Even for a large, national brand, with hundreds or thousands of franchises, all search—like politics—is local. A national auto parts chain, say, can have a well-developed brand identity, a strong national reputation, an aggressive television ad campaign, and years as an industry leader, but if a potential customer searches for the community branch and is disappointed by what comes up, the customer will probably decide to go with a competitor. It could be something as hypothetically simple as incomplete or contradictory directory listings, which frustrate and scare away otherwise likely customers. This local level is where Advice Interactive Group focuses.
Advice Interactive Group was founded by current chief executive officer Bernadette Coleman, whose mission is to produce “everything a brand needs to help its local stores succeed.” Incorporated at the end of 2009, then signing its first client at the beginning of 2010, Advice Interactive Group has quickly grown into an American presence. Recently, the firm was named to the Inc. 500 List of the fastest growing private companies in the country for the third year in a row.
In December 2013, Advice Interactive Group introduced its Local Report and Local Search tools. Using a proprietary algorithm to map each branch’s competitive landscape within a five-mile radius, these tools parse through all of a company’s local search listings, location websites, and social media accounts to detail how each can be improved. It then generates a blueprint of what needs to be improved.
Some companies that use the software discover that they have multiple listings, frequently with inaccurate or outdated information. This is a result of today’s search-engine optimization (SEO) market, which is in a state of constant expansion and discovery, and the fact that companies often cycle through a number of SEO strategies with different SEO companies. These redundant, confusing, or conflicting entries must be suppressed, and occasionally, directory listings need to be revised to meet Google, Bing, and Yahoo! data quality guidelines. Some companies discover that a local chain isn’t responding to all of its social media reviews in a proactive manner, or that they should begin to broadcast their positive feedback better, and empathetically reply to or refund any negative commenters. Some companies find that their branch locations have web properties designed by franchise owners, earnest attempts which are usually not quite optimal. These unprofessional pages need to be improved or replaced.
Since December, Advice Interactive Group has supplied this service to, according to Coleman, “about 200 companies, large and small, from dentists and local clothing stores to retail stores with chains across multiple states and banks looking to place their local ATMs in the most advantageous places,” and has even sold its proprietary software to competing Internet-marketing firms. With this blueprint in their hands, these companies can then start to focus their own marketing attempts on any of these problems, or they can engage Advice Interactive Group’s services.
Encompassing branding, websites, digital strategies, search, and social markets, Advice Interactive Group’s marketing strategy is based on maintaining a consistent, compelling message across all platforms. “We follow what I’d like to call a blended approach,” Coleman says. “[Firms] need a converged strategy, with everything”—every component part of every platform representing each location—“working together.” Brands can be built top-down or bottom-up. Either a strong national campaign can create a brand’s reputation, which colors how local branches can interact with their specific communities, or each community branch’s presence in its own locale can build together, accumulating into an established national brand. Advice Interactive Group creates a unique strategy based on the needs of each client.
Today, 67 percent of Internet users visit at least one social media website every day. Many companies underperform on social media by posting bland or vague information. Advice Interactive Group’s Local Search and Local Reporting tools show how potential customers are finding a company’s page, and they also show what nearby competitors are sharing on their own social media platforms, all of which informs the kind of reviews, blog posts, infographics, and customized content a company should post on its own properties to lead to clicks and gradually build a consumer’s relationship with the brand.
With social media attention comes company website visits. As Coleman mentions, research shows that it takes “two-tenths of a second for someone visiting a website to form an opinion about the brand” of the company behind it, and “57 percent of visitors won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site,” so Advice Interactive Group’s web design team aims to make websites that are visually appealing, easy to navigate, and, importantly, able to easily expand or shrink to fit onto mobile screens of any size and shape.
The motto of Advice Interactive Group is “Nationally Local.” It’s a belief that no matter the scope of a company, customers interact with it on a local basis, so every aspect of each community branch’s web presence needs to be inviting. And it’s a belief that’s paying off, as the company sees further growth ahead.