Source: Wikimedia Commons

Be a Lert. The World Needs More Lerts.

I’m going to tell you a little secret.  I have a skinny kid down the street who brings me a special newspaper every morning.  His name is Lerts and he works his scrawny little rear-end off to customize the paper just for me.

I told him a while back to stay up all night, every night, look through all the papers he could find, cut out the stuff I want, glue it all together and throw it on my door step every single day.  I’m very demanding and picky about the whole thing.  And I don’t pay him a cotton-pickin’ cent.

You’d be surprised at what he brings me.  Sometimes it has mentions of my business from around the city.  Sometimes it gives me the scoop on what my competitors are doing.  Sometimes it has pictures of my clients from around the world.  And this one is fun–sometimes it includes new business prospects by name.  I use all that stuff to grow my business.

The little slave boy is indispensable.  I call him Lerts, but most folks call him Google Alerts.  I work the rascal to death and I don’t know how he does it, but he says he has room in his schedule to work for you, too.

Using Google Alerts

Using Google Alerts is super-easy.  You’ll get updates via email or in your Google Reader account as often as you like.  Setting up an alert is just like doing a search query on Google. You will want to use quotations to limit the results to the exact phrases you enter.  It’s so easy to use, I won’t bother with a tutorial.  Just check it out.

Time of Delivery

One thing that is not clear, however, is exactly when you’ll receive your alerts.  If you want your notifications sent once a day, they will be delivered to you at the exact time of day that you originally set your alerts.  So if you want your alerts to hit your inbox or reader at 6 a.m. every morning, you’ll have to get up one morning and enter the alert at that time.  Google assumes you will be in front of your desk at that time of day, since you were when you entered the first one.

Google Alerts for Small Business

So what are some ways that you can use this information?

  • Finding New Prospects – Use an alert for “my industry keyword” + “some qualifier (location, product, etc.)” and see what turns up.  You’ll find folks who are talking about your service and may be able to devise a good way to work yourself into a conversation. “I saw your blog comment on (some blog) asking for recommendations on good dentists in the area.  You can see our testimonials page to see what our patients say about us.”
  • Contacting Existing Prospects – When your sales team gets a good new lead, have them put in an alert for both the business name and the main contact’s name.  “Hey Scott, I saw that the press interviewed you about your work with (charitable organization).  That’s awesome!  I learned a lot about (charitable organization) that I didn’t know.  If you have any questions about the proposal we sent your way last week, let me know.” 
  • Promoting Current Clients – We did this just yesterday.  One of our clients was featured on a TV news broadcast and we sent out a tweet about it.  And we let our client know that we promoted them.  Good way to build an ongoing client relationship and keep those folks from leaving you!  Make sure all of your current clients are registered in your Google Alert system.  Again, register both the business and personal contact name as separate alerts.
  • Monitoring Brand Mentions – This one goes without saying.  This is super-easy to do with Twitter, but not many companies have this set up in Alerts.  Make sure and register mis-spellings as well.  Several years ago, I mis-spelled a business’s name in a link and it didn’t go anywhere.  I got a nice note saying “Thanks for the mention and the link in your blog post!  I just thought I’d mention that the business name is actually spelled ———-.”  I gladly corrected the error.  If that business hadn’t monitored mis-spellings in their Google Alerts, they would have missed out on my valuable link.
  • Keeping an Eye on Competitors – We happen to like most of our competitors, but we’re in this thing to win.  So we’re always looking for competitive advantages.  By monitoring your competitor’s mentions and movements, you may be able to take advantage of new developments and holes in the market.  You’ll know what your prospects are seeing as they look at their options.  And you’ll get a better understanding of how much noise your competitor is making out there.

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