Groupon and Daily Dealers are down, what should be the next?

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After watching rises & falls of Groupon and its daily deal cousins on the sideline in last years, I have learned two things:

  1. There is a huge under served appetite for online marketing for local businesses (the businesses which must face the customers in order to deliver goods & services); and
  2. Serious shortcomings in daily deal business model(s), such as escalating operating costs, lack of merchant & customer loyalty, call for new years of connecting consumers and local merchants.

WebCoupon is an online marketing service to local businesses which is an alternative to daily dealers. It has been available to restaurants in New Jersey and New York.

Highlight: WebCoupon provides local merchants with marketing channels which reach not only new but also recurring customers. It significantly lowers the operating costs by not spending on acquiring consumer contacts (email IDs, app subs etc). Instead, WebCoupon turns local merchants’ online traffics into customers.

This short deck explains. https://goo.gl/M8mfuq.

Will Local Businesses Win A Lion Share of Search-based Sales Leads?

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Keywords: SEO, Pay-per-click (PPC), Bait-services, Packaged Marketing Solutions 

Summary: a new industry, internet lead-generation for home service, has been emerging to control flows of consumers to home service businesses from internet searches. Local service businesses are fighting back by setting up their own websites and tuning SEO to make lead-generation engines for their businesses.

Conclusion: in a few years, home service businesses’ websites will NOT be main sources of leads from internet searches for their respective owners. Businesses should focus on leveraging social networks such as Facebook for lead-generation, and on using their sites to nurture relationships with existing and potential customers to counter the invasion by the internet lead-generation industry.

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imageWith its recent Home Services announcement, Amazon is officially in the ring to fight for a share of internet lead-generation for local home service industry. Business owners are, in general, not excited about the new entrant and some are, legitimately, worried. Over the years, this crowded market has already seen established, upstarts and heavy-weights such as Google Local, Home Advisor, Red Beacon, Porch.com. Amazon’s announcement will intensify the war, whose sole objective is to control and profit from internet flows of customers to businesses.

 

This war is mainly be waged on two fronts: one is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the other is paid search, aka Pay-per-click (PPC). For Image result for SEO and PPCthose who are not familiar with this terms, SEO  is a set of methods, technologies and best-practices in website designs and implementation with the objective to rank the website higher at various search engines, Google in particular. Needless to say, companies such as HomeAdvisor, Red Beacon, Amazon, Porch.com are masters of SEO. In fact, SEO is probably one of the most important technical competencies they must master in order to compete. On the other hand, Pay-per-click (PPC) is a mechanism by which businesses pay to have their clickable advertisements displayed. The more a business pays, the better the position in  search results where the payer’s ad is displayed.

Not surprisingly, impacted business owners, in general, resent the internet lead generation industry which inserted itself between customers and home service businesses on the internet. A lot of business owners believe that the industry is “squeezing money off” them and they are seeking counter strategies to defend themselves. Currently, the most well received strategy is “Setup your own website, get it SEO tuned, to generate and own leads yourself”.

I have no doubt that this strategy is a sound and has been producing positive outcomes for now. At the same time, I am also concerned that it will be dangerously inadequate in near future.  This is why:

  1. From consumer’s perspective, these internet lead-generation companies do provide benefits: initial round of vendor screening; price and quality transparencies; vendor selection/choices; and convenience, just to name a few. When consumers like them, they have lives and they are here to stay!
  2. Internet lead-generation companies are providing valuable services to businesses who have yet to establish themselves on the internet. Here are a few data points: more than 50% of home service businesses do not have internet presence. For those who have either a website or social media pages, 1/4 of them are dormant, and attracting no customers. These businesses will benefit from the services by the lead-generation companies
  3. Most importantly, lead-generation companies have undisputed technological (for SEO) and financial  (for PPC) advantages to win against businesses in home services.

This leads to my prediction, companies of Internet lead-generation for home services are here to stay, and they will control major portion of search-based lead-generation for home service industry. In other words, the role of service providers’ websites as lead-feeders will be significantly reduced. This will negatively impact those who have been generating leads on internet and/or paying for PPC: they must pay more in SEO to get their share of traffic, or bid higher for the most relevant keywords, including keywords with strong locality flavors.

