RepEquity Blog

Let’s Talk: Tracking Phone Leads Online

For local businesses, marketing success is often measured by how often the phone rings. Local businesses like pest control, lawn service and home improvement contractors live or die by generating quality leads. Typically these companies prefer phone leads over trading emails with potential customers because they can build rapport, ask questions, and provide personalized recommendations.  In other words, they can close more business.

Of course, competition is stiff. For every well-known, well-funded national competitor, there may be 100 other local and regional competitors to contend with. Having a strong presence in search engines and social media and a usable website that drives leads isn’t easy, but many companies do it well enough. We often find that the missing piece is optics into which marketing channels most efficiently drive leads and revenue. This information is essential to businesses and their agency partners for prioritizing, budgeting and making better decisions.

While web leads are easier to measure, they might only represent 5-10% of total leads.  Understanding what drives phone leads really matters.  So how do we get there?

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Is A Farewell to Google Alerts in our Future?

As of today, beloved Google Reader is history. While we hardly noticed the passing of past Google products like Picnik, Google Wave, and Jaiku (you can see the full Google Product graveyard here), we were sad to see Google Reader go.

Although revenue was reportedly not a factor in the decision, Reader’s lack of direct usefulness to Google+ may have been the primary factor in its demise. Reader users consumed and shared a great deal of content through the tool using intuitive social sharing buttons. However, when non-Google social sharing options within Reader were converted to Google+, the rate of sharing decreased along with Reader’s longevity. In fact, according to Brian Shih, a former Google Reader product manager, members of the highly skilled Google Reader team had been historically pulled away to work on social products including OpenSocial, Buzz and Google+.

Reader’s death leaves many of us migrating our feeds to services like Feedly, The Old Reader and Digg Reader. (So far, Feedly seems a likely contender with its familiar and friendly interface, although we’re not completely satisfied with the feed quality.)

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RepEquity Named Top Technology Innovator by Washington SmartCEO Magazine

RepEquity at SmartCEO VOLTAGE Awards

In the past several years, various news outlets like the New York Times and Entrepreneur have reported on the explosive increase in entrepreneurship and technology start-ups in Washington, DC. RepEquity entered the scene in 2007 and now counts some of the District’s and even the world’s most recognized individuals and brands as our clients. Locally we partner with the Northern Virginia Technology Council on networking events, invite local Drupal developers to co-work from our office and each year host Social Media Week events with Arent Fox.

Last week, we were named top Emerging Technology Innovator at the 2013 VOLTAGE Awards presented by Washington’s SmartCEO magazine. The Technology Innovator category recognizes companies that use technology to make their clients more competitive in today’s marketplace. We were among eight winners chosen from 24 finalists, who collectively generate $2.2 billion in revenue and employ nearly 9,000 people. It’s an honor for our team and our work to be recognized by a leadership community like SmartCEO.

Empathy and the User Experience (UX)

User experience (UX) is the subjective emotional reaction by an individual to a product, system or service. UX design takes into account all the human factors that lead to those reactions, and results in a better mobile or web experience for users. The goal of UX design is a satisfied user. Does the user perceive the value and truly connect with the product or brand?

UX design requires us to understand our audiences’ motives, values and preferences. So where does empathy come into play? Empathy is one component of UX design that enables us to approach our work from the audiences’ perspective. Through empathy, we come to a deeper understanding of the needs and viewpoints of our clients and their audiences – factors that drive important strategic decisions. In a user-centric approach, specific UX techniques are used to infuse empathy as we define the primary user segments for the project.

Empathy Mapping

One such technique is empathy mapping, a UX analysis tool originally created by David Gray of XPLANE. Empathy mapping is an imaginative process in which we step into an audience’s shoes to tell the story of a particular user segment we want to reach. The result is a detailed personage – an actual artifact – that influences decisions throughout the design and development process. Artifacts make an audience tangible.

An empathy map template is shown below. There is a face in the center of the map, which represents the user and can be personalized in the exercise to get closer to your audience.  As we imagine a day in the life of our audience, we note what the audience thinks, feels, hears, sees, says, does and maybe even wants, documenting those factors on the empathy map. Based on this information, we develop a specific profile or description of our audience.

Empathy Map Empathy maps lead to improved user experiences and apply to almost every audience and project, as reflected in our work. Through this process, we confirm or expand the client’s understanding of their audience definitions and create opportunities for deeper, more meaningful connections.

SourceEmpathy Mapping on gogamestorm.com

Get to Know Kevin Hofmaenner, A RepEquity Search Engine Marketing Manager

Kevin Hofmaenner joined the RepEquity team in January. As a Search Engine Marketing Manager, he drives SEM results for our diverse range of B-to-B and B-to-C clients. Prior to working at RepEquity, Kevin managed digital marketing campaigns for some of the strongest hospitality brands including the Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Fairmont, Intercontinental and Loews. Kevin prides himself on closely following the industry and innovating with new strategies and tools.

What did you expect you would be doing when you graduated college?

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Integrated Science and Technology from James Madison University. The focus of my degree was towards renewable energy/energy efficiency. I completed an undergraduate internship at an engineering firm where I helped conduct energy efficiency audits on large scale commercial buildings. When I graduated from JMU, I got a job as a Contractor for the Department of Energy in Washington, DC. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated but I ended up finding that working with websites, analytics, and online marketing was more interesting to me.

How did you get started with paid search advertising?

I have always gravitated towards the web and over time it’s become second nature to me. I got my start with paid search marketing by building websites for friends and family. One thing led to another, and I began working at a digital agency that specialized in driving direct revenue for some of the world’s largest Hospitality brands.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to pursue a career in paid search marketing?

Read, read, read. Keep abreast with current industry news and blogs. (Kevin recommends Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, SEOmoz, Mashable, LinkedIn and Google’s Inside AdWords blog.)

Build a blog or website, even if it’s just getting a tumblr up and running or a WordPress theme going. Install Google Analytics. Play around with registering domains. Learn a little bit of HTML/CSS. Google everything you don’t know and read it all. By doing things, you will run into dead ends that will force you to research and learn.

Get AdWords Certified and Bing Certified. While having certifications does not necessarily mean you know what you are doing, it helps when you are trying to get your foot in the door.

What did your work in the hospitality industry teach you?

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