We had the opportunity to speak with thousands of small business owners in 2015 as we expanded the Bizyhood offering. Business owners came to us via partnerships with hyperlocal digital publishers as well as organically through word of mouth. One of my favorite conversations was with a small business based in Chicago.
Flowers for Dreams was started by entrepreneurial college students looking to make a few dollars by selling flowers outside a high school graduation ceremony. In a great example of “Lean Startup” methodology, they identified follow-on opportunities and a business was born. After graduation in 2012, they decided to start a business offering flower delivery of high quality flowers at a fixed price – and donating a portion of the profits to a series of local charities in Chicago to boot! Their story is impressive.
We were so intrigued with this combination of entrepreneurship and philanthropy. How did we hear about these folks? They claimed their page on Bizyhood, and what started as a typical exchange to verify their business turned into a full fledged discussion around their business. Most of our questions centered around how they get found, both online and offline. We spoke with Colin Boardway, who is their Marketing Strategist.
Q: Your mission is so impressive, and I’m sure people in Chicago love what you’re doing. You’re clearly leveraging online properties to get the word out. What’s your strategy?
A: Word of mouth is our primary means. We only deliver in the Chicago area, because we are very often locally-sourced, all of the flowers are hand-curated and we delivered by hand on bike – sustainability and a socially responsible product is important to us. So we focus completely on exposure in Chicago.
Q: Word of mouth online, offline, or both?
A: Definitely both. Online, Instagram has a played a major role in our growth. Since our product and brand is super visual, IG is the perfect segway for us. Most of our customers (and even employees) found us through Instagram. Offline, we’re very recognizable. We wrap our bouquets in a distinctive cloth wrap and sell vases ranging from barnwood birch to vintage tins.
We measure all channels – social, organic, direct etc. through Google Analytics and we spend marketing dollars on Facebook ads every month.
Q: Ok, so Instagram and your packaging are your two secret weapons! Do you do any analysis of the ages of your customers? It seems to us that Instagram is going to attract a strongly Millennial customer base – do you have data to confirm or deny this? Do you find that your Facebook ads target a different demographic than Instagram?
A: Without giving too much of our secret sauce away, I can definitely confirm that our best customers are between the ages of 25 and 34. We rely on user data to create lookalike and custom audiences in Facebook. We are still in the early phases testing Instagram but wouldn’t be surprised if the audiences are very similar.
Q: What about Review sites? We noticed that you’re fairly active on Yelp – is that purposeful or just a side benefit of living in an urban area?
A: Yelp has been mostly organic. We measure it via Google analytics in terms of how much traffic we get and if that traffic converts, which it does. It was definitely a strategy to make sure people shared their positive experiences all over the web. We just keep doing what we do and we do it well. So, this has really just been a side benefit for us. It’s not a primary marketing channel for us.
Q: Only 2 reviews on Google+ – I guess it’s true nobody uses Google+! Although you do have 37 reviews on Google Maps. Do you find Google’s overall approach to local confusing?
A: Yeah, the landscape shifts too much on Google. Google+, Google Pages, now Google My Business. Yelp hasn’t changed and has been incredible for us without much effort. We understand the importance of Google for Local SEO so we do our best to keep up by asking our happy customers to share their positive experience online. You have to be careful about that too – Yelp doesn’t like when businesses do this, and Google isn’t clear on the topic.
Q: Let’s talk about Local SEO. You mentioned you know that G+ is important for Local SEO. And you’re obviously being proactive about citations, since that’s how we heard about you when you signed up on Bizyhood. What is your strategy around Local SEO?
A: We have a person who helps us with our Local SEO. He told us about a site that lists citation sites like yours that offer “do follow” links. So, we signed up with many of them. We also make sure our PR gets exposed on local sites that target the Chicagoland area, such as Patch, Topix, Everyblock, DNAinfo, and the local broadcasters.
Q: We actually got into this discussion because Bizyhood requires business owners to verify their business listing before we will list it on the site. You had mentioned to us that the owner of Flowers for Dreams handed this off to you since he was too busy. How cumbersome was it to get listed on all the sites you mentioned, and what do you think of sites like ours that require verification vs. sites that will add your citation without verification?
A: I definitely think verification is important, as long as it’s a member of the team doing it, it’s fine. It doesn’t need to be the business owner. They are stretched too thin to verify all the places where they would like a listing. We use Moz Local to take care of the bulk of our listings and then we reach out to individual sites like yours that we find have local value to us.
Q: Colin, thanks so much for your time, and best of luck with the business!
A: Thanks Scott