know Your Marketing Goal

Do not simply follow the latest marketing trend or flavor-of-the-month tool.  Be wary of blanket statements like “print ads don’t work” or “you HAVE to use mobile media”.  What is your marketing goal?  Where are you in your business’ lifecycle?  How much time can you or your managers invest in marketing?  How much money will you invest? Are you building up a new day part?  Are you attracting younger/older clientele?  Where do your customers come from today? Use these criteria to guide the specific tactics your will use in your plan.

3. You’ve Got To Do The Work

We’ve all been there on January 1st:  charged with hope and good intentions we enthusiastically create the perfect workout schedule, sign up for a gym membership (again), decide on the perfect diet, maybe even clean out the fridge.  And then life happens.  Superbowl weekend, that trip to the city, Valentine’s Day, the anniversary dinner, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, ….  Too many interruptions slow progress and disrupt the routine until there’s no routine.

Consistent Action Is The Key

Small biz marketing is the poster child for inconsistent marketing.  Independent owner-operators have so much on their plate that marketing is continually pushed down the list of priorities.  It is imperative that the marketing plan brings the business in front of customers and prospects regularly — as in at least weekly — or the business will suffer.  Give the plan importance, get some help if need be, set reminders for activities, and review the plan weekly.

BTW, this is a great opportunity to engage your staff for help.  In a previous post, I made the case that employee inclusion is a great way to cultivate ownership, and that’s always a good thing.

4. It’s A Lifestyle Not An Event

Don’t go on a diet, change the way you eat.  It’s a subtle distinction that speaks volumes about how successful your efforts will be.  Don’t avoid social dinners because you’re “on diet” but instead make a commitment to yourself that you’ll only order something healthful.  Diets imply short-term pain that you look forward to ending and then splurging on “good food”.  Instead, make everyday changes and allow yourself some treats regularly but within your plan.

Marketing Should Be In Your Business DNA

The plan and marketing in general must be as much a part of your daily operation as doing line checks or cleaning the bathroom.   Do owners hold managers and staff accountable for sales results and specific marketing activities?  The successful ones do.  Do you require your staff members to capture a minimum number of loyalty program registrations each shift/day/week?  You should.  You require side work like folding or filing to be done each shift by your staff, right?  Is bringing customers in your door (aka marketing) less important?

5. Give Your Plan Time To Work

Exercise and dieting take time to show results.  Unfortunately magical pills only exist in the movies.  Have faith that your plan will work as long as you work it.  Be steadfast, be patient.

Like dieting, small business marketing is difficult but anyone can be successful.  Just develop a plan, work it consistently, and be patient.  In no time you’ll see more customers through your door which leads to happier employees — and ownership!