Marketers, especially those digitally inclined, have tended to view the local small-business person as a bit of a caricature -- that is, someone with presumably limited resources and planning
savvy, trying his or her damnedist to get up to speed on how to peddle wares and services in today's marketplace. But those of you paying attention noticed that these folks -- at least those committed
to taking hold of their destiny -- were some of the earliest adopters of perhaps our most effective direct-response digital media: search. All you had to do, even five years ago, was attend search
conferences and listen to the room to realize how savvy this businessperson was becoming. It turns out that was just the beginning.
Flash-forward to the landscape of today. Not only has the small-business marketer embraced localized marketing, above and beyond search --but so have national brands, all seeking local penetration, using the platforms and tools available. And the industry has responded. Savvy local marketing at one point may have included: geo-limiting a national display buy; IP or DMA targeting within a search plan; geo-modifying search terms to funnel demand; or simply buying local media from any number of publishers. That's what was available to leverage.
A few simultaneous areas of tremendous advance have become evident to marketers and are cause for our excitement today:
- The major providers of search functionality -- Google, but also Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, Twitter -- have truly enhanced their search features for localization. They of course are capitalizing on a greater understanding of consumer behavior and usage. And I suspect we have only just scratched the surface on progress. You may have seen the announcement last week that Google's vice president of search products, respected engineer Marissa Mayer, is taking location and local services under her wing. Google is putting a lot of stock in these products. So, interesting indicator, this announcement.
- Consumer behavior has changed and become more clear and actionable. Apparently, armed with our mobile devices and fully embroiled in our social graph, we increasingly use these tools to conduct local search. And, when using these tools, outside with our feet to the street, we are even more inclined to search with specific businesses in mind, versus the more generalized way we used to search online at our desks or kitchen tables.
- Accepting those behavior trends, mobile and social platforms have become practically indispensable to localized consumer marketing today. In fact some would say that with mobile and social somewhat dominating search today, the savvy marketer with localization aspirations must learn his or her way around these platforms.
- The good news on that learning curve is that there is really exciting work being done by companies on all aspects of location based marketing: targeting technology, serving and optimization infrastructure, data management, creative standards and execution. Some companies immediately come to mind. We see killer offerings like ShopAlerts, a location-based mobile marketing solution by Placecast that is pegged on the concept of geo-fencing, along with advancements in what the market is calling mapvertising being pioneered by Lat49. Plus, in the background, the major mobile providers are playing into the consumer responsiveness to local marketing, tuning their service offerings accordingly.
Even with all these points of progress, some of the most important steps forward may be driven by companies we haven't even heard of yet. A whole new boom within a boom, to spur us onward. That's exciting.
As I think about the local guy and how, as recently as five years ago, he seemed a bit stumped, I realize just what has taken hold in the meantime. This area of the market is now further along than most of us -- even as we, round-the-clock media consumers, ceaselessly clutch and work our mobile devices to search, connect and deliver on our immediate needs. It happened at our fingertips, while we were out walking around the block looking for a better slice.
You have a point regarding some local business owners, however it appears to me the majority of downtown small businesses have yet to realize the impact of the social movement toward mobile devices and the natural growth curve that movement carries with it...as a <a href="http://www.localleadsminer.com">small business marketing specialist</a>, I'd love to see more local businesses take advantage of the movement to grow their customer base.
There is i fact a slice to be had mere footsteps away from my door at Big Nick's Upper West Side. It's not great, but it's near. I have slices plotted by radius from my place all over the city. Have craving, will walk.
But, I also have been known to take the subway to Brooklyn for a hotdog at Bark spur of the moment on a Saturday or jump down to St. Mark's for falafel, after I've already eaten. Sort of borderless when it comes to creature comforts.
I learned my lesson about "unsophisticated" small business owners a long time ago. I was a "big time media honcho" at DMB&B back in the day with clients like P&G and Kraft when I took on Denny's Restaurants. The Franchisee owners were very rough around the edges and many had never gone to college. But, they flew into the national meetings in their private jets. That taught me a lot about who really understood marketing investments and I learned a lot by listening to them holler and scream about the things I did not understand when it came to local media.
Don't be fooled by the behavior and style of local business owners, they are wicked smart about their media investments.
Interesting perspective, but I'm not sure you're looking on Main St when referring to local businesses. Everybody uses search, sure. But very few Main St retailers fit your view of "local" business.
They do not have regular conversations w/ their customers (loosely identified), get little or no business from the Internet, and just 45% even have websites of their own. Virtually none use SEM, and despite the growth of mobile text advertising they do not employ it, primarily because they don't have confidence they can build a database of customers willing to give up their cell numbers.
Main St retailers are light years away from the digital profile most others companies have or are building. And, if there is an economic recovery in motion--very few indications of it are apparent--it has left Main St retailers virtually untouched.
Your enthusiasm for the "little guy" notwithstanding, s/he remains outside the lens of this article.
Just a quick response to your thoughtful note. The little guy on Main Street does in fact fit within the lens and scope of this piece. It's certainly somewhat anecdotal -- as this piece is not pegged on stats. Stats, which I know you or I could provide, for a more surveyed look.
It is pegged on a somewhat broader definition of Main Street (also a caricature, by the way) and having been heartened by the fairly advanced activities of independent small business people, and my conversations with them, more and more.
Matter of degrees.
Many thanks for the comments. A more serious piece with numbers is due!
You are in New York, Kendall with availabilities the average person could never approach, not to mention walk to or take quick public transportation. And to note: Small business ad spend runs $10,000 or less per year (that's not per franchisee either - worked on buying side and selling side and know the difference of an individual business and many of the same). I have had many accounts where $500/mo were their limits or they just ran during certain holidays. Ergo, direct mail inserts en masse. Just today, I got my local Clipper Magazine and Neighbor Saver.
Paula makes a good point regarding local business ad spend...however, my experience has shown most are open to using new technology and finding ways to get new customers...its a matter of education and showing them how to implement new strategies in a cost efficient manner.
fjRich- I truly hope your prediction of local retailers being "lightyears" away, is off the mark...they really can benefit from this movement toward mobile search; in my opinion it's an opp. the savvy can use to dominate their competition who fail to "get on board".