The next question: what will  business websites be for if they are not main source of internet leads. This will be long discussion, but here is a simple narrative of my thought:

  1. Businesses need to employ more strategic marketing solutions to nurture demands for their products and services and to draw customers to them, including using social sites such as Facebook and Pinterest. Another important strategy is using “bait services” to attract customers, then nurture the relationship for bigger, conventional transactions.  This is analogous to the prevalent “Info” or “Content” marketing strategy: giving something first, then nurturing the potential customers to real transactions. Examples of such “bait services” can be found here.
  2. Businesses must use their websites as “online nurseries” to nurture their relationship with existing and potential customers. This will become more important in the situation when businesses’ existing customers and sales leads were from lead-generation companies: whom the customers will give credit for being well served – the businesses served them or the lead-generation companies who brought service providers to the customers?

I’ll write about these issues in details in the next post. Stay tuned.

If you are reading this last paragraph, you must have put up with me to go through this entire posting. Regardless you have interests to, or are holding strong opinions on, the subject matter, please leave your comment and/or help spread the message via your favorite social networks.

Whatever you do, it’s greatly appreciated!

Obstacles to small business adoption of strategic marketing practices

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Summary: small businesses rarely adopt strategic marketing practices, mainly due to 3 reasons: 1. lack of expertise; 2. high cost of professional services; and 3. uncertainty of outcomes. Conclusion: removing these obstacles will help small business succeed.     

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Business_plans_strategy_resize_thumbRecently, I stumbled onto an excellent article by Greg Head, CMO of InFusionSoft, an internet platform for small business marketing management: 5 Keys to a Great Small Business Marketing Strategy. In his article, the author argued elegantly that small businesses must have clearly articulated marketing strategies in order to be successful. Although I totally agree to the author’s point of views,  I also found intriguing why small business owners have been going (almost) the opposite direction – few of them are thinking/planning strategically about their marketing. When discussing marketing strategies, most owners seem to focus more on tactical issues such as website designs, Facebook/Instagram pages and search engine optimization.

 

There must be obstacles between the reality of small business world and the proven benefits, time-tested business doctrine & well-accepted professional advice. Here are my top three:

  1. obstacleLack of expertise to craft and execute marketing strategies – I conducted a non-scientific survey in central New Jersey in early 2015, and found about 5% of business owners, mostly young and college-educated, are willing and capable of crafting their strategies and pursuing related activities to put strategies in action.

    To majority of business owners, such a lack of expertise goes beyond inability of crafting their own strategies. One home remodeler explained that his social network did not have many people who are qualified to do the job, making it difficult to identify/retain a competent consultant for the job. After he was introduced to a business consultant, he frequently found difficulties of communicating with the her. Eventually, he gave up the project due to difficulty of providing accurate  customer purchase history as requested by the consultant.

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  3. High cost of professional consulting services — Strategic planning is not cheap. Various estimates put the costs between a few thousand dollars to tens of thousand dollars, depending on the scope of work and business requirements. In addition, most of costs are upfront, i.e. substantial investments by business owners. Business consultants rarely sign retainers which are results-based, such as revenue sharing.

    On top of financial investment, businesses must also make substantial time-commitment to the project, from setting goals and requirements of the project; identifying and retaining suitable professionals; retrieving & sanitizing operational data to consultants; to understanding and signing off the final deliverables of the project.  

  4. Uncertainty of outcomes – For those who are willing to invest, satisfying outcomes are still not guaranteed. There is no warranties, no guaranteed ROI, and retainers are rarely result-based. Sometimes, it is even difficult to delineate responsibilities when results are not optimal.

    “How do I know this will work?” is often the question in owners mind when they have everything from their retained strategy planners. This uncertainty, lays on top of the upfront investment the business has to make for the strategy work, can easily outweigh any, however significant, perceived benefits from strategic planning.

