Ramon Ray caught up with Paras Maniar, President of USA TODAY Network Marketing Solutions Team. USA TODAY Network is a group of over one hundred separate, individual, historical legacy news organizations and sites across the country that serve local communities--everywhere from Abilene, Texas, to Nashville, Tennessee. Their network touches nearly 125 million audience members per month. That’s a lot of people!
The Importance of Getting It Right
For small businesses, you can't do business without digital transformation. If you are a brick and mortar location, you have to have great signage. But Paras emphasized that putting up that sign outside and then doing some local advertising is just as important as getting your map coordinates right in Google My Business.
So, when you’re just starting out, or when you're ready to grow, or when you're ready to re-engage, you have to know you're getting everything right. Because the last thing you want is your reputation to be off, or someone doesn’t know your store hours, or someone doesn’t know the right contact information. In the digital world, you have to have all your bases covered.
A Full-Time Job
Paras said that getting it right is just the basics. Next, you have to find the right audience, but how do you do that? How do you leverage the USA Today Network to find an audience that's active and engaged around the right content that's relevant to you, to make sure your message resonates? How do you figure out the right level to spend to get lead acquisition through the various search engine providers? How do you go and think about reputation management and other things?
“And so, it's a complicated game. It is a full-time job.” There are plenty of them out there who think and believe that they can do it themselves. And I love that because that means they're thinking about the future. “But many of them also realize very quickly that they can guide it better than do it because the doing it takes up a lot of time. And so, then they look to partners like us to help do that for them.”
Learning About Your Business
According to Paras, there are two things that you have as a local business:
- Your time--which not enough local business owners or managers put value in
- Cash flow--the amount you have to invest in the growth of your business
First, you need to assess where you are. The LOCALiQ Grader gives you a quick assessment of what your business looks like. The LOCALiQ Grader is the first step. It will help you build a strategy and answer the questions:
- How much does it cost?
- How much can I spend?
- And how much do I get to bring someone in to engage with my product or services?
You also need to understand the value of your product. Are you selling a $2 water bottle or $30,000 watch? It makes a difference.
Paras states that,
“if you can really get it right, which is the holy grail, you should spend as much as possible. You should never stop. The only thing that should stop you is because you can't fulfill it.”
LOCALiQ believes that the first thing you need to do is understand your business and understand your audience. Then you have to figure out the balance of how much you would spend between those who are already walking into the barbershop versus people you want to walk in the barbershop.
That's what LOCALiQ is built around. It is the brand that has all of the tactics. USA TODAY Networks has invested tens of millions of dollars in the product, making sure that it’s based on performance and data and history. And they want to make it easy for you to understand.
“You're going to learn a lot about your business. It's going to be painful and frustrating and you're going to make mistakes as you go, but that's the only way for you to control it. Because otherwise it's a one-way conversation online about you and you can't let that happen,” shared Paras.
You Don’t Have to Do It on Your Own
By partnering with USA TODAY Networks, you're going to start to see value and expertise that you wouldn't have been able to accomplish on your own. Paras believes, “it's one thing just to do it, it's another thing to stay on top of it. It is complicated, confounding, things are changing every single day.”
USA TODAY Networks has always been committed to two things:
Fantastic local journalism, distinctive local journalism.
Supporting the communities and localities in which they do business, those businesses, and making sure they grow.
“And that means that we’ve got to do right by them first before we worry about right by us.” explained Paras.
Paras said, “so just find your team. And it could be one partner if it can be no partners and just people you hire, fantastic. But you got to really think about what you can afford, what you're trying to get, and then build the right team around you.”
Paras warns business owners to be wary of those who are pitching single products or can't answer what it means to you in terms of ROI. You have to think overall ROI. Not just ROI for their one product they're doing.