Consumers seeking a local business, professional or other service provider search and choose differently depending on the product or service they need. That seems like common sense, but it’s often misunderstood. And that creates special opportunities for local business owners who get it right to be found first by customers searching online.
The basic secret to success is this: Deliver the right types of information (consumers seek multiple pieces) for your specific category, industry or vertical. In other words, today’s challenge goes beyond simply showing up in an online search. To win the business you need to deliver the right kind of information once the prospect has found you. And that’s where the differences come into play.
For example: The two things consumers want most when searching for an attorney, doctor or other health care provider are: 1) Information about professional credentials or specialties; and 2) levels and areas of experience. But someone looking online for auto repair services or any of the thousands of products and services that fall under “home improvement,” will first and foremost be interested in specific product or service details and costs. Only then do consumers start to look for discounts, special offers or details about credentials.
These findings come from new nationwide research just conducted by WebVisible and the Chicago-based market research firm Synovate eNation. Four different groups of 1,000 Americans were asked what kinds of information best help them make their choice when searching online for doctors, lawyers, auto repair services and home improvement product or service providers.
Different types of information include these:
- Professional credentials
- Special offers and discounts
- A video featuring the service provider
- Written customer testimonials
- Personal referrals or recommendations
- Product/service details and prices
- The ability to find the local business in a variety of online directories
“Getting found online is just the first step,” says Ron Burr, CEO of WebVisible. “Local advertisers have to make sure the information they provide will help close the deal. Do your customers want information or a discount? Do they want to read about your credentials, or see you in a video? There is no one answer – no magic bullet that will make someone pick up the phone. It’s a combination of presenting yourself well, making a good offer and helping the customer feel educated and informed. Then, it’s a matter of giving them the chance to convert and take action right then and there.”
12 Ways to Perfect your Local Online Pitch
- Service providers who offer general, educational information – not just about their own company or services – will stand apart. In every category, people want a certain level of “education.” For attorneys, 52% of people want answers to common legal questions. For doctors, 46 % want to know about treatments and procedures. For home improvement, 44% want resources to learn about warranties, tax credits or energy savings. For auto repair, 32% want information about maintenance services recommended at various stages.
- Income is not a predictor of who will prefer special offers and discounts. In just one category – healthcare – the preference for discounts increased as salaries decreased (16% of those earning $75k+, compared with 37.5% of those earning under $25k). But in the other three categories those in the middle income ranges chose discounts at above-average rates.
- For healthcare providers, attorneys – or presumably any business offering a service that requires extensive education and training –consumers need details on credentials and experience.
- Half of the consumers surveyed say they want referrals and recommendations from people in their networks – an argument for having a Facebook page.
- Roughly half of customers say they want information about available treatments and new procedures when looking for healthcare providers, and about legal procedures and answers to common legal questions when looking for lawyers .
- When searching for consumer services like auto repair and home improvement, nearly 70% of people said they need information about specific products, services and costs. When seeking auto repair, 58% said they want a discount offer, while 54% said they want a recommendation from someone they know.
- When seeking a home improvement service provider, 54% said they want details about the provider’s certifications and experience, 53% want a deal, and 52 % want a personal referral.
- Women tend to seek greater information variety than men.
- Online video appeals to all age groups. In fact, across all four categories, both the young (ages 18-24) and the older (ages 55-64) chose video – either a profile of the owner/professional or of an actual customer testimonial – at higher-than-average rates.
- Discounts are important in the categories of auto repair (58 % of respondents named it as key) and home improvement (53 %).
- Discounts are particularly important to consumers under 45. Across all categories, the youngest age groups chose special offers and discounts more than the overall average.
- Across the board, nearly 30% of consumers want the service providers to show up in a variety of directory listings.
Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp. All Rights Reserved.
About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.