 

Removing These Obstacles Will Help Small Businesses Succeed

In one of my earlier postings, I discussed Packaged Marketing Solutions which are designed to address each of these three obstacles. To summarize, this is how Liquibil Packaged Marketing Solutions address these obstacles:

  1. Lack of expertise: everything needed to implement the marketing strategy is included, e.g. in a lot cases, solutions even include lists of potential customers in the buyers’ service territories: the only thing the buyers need to do is to “turn the key to start”;
  2. High cost: Liquibil’s business is to replicate marketing solutions to as large geographical areas as possible. This business model will drive down the solution costs significantly;
  3. Uncertainties: Liquibil only package and market marketing solutions which were deployed successfully in the past for the same industry. This brings testimonial for the solutions’ effectiveness; In addition, buyers can start with a small geographical area, e.g. one zip code, in order to see the outcome before making further investments;

Please check this out to see if you agree.

If you are reading this last paragraph, you must have put up with me to go through this entire posting. Regardless you have interests to, or are holding strong opinions on, the subject matter, please leave your comment and/or help spread the message via your favorite social networks.

Whatever you do, it’s greatly appreciated!

Selling Consulting Services to Local Businesses One Zip code at a Time

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Summary: This blog post explains, from business consulting professionals’ perspective, what is Liquibil’s Packaged Business Solutions and how can they sell their services as products, instead of retainers, to scale up quickly.

Key Phrases: Packaged Solutions; Selling consulting services as products;

Call To Action: Signup  NOW to bring your business solutions to local businesses and reward yourself along the wayThumbs up, or follow the progress of Liquibil business development. Signup


Liquibil is pursuing a business of marketing of professional consulting services as products, aka Packaged Business Solutions, at pre-determined prices. This is in contrast with the common practice of selling consulting services as groups of billable hours.

Why Packaged Business Solutions? and what inspired the concept of Packaged Business Solutions? Let’s go over this short story which I am sure will bring satisfactory explanation:

 

joe the roofer 2Our first character in the story is Joe, the owner of a roofing company in New Jersey.

A few years ago, Joe noticed that when most houses reached 20+ years of age,  the roofs began to show signs of wear — a good time to establish contacts with these homeowners in order to position his company for the anticipated new roof projects.  Although this is not some new discovery, without any effective means, Joe had been unable to take advantage of this insight. Fortunately, Joe had resource and foresight to seek professional helps.

 

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Eventually, Joe signed a service retainer with Mike, a marketing guru, who had helped small businesses for 19 years.

Leveraging Joe’s insight, Mike put together a strategy and the necessary materials to execute it:

  1. Designed a new service, a small roof maintenance annual contract, to help Joe’s company target the identified homeowners;
  2. Crafted a description of the new service, its value proposition to the homeowners, and Joe’s company is the best choice for delivering the service in the area;
  3. Drafted a sample contract which Joe can use in this sales process, and finally,
  4. Compiled a list of 20 year-old houses in Joe’s service area (4 townships, covering  an area of 5 zip codes)

 

Liquibil_CustomLogoDesign_opt01Seeing Joe’s success, as well as Mike’s with Joe’s company, Liquibil has been wondering if the same marketing package, with limited customizations, could also help other roofing businesses at a price significantly lower than Joe’s retainer. In other words, is it possible to make “copies of Mike’s work” and bring them to roofing companies outside of Joe’s service territory. The following data points a great potential

  1. There have been 2,700+ local companies in New Jersey which listed roofing (NACIS code is 238160) as their primary trade; and
  2. There are over 500 localities, employing 557 zip codes in the state of New Jersey.

Simple economics: the more copies sold, the more revenues to Mike,  and the lower the price to buyers of these solution copies.

 

imageThrough Liquibil, the complete package of solution is available to New Jersey roofing companies. Please use the buttons on the right to learn more about the solution; explore solutions for other trades, e.g. landscaping, home remodeling, tree services; or receive updates when new solutions are released.

These solution packages are marketed as products, i.e. there are only very limited customizations available to buyers:

  1. Buyers’ logo, business name, contact info, e.g. phone #, email, web site URL, social network ids, can be integrated into the marketing materials included in the package;
  2. Buyers’ customer testimonials, brief history and owner introductions can be integrated into the marketing materials included in the package;
  3. Buyers are allowed to modify specifics, e.g. pricing, product details,  to accommodate their market conditions;

The only drastically different component will be the homeowner lists which are determined by the zip code(s) chosen by the buyers;

 

Let me stop for today. If you are interested in more information, or would like to market your assets as Packaged Business Solutions through Liquibil, please reach out to me at zhuzh@liquibil.com, or contact me here.  You can also find packaged solutions for landscaping, home remodeling, tree service businesses here. Take a look at them to see if they what you have imagined.

