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Steering Your Presence Online

By Colin Jeavons, CEO of Vertical Search Works

Toronto, Ontario — September 10, 2013 — Fliers, ads in a church bulletin, and hokey radio bits have been dependable ways to raise awareness about your collision business in the local community, but many people are now looking elsewhere. Web searches and mobile applications are top-of-mind among potential customers—of all ages—who might be in need of your services.

Understanding online advertising and how social media can influence your brand is critical to marketing in the digital age. In fact, the auto industry is poised to be the second largest spender in paid online and mobile media by 2015, according to eMarketer. Online advertising is significantly more targeted than traditional media and provides powerful reporting tools, which is a considerable advantage. For those on strict budgets, social sites create new and free opportunities to engage with your community and strengthen your reputation.
 
Online advertising extends far beyond text links on search engine results. There are a number of digital advertising platforms that you can use to generate awareness by placing ads that run on websites that prospective customers know and trust. By working with an advertising platform that can target your ads at an affordable rate, on the right websites, to the right users you can increase consumer base by increasing awareness about your company For example, a local resident who might be seeking a rental car service, or researching auto insurance quotes online and runs across your geo targeted ad would make a positive brand association with your business. The timing of the targeting and the relevant association with the content would ensure that your ads become and stay relevant to them.
 
Online ads will assist with all of your other marketing efforts. They do not live in a silo, but are part of your customers’ purchase decision. A recent study by the marketing consultancy Shopper Sciences found that 84 percent of 5,000 respondents conduct Internet research. Digital pre-shopping activity influences buying decisions even when a purchase is ultimately made in a retail storefront. Google has determined that shoppers use at least 10 sources before they buy.

Turning the Corners
You’re also able to instantly alter your promotional messaging. That means switching out or adjusting ad copy or even changing images as the consumer mindset changes. You may want to run a promotion for major holidays or playoff seasonal trends. According to an article on Forbes.com, more collisions occur on weekends, during bouts of bad weather and in the late summer than any other time of the year. Displays and print, radio, and television ads are incapable of making real-time adjustments and optimizations.
 
Many online advertisers offer in-house creative services to assist you with making ads, optimizations, reporting dashboards that give you metrics at your fingertips 24/7, and robust targeting through vertical content networks or services that intelligently use geographic and semantic (contextual) placements.
 
Avoiding a “Social” Wreck
Social media is something that you can manage entirely in-house. You’ve probably heard of popular consumer sites such as Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Those social tools can give your brand some local character, be used to share information about your business, and demonstrate a job well done. Customers can share their experiences with the community; posting “before and after” images is one method.
 
You also want to be aware of sites that rate your business and best practices for participating in those online communities. Yelp has over 60 million registered users with over 20 million business reviews currently posted on the site. Many people in your community turn to these reviews to help make their buying decisions locally. Your business may already be listed whether you know it or not. If you haven’t already done so, you should ‘claim’ your site.
 
A recent guide published on Social Media Explainer explains how to do this. Claiming your business’s profile ensures that all information is complete and up-to-date. You can observe how your competitors have done this and easily distinguish the type of profile that will generate some buzz for your brand. It’s always a good idea to populate your site with multiple high quality photos that really stand out.
 
Customers will leave reviews – some good, some bad – it doesn’t really matter, because they are all important. You may learn about some concerns about your business that you may have overlooked or simply be able to share reactions that show that you care. Responding to positive reviews can highlight your hard work and good service. Positive reviews can even be leveraged offline and further differentiate your brand for the local and digital audience.
 
Ultimately, your marketing strategy is all about awareness, differentiation, reputation and how you are perceived in your community. The Internet is worldwide, but it’s also very local. Be active, gear up your online strategy to ensure that you are where your customers are looking.
 
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