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Democratizing digital marketing for brick-and-mortar and franchise businesses

EGC Group’s Nicole Penn details why businesses of all sizes, especially those that rely on online businesses listings from Google and other sources, to counter “zero-click search.”

5 min read

Digital Technology

Democratizing digital marketing for brick-and-mortar and franchise businesses

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Following a challenging year of pandemic lockdowns — that saw nearly all consumer business transition to e-commerce — brick-and-mortar businesses are readying themselves for a comeback in 2021.

According to a GetApp survey, 92% of US small businesses are reinventing themselves – and that reinvention includes digital transformation.

For these businesses, having a meaningful digital marketing program is no longer just an option. It’s a necessity. Managing a rich online experience to attract and retain customers, however, requires a number of critical components. Marketing efforts need to be accessible, ROI-positive, seamless and integrated to account for SEO, and also include elements of social and reputation management.

At first glance, it appears to be a tall order, especially for smaller businesses.

In the past, this segment of business owners didn’t possess the analytics or dashboards necessary to make informed marketing decisions, nor did they have access to insights that could keep them ahead of market trends. While larger enterprise companies rely on internal or external marketing teams or big-ticket software programs for their marketing prowess, recent advances in technology now make the same powerful set of marketing resources available to mid-sized businesses and franchisees.

Here’s how some brick-and-mortar businesses are effectively managing marketing efforts, quickly and at a cheaper cost than hiring a full-service agency:

The rise of zero-click search

Only a few years ago, if you owned a medical practice, for example, you could provide existing and potential customers with essential information — such as current services, promotions, emergency numbers and office hours — via your website.

Then, business listings (e.g. Google My Business) arrived. Google and other major search engines began giving users as much information about a particular business as possible, without these customers needing to “click over” to the business’ actual site.

Today, if you are a brick-and-mortar business, your business listings are getting 2.7 more views than your website.

We call this “zero-click search” and it’s the search engine’s way of providing a quick and accurate answer without making the user click through to the website.

Devil is in the details

But there’s a big issue with zero-click search. Something that seems as straightforward as a business listing — location, hours, etc. — is often managed improperly and includes outdated and incorrect information that could actually damage a business’ credibility in search. Here are some related stats:

● 37% of businesses have an incorrect name in Google listings (Source: TechRepublic)

● 43% have the incorrect address (Source: TechRepublic)

● 56% of retailers haven’t claimed their Google my Business listings (Source: GeoMarketing from Yext)

The majority of consumers are frustrated when they come across incorrect business information online and a higher percentage than that will lose trust in businesses that show inaccurate details online.

Traditionally, a business would need marketing teams and a robust software suite to update its listings across many channels. Business information is often sourced from over 250 digital sources that include Google My Business, Apple Maps, Waze, Bing, Yahoo, Yext, Facebook and Uber, as well as many other sources that many would not at first consider, such as Citysearch, Snap and ABLocal, among other sites.

Today, there are several emerging SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms that manage all of these digital sources with one click. All relevant information is therefore updated and consistent, seamlessly across all channels for the business owner.

Impact of voice search on business listings

Voice search is becoming increasingly popular as voice assistant devices proliferate. In fact, nearly 40% of all internet users in the US — and a third of its total population — are users of voice search. And it will only grow from here. The use of voice-enabled speakers is expected to grow by over 130% in 2021.

What does this mean to a mid-sized business?

Today’s consumers expect search engines to understand them. Unlike traditional desktop search that links keywords to a business’ website, these new platforms allow customers to get direct, actionable answers, regardless of how they ask their questions. It’s time for your business to think about a voice strategy, just as you once developed an SEO and keyword strategy.

The power of analytics

While some brick-and-mortar businesses use Google Analytics (on average 50% to 60%), this resource only tells a portion of the marketing story.

Businesses that rely on customer traffic need to know:

  • Where phone calls are coming from
  • What their customers are saying in reviews
  • What their social media profile looks like
  • What their marketing ROI is

The union of artificial intelligence and data are making a host of effective marketing tools both more accessible and affordable to franchise and mid-sized business ventures. Business owners all too often adopt a “set it and forget” attitude towards their marketing efforts and online presence, but it’s time for them to move with the times and prepare themselves for the post-pandemic consumer surge.

Fortunately, technical advances born from a year in lockdown make these tools more widely available than ever before.


Nicole Penn is the president of EGC Group and co-founder of Raydeus Local.