Last, but not the least, I would be very grateful when you share the words of Packaged Business Solutions, and its impacts to consulting professionals through your favorite social network platforms.

Who Need The Packaged Business Solutions?

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These solutions are developed for small businesses who plan their long-term growth based on establishing advantages  with carefully designed and developed services and products for selected customers. Of course, this certainly does not mean these businesses should confine themselves to the niches they created.

  1. Young and growing companies
  2. Companies in competitive industries
  3. Companies who are planning for long-term growth and successes while competing for businesses and customers on a daily basis.

 

roofer-banner Learn more about Packaged Business Solutions at http://www.liquibil.com, or review sample solutions for roofers, landscapers and home remodelers at http://liquibil.com/solutions.html, or call 908-448-2187 for more information.

Why Packaged Business Solutions?

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The Packaged Business Solutions are designed to provide small businesses accesses  to effective strategies, for their long-term and sustained growth.

Then, why is this a problem worth solving?

  1. Studies after studies have shown that small business owners must think and act strategically, in marketing, in sales, in resource management, all aspects of their businesses, in order to maintain business longevity
  2. However, the reality is that only very small percentage of small businesses can afford and possess know-how to obtain and to implement effective strategies;

In other words, small businesses are extremely under served by professional consultants and the industry they represent. According to a non-scientific survey of small business owners by Liquibil founders, only 5% owners have developed and carried out their own marketing strategies. Another 10% or so owners sought professional helps . The other 85 mainly rely on generic advertising, such as yellow pages, direct mass-mailing, newspaper/radio commercials, and other means of reaching general public. This  type of efforts usually bring in business name recognition, and associated sales. They rarely promote specific products/services to a selected segments of customers with a carefully tailored messaging.

The Packaged Business Solutions promote the practice of developing products and services for a carefully selected group of customers, with a special messaging about the values of the products/services to the target customers. It is known such a strategic approach generally produces better results: increased sales, closer customer relationships and more loyal customers. Furthermore, such an approach also helps businesses find their niches thus establishing them as authorities in selected business areas.

The Packaged Business Solutions address three major issues which small businesses are facing when they think and perform strategically:

Major issues facing small businesses Packaged Business Solutions
How effective is a strategy for the business’ situation and objectives?

Business strategies behind these solutions were all successfully used by similar companies (size, revenue, geographic locations, etc.) for the same objectives.

How and where to acquire professional help to accomplish it?

The solutions include all materials which require professional help to produce.

What is the cost and ROI?

There are two ways Liquibil contains the cost of solutions to buyers:

  1. Solutions are structured in such a way that they allow only limited manual customization.

  2. Businesses can “sample” solutions by applying them first to a small group of target customers, then broaden it to more customers if the initial results are satisfactory.

Read more about these solutions and their values to small businesses at www.liquibil.com. or njrooferleads.com.

What Are Packaged Business Solutions

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Business_plans_strategy_resizeEvery business solution solves a business problem or achieve a business objective. Such an objective can be grandiose on the company level such as “increasing total revenue by 25%”; “improving customer satisfaction”, or it could be more tactical such as “selling more contracts in this county”; or “selling more to existing customers whose annual spending is below average”; or “acquiring more residential buyers”.

At Liquibil, the concept of “business solutions” goes one step further, it not only describes how to achieve stated objectives, but also provides necessary artifacts so that users will not need to create their own in order to carry out the steps prescribed by the solutions. This is where the word “Packaged” comes from: the solutions from Liquibil has everything packaged in the boxes already. The only thing users need do is to unwrap and GO.

Here are a few examples  which Liquibil has  brought to the market. Each of them has a stated objective: either to increase contract-based revenue (tree service contracts for landscapers), or to establish a long-term relationship with potential buyers (the home-remodeler info-marketing) or both (the one for roofing contractors). Each solution also has a definitive description on who are the potential buyers by including a list of residents in a given geographical area. Thirdly, each example contains the necessary materials which are to be shared with the potential customers to promote the company and/or its products/services.